The First Congregational Church of Greenwich

Meetinghouse Monthly

December, 2004

Advent and Christmas Calendar

28 The First Sunday in Advent November

8 and 10 am

Ralph E. Ahlberg, preaching; Music: “People Look East” arr. by Malcom Archer, and “Almighty Word” by Tallis/Williams/Scott; following the 10 am service, there will be a book sale in the Auditorium supplied by the Christ Church Bookstore.

2 pm

Advent Craft Fair and Workshop, sponsored by the Church School Task Force; Come begin the season with friends and family the old-fashioned way with carols, Christmas cookies and cider.

30 November 7 pm

"Take the Crunch out of Christmas,” Holiday Stress Management, in the Lounge

1 December 7 pm

Healing Service in the Meetinghouse

3-5 December

SPF Christmas Retreat at Silver Lake

5 The Second Sunday in Advent December

8 and 10 am

Who Will Lead and Who Will Follow? Susan M. Craig, preaching; Music: “Bereite dich Zion” by Johann Sebastian Bach, and “But the Lord from the North” by Felix Mendelssohn First Church/First Sunday -- The barrel will be out for monthly food donations for our local pantries.

11 am

Confirmation Class Bake Sale to raise money for their Christmas Service Project

5 pm

JPF Christmas Party

7 December 7:30 pm

Community Chorus Messiah Registration in the Meetinghouse; rehearsal follows

8 December 8 pm

Messiah rehearsal in the Meetinghouse

12 The Third Sunday in Advent December

8 and 10 am

Ralph E. Ahlberg, preaching; Music: “Springs in the Desert” by Arthur B. Jennings; prelude by the Flute Choir

10 am

"The Manger Waits" a service for our younger children and their families conducted by the Church School in the auditorium. Join us as we experience Christmas through our children's eyes. The Cherub Choir sings.

5 pm

Sing for Your Supper presented by the Parish Life Committee and Staff

14 December 8 pm

Messiah rehearsal in the Meetinghouse

15 December 8 pm

Messiah rehearsal in the Meetinghouse

17 December 6 pm

SPF Progressive Dinner; meet in the Youth Room

18 December 4 pm

Messiah performance with community chorus and orchestra. Tickets available through the church office and during coffee hour.

19 The Fourth Sunday in Advent December

9:15 am

“Pastor’s Class on Christmas” Nativity pageant: Once In Royal David’s City; The Children’s Choir sings

10:30 am

Dedication of the outdoor crèche

11 am

Ralph E. Ahlberg, preaching; Nativity pageant: Once in Royal David’s City; The Youth Choi sings

4 pm

Messiah performance with community chorus and orchestra. Tickets available through the church office and during coffee hour.

24 Christmas Eve December

10 am

"Finding Our Way to the Stable" Three Generation Service; Cherub Choir singing; Offering of white gifts; Procession to the crèche and carol sing with instrumental accompaniment

4 pm

Family Service, Procession of Symbols and Nativity Pageant; Offering of White Gifts; The Children’s Choir sings.

5 pm

Carol Sing in Binney Park followed by journey to the crèche and hot chocolate

8 pm

Candlelight Communion Service; M. Ashley Grant, preaching; The Youth Choir sings

10:30 pm

Pre-Service Recital; music for harp and organ.

11 pm

A Candlelight Service of Lessons and Carols; Ralph E. Ahlberg, preaching

26 The First Sunday after Christmas December

10 am

M. Ashley Grant, preaching; The Life of the Gift

2 The Second Sunday after Christmas January

8 and 10 am

Ralph. E. Ahlberg, preaching; Regular Church School Sunday

First Church/First Sunday -- The barrel will be out for monthly food donations for our local pantries.

Proceed in Wonder
Advent~Christmas 2004

by Susan M. Craig

This is the season when we breathlessly await the coming of God into our lives.

This is the season when we search the skies for a star to guide us. This is the season where joy comes in a greeting from an old friend.

This is the season when children remind us that we, too, are capable of wonder. This is the time when the Prince of Peace breaks forth into our time and leads us onward…

The Advent Season is upon us; it is with us. This longed for time of year has come once again unto us, a people who like God's children throughout the ages hunger and thirst for God's presence and God's light. For us here in this part of the world, this season is one of gathering darkness, but at the same time is one in which we gather together lighting candles and rejoicing in the hope and promise of our faith, where we gather rejoicing that we are loved by a God who sent his son to live among us with all the danger that we might have the chance to know that love. Once again, blessedly, the story comes before us. Heard in raucous recorded Christmas carols in our shopping centers, read at bedtime to our children, and there inside numerous cards of every shape and description. We hang wreaths and decorate Christmas trees to symbolize the story. We set up crèches - even one on our front lawn complete with the sheep who share that stable home with the infant Jesus and his family.

