The First Congregational Church of Greenwich

Meetinghouse Monthly

September, 2004

The Pastors’ Column

Summer Ended
by Ralph E. Ahlberg

The Apostle Paul argues in one of his letters to the Corinthians that the church is like a body with many parts, all of which contribute to the whole. I marvel at the accuracy of that image as I think about this venerable Body of Christ, the First Congregational Church of Greenwich! From those early members who struggled and argued with Joseph Morgan an early eighteenth century minister about the location of the Meeting House (he finally resigned) to those contemporary members who add to the wholeness and effectiveness of our Body of Christ today, we have much for which to be grateful.

One such member who has recently added to the interest I have in First Church is Robert E. Button. He's written an autobiography entitled, Enigma in Many Keys: The Life and Letters of a WW II Intelligence Officer. During the early part of the summer, I got to know Bob through his contributions as the organist at our 8:00 A.M. Beach services. Then I learned of his recently published book and read it with increasing interest and appreciation. I've not known anyone, for example, who had tea with the granddaughter of Charles Dickens. Nor did I know the derivation of a "cock and bull story" though I'd heard the expression a thousand times. But even less did I know about the contributions of committed allies gathered to break codes and garner information vital to winning the war in Europe. Nor had I before experienced, however vicariously, what it was like to be an American officer living in wartime London. Bob gives us a great "read" and an opportunity for growth in our understanding of a significant slice of history. And all this comes from a member of our community and one who with his spouse Decima enriches our common life.

So, as we return from whatever the pleasures of summer that have kept us apart, let us return with appreciation for so many vital and interesting members who compose this rich community of faith called First Church. As community is at the heart of who and what we are, so as the Body of Christ composed of many members, we need you. An exciting program year waits. Beginning in September, the church school and its teachers will return to nurture the life of our children's faith. The church building and grounds will have received important improvements. From the new floors in the pre-school to a much needed repaving of the parking lot, care will have been taken to provide a safe setting for us in which to learn and worship. You will want to be a part of Homecoming Sunday on September 19th that is described elsewhere in this issue of the Meetinghouse Monthly. But don't wait until then. A warm welcome is always present at First Church!

September Worship Schedule

Sunday, September 5
Communion Served
The Cost of Discipleship
Susan M. Craig

Sunday, September 12
A Seeking God
Ralph E. Ahlberg

Sunday, September 19
Coming Home
Susan M. Craig

Sunday, September 26
Knowing the Difference Between Right and Wrong
Ralph E. Ahlberg

Around the Church

Welcome Home and Bring a Friend to…
A Neighborhood of Nations
Sunday, September 19
11:15 am on the Church Lawn

The great fun, music, and food of the annual First Church Homecoming Picnic are truly blessings to share with new and old friends. With this year's international theme, we hope that members of First Church will share aspects of the cultures and traditions represented among us. This is also a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the diversity of our communities, which means inviting neighbors and friends to share their unique traditions during the festivities. Bring flags of your heritage; wear traditional dress; prepare special ethnic dishes to give your neighborhood a taste of your heritage.

Of course, the American flare will be among the others represented, which assures you a delicious meal of hamburgers and hotdogs with all the trimmings, refreshing beverages, supplemented by the variety of salads and deserts provided by fellow picnickers. There will be musical entertainment, fun activities for children, and endless fellowship.

A Taste of the Nations
A table will be arranged with your contributions of ethnic and specialty foods. Labels will indicate the dish and its presumed origin. Picnickers can sample foods from all many nations. So, please prepare something to share for others to have a taste of the nation/culture close to your heart and stomach.

The band features: Whendi Cook, Daniel Broderick, Bobby Fortunato, Jona Ziac and Brian Robison.

Tickets are available in the Church Office Monday through Friday and will be sold at Coffee Hour on Sundays, August 29, September 5, 12, and 19.* Advance tickets are $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and children, and $20 max for families. Tickets purchased the day of the event will be $1 more, with a $25 maximum for families.
*To help with planning food purchases for "A Neighborhood of Nations" Picnic, advanced notice or ticket purchases would be greatly appreciated!

We ask everyone to please bring a salad or desert to share: Last name A to K bring deserts for 10; Last name L to Z bring salads for 10

CALL FOR CHARCOAL GRILLS: If you have a charcoal grill that you would loan to the church for the Homecoming Picnic, please call Ashley Grant, 637-1791 ext. 26.

