The First Congregational Church of Greenwich
The Pastors’ Column
by Ralph E. Ahlberg
In a recent sermon, I spoke with
appreciation for my friendship with Bill and Judith Moyers, who were members of
the congregation I served for fifteen years in Garden City on Long Island. He
and his family were not simply names on the church registry; rather, they were
active participants, regular in their Sunday morning presence, available for
teaching in Sunday School and for family retreats. Some years, they even shared
in a New Year's Eve Watch service, a service that even with their presence and
participation, I might add, attracted one of our lower attendance numbers. But
they were there, and I was grateful.
In the realms of religion and politics, Bill is a progressive. In fact, in his
most recent book, Moyers On America: A Journalist and His Times, he provides an
articulate series of essays that are both provocation and helpful in restoring
and maintaining American democracy. Bill is an insatiable reader. Once on a
weekend church retreat at Deer Hill in Wappinger's Falls, New York, we were cast
together as roommates. He told me then that he was a light sleeper and often
used the night hours to read. And read he did. And read he does. All of his
books but this one in particular illustrate the wide range of literature he has
digested and incorporated into his analysis of our human situation.
In one chapter he teaches us again about the danger to democracy of the "big
money" that corrupts our political process. And as he describes "the
never-ending work of democracy" there is often a story illustration. In making
tangible the question of why some are allowed to dominate governmental
decision-making while others are left out, he tells of the Reverend Carrie
Bolton's testimony before a commission of the legislature in North Carolina on
campaign financing. Born into a family of sharecroppers, she picked cotton,
pulled tobacco and shook cotton. She learned by heart the preamble to the
Constitution and the Pledge of Allegiance. She managed to earn her high school
diploma, bachelor's and two master's degrees. She believes she has important
ideas and gifts to render. But, she said, "a snowball would stand a better
chance of surviving in hell than I would running for political office in this
country, because I have no money." So often the availability of money becomes
the bottom line in our nation today. It's wrong and a danger to our soul as a
Bill's chapter on aging struck home with me, perhaps because we're almost the
same age. He writes about a cousin who sent him a column that makes fun of the
aging process. "Aging is when you feel like the night after, and you haven't
been anywhere; when your little black book contains only names ending in M.D.;
when you decide to procrastinate but never get around to it; when your favorite
part of the newspaper is '25 Years Ago Today.'"
But Moyers rejects any pessimism about aging and turns to recent studies by the
MacArthur Foundation. "To summarize them," Bill writes, "is to affirm that we no
longer believe that 'old dogs can't learn new tricks,' for we know that old age
can be a time for learning, that trained elders can even do better at memory
games than untrained young people. We no longer believe that our course in old
age is predetermined; we know from strong scientific evidence that successful
again is not for the most part inherited and that we are largely responsible for
our own old age - we have the capacity to enhance our chance of maintaining high
mental and physical ability as we grow older."
July and August are upon us. If there's time for a good "read" in your summer
months, may I encourage you to pick up Moyers On America. It's a soul-lifter!
July Worship Schedule
|Sunday, June 4
Sowing and Reaping
Ralph E. Ahlberg, preaching
Sunday, June 11
Go and Do Likewise
Susan M. Craig, preaching
|Sunday, June 18
Ralph E. Ahlberg, preaching
Sunday, June 25
Ask the Praying Mantis
M. Ashley Grant, preaching
First Church/First Sunday
On Sunday, July 4, we will have
the barrel out to collect food for our local food pantries. Please help support
this effort with your regular monthly donations. Suggested items this month are
cereal, canned fruit and spaghetti sauce.
September 19, 2004
We need volunteers for this
awesome annual event that kicks off the program year for First Church. If you
have helped with the picnic in past years, we could use your expertise. If you
have willing hands and an itch for fun and fellowship, look no further. This is
also an perfect opportunity for new and newish members to get to know the
community and for us to know you. Tasks include: theme brainstorming,
entertainment, decorations, food planning and purchasing, publicity, tickets,
children's activities, and set-up and service. Sign up for the Homecoming Picnic
Committee in the Front Office. Contact Ashley at 637-1791 ext. 26 with your
questions and ideas.
Happenings Around the Church
Is your child, or someone you
Are you concerned about his or her rights and responsibilities in today's
If so, join an informal discussion hosted by First Church for anyone interested
in understanding the issues and the current status of political actions that may
We will have a presentation given by Bernie Kettle, a Greenwich resident and a
local Coordinator for Love Makes A Family (LMF). LMF is a statewide organization
working for equal marriage rights for same-sex couples in Connecticut. There
will be an opportunity for discussion by attendees, and time for questions and
We plan to invite a local legislative representative as well.
We will meet in the auditorium of the First Church on Monday, July 12, 2004 from
7:30 until 9:00 pm.
Please invite a friend who may be interested. We look forward to seeing you!
