The First Congregational Church of Greenwich

Meetinghouse Monthly

July, 2004

The Pastors’ Column

Summer Reading
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 nation.

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
Communion Served
Sowing and Reaping
Ralph E. Ahlberg, preaching

Sunday, June 11
Go and Do Likewise
Susan M. Craig, preaching
Sunday, June 18
Time For....
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.

Homecoming Picnic
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 love, gay?

Are you concerned about his or her rights and responsibilities in today's society?

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 affect them.

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 answers.

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



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 us!


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 need.

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 Quilt

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. Room 203.

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 Rhode Island.

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:

$ 5,000.00 Purchase 5 Medisend skids, including shipping cost.
 14,486.23 Help ensure adequate staffing at the Pinalejo medical clinic and nutrition center
  2,000.00 Complete the Pastor's house at Subirana.
    700.00 Transportation Costs of Container donations to Maine
  1,300.00 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.

Respectfully submitted
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 Church.
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 persons.
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.


Attention: Parents!
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 of swimming.
·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 Prevention:,,
Web Sites for SPF Clothing:,

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
Room 203
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,
Senior Organist
Mark Swicegood, Associate Organist/Director
Carolyn Diamond, Associate Musician
Susan Asselin, Parish Nurse
Libby White, 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.