The First Congregational Church of Greenwich
The Pastors’ Column
Circles of Loyalty
by Ralph E. Ahlberg
In Bill Moyer's new book, Moyers
On America, there's an essay entitled, The Empty Nest. It interested me because
it was written in 1982 about nine years into my ministry in Garden City and my
friendship with the Moyers family. That was the time when we faced a similar
experience of sending off "our final born" to college. And now this month,
history again repeats itself as the first-born of our Ahlberg grandchildren
packs his bag and heads for a college in Pennsylvania.
Bill recalls the sentiment of his friend, the late Erma Bombeck on that kind of
experience. "One of these days," said Erma, "you'll shout, 'Why don't you kids
grow up and act your age?' And they will. And you'll be left to wish for
tablecloths stained with spaghetti, for anxious nights with the vaporizer, for
PTA meetings, rainy weekends beneath a leaky scout tent, and the tooth fairy
adjusted for inflation."
I lift up these thoughts during August rushing towards September because I'm
aware of the planning going on these days at First Church, preparing for the
opening of our church school, the reactivation of confirmation and youth
programs, the building excitement in getting ourselves ready to celebrate "Rally
Day" on September 19, and the hope that there might be sufficient interest and
involvement to once again gather at Silver Lake for an "All Church Retreat" on
the weekend of Columbus Day weekend, October 8 through the 10.
One thing I remember about the Moyers. As demanding as was their work in the
frenetic world of television journalism, they took time to participate in the
worship and programmatic life of our congregation. Together with their three
offspring they were there. And I believe they experienced a similar quality of
community and faith that's offered here at First Church. Youth receive a high
priority within this congregation. And that commitment is reflected in the
caring and talents of Susie Craig, Ashley Grant, Kelly Stone, Rosemary Lamie,
Jennifer Lepoutre and their "teams" of nurturing lay leaders. They provide a
great gift to Greenwich and beyond.
With Bill Moyers, I can easily identify in awakening to how quickly the years
pass. He writes that without children, he might not have discovered how "the
circles of loyalty" in congregations like this one nurture youth and family
life. During August, lots of planning and praying is directed toward the hope
and promise of a vibrant fall here at First Church. Please know that your help
and ideas are needed as together we become a part of those "circles of loyalty"
committed to the mission of this important congregation!
August Worship Schedule
Services are held 10 am in the
Meetinghouse unless otherwise indicated.
During the summer, 8 am services are held at Greenwich Point.
|Sunday, August 1
Secure in the “arms” of God
Susan M. Craig
Sunday, August 8
The Blessing of Courage
Ralph E. Ahlberg
Sunday, August 15
The Blessing of Discipline
Ralph E. Ahlberg
|Sunday, August 22
M. Ashley Grant
Sunday, August 29
Kelly J. Stone
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.
Preschool Enrollment 2005-2006
Church members thinking about enrolling in
the Preschool for the school year 2005-2006 should attend an Information and
Registration Session for Church Members on Sunday, September 12, 2004.
With thanks for what is…
by Susan M. Craig
June and July have brought us all
deep into the midst of our summer schedules. For me June brought an opportunity
to be here in ministry as we moved from our program year into our summer
schedule. It also brought the opportunity to attend meetings with the Northfield
League, an organization which sponsors faith conferences for high school and
college age young people, and time for vacation at our farm in Maine. July in
its turn has provided a sense of homecoming - returning to our community and
Across this time I have had one very pervasive thought which I would like to
share with you. It is that we are very fortunate to live in the
Stamford-Greenwich area at this point in time and history. We experience a rich
diversity of nationalities and a host of different houses of faith. We are
fortunate to be in communities that celebrate that. As a church we welcome and
participate in interfaith worship opportunities, and we seek to learn from our
brothers and sisters of different faiths. Within our church we respect the right
of private judgment of each of our members and seek to share our faith journeys
supporting one another, and learning from one another.
Now it may sound to you that I am stating the obvious, but what I have realized
in my time away is that our diversity, and the valuing and respecting of the
same, are increasingly rare commodities across New England and across our
country. For this reason they are not to be taken lightly, but rather treasured
There is much to be thankful for - as we look around at the beauty that
surrounds us. There is much we learn as we travel and find ourselves some
distance away, just as there is much we each learn as we enjoy time at home with
friends and family. I hope this summer continues to nourish us - and to teach us
A new parking lot is on the way!
