The First Congregational Church of Greenwich
Happy New Year! by Ralph E. Ahlberg
As this is my last message in the Meetinghouse Monthly, I've been pondering what to say. A whole bunch of ideas came to mind. Happy New Year for one! I think of Bonhoeffer's hymn:
Then, it occurs to me to say something about the excitement the First Church family is feeling in the anticipation of a new pastor. What we know about David Young and his family is so promising and so hopeful that our expectations are soaring. And that's the way it should be! An exceptional leader will arrive at an exceptional congregation. Yet, don't make those expectations impossible ones. Reading an article in the magazine Christian Century by Gordon Atkinson, I was chastened by what he writes about how to find a church. He says that we're all looking for a "cool" church, filled with authentic Christians who aren't judgmental but also have convictions. He wants to find a congregation where people forgive one another, love children and worship in meaningful ways, where the minister makes the Bible come alive and tells great stories. His church should be neither too liberal nor too conservative, where people can disagree yet love one another. Then, he asks, is that the church you're looking for? Guess what? You'll never find it! There's no such thing as the "perfect church;" nor may I add, the perfect minister. We're all human and therefore all flawed in some way or another. Remember that.
Remember also the wonderful counsel that comes from one of my personal heroes, William Sloan Coffin. In his latest book to be published next July entitled, Letters to a Young Doubter, he writes what should properly motivate a person to be a regular participant in worship. He tells us how important it is in our lives to put ourselves in the way of beauty. By going to church, "you are putting yourself in the way of information and thought, and by going to church your are putting yourself in the way of gorgeous music and spiritual truths concerning yourself, the world and God." If that's not true, both Coffin and I would believe there's something seriously amiss! And I especially like this thought of his: "My own advice for church going is to experience first, soak in the hymns and anthems, the prayers and sermon - then only later, analyze. Never become dogmatic. Dogma's fine - being dogmatic isn't. Just as doctrines can be fine, being doctrinaire, never."
But my final thought in this my final communication via this medium, is one of personal thanksgiving: That you have given Beverly and me, the privilege of being a part of your congregation for that past year and a half.
January Worship Schedule
All services are at 8 and 10 am in the Meetinghouse unless otherwise indicated.
Sunday, January 2
Sunday, January 9
Sunday, January 16
Sunday, January 23
Sunday, January 30
Healing Power of God
We want everyone to know that we have an active
prayer chain in our church! We invite anyone who wishes prayer for healing for
themselves or anyone they know inside or outside of the church family to let us
know. Immediate attention will be given to your request. We are amazed at the
results from this loving attention. It is very meaningful for those who take
part in this ministry as well as those who receive our prayers. You may initiate
the use of the prayer chain by phoning Connie Walton, 637.0213. Also, anyone
that would like to participate in this church ministry is most welcome. It is a
wonderful feeling to be a channel for God’s love and healing power to those who
First Church/First Sunday
On Sunday, January 2, First Church will have the barrel out for our regular food collection. Please help keep our local food pantries stocked during the cold winter months. Most of the families we feed have at least one wage-earner, often a seasonal worker for whom work is hard to find in the winter. Look around for sales of those items often needed. Suggested items this month are cereal (always!), canned fruit, jello and pudding and soup.
Cook that chili!
For the last 15 years, First Church has stepped up to cook a hot meal at the Community ("Soup") Kitchen at the Yerwood Center in Stamford. Over the years, we've served the luncheon meal on the first Monday of each month to many thousands of folks who either come regularly for nourishment or whose personal situations and needs change with the seasons. Our local United Way Planning Council in its recent Needs Assessment update has found that services designed for short term emergency relief (such as soup kitchens) are now being used as long term solutions to the lack of affordable housing, the insufficient supply of and low wages associated with entry level jobs. It remains a constant struggle of the working poor to meet their own needs for shelter, food, basic health care, clothing, heat, etc. Financially stretched soup kitchens and food pantries continue to serve more and more clients and all predictions point to no easing of that trend.
First Church has long encouraged its church family to serve the larger community in many significant ways. One example of course is our service at the Yerwood Center. Here's the 2004 Honor Roll of those volunteers who prepared the monthly meal for the Soup Kitchen: the Fifth & Sixth Grade Church School classes, the Assing family, the JPF and SPF, Inge Thalheim & friends, Virginia Rose & family, members of the Waggaman family and the Rummage Room volunteers.
