The First Congregational Church of Greenwich
The Pastors’ Column
Growing Older, Growing Wiser
by Ralph E. Ahlberg
Over the past several months, I
spent an hour or so every week with some very interesting and intelligent women
at Edgehill. We gather to reflect on Scripture and its meaning -- learning from
one another all the while. And every so often I remind them as I remind myself
that although there are not great benefits in growing older, there are some; one
of the most important being the wisdom gained living through many personal
losses and societal changes.
One bit of wisdom that's enriched my life has come through an increasing
hospitality to those of different sexual orientation. For a long time I lived in
ignorance. Through all my college and seminary life and indeed until 1972 when
an openly gay man was ordained to Christian ministry by the Golden Gate
Association Northern California Conference of the United Church of Christ, it
was a subject never raised. Only in recent decades have I reflected on the
incongruity in the late 1950's during my three years at Hartford Seminary that
the head cook actually held a Ph.D., a research and teaching degree in Christian
history. His unhidden sexual orientation more than likely ruled out an academic
We are blessed in being a part of a denomination and a congregation that has
courageously stood against the prevailing culture of inhospitality to such
persons. Instead, we have announced ourselves, "Open and Affirming" or "Open and
Accepting." Just as the Church has overcome racial and sexual discrimination, I
have come to regard the position of open and accepting or affirming as necessary
for me personally in terms of congregational affiliation. When the time comes to
return to East Hampton, Beverly and I will become a part of Immanuel
Congregational Church in Hartford. Their pastor, Ed Horstmann, was a member of
one of the classes on United Church of Christ History and Polity that I taught
at Union Seminary many years ago. He has become a splendid minister and teacher
and through his leadership that congregation recently voted unanimously the
following preamble to their declaration of Open and Affirming:
We believe in God
Whose will for us is vitality and love.
We see the passion of God
For justice on earth;
Through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus,
God reveals a way that leads to life.
We believe that all people are cherished by God
And called to live with respect and compassion.
We believe that human sexuality is a gift of God
That can enhance our life together
As we are open to a variety of devotional styles,
We affirm a variety of ways
In which we can enjoy
The mystery of sexuality.
While we are open to the diverse
Possibilities of intimacy,
We affirm the virtues of
Respect, justice and compassion
For all human relationships.
We affirm human sexuality as a gift of God
To be celebrated and cherished in
Relationships of truth and trust.
We seek to explore both the challenge and
Possibilities of human intimacy
And to proclaim the truth of love to those
Who abuse or degrade the gift of diversity.
In all that we do and are
We seek to be as loving as God,
As alive as Jesus,
As creative as the Holy Spirit.
I hope I may continue my "aging
process" at least until 2009, long enough to celebrate fifty years of ministry.
During those years, I've had to learn some difficult lessons and suffer times of
great perplexity and inward searching. Yet, hopefully, such struggles do stretch
one's soul and increase one's determination, for example, be more intentional
about hospitality to all people, not excluding those with sexual orientations
different from our own. First Church has chosen that path in its decision of
last year, and now a group from our Church Committee is seeking ways to make
more visible and tangible its hospitality to all people.
There's much out in the world that's discouraging, but what encourages and
inspires me is a congregation that lives out its Christian hospitality to people
who live in places as far away as Maine and Honduras, and as near as those who
sit next to us on Sunday morning.
June Worship Schedule
Services are held 10 am in the
Meetinghouse unless otherwise indicated.
Beginning on June 6, 8 am services are held at Greenwich Point.
Sunday, June 6
“Wise and Compassionate God...Even Now”
Susan M. Craig, preaching
Sunday, June 13
Ralph E. Ahlberg, preaching
Sunday, June 20
Ralph E. Ahlberg, preaching
Sunday, June 27
“Burn the plow; butcher the oxen!”
M. Ashley Grant, preaching
A trip to the Audubon Center
Sunday, June 13
All ages are welcome. We will
leave from the church parking lot at 11:30 am, after coffee hour. Bring a change
of clothes to church. We will carpool, so if you can drive, please indicate that
on the sign-up. Sign up in the front office or with Ashley. Bring a sack lunch,
water bottle, and $3 admission fee. We will hike 3 to 4 miles.
