The First Congregational Church of Greenwich

Meetinghouse Monthly

May, 2004

The Honduras Container is Coming!!
We’re gearing up to full speed!

The momentum has begun - spread the word!! We need your help with this awesome undertaking!

We’ve accomplished truly amazing things as a congregation for our good friends in Honduras. What was a just a dream has become an amazing reality with your incredible support. In just a few years, First Church has established medical clinics, hostels, housing, nutrition centers and agricultural support projects. We have contributed thousands of dollars in much needed medical, dental and school supplies. The effects of our efforts have been dramatic not only in the multitudes of grateful individuals who have benefited, but also the far-reaching effects geographically.

This new venture is an idea sprung from our latest mission trip to Honduras. Our travel team researched a multitude of needs, both in areas we are already engaged and in new parts of the country. Designed to further support and nurture our projects presently in place this project will also enable First Church to show enthusiasm in new project areas.. What a wonderful way to get your whole family and friends involved too!!

From furniture to forks, toys to playground equipment, medical equipment to kitchen supplies, and even a much needed diesel truck for Dr. Espana.. This is a fantastic opportunity to further support our Subirana Medical and Nutrition Centers, El Japon Children’s Daycare Center and El Junco mountain village school. Please check our wish list for items needed!

WHAT: Donations for transport to our Honduran friends via Container shipment. See the back of this sheet for items “wished for”. We ask that all items donated be new or gently used – please use your discretion!

The Wish List has been posted!!

Check out the Outreach Bulletin Board and the church office. It will also be posted on the church website.

WHEN: Donation drops will be welcome 9:00 am - 12:00am Saturday mornings in May: 1, 8, 15, and 22. For larger items please call beforehand to arrange your drop off time or if you need your donation picked up. Smaller items will be accepted during the week.

WHERE: Donations will be accepted at First Church and temporarily stored until the container’s shipment in June.

HOW: Items should be dropped of with a detailed list of what is being included for customs documentation.

VOLUNTEERS: We also need strong-bodied volunteers and pickup trucks to help Saturday mornings in May with the donation drop offs.

Contact Lisa Norrgard through the church office 637-1791 for additional information.

May Worship Schedule

Sunday, May 2
Church School Recognition
Susan M. Craig, preaching

Sunday, May 9
Confirmation Sunday
Communion Served
Susan M. Craig, preaching

Sunday, May 16
Service of Installation
Dale Peterson, preaching
Sunday, May 23
Music Sunday
“Lifted Up”

Sunday, May 30
Heritage and Memorial Day Sunday
Ralph E. Ahlberg, preaching


New Parish Nurse - Susan Asselin, RN

We are delighted to announce that Susan Asselin, RN, has been hired to be our new Parish Nurse. Susan has worked with Dee Coover in Home Care at Greenwich Hospital, serving as a Case Manager and Triage Nurse. After a BS in Community Public Health at UMass-Amherst, she received her nursing degree in 1989, and has worked in home care and critical care nursing in the Springfield, MA area until she moved here in 1995. Susan lives with her family in Riverside. We know the congregation will be impressed with her warmth and spirituality as well as her clinical skills and community health education interest and experience. Susan plans to start in her new position with us on May 18. Please look for "The Nurse Is In" sign on Sunday, May 23 and welcome her personally to our church family.

First Church/First Sunday

On Sunday, May 2, we will have the barrel out to collect food for our local food pantries. Suggested items for this month are: grape jelly, macaroni & cheese (not-microwaveable), and tomato or spaghetti sauce. Remember to buy regular sizes of these items, since the majority of families served in this area have an average of 2-3 members

First Church Growers for the Hungry
another way to express our faith

The Garden project is well on its way. Last Year, Brad Craig and Bill Bausch staked out the garden. Now, Donna Kelly is coordinating volunteers, who have already installed the fencing, laid out the garden, rototilled, and raked 10 garden plots. Lettuce and onions are in the ground, and soon the tomatoes, cucumbers, and other vegetables will be planted. Individuals and families are invited to share their time and labor for this effort. Contact Donna at 661-6085 to volunteer or Don Walton with your questions 637-0213.


