The First Congregational Church of Greenwich

Meetinghouse Monthly

June, 2004

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 career.

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
in community.
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
Communion Served
“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 in Greenwich
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
Binney Park)
July 18 - "Happy Birthday, First Church!"
Founders' Day
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-

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 661.6086.

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.

Warmest regards,
Gail Lauridsen

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,
Senior Organist
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,
Pastors Emeriti
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.