Inviting and Welcoming

September is a wonderful month for inviting friends, neighbors and associates to come see if First Church is right for them! There is a lot of excitement in the air as our program year gets rolling. Children can explore church school right at the beginning of the year. Our Homecoming Picnic on September 19 is full of fun and fellowship. So bring a friend to church this month!

You may also have noticed that our Statement of Welcome is now more visible to visitors. Our Statement of Welcome clearly defines our desire to be fully inclusive to ALL. The full Statement of Welcome is printed inside the red books, which are passed each week. The second paragraph of the Statement is printed as a welcome at the beginning of the Sunday Bulletin. The full Statement is posted on our website (, is printed in the Homecoming Booklet and will be posted in a few prominent places in the church. We hope ALL visitors will be welcomed by each of us, and feel fully welcome to participate in all aspects of life at First Church.

Rick Derr, Senior Deacon

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. This cruise is a fundraiser for the Women’s Fellowship to benefit church programs and is open to anyone - men, women and guests!

Calling All Ninth Graders

If you are going to be a freshman in high school this fall, this is your year for Confirmation Class. We need to hear from you-especially if you were not in JPF or Pastor's Class last year. We may not have your correct mailing address. Confirmation Class meets on Tuesday evenings from Oct. 5 - May 3. The class is open to all ninth graders whether or not they have ever come to our Church School programs. For more information, call Susie Craig in the Church Office.

JPF Begins

All middle school students--Sunday, September 12 at 5 pm in Room 103 Junior Pilgrim Fellowship kicks off its new year. Come and Join the Fun!! Bring your friends. Parents pick up at 6:15 pm.

Middle School Programs

7th and 8th graders are invited to the Pastors' Class, during the 10:00 am service on Sundays. Join us as we look at the parts of worship services, the differences and get to know the pastors and peers. 6th graders are invited to Church School class in the undercroft.

The JPF (Junior Pilgrim Fellowship) group focuses on fellowship, service and activities for 6th, 7th and 8th graders. We meet on Sundays. Sometimes in the evening from 5-6:15 pm in the Youth Room. Sometimes we stay after the morning worship service for lunch and games. We also offer "Drop In" on Wednesday afternoons from 3:30-5 pm. This is a time for middle-schoolers to hang out, do home work, read, play games, work on crafts, etc. Snacks are provided.

12 Sun JPF Starts (5:00-6:15 pm) in Room 103.
19 Sun JPF (Homecoming Picnic)
22 Wed Drop In (3:30-5:00 pm) in Room 103
26 Sun JPF (5 pm)
29 Wed Drop In (3:30 pm)

19 Pastors' Class starts in the Lounge
26 Pastors' Class

Welcome to SPF 2004-2005!

Senior Pilgrim Fellowship (SPF) is our youth program for senior high school students. The SPF meets for a time of Fellowship and fun on Sunday evenings from 7 to 9 pm in the Youth Room. This group seeks to actively engage the world around them by holding discussions of current events that impact the lives of young people, while sharing our lives with each other. SPF would like to extent a warm welcome to all High School students (particularly 9th graders), we hope you will join us for our first official SPF meeting on Sunday, September 5 at 7 pm in the Youth Room! We also look forward to your presence at the Fall Lock-in on Friday, September 24, this will be a great opportunity for new SPF members to get to know returning SPF members.

Here are a few important SPF dates for your calendar.

29 12:30 pm SPF Board Meeting for current Board Members

5 First SPF Meeting! 7 pm
12 SPF Meeting 7 pm
19 SPF Meeting 7 pm
24 Fall Lock-In 6 pm - 9 am
26 SPF Meeting 7 pm

The activities of this group are directed by student leaders, supported by lay advisors and coordinated by Kelly J. Stone. If you would like more information about SPF please contact Kelly at or (203) 637-1791 x15.

First Church Garden

Please come and help with the harvest so we can continue to distribute fresh produce to our needy neighbors through such organizations as Neighbor to Neighbor and Yerwood Center. No experience is necessary!

By mid-August, the garden has provided crops of lettue, Swiss chard, scallions, beets, beet greens, eggplants, peppers, cucumbers, and early tomatoes. In September we hope to harvest zucchini, yellow crookneck, and butternut squash.

Please come join the First Church Growers for the Hungry by signing up during Coffee Hour for a Tuesday shift from 5 - 7 pm or for a Saturday time slot between 8:30 - 11 am. You can also sign up by calling Marge York at 637.4207. You will receive a reminder call. Please note that we have changed our work schedule form Thursdays to Tuesdays. If another day is better for you, please call Don Walton at 637.0213 to make arrangements.