First Church ~ First Sunday
There will be no food collection
on Sunday, June 6, due to the wonderful response at the First Church Hunger Walk
on May 16. Our regular monthly collection will resume on Sunday, July 4.
Regular or Decaf?
Coffee service at First Church
includes regular and decaffeinated. At all times, decaffeinated coffee will be
labeled with an orange tag. On Sunday during coffee hour, regular and decaf will
now be available, and clearly labeled for you.
Thank You for Recognition
Sunday What a wonderful day it was!
Thank you to everyone who made it possible for us to worship together in such a
glorious way! We are truly blessed to have such a vibrant and participatory
Church School community.
HELP!!! WE NEED YOU!!!! IT IS NOT TOO LATE TO
SIGN ON TO BE PART OF THE CHURCH SCHOOL TEACHING TEAM NEXT FALL.
As in years past, even though Recognition Sunday is behind us, we still need a
few teachers. The chart below shows those classes for which more support is
needed. Please call Susie, Rosemary or Jenny if you would like more information.
Parent Survey Report
We appreciate the responses you have provided. The general consensus is that our
current practice of teaching children about communion in the 2nd grade is just
right. Although most respondents seldom participate in communion with their
children, primarily because their children are in Church School, they were
satisfied with the frequency. With regard to the alternative opportunities for
communion neither the 15 minutes before or after the 10 am service were likely
to be attended but a special family service during Church School was likely.
This response would suggest we do not need to ask the Church Committee to
reexamine our policy at this time. However we will look for opportunities to
increase the occasions for family worship and communion during the year.
IF YOU OR YOUR CHILD WILL BE AT
SILVER LAKE ANY TIME THIS SUMMER, WE WOULD LIKE TO KNOW.
Please give a call to the office with the name and dates of attendance.
Summer Church School
On Recognition Sunday, our Pastor Susie Craig challenged us to "Make Our World a
Better Place" this summer. Inspired by her words and the story of Miss Rumphius,
our summer church school program will aim to do that in many ways. Even our
curriculum, " Seasons of the Spirit", has captured this lesson in the summer
artwork we have displayed on the board outside the Lounge. It is titled "Let us
join our hands and hearts to build a better world". Starting with the
celebration of God's Creation on June 6th, we will explore ways to care for the
environment, care for ourselves, and care for others through prayer, planting,
photography and practicing being good neighbors.
Summer Church School this year will be in June and July. Children begin worship
in the Meetinghouse 2with their parents; after the Children's sermon, they will
go to the Undercroft with either Rosemary Lamie or Jenny Lepoutre for an
activity. (There will be no classes in August beyond our weekly infant and
toddler nurseries, because the floors in the Undercroft are being replaced.) Our
themes for the summer are:
June 6 - "Celebrate God's Creation" (We will plant
seeds to take to the Walton garden on June 27)
June 13 - "Counting Our Blessings"
June 20 - "Welcoming and Accepting all People"
June 27 - "God and Me" (Family trip to the Walton
Garden after Church)
July 4 - "God and our Country"
July 11 - "The Church as a Good Neighbor" (a trip to
July 18 - "Happy Birthday, First Church!"
July 25 - "Teach Us to Pray"
We hope to see everyone during the summer at one time or another. Until then,
have fun in the sun!
