The First Congregational Church of Greenwich

Meetinghouse Monthly

October, 2004

Harvest Time
by Ralph E. Ahlberg

The cooler air and changing colors of October remind me of harvests! Near where I live in East Hampton, Connecticut, for example, on Route 66 there is a very successful nursery and hardware store named Paul's. Every October, the owners create a village named "Pumpkintown, USA" It's become a popular place to bring children, drink some cider and buy some of the harvests of fall. Apples and decorative corn stalks abound; pumpkins prevail!

It occurs to me that First Church is abounding in some harvests of its own.

An obvious one will be the continuing gathering of produce provided by "First Church Growers for the Hungry," those who have labored through spring and summer to create a beautiful garden on the property of Don and Connie Walton. This is an enterprise and innovation that's yielded food for poor people within our larger community as well as for many others closer to home who simply enjoy fresh vegetables. As well as growing food, it's also produced a harvest of friendship for our Old Greenwich "farmers."

The All-Church Retreat scheduled for October 8 - 10 at Silver Lake will also offer a "harvest," this one of friendship and downtime. Fireside chats, good films, worship, plenty of time for exploring the surrounding area will make this a great opportunity for gathering a "crop" of spiritual reserves to sustain us in the busy times that lie ahead.

Another will be a "harvesting" of a different kind, of the pledges that will enable another year of life within this historic and faithful congregation. This year our stewardship program is being led by Bruce Glover and emphasizes the historic role this congregation has played in the life of our community since 1691 when William Grimes decided to give some land upon which a church might be built and consequently a town established. Stewardship Sunday in scheduled for October 17. Note the theme this year: "This is Our Time." It's a new season and a fresh opportunity to celebrate our congregational unity and to insure the health and vitality of First Church!

Still a fourth harvest may be the result of a hard-working Search Committee. Reports have come to me suggesting the committee has considerably narrowed its list of candidates and are now at the difficult point of negotiating compensation and housing. If and when that is completed, a Senior Pastor recommendation to the congregation will be made. In the life of a congregation, such a decision has great impact in shaping the future years. Personally, I've been impressed by the diligence and hours of time that your Search Committee has given to this task. All evidence reflects a harmonious group of First Church members who having achieved a high degree of trust among themselves will offer the congregation an extremely able candidate. As a congregation, while patience is now very important, exciting times approach!

I continue to be grateful for the new friends I've met at First Church as well as for the able and loyal staff with whom it has been my privilege to worship, work and play. I'm thankful for my time remaining in Old Greenwich and eagerly anticipate the above "harvests" that will strengthen us all.

October Worship Schedule
By popular demand, 8 am beach services will continue through October 3.
On October 10, services resume their regular schedule of 8 and 10 am in the Meetinghouse.

Sunday, October 3
Communion Served
Holding Things Together
M. Ashley Grant

Sunday, October 10
The Paradox of Frailty
Ralph E. Ahlberg

Sunday, October 17
Why Bother?
Ralph E. Ahlberg

Sunday, October 24
We ought always to pray and not lose heart
Susan M. Craig

Sunday, October 31
No Unimportant People
Ralph E. Ahlberg

Red Cross Blood Drive
Saturday, October 16, 2004
8:30 am - 1:30 pm

Sponsored by the Women's Fellowship, this annual event always feels like a friendly and downright festive party in the church auditorium. As valued blood donors, you'll be impressed by a full menu of sandwiches, cakes, devilled eggs, juice, etc. (critics call it the "premier culinary Greenwich blood drive") as well as live piano entertainment.

New and repeat donors are urged to come and donate a unit of blood which can save up to three lives in our local hospitals. If you are 17 or older (no upper age limit) and in good health, you are probably eligible. To assure adequate staffing from the blood center in Farmington and to help with a smoother flow of donors, please call 869-8444 to make an appointment to donate. And, here's the secret to a "speedy" donation (if you're short of time on October 16) . . . make your appointment (or come) late morning or noontime, after the early morning 'rush' of donors is over!

If you can help staff the drive for several hours and/or bring food, please call Mary Bausch at 622-0309. There is also a sign-up in the church office for volunteer help.

Homecoming Thanks

A special thank you from clergy and staff to all who helped with the Homecoming Picnic extravaganza on September 19. Your support has helped us kick off the program year with great enthusiasm. Thank you: planners, organizers, decorators, sextons, flag donators, children's activity leaders, cooks, gophers, band members, and guests.