The long-needed re-paving of the
First Church parking lot will begin Monday, August 23, weather permitting. The
project will probably take the entire week but we plan to be back in business by
Sunday, August 29. During the week, visitors and staff can park on the
Church-side of Forest Avenue and along Sound Beach Avenue. In the evenings you
can also park at Perrot Library. They close at 5 or 6pm during the week (8pm on
Tuesdays evening). Be aware that you cannot park overnight on the streets.
Women’s Fellowship Cruise
Women's Fellowship is hosting a
beautiful Autumn cruise along the Greenwich coastline following church on
Sunday, October 3, from 12:15 to 3:15 pm. The cruise is being run and catered by
Fjord Fisheries in Cos Cob. The cost is $75 per person. Call church office to
make reservations (637-1791). Paid reservations will guarantee a spot. All
reservations must be paid for by September 12, 2004. If enough people are
interested, child care activities might be organized back at the church. The
capacity for this luncheon is 100-112 people.
First Church/First Sunday
On Sunday, August 1, we will have
the barrel out to collect food for our local food pantries. Suggested items for
this month are: peanut butter and jelly, cereal and macaroni & cheese. Neighbor
to Neighbor in Greenwich will be closed from 8/23 until 9/7, so families are
given extra food in anticipation. Please be generous. You may bring your donated
items to the beach service, to worship in the Meetinghouse or leave them in the
Legacy Society News
We wish to gratefully acknowledge
receipt earlier this year of a substantial bequest from the estate of Hans
Farman, who passed away in 2002. His bequest will augment the General Endowment
Until he became homebound in his last years, Mr Farman was a regular attendee
who, as Tom Stiers put it, "loved the Church and, while quiet in his faith, was
strong in his lover of democracy and justice." During his lifetime, Mr. Farman
also was a benefactor of the music program here at First Church.
First Church Garden
Six months ago, the Church
Committee agreed to add to the outreach program of First Church a new program,
intended to assist in ehlping feed hungry local people. At a Second Hour
meeting, a group of volunteers chose the name: First Church Growers for the
Hungry. They also adopted a mission statement: 1 - Help feed the hungry and 2 -
Grow and distribute fresh garden produce.
After the snow finally melted, volunteers used donated materials to begin
rototilling, erect four corner posts and plant lettuce seeds and onion sets.
Terrific volunteers have rototilled, raked and planted the entire available
area, erected a six-foot high fence to protect from deer and rabbit damage, and
built a garden gate with a flag on top. The enclosed area measures 1221 square
feet. Some 55 volunteers have donated more than 180 hours of physical labor, and
the harvest has begun with food distributed including lettuce, Swiss Chard,
scallions, snap peas and beet greens. The Sunday School has planted flowers to
beautify the garden. McArdle’s donated 144 tomato plants, 24 eggplants and 24
sweet pepper plants. Work continues with planting of midseason crops, weeding,
cultivating, watering and harvesting. The garden will soon produce crops of
beets and string beans with tomatoes about a month away. Everyone is invited to
come and inspect the garden. We can supply hoes, gloves, seeds, knee pads and a
cool drink for all volunteers. There is much to be done, and everyone is
welcome. We wish to thank the Church Committee and all volunteers for their
wonderful efforts and support. We hope to make a difference this year. The
garden is located in the backyard of 36 Old Wagon Road in Old Greenwich. Please
phone Donna Kelly, 661.6086, to volunteer and Don Walton, 637.0213, to let us
know when you are coming.
Thermometers for Hamburgers? Get Real
by Sue Asselin, RN
With summer barbeque and picnic
season in full swing, it's a great time to brush up on some safe food handling
practices. Foodborne illnesses rise during this season when food is often
consumed away from home. Many bacteria live all around us on surfaces and on
foods. Most of us can handle a small amount of these bacteria in our
environment. It is when the bacteria get a chance to multiply, that we can
become sick by inadvertently ingesting them. Foodborne illnesses can cause
stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, headache, fever and diarrhea. More serious
complications can occur, especially for those among us who are very young,
pregnant, elderly, or immunocompromised. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA)
Food Safety and Inspection Service offers many recommendations. The basic
principles: CLEAN, SEPARATE, COOK, & CHILL can guide us toward safer outings.