Church School Recognition Sunday
A Service of Thanksgiving for
Teachers, Children, and their Parents
May 2, 2004 in the Meetinghouse

We look forward to worshipping with our congregation at the 10 AM service. Some special notes follow:

  • Our Baby and Toddler Nurseries will be open as usual.
  • All Choirs will sing - Chancel, Youth, Children's, Cherub and the Teacher & Task Force Recognition Sunday Choir
  • Third Graders receive their Bibles and Invite you to share their celebration cake at Coffee Hour in the Memory Garden - weather permitting.
  • Everyone is invited to bring a garden flower for our traditional flower cross.


The Church School Task Force is responsible for the Christian education and participation in the life of First Church for the youngest members of our congregation. Periodically we solicit input from our parents, teachers and children about our programs. Most recently the Task Force has been discussing communion for families. We would like to have the input of our families before we provide a report to the Church Committee on this topic.

First Church supports the right of private judgment for families regarding their children and the age at which they begin to receive communion. Some of our children participate in communion at a young age and some wait until the time of Confirmation. Currently, the sacrament of communion is formally introduced in the second grade. The children learn about the ceremony and the history behind it. It is the policy of First Church that communion is taken by children when accompanied by their parent(s) until confirmation, usually in ninth grade.

Also, in May, we will be planning for the Church School 2004-05 program year. Our planning includes programming for parents and family activities, including the summer. We are very interested in your ideas, questions, comments, hopes and concerns.


Rejoice with us for the members who have already decided to teach our children next year and prayerfully consider whether or not this is your year to step into a Church School class to teach and learn! Remember the last day of Church School is May 9th which is Confirmation Sunday for our Ninth Graders.

Celebrating the Church School Teaching Teams 2004 - 2005
We are hoping to have all these filled by May 2. Are you willing?

Lori Griffin and Eileen Griffin
Sarah Cioffari
4 needed

Jeff Waggaman
Erlinda and Larry Haviland
Clem Lepoutre
Tim Maxwell
Kristin Taylor
Deb Wheelock

Alex Oztemel
Michelle Arader
Sarah Saviskas
Christina Schoen
2 needed

Sandra Buggy
Katie Kabot
Kristin Lovallo
3 needed

Diane Jenkins
Shona Quinn
Amy Videtto
Andrew Sisely
2 needed

Donald Haviland
Gail Khosla
Larry Welch
Richard Jenkins
Cynthia De Riemer
Karen Radulovacki

Glenn Buggy
Caryn Jacoby
Laura Janelli
Juliana Pugliese
Meredith McLennan
Peter Thalheim

Tina Videtto
Kate and Lisa Phyfe
Jenny Riddell
3 needed

Kip Meyer
Chris Hartwell
Brandon Hallowell
David Bradley
Ted Davis

Lindsay Stafford
Caroline Houseknecht
Suzanne Dakin
Laura Erickson
Sam Crihfield
Mikael Hietala

Susan Anderson
Donna Hascher
Bruce Glover
3 needed

Mary Ann Assing
Debbie Gordon
Ashley Grant
3 needed

Adult Christian Education

The Wild, Wild Word: Bible Study 102 on "Marriage." During the month of May on Wednesdays at 9 am or 6:30 pm, join Ashley in the Lounge for a timely exploration of relationships and marriage through: stories and passages from Bible; various articles and readings, including the CT Conference Resolution on Same-Sex Marriage; personal reflection and group discussions. Underlying questions for the study include: What are our assumptions? What does God intend (then and now)and how do we know? What's going on around us--culture and media? In what ways does our Open and Affirming status speak to our perspective on relationships, in general, and marriage, in particular?