First Church
First Sunday

On Sunday, October 3, First Church will have the barrel out for our regular food collection for our local pantries. Our efforts help provide nutritious meals for hundreds of families in our community every week throughout the year. Suggested items this month are peanut butter and jelly, canned fruit, cereal and macaroni & cheese. Please be generous as the shelves are low after the "slow" summer season for food drives.

Harvest Dinner
Sunday, November 14, 2004

A planning meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, October 19 at 6:30 pm in the
Lounge for the Parish Life Committee and interested volunteers. Pizza will be provided. Please contact Ashley if you are able to come, .

Donate Your Car

A friend of First Church is in need of an automobile. If you are considering donating a used car, please contact George Handley at the church office.

20's & 30's

Are you ready for an evening of fun and a chance to get to know your peers at First Church? There are quite a few of us, but we are rather busy. Still, we have to eat! On Wednesday, October 13 join the 20's & 30's for dinner at McKinsey's on Sound Beach Ave, just down the street from the church. We will meet there at 6:30 pm. You might find that fellowship like this is good for the soul. Contact Ashley by noon on Oct. 13 if you can make it: or 637-1791, ext. 26.

Women’s Fellowship Fall Luncheon
October 13, 11:30 am - 1:30 pm

Mark your calendars now for an exciting lunch and time of fellowship. Kevin McEvoy, Professor of Marketing at UConn will be the featured speaker. Check the Sunday bulletin for updates.

Saying "Thank You" to God
by Susan M. Craig

It may surprise you to hear that stewardship is a very important aspect of our life together in the Church School. It is both an ethic which we try to instill in our children - that of caring for the church, for oneself and one's neighbor, and caring for creation. We want to take care of the gifts God has given us. You might consider it our way of saying "thank you" to God for all we have been given - with our time, talents and treasure.

Our children are taught about stewardship during the month of October. Not only are they taught, but they are given the opportunity to put this teaching into action through weekly times of worship which take place either in the classroom or in the Meetinghouse.

This year we are going about this in a new way. Rather than give our children boxes of envelopes, which often go unused, or are left at home on the kitchen table, we will have offering envelopes available in the classroom. When a child comes into class, they will have the opportunity to put a monetary donation in an envelope, make a contribution of food for the hungry, or tell us about something they have done during the week that was their way of saying "thank you" to God. They may have helped a friend with their homework, walked a dog for a neighbor, shared their toys, helped rake leaves or have picked up some litter in the park.

There are many ways to offer thanks. We look forward to this year being one in which the offering time in our services becomes more meaningful, teaching a value which we hope will continue with our children.

Church School Open House
October 17


Join your children in the classroom and meet your children's teachers as we get acquainted and hear about our plans for their year. There will be two sessions for each class, from 11:10 - 11:30 am and 11:40 - 12:00 pm. This way parents can divide and conquer if necessary and visit your children's classes.
Coffee and pastries will also be served.

Tuesdays and Fridays in October

Beginning Friday, October 8, we will meet at 12:30 pm in the Parish Nurse's office for a brisk walk or a stroll, your choice. Anyone who wishes to enjoy the benefits of activity and friendship should come. We will walk approximately ½ hour, followed by an optional brown bag lunch. This is a rain or shine event, as we will have alternative plans of discussing a health enhancing topic. Please call Sue Asselin, Parish Nurse if you are interested.

Middle School Programs

Seventh and eighth graders are invited to Pastors' Class in the Lounge, during the 10 am service on Sundays. Join us for exciting activities, interesting perspectives on the scripture lessons, and cool opportunities to get to know your pastors, peers and teachers. Sixth graders are invited to Church School class in the undercroft. Remember these dates in October:

  • 3 Pastors' Class in the meeting house with parents for World Communion Sunday
  • 10 Family Worship Sunday (All Church Retreat)
  • 17 Pastors' Class in the Lounge for "Never Give Up"
  • 24 Pastors' Class in the Lounge for "Returning Thanks"
  • 31 Pastors' Class in the Lounge for "What do you see?"

The JPF (Junior Pilgrim Fellowship) group focuses on fellowship, service and activities for 6th - 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 also provided.


  • 3 JPF 5 - 6:15 pm in Room 103.
  • 10 JPF and families are invited to the All Church Retreat. No evening meeting.
  • 17 JPF stay for lunch & visit to Nathaniel Witherall; **drivers are needed
  • 24 JPF 5 pm, Evening Watch 6 - 6:45
  • 31 Fall Festivities 5 - 6:30 pm

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

Downtime. Do you remember what that 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 observe silence. Here is our chance for all sorts of repair or the like!