Where will the story break into our lives this year? Where will those tidings of great joy jump off the pages of our hymnals and lift our hearts? We do not know. But this is the time for watching and waiting. Let us open ourselves to the unexpected, the improbable, that love beyond all reason.

Then the darkness of our world will be illumined once again, with hope, joy, love and peace, the four prayers of our Advent season. Watch and wait. God is coming…to each one of us.

May God's blessing be upon you and remain with you each step of the way until at last we arrive at the manger.

The Offering of White Gifts

'Twas the night before Christmas
And all through the Meetinghouse
All the people were stirring,
…Even the mouse.

Carrying white parcels up to the altar,
Navigating the crowd without even a falter.
Families placing their gifts under the tree;
The multitude of offerings was quite a sight to see.

Gifts for boys and girls, young and old,
Toys and clothes to protect from the cold.
The candlelight shimmered on the objects below,
Together they appear as a blanket of snow.

Off to St. Luke's these goodies will fly,
Ready for birthdays and holidays with no need to buy.
Much happiness these surprises will bring in the year,
Giggles and smiles and maybe a tear.

So select a special item and wrap it up right,
Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

Please join in the tradition of the white gifts offering. Toys, clothing and other useful items will be donated to St. Luke's to be given during this season and throughout the year to someone who has a special need. Please wrap your gift in white paper and label it with the appropriate age and gender. (Hint: If you find yourself without white paper at the last minute, some patterned papers reverse to white or use white tissue paper. Ribbons and bows are not necessary.)

Join us for the Advent Craft Fair and Holiday Book Sale

Sunday, November 28, 2 - 4 pm
Bring Families and Friends to begin Advent with home made gifts for all ages. Photo ornaments and Advent wreaths, gumdrop trees and icicle ornaments accompanied by Christmas carols and hot cider. Make a gift for your family, make a gift for someone in need. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Please sign up in the Undercroft or in the Church Office.

Sing for Your Supper

Sunday, December 12, 5 pm
Join the Parish Life Committee for an evening of fellowship and caroling. A warm and hearty meal will be served. Special music will be provided by many wonderful voices, which is sure to warm your heart with the Christmas Spirit. Cost: $5 for adults, $4 for children and seniors. Sign-ups will begin on November 28 during Coffee Hour or by calling the church office.

Middle School Programs

December is an exciting month for our church school classes. Join us for exciting lessons during the 10 am worship time in the Lounge. Seventh and eighth graders are invited to participate in the Pastors' Class Christmas Play, which we practice Sundays and Wednesdays, as needed.
5 Pastors' Class in the Lounge & play practice after class
12 Pastors' Class in the Lounge & play practice
15 Play Practice on Wednesday, 3:30 pm
18 Play Practice on Saturday, 10 am
19 9:15 am worship service, featuring Pastor's Class Christmas Play

Middle-Schoolers are invited to Junior Pilgrim Fellowship. JPF resumes on January 2 when we will cook chili for the soup kitchen after morning worship.
5 Sun CHRISTMAS PARTY (5-7 pm) in the Lounge.
8 Wed Last Drop In for the year.
12 Sun JPF and families are invited to the Christmas Sing for Your Supper!


The Senior Pilgrim Fellowship and College Pilgrim Fellowship will hold it's annual Christmas Progressive Dinner and Christmas Caroling on Friday, December 17. If you are interested in attending please RSVP to Kelly Stone by Sunday, December 12! Additionally, if you are willing to host part of this progressive dinner please let Kelly know!

The Rummage Room Christmas Shoppe

Open from 10 am to 5 pm, Monday through Friday, and Saturdays from 10 am to 1 pm. Many delights await our discriminating customers: baubles and beads, gowns and games, tinsel and timepieces, and splendid gifts for all gentlemen, gentlewomen and little folk. On Thursday, December 23, visit us for our annual holiday party and enjoy cookies, cider, eggnog and special holiday bargains.

The Church School Mitten Tree

The Church School sponsors a Mitten Tree to benefit needy families in Greenwich and Stamford. Gifts of hats, mittens, gloves and scarves can be hung on the tree throughout Advent and during the Christmas Eve morning and afternoon services.

Christmas Tree Sales

Christmas Tree sales are underway. Many volunteers will make light work. Shifts are 2 1/2 hours long. Hot drinks and baked goods available for recharging of batteries. We need volunteers for November 27, 28, December 4, 5, 11 and 12. All are encouraged to sign-up. Men are particularly needed. Sign-up at coffee hour, in the main office, or call Betsy Kreuter at 698-3016.

Does Advent Cause You Anxiety?
by Sue Asselin, Parish Nurse

As this Fall unfolds into the Advent season, many Christians are filled with both gratitude and anticipation. We are thankful to God for His many blessings in our lives, and have just gathered together at Thanksgiving to enjoy the most precious of those gifts: our families and friends. There is also building anticipation for the celebration of God’s greatest gift to humankind, the Christ child.