For further information, please contact:
Stella Thomas at 637-7624
Pat or David Nelson at 637-5532
Susie Craig at 637-1791
SUMMER CHURCH SCHOOL CONTINUES
THROUGH JULY 25
We continue our quest to make our
world a better place. We have planted seedlings in the church garden, we have
made a long banner of hearts and hands to show how much God loves us and how
much love we have to share, we have made collages of all different types of
people God has created, and we have learned about how to have a personal
relationship with God.
The themes for the July Children's Sermons and activities are:
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 have had fun so far and look forward to seeing you whenever you can be with
"LET US JOIN OUR HEARTS AND HANDS TO BUILD A BETTER WORLD" THIS SUMMER
1. While at the beach, see if there is an area that needs to be cleaned up after
a rain storm or someone may have forgotten to throw away some garbage.
2. Draw a picture for someone who may need a little cheering up and visit them.
3. Take flowers to someone who may have been sick or in the hospital and let
them you know you were thinking of them.
4. Read a story to your younger brother or sister.
5. Pray for world peace.
6. See how many days in a row you do something nice for someone else.
7. Here's a family game: Imagine that you are going to move to another home far
away. Food and housing will be provided for you but each person in your family
can take only three things with them. Talk together about what things you would
choose and why you would choose those things.
8. Volunteer some time in the Church Garden at Mr. and Mrs. Walton's house where
food is being grown for the Food Banks.
9. Sort through your toys and find some good donations for the Rummage Room. The
money they collect from selling your toys will be donated to help people in
10. Learn something about children in another country and how their life is
different from yours. How is it the same?
Quilting of Sally Colegrove’s
Remember the small squares you
signed? 130 of these squares have been assembled into an interesting blue and
white top. Quilting has started. Won’t you join us? We promise you will enjoy
the happy fellowship around the quilting frame. Experience not necessary. Bring
a thimble - bring a friend. Wednesday mornings 9 - 12; Wednesday evenings 7 - 9.
Welcome Libby White
The First Church Preschool is
pleased to announce that it has hired, after a highly competitive search, Libby
White as the new preschool director. Libby, a Greenwich native, comes to the
school with 25 years of director level experience working with children. Libby
has a bachelor’s degree from Lesley College in Elementary Education and has
taught preschool for 7 years and was a preschool director for 5 years. Libby has
a master’s degree in Human Resource Management from Salve Regina University in
Lenten Hunger Effort:
Well Done, First Church!
Once again, this congregation has
responded generously to the call for foodstuffs and donations in our drive to
make a difference on the issue of hunger in Fairfield County. We raised more
than $12,000 during Lent for the effort, and then held the Hunger Walk in May to
further raise awareness and to supplement our collections. While the Walk was
more sparsely attended than last year, the response was nonetheless gratifying:
we collected several hundred pounds of food and added $2,500 to our fund
raising. Inspired by the cause and by the enthusiasm of those gathered, a church
family stepped forward and matched the $2,500! We have distributed the food and
the proceeds among three vital hunger agencies: Neighbor To Neighbor of
Greenwich, The Food Bank of Stamford and Person To Person of Darien.
Having learned at an Outreach-hosted forum on hunger that demand is rising
alarmingly in our area, we are pleased to report that our cash contributions
will enable these agencies to purchase more than 100,000 pounds of the
nutritionally balanced foods so needed by so many of our neighbors.
Honduras: A Mid-Course Correction
The following report was submitted by the Christian Outreach Committee to the
Church Committee for its consideration:
As you know, our 2004 Honduras effort was planned to be two-pronged. First, we
planned to use funds raised by the Lenten Offering to finance several projects
and salaries attendant to the clinics we have built. Second, we held a drive to
accumulate donations of medical equipment, office furniture and playground
equipment, all of which was to be shipped via container to Honduras.
As we reviewed our progress during our May meeting, we found that several
circumstances dictated that we consider changing some aspects of our approach to
this year's projects. Some of our key considerations were:
Collections for the container were projected to fill less than a 20-foot
container; our plan had called for a full 40-footer.
Shipping costs rose dramatically when the shipping line we planned to use
abolished their charity shipping rate for Honduras, citing far too many
distribution problems once shipments reached Honduras.
The nature of collected items was less than ideal. Many of the donations we took
in were great and usable items, but not on Dr. Espana's wish list and not of a
type he was certain to be able to use or find a home for.
Lisa Noorgard simultaneously discovered a national charity known as Medisend,
which accumulates new and reconditioned medical items from around the country
and makes them available for delivery to global charities. We found that we
could allow Dr. Espana to virtually "go shopping" online, and laser-target the
core of his wish list. To accomplish this, we would utilize the same $2000 set
aside for the container, and add to it $3000 worth of donations to Medisend in
exchange for pallets of equipment worth many times our investment.