Theological discussions, Singing, Strolls around camp, Hiking at Bear Mountain, Sitting by the lake, Bring your kayaks for Mudge Pond, Movies & Discussions with Ralph, Community worship on Sunday morning, Delicious food, Bread Baking, Antique shopping, Visiting the wineries, afternoon naps, Games & Activities for Children

Join Ralph, Susie, Ashley, John, Rosemary and Jenny 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 to 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. Sign-up deadline is Oct. 3.

Cost: $100 for adults, $75 for those under 18, (Family maximum -- $350)
Scholarships are available, see Susie or Ashley.

All Church Retreat Reservation Form

Name _______________________________________

Names of members of your family with children's ages





Phone _______________________________________

Address _______________________________________


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 Who, What, Where, When, Why of Flu Vaccination
(not necessarily in that order)
by Susan Asselin, Parish Nurse


It's that time of year again, to consider getting the influenza vaccine in order to protect ourselves and our loved ones during the upcoming flu season. While for some of us the flu is uncomfortable and inconvenient, for others it can be life-threatening. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) offers these facts to encourage us to be immunized: Each year influenza causes 36,000 deaths in the United States, primarily in people age 65 or older. Influenza hospitalizes 114,000 people in the United States annually, half being under 2 years old, and half being over 65 years old. If you fall somewhere in the middle of these age groups, consider getting immunized to protect others that you come in contact with.


There are 2 types of influenza vaccine, an injectable "flu shot" and a nasal-spray vaccine. The flu shot is the most common form and is approved for most people over 6 months old. The nasal-spray vaccine is approved for a much more limited population. Each year the vaccine contains the three most common strains of flu for the year, determined by the CDC, the World Health Organization, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.


Anyone who wants to prevent getting ill from the flu should get vaccinated, but it is especially important for these people to get immunized:

  • Adults aged 50 and over
  • Children aged 6 to 23 months
  • Anyone with a chronic health condition, including heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, asthma, cancer, HIV/AIDS
  • Women who will be pregnant during the flu season (November-March)
  • Household contacts of high risk people (all of the people above)
  • Health care workers

Few people should not get the flu vaccine. Speak to your doctor if you have had an allergic reaction to eggs or to a previous influenza vaccine, or if you have a history of Guillain-Barre Syndrome. If you have a fever, postpone your immunization until you are well.


Flu season runs from November to March, peaking sometime between late December and early March. After vaccination, it takes about 2 weeks to develop immunity to the flu. The optimal time to get vaccinated is in October and November, but it is still beneficial anytime during the flu season. The vaccine is closely regulated and cannot be distributed until it is released by the CDC. At the time of this writing, I had hoped to provide specific dates for the First Church Vaccination Program, however, at the advice of the distributor, I cannot. The Wellness Committee and I are doing our best to provide the vaccine here on two Sundays late in October. Look for updates in bulletins and announcements.

WHERE (depends on WHO)

If you are a Medicare recipient, the flu shot is offered at no charge to you, at the Town of Greenwich Senior Health Fair on Tuesday, October 19th at the Civic Center. Your doctor's office can also bill Medicare for the vaccination. Pregnant women, and young people under the age of 18 should see their private physicians. Here at First Church, we will offer the vaccine to people at least 18 years of age, for an anticipated fee of $20.

So, no matter the specifics of who, where, and why, the important thing is that unless you have a contraindication, getting vaccinated against the flu is a good idea for the health of you and your loved ones. With God's grace through modern medicine, may your family be flu-free this season.

The optimal time to get vaccinated is in October and November
October Parish Nurse hours:

Tuesdays and Thursdays: 9 am - 5 pm
Sundays: October 10 and 24, 9 am - 1 pm

Friends Helping Friends Luncheon

On Friday, October 1, 12:30 pm in the Lounge, Pastor Susie Craig and Parish Nurse Sue Asselin will host a luncheon for past and prospective "Friends". Friends Helping Friends is a group of First Church members who commit themselves to acts of kindness such as assisting individuals with errands, marketing, or trips to the doctor. They may also prepare meals for people who have come home from the hospital after surgery, illness, or childbirth. If you've helped in the past, please come and allow us to thank you. If you would like to get involved, come meet with us. You may also get involved or update your status by calling Susie Craig or Sue Asselin. All are welcome to enjoy lunch with us. RSVPs are appreciated, to assist us in planning.