The garden is at the Walton’s at 36 Old Wagon Road, Old Greenwich. If you have questions, need directions, or have to cancel, please call Don or Marge.

Thanks to the many people who have contributed their time and labor of love to this endeavor to privde fresh food for others in our community.


SEPTEMBER 19, 2004

*****CHILD CARE IN ROOM 104****
Due to redecorating in the Preschool,
Baby and Toddler child care are in Room 104
( Lower Level at the bottom of the stairs )
until Homecoming Sunday.

Looking Ahead

END OF AUGUST - Special 2004 - 2005 mailing

SEPTEMBER 2 - 7:30 pm Church School Task Force


SEPTEMBER 12 - Dedication of Teachers in Worship;
Teacher's Meeting for Baby and Toddler
Nurseries, 3's and 4's after worship; Preschool Open House for First Church
Families incoming 2005-06.

SEPTEMBER 16 - Children's Choir Rally

SEPTEMBER 19 - Homecoming Sunday
Welcome Back!
9:30 am Church School registration
10:00 am Classes begin.

SEPTEMBER 22 - Regular Church School.
Registration continues.
Cherub Choir rehearsals begin.

SEPTEMBER 26 - Regular Church School

Children’s Ministries Handbook

Full Of Important Information For First Church Families

* The Church School Calendar for the entire 2004- 05 year.
* Names & phone numbers of all the teaching teams by grade.
* Photos from 2003-04 church school events.
* Introduction to this year's theme "Things that Make for Peace."
* Cherub, Children's and Youth Choir Information.
* Baby and Toddler Nursery Procedures

And much more!

Our Parish Nurse Ministers to Children Too

A big thank you to Susan Asselin who presented a series of health and safety lessons for our children during Sunday worship in August. These get togethers will continue in her office, Room 203 on Sundays, September 5 and 12 after the children's sermon.


God Will Provide!
by John Stansell

Over the summer, I have marveled at the good-sized group that appears to sing in the Chancel Choir Sunday after Sunday. The smallest number I experienced was twelve, enough to be the Easter choir in many a small UCC congregation, as I like to remind the singers. Then the thought came to me: God has indeed always provided us with a fine choir! So why should I ever feel anxious about whether or not we will have sufficient singers. Will not God provide?

As our fall program commences, it might be time for many of you to consider whether you yourself are being called to be part of God's plan for the Chancel Choir of First Church. (I suspect the call is going to basses in particular, as that is a place of particular need in our ranks.) Some of you know that you have the talents needed, while others might have doubts. Talk to me about that. I am always available for a kind, private assessment of your potential. Believe me, I have great patience and respect for persons of every skill level who desire to be part of our music ministry. Also you can be confident that our Choir is a welcoming community. They will be very supportive of your efforts.

God will also reward you for your participation in Choir. Sure, it takes a certain amount of commitment, but particularly those faithful summer singers will tell you that they are blessed many times over. Just ask one!

Rehearsals begin Thursday, September 9, 7:30 pm in the Choir Room.

All 6th through 12th graders who like to sing.

Our fabulous Youth Choir will begin rehearsals on Sunday, September 26 from 11:15 - 12:15. We will rehearse weekly following the service and will sing in church approximately once per month, including major holidays. We look forward to welcoming back former members and to increasing our ranks this year, so bring a friend. Please come and give it a try. If you have any questions feel free to call Carolyn Paulus at 357-9661.

Palmer Handbells
The Palmer Handbells resume their fall rehearsal schedule on Thursday, September 23 at 8:45 am. Please speak to Mark Swicegood if you are interested.

Organ Oktoberfest

This year, 2004, marks the twelfth season of First Church's Annual Organ Oktoberfest. Hour-long recitals are held in the Meetinghouse, followed by a reception to greet the performers.

Tentative 2004 Schedule
Wednesdays at 8 pm. & Sundays at 4 pm.

Wednesday, October 6
Ignace Michels, Bruges, Belgium

Sunday, October 17
Organ PLUS!
Mark Swicegood, John Stansell & friends

Wednesday, October 27
Gail Archer, New York City


Autumn……a Time of Renewal?
by Sue Asselin, RN

Ah, September, in many ways a time for new beginnings. In regards to nature, we think of spring as the season of renewal, but in regards to our lives, it is more often the autumn that brings a time of new beginnings. September signifies the start of the school year, the church program year, and in many cases even the fiscal year. It's a great time to start a new good habit (or drop a bad one). So forget New Years Day! Make a resolution to start a healthy habit today. Then, together, let's try to incorporate these habits into our busy fall schedules.