The Outreach Committee unanimously agreed that to proceed with the original plan
would be counter-productive, while adapting to the developing realities could
actually improve our original plan dramatically. We have thus recast our planned
spending as follows, subject to the support
of the Church Committee:
Purchase 5 Medisend skids, including shipping cost.
Help ensure adequate staffing at the Pinalejo medical clinic and nutrition
Complete the Pastor's house at Subirana.
Transportation Costs of Container donations to Maine
Educational Language CDs
These expenditures would allow us to magnify the value of the Lenten Offering
collections via the Medisend option, while coming far closer to the basic needs
expressed by Dr. Espana for the clinics. These funding levels also maintain our
commitment to proper staffing, reinforcing our message that the projects we
helped build must not be allowed to lie fallow due to a lack of personnel. The
completion of the pastor's house remains important to the effort, as it is a
particular need expressed by the leadership of AIEH. Truly, everybody wins.
That left us with two issues: what do we do with the collected goods, and how
will donors feel? We think we've resolved both:
H.O.M.E. can almost certainly use everything we've collected. We are 90% certain
that we have located free shipping of these items to Maine. Stoves,
refrigerators and office equipment are all needed there. To ensure that no one
feels that we made a unilateral decision, our intent is to contact every
identifiable major donor and seek permission to make the delivery change from
Honduras to H.O.M.E. As both venues are near and dear to this congregation, we
anticipate enthusiastic support.
We did struggle with this for some time, as we were not keen on changing the
program set forth during Lent. However, after discussion, we agreed it would be
silly to stick with a less-than-ideal distribution scenario simply because it
wasn't what we envisioned from the outset. We came to feel strongly as a
committee that the congregation, and those who rely on us, would be far better
served if we were to prove flexible and responsive to changing factors.
We seek the approval of the Church Committee to implement this revised plan.
By Gene Waggaman
For the Christian Outreach Committee
June 7, 2004
Note: The Church Committee approved the revised plan at its June meeting.
Nominating Committee At Work
In the tradition of First Church
in Old Greenwich, our Nominating Committee has held its first meeting to begin
to the process of discerning those whose talents and willingness to serve will
strengthen our congregation in the future. At next year's Annual Meeting, the
Committee will nominate eight deacons, five trustees, five members to serve the
Outreach Committee, and five to serve on the Membership Committee, two to become
members of the Pre-School Board as well as a representative to serve on the
board of Pilgrim Towers. In order to accomplish its work, the Committee
recognizes its need to garner the names of those whose interest and talents will
strength our life together as a congregation. With the arrival in the near
future of a new Senior Pastor, it will be an exciting year to serve. If you have
an interest in serving or know of someone who has that interest on these or any
other committees, we invite you to contact Rick Derr, chairman of the Committee,
Ralph Ahlberg, Interim Senior Pastor, or any other member of the Committee.
Other members serving include: Bobby Hopkins, Sue Baker, John Fryback, Mary Fike,
Judy Gordon, and Pam Speer.
First Church Growers
The harvest has begun! Bill and
Mary Bausch have harvested leaf lettuce, Swiss Chard, and scallions for the
Yerwood Center, Neighbor -to-Neighbor and for the monthly meal provided by First
As I write this, Jack Sweger and Ben Menegon are installing the interior wire
fencing for the plants to climb on. Pole beans, tomatoes, cucumbers and
butternut squash will grow vertically to use their space more efficiently.
Volunteers are outstanding. Rototilling is complete. Our special thanks to
McArdle’s who donated the young plants. Bill Sandberg gave us some tomato plants
he grew from seed.
We need to rake, cultivate, and weed the garden. We need to tie up the plants to
their supports, and remove the suckers from the tomato plants. This is a time
when there is plenty of work for the volunteers. Our equal opportunity program
involves all age groups and we especially welcome teams of parents and young
We will try to fit your schedule. Please let us know a day in advance. Need
information? Call Don at 637-0213 or Donna at 661-6086.
Let the Children Sing!!
by John Stansell
Music Sunday 2004 was not only an uplifting experience for me, as I hope is was
for everyone present, but also a gratifying one. Before I became music director
here in 1995, I had already begun to work for more musical involvement on the
part of the congregation's young people. Back then I started a program called
"Middle School Music" which, in spite of some discouraging moments along the
way, has grown into the youth choir we heard that day, part of a veritable
parade of choristers spanning the generations of our congregation. How
gratifying for me!
But I also humbly understand that aside from holding onto this vision of more
musical involvement, I needed the talents of others to make it really happen.
Holly Beneville (before her Mary Fike) has continued to give our kindergartners
and early elementary children their first grounding in music for worship. Sally
Colegrove's bold youth musical presentations always gave our young people an
experience of their musical abilities. But mostly we must thank Carolyn Paulus
for taking the Youth Choir to such heights of excellence. She brings our
teenagers to an amazing level of performance, in spite of her constant battle
with the seemingly capricious scheduling of school and community sports and
music activities. Thank God for Carolyn!