Keep everything clean. This can be especially challenging away from the kitchen.
Bring disposable hand wipes and plastic garbage bags. Wash your hands before
preparing food, and after handling raw meat or poultry. Also wash your hands
after using the bathroom, changing diapers, or handling pets. Provide
antibacterial hand gel and/or wipes for your guests, and encourage children to
use them. Wash cutting boards, dishes, and utensils with hot soapy water after
preparing each food; or bring extras if there is no source of water to wash
them. At home, clean counter tops frequently with a disinfectant. Using paper
towels may be best, especially when cleaning up raw meat juices. If using cloth
towels, wash them often with hot water in the washing machine.
Cross-contamination occurs when microorganisms are
spread from one food product to another. This is especially harmful when
bacteria from raw meat, poultry and seafood are transferred to ready-to-eat
foods. As my family can attest, this is one principle I am fanatic about…....I
can visualize the invisible. Good practices begin at the grocery store, so use
those little plastic bags they provide for you in the meat aisle. I even go so
far as to place my meat packages on the bottom of my cart. Once home, keep raw
meats in plastic bags in the refrigerator, away from fruits and vegetables.
Always wash hands, cutting boards, dishes and utensils with hot soapy water
after they come in contact with raw meat, poultry and seafood. If possible, use
a different cutting board exclusively for raw meat products. Never place cooked
food on a plate that previously held raw meat, poultry or seafood. In a cooler,
place meats on the bottom, in double plastic bags or airtight containers. Even
better, use a separate cooler for raw meats. Never allow meat juices to leak
into the watery ice used for beverages or fruits.
The goal here is to heat foods at a high enough temperature and for a long
enough time to kill the harmful bacteria. I must admit, I had a problem with
rule number one: Use a thermometer. Even for a hamburger? Yes. The more I read,
the more the answer became clear: Yes. I thought this impractical, and
compulsive. I thought thermometers were for roasts. I thought if the hamburger
was brown, it was properly cooked. I thought wrong. First I'll assure you that I
have always overcooked things in the name of safety, so to my knowledge, I've
never seriously harmed any of my guests with my cooking. With that said, I will
be changing my ways. I have learned (from a friendly voice on the USDA hotline)
that there are thermometers designed for testing thinner foods like burgers and
chicken breasts. I have also learned that relying on the color of the meat to
detect temperature is unsafe. (Much ado about this can be found at the website
below. Once there, type in "hamburger color" in the search box.) There are
little disposable thermometers called "T-Sticks", though I could not find them
locally. (I have sent away for some samples from the website below.) Look for a
thermometer that rapidly detects the temperature at the very tip of the probe.
Digital and "instant read" thermometers are two such kinds. I found several
choices locally at Food Emporium, Stop-N-Shop, Porricelli's Food Mart, and Cook
& Craft. So, use a thermometer and clean it after each use, or get some
disposable ones. Here are the recommended temperatures for safely cooking meats:
Roasts and steaks (beef, veal,
or lamb): 145º F.
Ground beef, veal, lamb, pork, or sausage: 160º F.
Pork chops, roasts, ribs, ham: 160º F.
Ground chicken or turkey: 165º F.
Poultry (chicken, duck, turkey): 180º F.
Eggs should be cooked until firm.
Fish should be opaque and flake easily. Heat leftovers to 165º F. Reheat sauces,
soups and gravies to a boil. Another enlightening fact: hotdogs should be heated
to 165º F. From a freshly open pack, there is little risk, but once opened, a
common bacterium (listeria) can proliferate and become harmful.
Cold temperatures keep harmful bacteria from growing and multiplying. Set your
refrigerator at 40º F or less. Refrigerate foods promptly after shopping and
after meals. Thaw foods in the refrigerator slowly, or in the microwave for
immediate use. Marinate foods in the refrigerator. For coolers, use plenty of
ice or ice packs. Blocks of ice last longer. Consider a separate cooler for
beverages, since this will help maintain a more constant temperature in the food
cooler. If possible, travel with the cooler inside the air-conditioned vehicle.
At your destination, keep the cooler in the shade when possible. Once served, do
not leave food out for more than two hours (one hour if the air temperature is
above 90º F). A good rule of thumb: Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. The
"danger zone" for bacterial growth is the in between temperatures of 40-140º F.