What kind of healthy habit, you say? The possibilities are endless. Some are simpler than others. How about walking 3 times a week, drinking 8 glasses of water a day, or cutting down on our salt intake? Or, take small steps and start by parking further away from your destination, using the stairs instead of the elevator, or substituting water for a soft drink. Even changes like these can have a great effect over time. Other changes are more complex, like starting a low fat, low cholesterol, low sodium diet (aka a heart healthy diet, which I have copies of, as well as cook books to share). They will likely take more effort, more information, and more support.

When it comes to our health and happiness, most of us have room for improvement. So, think about your goals, and then choose an intervention that will start you in the right direction. Chances are you already know what you need to do. If you need ideas on what to do or how to get started, come and talk with me. I am here for both informational and moral support.

Don't leave the kids out. Back-to-school time is a great time to implement some healthy changes in their lunch boxes. For more suggestions on this topic try these web sites:

Let's address stress for a moment: Too much stress can be detrimental to our physical, mental and spiritual well being. Meditation on scripture and group Bible study are wonderful stress-reducers. Participating in a creative activity that brings you pleasure, such as gardening, singing, or sewing, is a great way to relieve stress. Because we are such social beings, talking with a friend can multiply our joys and diminish our burdens. Isn't it a blessing that many of these activities can be found right here at church? Many of our groups and clubs fulfill a number of these needs simultaneously. Often they have the added blessing of benefiting the community. So go ahead, join "Hats Off", participate in a Bible study, become a quilter, join the choir, or any of the numerous fun, charitable and vital activities First Church has to offer. Try something new, and even better, invite a friend and share the joy. It will likely nurture your mind, body, and soul, and surely benefit the life of the church as well.

To help the Wellness Committee plan programs wisely, please take a moment to fill out your Health Related Needs Survey found in your July Meetinghouse Monthly. If you already have, thank you! Additional copies can be found in the church office reception area as well as the Parish Nurse's office. Your ideas for promoting the well being of the congregation are welcomed and encouraged.

As I savor these last few days of summer, I also look forward to First Church becoming busy with the onset of autumn programs. Surely these activities will also bring many of you to visit me in room 203. Until then, have a blessed REST of the summer.

September Parish Nurse hours:

Tuesdays and Thursdays: 9 am - 5 pm
Sundays: Sep 5th, 12th, and 19th, 9 am - 1 pm

A Children's Health and Safety mini-series is going on right now through September 12, each Sunday during Worship Service, just after the Children's Sermon, in the Parish Nurse's office, room 203.

Downtime for…
The Twenty-Seventh Annual
All Church Retreat at Silver Lake
October 8-10, 2004 (Columbus Day Weekend)

Downtime. Do you remember what downtime is? Webster defines "downtime" as "the time during which a machine, factory, etc. is shut down for repairs or the like." Some of us need downtime for our bodies. Some for our minds. Some for our spirits. We want to laugh, to be still, to play, to write, to hike, to think, to pray, or to simple observe silence. Here is our chance for all sorts of repair or the like!

Theological discussions Singing
Hiking at Bear Mountain Sitting by the lake
Strolls around camp Campfires under the stars
Community worship on Sunday morning Delicious food
Bread Baking Antique shopping
Visiting the wineries Afternoon naps
Games & Activities for Children Movies & Discussions

Join Ralph, Susie, Ashley, John, Rosemary, Jenny and Kelly on October 8-10 at Silver Lake Conference Center and enjoy "downtime." Consider this: time to relax amid beautiful fall foliage of Western Connecticut; time away from practice schedules and work distractions; intentional time with family and friends; time for conversation; time for good food; time to write that letter that you have been meaning send; time to pray without shortchanging God because you just do not have the time. Commission yourself to experience downtime, for repair of your body, mind, or spirit.

Cost: $100 for adults

$75 for those under 18

(Family maximum -- $325)

Scholarships are available, see Susie or Ashley.

All Church Retreat Reservation Form

Name _____________________________________ Phone _________________________

Address __________________________________________________________________

Names of members of your family with children's ages

___________________________________ ____________________________________

___________________________________ ____________________________________

Enclosed is my check for ________________ Preferred accommodations

Musical instruments played ______________ family room ____________

dorm room ____________

Make checks payable to First Congregational Church. Your reservation will be complete only when we receive your check. Mail check to Donna White, First Congregational Church, 108 Sound Beach Ave., Old Greenwich, CT 06870.

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.