For the first meeting (May 5), read Genesis 29:15-30; Deuteronomy 24:1-5; and Ruth 4:1-16. All are welcome. If you need childcare during this time, please call Ashley so that can be arranged. 637-1791 ext. 26.

Middle School Programs

The JPF group focuses on fellowship, service and activities for 6th, 7th and 8th graders. We meet on Sunday evenings 5-6:15 pm in the Youth Room. During the month of May, 6th, 7th and 8th graders are welcome to "drop in" and hang out in the youth room from 3:30-5:00 pm. You can bring a friend; do homework; read a book; work on a craft; or play boardgames. There will also be snacks.

Saturday, May 1 You are invited to go with Ashley to hear the band "Zehnder" at First Presbyterian Church of Greenwich. Advisors are needed. Sign up.

Sunday 2 Regular JPF Meeting

Wednesday 5 3:30-5:00 pm Youth Room Drop In

Sunday 9 Fun! Fun! Fun! Wear play clothes. Regular time.

Wednesday 12 3:30-5:00 pm Youth Room Drop In

Sunday 16 Hunger Walk in the afternoon, no evening meeting JPF.
8th graders are invited to the H.O.M.E. memory potluck at 6:00 pm.

Wednesday 19 3:30-5:00 pm Youth Room Drop In

Sunday 23 Last Regular JPF Meeting of the Year!!

Wednesday 26 3:30-5:00 pm Youth Room Drop In

Working together
M. Ashley Grant

Thomas Merton became a Trappist monk when he was about 26, and he lived at Our Lady of Gethsemani Abbey in Trappist, Kentucky. The way I imagine Merton from his writings and from the photographs of biographers begins with a straw hat, shading a man with tanned, leathery skin. His contemplative lifestyle consisted of prayer, worship, work, eating, sleeping and prolific writing, all of which create one's impression of him. The lifestyle that seems so focused and isolated was not about individual gain, but rather about community. Merton says, "we do not exist for ourselves," which resonates in the mere existence and survival of the Gethsemani community, producing what they need and can sell from the resources of the land and the gifts and talents of the members.

Still, the functioning community is only the surface; beneath the daily tasks, words spoken, efforts made, most would say that God's will to call and grace to lead each person enable and inspire community. I imagine Merton working in the garden, under that straw hat, smelling of dirt turned up at his feet and on his hands, feeling the tight, tired strength in his joints while surveying those working together.

Sister Marie Ahearn lives at the farm north of the main H.O.M.E campus in Orland, Maine. She's a feisty character, accustom to struggle in many arenas: political, financial, social, environmental, etc. While Rick Nelli, Sam Crihfield, Philip Thalheim and I worked alongside of Marie on Wednesday, I could not help but associate her with Merton as she raised up from her work to appreciate what was being accomplished. We were disassembling an old fence, ravaged by a wind storm. I love places where material resources almost never lose their potential, which was the case in our project, salvaging the heavy wire mesh, the weathered lumber and posts, and the hinges of the fence.

As we worked and rested, I asked Marie about life on their farm. She, Lucy, and Ellen have built most of it with the help of volunteer groups, like the many from First Church. Every morning, she and Ellen feed the animals before the community gathers for breakfast and prayer; afterwards, its back to work either caring for the farm or the current residents. Over the past 28 years, Marie has seen growth and transformation of the place and the people whom God leads to it. From those suffering with Alzheimer's to young families who cannot survive with assistance from government programs to those who are simply unwanted and alone, they become vital members of this community. We were part of the community during our brief stay, existing not for ourselves, but for the good of the whole.

By working together, we grow to appreciate the process toward accomplishing a task, the compromise as an expression of unity, and the gratification of what we did together that we could not do alone. Beneath the accomplishments--the fruits of our labor-- we might find the answer to the question: why do we help and receive help? "Our actions are not ours alone, they belong to God," reflects Merton. Realizing the presence and motivation of God's grace, I hope we feel challenged to join in the many efforts of community that First Church supports: Rebuilding Together, First Church Growers (garden project), the Hunger Walk, filling the Container for Honduras, and Parish Life events.