Today I write on behalf of one of my pieces of our multi-choir program, The
Children's Choir. I write to the parents of our elementary children and
principally the parents of next year's third graders. Please start to plan now
for your child's participation in this wonderful aspect of our church life. The
Children's Choir rehearses on Wednesday afternoons from five to six. Please make
keeping this time slot free for choir a top priority as you plan for the fall.
Rehearsals will begin September 22nd. Communicate to your young ones the
importance of music in their lives and our need to make our personal
contributions to the worship life of the church. As extra enticement, you might
remind them that we have pizza every week after rehearsal.
There will be no school on Thursday, September 16. We will use that day as a
Choir Rally Day from 10:00 am to 2:30 pm. Games and processional logistics
practice (always a challenge!) will be interspersed with singing, some just for
fun and some to begin learning repertory for the year. Of course we'll have
pizza for lunch. Your kids will love this day!
One of my guiding principals for The Children's Choir is that everyone can sing.
There are no "tone deaf" children in my choir, only children who might have yet
to find their true singing voice. I also firmly believe that singing is a
crucial building block in the foundation not only of an individual's Christian
faith but of the church itself. Please do your part to make the foundation
strong at First Church!
Speaking of radiating warmth….
It's been a pleasure spending the past month in my new role here as Parish Nurse
of First Church. If I haven't met you yet, I hope to do so soon. Please stop by
room 203 to say hello, share an idea about your Parish Nurse Program, or get
your blood pressure checked. So many of you have welcomed me, taught me, been
patient with me, and supported me. I thank you sincerely for this warm welcome
which has made me feel as though God has put me in the right place.
Speaking of warmth, as the summer ensues, many of us turn to outdoor activities
in the warmth of the glorious sunshine. While our fond memories may last a
lifetime, we need to take precautions to make sure that the sun's damage does
not. (If you're a winter outdoor enthusiast, keep in mind that the suns rays are
harmful all year, not just in the summer.) We should all take precautions, but
children are especially vulnerable. It is estimated that 50% of our lifetime
exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light occurs by age 18.
What's so bad about UV light?
In the United States, one in every three cancers is skin cancer caused by
ultraviolet radiation such as sunlight. The sun emits two types of UV light: UVA
and UVB. UVA causes some of the cancer inducing effects of sunlight, and
penetrates deeper into the skin. UVB is more likely to burn the outer layer of
the skin. Both UVA and UVB cause wrinkles, sun spots, cataracts, and damage to
the retina of the eye. When exposed to the sun, your skin tries to protect
itself from the UV rays. The skin thickens and produces melanin, the pigment
that darkens cells. These pigment changes can also result in damaged blood
vessels and inhibited immune reactions in the skin. It's important to note that
tanning beds emit mostly UVA light, still posing a risk of skin cancer.
Protection and Prevention:
·Use a sun block with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher for both UVA
and UVB rays.
·Reapply sun block every 2 hours, or after excessive sweating, or after ½ hour
·Wear sunglasses that have 100% UVA and UVB protection.
·Avoid sun exposure between 10 am and 3 pm.
·Avoid long periods of direct sun exposure.
·When practical, cover skin by wearing long sleeves, pants, and a hat. There are
now several manufacturers of SPF rated clothes, some carried locally at "Threads
and Treads" and "Eastern Mountain Sports".
·Keep in mind that clouds do not protect you from UV exposure, and that
altitude, sand, water, and snow, increase your exposure.
·Be aware that some medications, including ibuprophen and contraceptives,
increase your sensitivity to UV rays.
If You Still get Burned: Minimize pain by taking cool baths or using cool wet
cloths on burned areas several times a day. Drink lots of extra water to replace
fluid loss and prevent dehydration and dizziness. Avoid beverages containing
alcohol. A hypoallergenic moisturizing cream, used 3 times a day for 2 days, may
help the discomfort. Avoid creams or sprays containing benzocaine, as they may
cause an allergic rash. Open blisters can be treated with an antibiotic ointment
such as bacitracin 3 times a day. If signs of infection develop, consult you
doctor. Call me if you'd like to review the signs of infection, or to learn more
about sun protection.
Helpful Web Sites about Sun Damage
Web Sites for SPF Clothing: www.coolibar.com,
One last request: Please take a moment to fill out the survey enclosed in this
edition of Meetinghouse Monthly, to help the Wellness Committee and I determine
the interests and needs of the congregation. Extra copies are available at the
church office and in room 203.
May God's warmth always be with you.
Summer Parish Nurse Hours
Tuesdays and Thursdays 9-5
Sundays before and after Worship service:
July 18 and 25
August 15 and 22
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
Libby White, 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.