1. Alex Oztemel (SPF)
2. Michelle Arader (SPF)
3. Sarah Saviskas (SPF)
4. Christina Schoen
5. Katie Bacon
6. -adult needed-
1. Sandra Buggy
2. Katie Kabot (SPF)
3. Kristin Lovallo (SPF)
4. Elizabeth Schinto
5. Emily Ziac
6. Holly Hanbury-Brown (SPF)
7. -adult needed-
1. Diane Jenkins
2. Shona Quinn
3. Amy Videtto (SPF)
4. Andrew Sisely (SPF)
5. Laura Bennett (SPF)
6. Charlene Mackay
7. -adult needed-
1. Susan Anderson
2. Donna Hascher
3. Bruce Glover
4. -SPF wanted-
5. -SPF wanted-
6. - adult needed-
PASTORS' CLASS - taught
by Ashley Grant and the pastors
1. Mary Ann Assing
2. Debbie Gordon
3. Joe McBride
4. Peter Schay
5.- adult needed -
6.- adult needed
Dedication Ceremony Planned - AED
On Sunday, June 6, the Wellness Committee
and our new Parish Nurse, Susan Asselin will host a brief ceremony in the
auditorium after the 10:00 worship service to dedicate the new Automated
External Defibrillator (AED), recently installed in the hallway by the
auditorium. Rob Vanderbes, of Emergency Medical Group, Inc., will demonstrate
the use and benefits of the life-saving unit. Twenty-three members of our staff
and congregation volunteered to be trained in CPR/AED skills in March. The
Wellness Committee will thank them and especially the members of the church who
donated funds toward the purchase of the defibrillator.
First Church Growers for the Hungry
Volunteer sessions have been outstanding! Thanks to Ben Menegon, Jack Sweger and
their team. Twenty posts, 150 feet of fence and the gate are installed. There is
even a flag on top. Rototilling is almost complete. Some early plantings of
lettuce, swiss chard, spring onions and beets are up and growing. What do we
need now? We need to plant mid-season crops: tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, beans
and squash. We need to rake, cultivate and weed the garden, harvest the lettuce
and spring onions for the June 6 meal preparation. This is an equal opportunity
program. All ages are involved and we especially welcome teams of parents and
kids. We work around your schedule. Please call Don at 637.0213 or Donna at
A letter to First Church Preschool:
This is in thanks to First Church Preschool for providing wonderful, yet
different, preschool experiences to our two children. Our daughter, Sarah, who
is just completing fourth grade, got her start at FCPS. Back then, we were
delighted with all that FCPS had to offer. Six years later, we are back with our
"baby", Christiana, who turned three two weeks after the start of the school
year. Much has changed in the Preschool in six years time, and as hard as it is
to believe, this year's FCPS experience for my child is even BETTER than it was
six years ago. The curriculum offers a richer range of educational components,
and the new socialization skills have been a miracle.
Christiana is in a five-day afternoon class, which, frankly, caused me a fair
amount of trepidation last September. She had been an afternoon napper; how
would she manage this transition? Would she be awake enough to participate fully
in the class? Will the teachers understand the afternoon needs of a just-barely
three-year-old? Will my household be able to handle this new schedule? As it
turned out, the teachers understood it all, and the schedule worked perfectly
for our household. Christiana was able to have playdates or keep me company in
the morning, until the start of her school day. School kept her busy and happy
until I picked her up at 3:00, then she napped for two hours while I prepared
dinner in the afternoon. She was refreshed for dinner and bathtime, and ready
for bed again at 8:00. It was the perfect arrangement. Thank you for
understanding my concerns, and for demonstrating that they were completely
unnecessary! Happy summer to one and all.
The Members of The First
Congregational Church of Greenwich, Ministers
The Members of The First
Congregational Church of Greenwich, Ministers
Ralph Ahlberg, Interim Senior Pastor
Susan M. Craig, Senior Associate Pastor
M. Ashley Grant, Associate Pastor and Director of Middle School Ministries
Kelly Stone, SPF Director
Rosemary Lamie and Jennifer Lepoutre,
Church School Coordinators
John Stansell, Director of Music,
Mark Swicegood, Associate Organist/Director
Carolyn Diamond, Associate Musician
Susan Asselin, Parish Nurse
Penny Gellmann, Interim Director of Preschool
Thomas L. Stiers and Sally Colegrove,
Dr. Reniery España, Dir. of Medical Services, AIEH
Sunday Services of Worship - 8 & 10 am
Church School - 10 am
Nursery Care provided during the
10 am Service.
The 10 am Service is broadcast live
on WGCH 1490 am Radio.