Considering College?

The good colleges are getting fussier as more and more quality students apply. Where do you fit in? Talk with our own Mary Leinbach, an experienced and respected college consultant. Her $200 charge goes to the First Church College Loan Fund. You can reach her at 531-9434.



All of the musicians here at First Church are busy preparing for May 23rd, Music Sunday 2004, when all of their forces will be brought together for this annual worship celebration. From our youngest Cherubs, under the direction of Holly Beneville, who will be singing "Over My Head," an African-American spiritual, to the adults in the Chancel Choir, who will offer among other selections "God Is Gone Up" by the 20th century English composer Gerald Finzi, all the participants will strive to take us on an upward journey. The lectionary readings indicating this heavenward path will be those for the Feast of the Ascension that we will be observing.

"Sweet Chariot," in an arrangement by Ken Berg, will be the contribution of the Youth Choir with Carolyn Paulus directing. This beloved spiritual is based on the Old Testament ascension of Elijah in a whirlwind on a chariot of fire. The Palmer Handbells under Mark Swicegood's direction will bring their special excitement to the worship with "Celebration" by Hart Morris. Additional selections by the Chancel Choir will be "O Clap Your Hands," a setting of Psalm 47 by John Rutter, "Coelos ascendit hodie" by Charles Villiers Stanford sung antiphonally as the introit, and "Go Out With Joy" by Hank Beebe at the benediction.

During the service we will dedicate the seven-foot Kawai grand piano in the Meetinghouse. This piano and its refurbishment were a gift to the church from Robert Blackmore in memory of his wife Joan. Mark and John will use the piano at the prelude in a piano-organ duet, "Dialog" by Leo Sowerby.

Music Sunday worship is at the usual 10:00 o'clock hour, but do arrive early to get a good seat and hear the preludes. As is our tradition we will gather on the church lawn after the service for strawberries and croissants and the May Pole dance.

The text of the Children's Choir anthem, "See the Conqueror," with music composed by John Stansell for this occasion, suggests that in the Ascension of Christ "we by faith behold our own." Perhaps, by grace, the worship on Music Sunday will give us a foretaste of that. Be sure to come and be "LIFTED UP!" yourself!

One of the unsung heroines of the Duke University Chorale event was Angela Stevens. Her name was inadvertently left out of the thank-you in the last MHM. Angela coordinated the overnight housing for the college students. Our thanks, belatedly, to Angela, with apologies for the omission!

Maypole dancers needed! If you are a child in the younger elementary grades, please plan on joining us for the Maypole dance on Music Sunday. We will rehearse on Friday afternoon, May 21, after school at 3:30. It would be great if you could attend this rehearsal, but if you can not, please come on Sunday. All are welcome whether you have danced the Maypole before or this is your first time. The Maypole dancers will meet at 11:00 in the Undercroft on Music Sunday, May 23. Remember, church school will no longer be in session so check your calendar. Please indicate your interest on the sign-up in the church office. Questions? call Sarah Thalheim at 637-9670.


To Benefit:
The Food Bank of Lower Fairfield County

May 16, 2004

1:30 pm

Meet on the First Church front lawn for a gentle 2 mile walk along the sidewalks of Old Greenwich, followed by a brief ceremony to dedicate our Food Offering

Pre- and Post-Walk Music by "Selfless Delicacy"

Strollers and Dogs welcomed!

Nonperishable Staple Foods (Canned Stews, Soups, Tuna, Pasta, etc.)
Cash or Checks to fund local Food Banks

All who are unable to participate in the Walk are encouraged to bring Food or Cash to First Church on or before May 16 for inclusion in our Food Offering.

For more information, visit the Outreach Committee booth at coffee hour
or call Chris Hartwell at 637-2833.

Summer is an especially difficult time for local food banks and pantries. Demand peaks as children are home from school (no longer receiving subsidized breakfasts and lunches), and supplies ebb as donors go on vacation. Additional funding and non-perishable food contributions at this time of year are critical to meet the increased needs of our hungry neighbors.