A wise friend who recently visited me here at the church simply put it: "When in
doubt, throw it out."
These prudent practices can serve us well throughout the year, as our
celebrations at church and at home so often involve the sharing of good food.
I've ordered a number of copies of a publication entitled "Cooking for Groups: A
Volunteer's Guide to Food Safety" from the USDA. They will be available for you
soon on the literature rack near the preschool entrance (also appropriately
located near the kitchen). Also look for a safe food handling display on the
bulletin board in August.
Wishing you all good health, happiness, and hot hamburgers.
USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline:
1-888-MPHOTLINE or 1-888-674-6854 (TDD/TTY) 1-800-256-7072
USDA Food Safety Website: www.fsis.usda.gov
T-Stick website: www.t-stick.com
Children’s Choir Reminder!
The Children’s Choir rehearses on
Wednesday afternoons from 5 - 6 pm during the school year. Please plan your
extra-curricular activities accordingly so your child can attend and participate
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
Checked Our Web Site?
Have you seen our website
recently? It is now updated several times per week with sermon reprints, the
latest issue of Meetinghouse Monthly and Meetinghouse Minute. If you listen to
the radio broadcast of the service, you can find the bulletin and calendar on
the website each Sunday. The address is
Wm. F. Penwell
First Congregational Church
Senior Pastor Search
Committee Report to the Congregation
The June Report to the
Congregation familiarized you with what we refer to as the “winnowing and
wooing” process that is carried out once a candidate is determined to merit
intense consideration. As of this writing, there are six candidates
(“Actives”) that remain in this category and four that are still in the
“Pending” category. Although we haven’t shut off the flow of new Profiles
from the UCC, we have curtailed the number we see by having Susan Townsley,
our Western Region Minister and advisor to the search process, screen them
and only allow the ones that seem most attractive to be sent for our
All of the six Active
candidates have undergone some fairly intense scrutiny. In each case, a
representative number of committee members have listened to or seen audio
and/or videotapes of several recent sermons and have interviewed the
candidate through a teleconferencing service. Members of the Search
Committee have traveled to visit the churches of five of the six to observe
them conducting a service and preaching a sermon, and have reported their
impressions back to the full committee. Three of these five candidates have
traveled to Greenwich for an extensive interview with the full committee.
When we finish visiting and interviewing all of the candidates, the list of
Actives will again be pared down and the two or three finalists will be
invited to come back to Greenwich for a couple of days of orientation. This
will involve a final interview with the full committee and an opportunity to
get better acquainted with our town, its schools and neighborhoods and
housing options. We would also hope to arrange a meeting with the Senior
Deacon and the Chairman of the Trustees at a minimum. Of course, these
activities must be conducted individually and coordinated with all of the
people involved … so this final phase will require at least two or three
weeks to complete.
We continue to get questions
about when we will be able to recommend a senior pastor to the congregation.
While we understand the impetus behind the questions, we must repeat … this
is a difficult question to answer. The search committee has spent and
continues to spend an inordinate amount of time on the task in an effort to
arrive at the right decision. You may recall that approximately 60
candidates have been reviewed and reduced to the current list of ten. While
this may seem like a small and manageable number, there are many unknowns
that affect the time line to a decision. Each Active candidate requires
several hours of reading and reflection to pull the facts and impressions
out of their Ministerial Profile, Self Appraisal and written references that
are pertinent to our search. For these top candidates, their references have
to be contacted by telephone and engaged in a discussion of the candidate’s
strengths, methods and results. After all of this investigative work is
completed, each candidate meets with the Search Committee at a time when at
least eight members can be present. Since our committee members have other
lives (barely) and other demands on their time … and since our candidates
have successful, time consuming ministries and obligations of their own …
scheduling is a major challenge. After a candidate emerges as the clear
favorite, it will take time for an employment arrangement to be negotiated,
a congregational meeting to be held and a call to be made.
All of these factors
contribute to an inability to predict with certainty when a recommendation
will be ready for congregational consideration. Rest assured your Search
Committee is working as hard and fast as prudent and an early fall
recommendation seems reasonable. We appreciate your continued interest,
support and prayers.
The Senior Pastor Search
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.