All too often though, Advent can also bring anxiety over the necessary preparations for our Christmas celebrations. All around town we begin to hear "So, did you finish your shopping yet?" as though that is the end all goal and measure of success. There are trees to trim, cookies to bake, and parties to plan and attend. Add this to our already hectic schedules, and we're left drained of precious energy needed to nurture our souls and our families. We must make a diligent effort in order to remember the true focus of
the season, in other words, "to keep Christ in Christmas." Right now I suspect many of you are nodding and
thinking "ain't it the truth !"

What can we do about our stressed schedules and society's expectations? There is no pat answer, and solutions are as unique as we are. So, if you feel that I have just described your life in December, I sincerely hope that you can attend….

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 30 at 7:00 pm.

Our own Lucy Hedrick, author of many books on saving time and getting organized, will lead us in discussion and share her insights on getting what we really want out of Christmas. Sharing our concerns through such programs can decrease our anxiety simply because we are comforted to learn that we are not alone. And on this particular evening, we plan to exchange some very concrete ways to decrease holiday stress.

If you are reading this, you may already know that many answers can be found right here at church. Attending worship services, special concerts, and events such as the Advent Craft Workshop are all ways to keep us focused on Christ. Meditation on scripture and time spent in prayer can feed our soul and help us decrease our human anxieties.

Handel's MESSIAH:
A Marvelous Tradition for a New Generation

by John Stansell

Year after year, Christmas would not be Christmas for many people if they missed First Church's annual presentation of Handel's Messiah, Part I and Hallelujah. This year those people will hear four exciting young soloists who are new to us. Maybe it's also the year for you and your family to become part of a new generation of listeners. Children in fourth or fifth grade should be ready for the experience. They deserve it. See the box in this issue for details about times and tickets.

Deck the Halls…Join the Chorus!

The chorus for First Church's annual presentation of Handel's Messiah is open to all without audition. Make this your year to join in! Some experience with choral singing is good to have, but in a chorus of nearly one hundred there are always veterans to support and lead the newcomers. Rehearsals are Tuesdays and Wednesdays, December 7, 8, 14 & 15 at 8 pm, with performances Saturday and Sunday, the 18th and 19th at 4 pm. Most of the singers miss a rehearsal or two, so don't worry about 100% attendance. We want as many people as possible to enjoy this great experience!

Registration begins at 7:30 on the 7th, or you can arrive early at any rehearsal to sign up. Just bring the twenty-dollar deposit for your red-bound score. We'll see you there.

A Prayer for Christmas

Lord Jesus Christ, come and dwell in our hearts this Christmastide, so that our home may have you in it and be full of joy and peace. May no ill temper, impatience, envy or jealousy spoil the gladness of your coming, but may love shine in our midst, bringing light to all our hearts and minds. Amen.

George Frideric Handel

Saturday, December 18, at 4 pm
Sunday, December 19, at 4 pm
Elizabeth Kluegel, soprano
Holly Sorenson, dramatic soprano
David Vanderwal, tenor
Edward Pleasant, baritone
Community Chorus and Orchestra
John Stansell, conductor

Free tickets available at Coffee Hour November 28
and December 5 and in the church office after December 6.
An offering is received at each performance.

The 2005 SAL Schedule

Sundays at 4 pm ~ subject to change

January 9

Robert Ainsley, piano

January 16

Millette Alexander and Frank Daykin, piano duo

January 23

Early music ensemble BREVE Deborah Booth, recorders & flute; Jay Elfenbein, viola da gamba; Jan-Piet Knijff, harpsichord; Morris Newman, recorders

January 30

Rautenberg-Saathoff Duo, violin & piano

February 6

Elizabeth Kluegel, soprano; Deke Polifka, piano

February 13

Mary Fike, flute; Gunnar Sahlin, cello; Eric Hunter, piano

February 20

Greenwich Choral Society Ensemble, Paul Mueller, conducting February 27 Richard “Cookie” Thomas, jazz vocalist