Report to the Congregation

The April Report to the Congregation outlined our solicitation efforts and the process of sorting candidates into “Active,” “Pending” and “Rejected” categories. This report will focus on what is done when a candidate is placed on the “Active” list to start creating a positive impression of First Church of Greenwich. After being advised that we deeply appreciate the time and effort required to consider our opportunity, a package of materials is sent to them by Priority Mail that is designed to both acquaint the person with our congregation, our programs, our church and our community … and to impress them with First Congregational Church’s rich history and unlimited potential. The package contains:

  • A comb-bound copy of our Church Profile
  • A “First Church Looks to the Future” booklet (prepared by the committee)
  • The 2003 Annual Report, Treasurer’s Report & Financials
  • A “Children’s Ministries” brochure for 2003-04
  • A Women’s Fellowship Yearbook 2003-04
  • A “Shelter Strong Campaign Celebration” article
  • The “Stained Glass Windows of FCCOG” booklet
  • Reprints of sermons by Ralph Ahlberg, Susie Craig and Ashley Grant
  • Copies of the February and March Meetinghouse Newsletters
  • A copy of the mid-February Meetinghouse up to the Minute Newsletter “Order of Service” programs from two recent Sundays

So far, the package has had the desired effect and the recipients report that they are quite impressed. As one of our Active candidates put it when asked if he was still interested after looking over the materials … “You’d have to be crazy not to be!”

Our plan is to continue to narrow our focus by studying the Ministerial Profiles and comparing the strengths of the Active candidates to the job description and list of desired attributes we developed in our Church Profile. We will stay in touch with the most attractive candidates at least once every two weeks and try to plan our contacts so that we garner a bit more information, and impart a bit more information, with each exposure. At some point we will send a “scouting party” (as Ralph calls them) to hear the top candidates preach and invite the best-of-the-best to come to Greenwich and meet with the entire committee. At that time we may also ask some of the key lay leaders to meet with the candidate. We will firm up our plans in this regard as we get closer to that stage of the process.

Based on the number and quality of candidates already in the Active category, the committee isn’t concerned about finding someone who can do the job and do it well. We continue to be blessed with an abundance of candidates who appear to be well educated, experienced and have a wide range of talents and interests. The challenge we feel is finding someone with whom the congregation can form a meaningful and enduring relationship. As stated in our job description, “A person whose warmth and goodness are an inspiration and comfort to the congregation … a spiritual leader who not only inspires us with charisma and intelligence from the pulpit but who acts daily on his/her Christian faith and challenges the congregation to do the same.”

There seems to be a tremendous amount of pent up positive energy in our church today. Part of it is because of the faith-lifting ministry being brought to us by Ralph, Susie and Ashley. Hopefully, another part is because we are all making plans for how we will help the new pastor once he/she comes aboard … because regardless of how talented they may be, they can’t make a difference in our lives, our church and our community without our unstinting acceptance and support.

The Senior Pastor Search Committee

The Members of The First Congregational Church of Greenwich, Ministers

First Congregational Church of Greenwich
108 Sound Beach Avenue, Old Greenwich, Connecticut 203.637.1791
Ministers: The Members of The First Congregational Church of Greenwich
Interim Senior Pastor: Ralph E. Ahlberg
Senior Associate Pastor: Susan M. Craig
Associate Pastor and Director of Middle School Ministries: M. Ashley Grant
Parish Associate and SPF Coordinator: Kelly J. Stone
Church School Coordinators: Rosemary Lamie and Jennifer Lepoutre
Director of Music/ Senior Organist: John Stansell
Associate Organist/Director: Mark Swicegood
Associate Musician: Carolyn Diamond
Pastors Emeriti: Dr. Thomas L. Stiers and Sally Colegrove
Director of Medical Services, AIEH in Honduras: Dr. Reniery España