Moment of Concern
by Bruce Glover
delivered during the morning worship
19 September 2004

Good Morning.

I'm Bruce Glover and I'm chairing the annual Stewardship effort this year. As we regroup this morning for Homecoming Sunday I'd like us to start thinking about Stewardship and what it means be to a steward of this church. I've been helping out with Stewardship on and off for the past several years and one observation that I've heard made, pretty consistently, is that the routine costs of running the church --- paying the electric bill here, even providing medicine abroad --- won't inspire annual pledging from everyone. The simple proposition that operating First Church requires regular stewardship pledging just isn't enough.

Rather, it's necessary to remind the congregation of the myriad programs this church offers and the benefits of membership. In other words, its necessary for me to make a "value proposition".

And I recognize that I can't ask you to pledge, what should be for each of us, a considerable sum of money, without some accounting of where that money goes, and in a mailing you will receive shortly, there will be detailed information on budget allocations and the meaningful programs the budget supports. But to "dumb" it all down as much as I can right now - we need just shy of a million dollars this year in pledges to run the church, support our programs and fund outreach.

But this morning I'd like us to step back from the usual metrics and consider another perspective. A longer perspective that recognizes that we're stewards of a rich tradition spanning nearly three and a half centuries --- that each of us is an essential link in a chain of history and a chain of faith, and that your regular, substantial pledge --- keeping the "lights on" (so to speak) -- is an important, essential, act of faith.

Have you ever thought how lucky we are to be authentic participants in a living tradition that reaches so far back in time? We'd already been here for 100 years when Benjamin Franklin rode down the Post Road on his way to the Continental Congress. We were here for two centuries before the end of the Civil War - and the end of slavery. We were three centuries old during the civil rights movement. And our Church, begun by Puritans so many years ago, grew with our strengthening and expanding nation. And each generation of First Church members -- First Church stewards --- during their time here --- forged an essential link in the chain of faith that has pulled us forward to this moment.

And now it is our time.

Its easy today, I think, to forget ourselves. We gather in this beautiful building, in a town famous for its privilege and wealth, in the shadow the most powerful city the planet has ever known. While we're not - to borrow from Tom Wolf -- all "Masters of the Universe" by any means -- a lot of us have it pretty good, and we may seem a long way from those that gathered here in the early days, in what may have been no more than a simple hut.

But when you take the long view, you see that we're not really that different. Our responsibility to this Church is as real, and as immediate, as was theirs - as are the challenges we are facing together today.

So, as we begin the annual Stewardship process this year, lets remember that each of us are the stewards of that brave, fledgling little congregation began here centuries ago and the grateful inheritors of their resolute faith in God that has allowed First Church to span the centuries with grace and love.

We are here now. And it's our time.

Please consider these ideas when determining your pledge amount
this year.

Thank you.

Don't Miss It!
by John Stansell

The organ, my instrument, is very much on my mind this month as we present our 12th Annual Organ Oktoberfest. We will welcome guest organists on Wednesday evenings, October 6 & 27, and on Sunday afternoon, October 17, Mark Swicegood and I will be joined by three other instrumentalists for an entertaining program of "Organ PLUS."

As I think about the organ, my mind goes back to Homecoming Sunday. Mark and trumpeter Ravi Rajan offered a gem of a piece as prelude to the service. But I fear that nearly half of the people who attended the service arrived too late to hear it. Week after week Mark, Carolyn Diamond and I prepare marvelous, worthwhile and quite varied pieces as preludes to the service. We see it as a very important aspect of our work. Those who make a point of arriving by 9:45 are able to hear great music and that concentrated listening can often prepare them to participate more fully in the service that follows. As an added bonus, they are gaining familiarity with the sonorities and repertory of the my beloved "king of instruments."

Childcare is provided in the undercroft beginning at 9 am so that parents can participate in choir and other pre-service activities. Those desiring to listen to the prelude may use this service.

So I am asking that, as often as your life will allow, you arrive early to hear the prelude. DON'T MISS IT!

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.

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

Wednesday, October 6
Ignace Michels, Titulaire, Saint Saviour’s Cathedral, Bruges, Belgium

Sunday, October 17
Organ PLUS!
Mark Swicegood, John Stansell, organ
Mary Fike, flute; Gunnar Sahlin, cello;
Ravi Rajan, trumpet

Wednesday, October 27
Gail Archer, Barnard College, Columbia University,
New York City

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.