December Birthdays

12/01 Wallace Jansen
12/01 Susan Cohen
12/01 Kathy Fraser
12/02 Frank Preucil
12/02 Barbara Luce
12/02 Judith Chapman
12/02 William Sandberg
12/02 Ted Carter
12/02 Abby Huth
12/03 Holly Beneville
12/03 Elizabeth Janis
12/03 Lauren Bacon
12/04 Pamela Sheehy
12/05 Dana Low
12/05 Fredirick Arndt
12/05 Anne Strother
12/05 Robert Speer
12/05 Richard Ng-Yow
12/05 Christina Pastore
12/06 Linnea Perelli-Minetti
12/06 John McCue
12/06 Sherry Craig
12/06 Kristofer Arnold
12/06 Katherine Anderson
12/06 Lara Esrey
12/06 Faith Rohrer
12/07 Thomas Sheehy
12/07 Patricia Pollack
12/07 Katharine Wall
12/07 John Angland
12/07 Holly Hanbury-Brown
12/07 Jillian Leigh
12/07 Lucas Dell'Abate
12/08 William Savage
12/08 Edward Mendelsohn
12/08 Ann Garlid
12/09 Joyce French
12/09 Barbara Norrgard
12/09 Nancy Weeks
12/09 Elizabeth Bonsal
12/09 Cathy Sibirzeff
12/09 Joshua Ziac
12/09 Peder Maarbjerg
12/10 David Cowles
12/10 Anne Stolley
12/10 Barbara Oppedisano
12/10 Alexander Jensen
12/11 Mildred Wescott
12/11 Terri Kutzen
12/11 Joel Perez
12/11 Frank Osborn
12/11 Alexa Pugh
12/12 Sue Baker
12/12 Hannelore Moeckel-Rieke
12/13 Winifred Bulterman
12/13 Dr Ralph E Ahlberg
12/13 Martha Ahrens
12/13 Margaret York
12/13 Sarah Saviskas
12/13 Rebecca Coleman
12/14 Thomas Davidson
12/14 Karen Pacent
12/14 Parker McKee
12/14 William McKee
12/14 Alison Tierney
12/14 Sarah VanDermeer
12/14 Nicholas Joung
12/14 Bennett Winton
12/15 George Taylor
12/15 Theodore Allen
12/15 Alex Sibirzeff
12/15 Helen Dempsey
12/16 Barbara Richmond
12/16 Anne Sherrerd
12/16 Jennifer McCalley
12/16 Ashley Tufts
12/16 James Willard
12/16 Emily Weir
12/16 Henrietta Hietala
12/17 Caralliene Westbrook
12/17 Patricia Mendelsohn
12/17 Lise McDonald
12/17 Hugh Hitchens
12/17 Michael Provoost
12/17 Alexander Ng-Yow
12/18 William Provoost
12/18 Bobby Bailey
12/19 Robert Luce
12/19 Erin Kilmurray
12/19 Rachel Wolfe
12/19 Amanda Scopelliti
12/20 Robert Wilson
12/20 Gerald Rigg
12/21 Jessie Patrick
12/21 Peter Janis
12/22 Peggy Coe
12/22 Robert Burdick
12/22 John Fountain
12/22 Niko Fusaro
12/23 Arthur Weigner
12/23 Marie Noelle Meyer
12/23 William Speer
12/23 Cassie Dunn
12/23 Lindsay Anibal
12/24 Sandra Plickert
12/24 Andrew Schay
12/24 Christina Assing
12/24 Wyatt Davis
12/25 Parker Boles
12/25 Dale Greene
12/25 Kellie Norrgard
12/25 Parker Bonnell
12/25 Grace Kim-E
12/26 Stephanie Hanbury-Brown
12/26 Tyler Sandberg
12/27 Julie Smith Kopenheffer
12/27 John Gordon
12/27 Philip Thalheim
12/28 Karen Robbins
12/28 Louise Guy
12/28 Linda Wilkinson
12/28 Jake Carlson
12/29 Judith Nelli
12/29 Diana Klingner
12/29 Christian Burke
12/29 Esther Hoekstra
12/29 Trevor Kelly
12/30 Karen McCalley
12/30 Stuart McCalley
12/30 Frederic Parker
12/30 Jeff Waggaman
12/30 John Allen
12/30 Thomas Hedrick
12/30 Charles Carnegie
12/30 Andrew Sisley
12/31 Adriana Seibert
12/31 Jane Seel

The Clergy and Staff
of First Church wish
you a blessed
Merry Christmas
and a happy and
healthy New Year!

Ralph E. Ahlberg, Interim Senior Pastor
Susan M. Craig, Senior Associate Pastor
M. Ashley Grant, Associate Pastor and Director of Middle School Ministries
Kelly J. Stone, Parish Associate and SPF Coordinator
John Stansell, Director of Music/Senior Organist
Mark Swicegood, Assistant Music Director
Carolyn Diamond, Associate Musician
Carolyn Paulus, Youth Choir Director
Holly Beneville, Cherub Choir Director
Rosemary Lamie, Church School Coordinator
Jennifer Lepoutre, Church School Coordinator
Sue Asselin, R.N., Parish Nurse
Donna White, Senior Administrative Assistant
Darleyne Sandreuter, Publications Assistant
George Handley, Church Business Administrator
Kirk Young, Financial Administrator
Mary Babbidge, Cemetery Administrator and Records Clerk
Libby White, Preschool/Day Camp Director
Richard Nelli, Sexton
Lilliam Mora, Sexton
Maria Drieghe, Co-manager, The Rummage Room
Debi Stickney, Co-manager, The Rummage Room