Thank them when you see them! Better yet, contact Mary Bausch (622-0309 or email@example.com ) to volunteer your church committee, your family members, or organize a group of your friends for this time-limited task. We have groups scheduled through March, 2005, but the "page is blank" after that! You'll be given a complete shopping list (a trip to Costco is best) and the magic recipe for our First Church chili feast. A church family has underwritten the cost of the ingredients (about $150 a month), so all you need to do is haul in the food and organize a group of 5-7 folks to prepare the meal in our church kitchen (takes 1-2 hours) a day or two before it's served on the first Monday of the month. It's pretty simple, always fun and greatly appreciated.
January 17, 2005, 7:30 pm in the Lounge
Welcome to our first Nights Off! meeting of the new yea! The book: Time and Again, by Jack Finney. A New York advertising man travels back in time to the New York of 1882 - before automobiles, airplanes, world wars - and decides to stay! As this book takes place in New York City, past and present, we may take a trip into the city to explore some of the locales brought to life in this tale.
Everyone is welcome to attend Nights Off! There is no sign-up, just drop in as your schedule permits. Books will be available in the church office and may be purchased by anyone. Please note: this is the Monday of the Martin Luther King holiday.
Parish Life Committee
The Parish Life Committee and the First Church Staff wish to thank all those who joined us for a wonderful evening at “Sing For Your Supper!” Special appreciation goes to Larry and Erlinda Haviland, Marriann and Anders Ekernas, Lisa Hudson, and Rick Nelli who decorated and prepared the delicious dinner. We thank John Stansell and Mark Swicegood for leading us in caroling and bringing their choirs. We hope to stretch the limits next year, beyond nose flutes and kazoos! Don’t miss special parish life events; they’re quite memorable. And if you are interested in volunteering with us, contact Ashley ( firstname.lastname@example.org ).
Reminder: Sunday January 2 is a regular Church School Sunday.
Second graders and their parents begin their Communion exploration with a Parents Only Communion 101 class on Wednesday, January 26 with Susie Craig. Then on the following Sunday, January 30, during Church School, the children and their parents will continue to learn together and make family communion banners. A special Family Communion Service will be held on Saturday, February 5 in the Meetinghouse. Any family whose children did not have this opportunity when their child(ren) were in the second grade who would like to participate now should call either Susie (ext.25) or Rosemary (ext. 20) to explore this option further.
Special Reminder to Church School Teachers and Task Force members:
A dinner meeting for all teachers and Task Force members will be held on Thursday, January 20 from 6:00 - 8:00 pm. The agenda will include planning for our Peace Arts Month. We hope everyone will attend!
Middle School Programs
JPF(Junior Pilgrim Fellowship) focuses on fellowship, service, and activities for 6th, 7th and 8th graders. In order to prepare for the winter and spring, a parent meeting will be held on Jan 9 after JPF. Notice: this year we have 35 slots for the retreat. This winter we are retreating to Silver Lake and Butternut Ski Resort on January 28-30! It is not too late for those young people involved in Fall sports to join in on the fun at JPF. You are always welcome.
Sunday, January 2 No JPF
Special thanks to the 7th and 8th graders in Pastor’s Class for their enthusiasm and humor in “T’was the Night Before the Pageant!” Kudos to the Pastor’s Class teachers for their flexibility and leadership in directing the Christmas Play.
After such an exciting fall and early winter with Pastors’ Class, we are ready to begin the new year with awesome lessons and a chance for our 7th and 8th graders to experience the scriptures in new and bold ways. We also give the youth opportunities to share in worship and communion during Congregational worship, which is vital to their spiritual development.
January 2 Pastors’ Class meets in the
Lounge. We will cook for the soup kitchen after class, so plan to stay.
The following article appeared in the December 3 issue of the Battle Creek Enquirer:
Congregation, others will
miss minister's leadership
The Rev. David Young's life and ministry have taken a turn away from Battle Creek and the First Congregational Church here. Church members and others say Young, who has been in Battle Creek since 1990, has left a mark on them and the community and he will be missed.
Young announced recently that in March he will become the senior minister of First Congregational Church of Greenwich, Conn., a church founded in the 17th century with a congregation of more than 1,200 members.
Both First Congregational churches are affiliated with the United Church of Christ.
Although he didn't initiate the contact with the Connecticut church, Young - who was chosen from 60 candidates for the position - said the congregation "sounded intriguing to me. There's tremendous potential for growth in faith and there are many new young families in the Greenwich area."
Young said he hopes to help his new church grow spiritually and increase its membership. He also believes that his ability to develop creative programs and worship will be useful at the church. "I'm excited about it, but there is a mixture of feelings," he said. "It will be sad not to see people from this congregation on a day-to-day basis."
Church members are in the process of nominating members for two pastoral search committees. One group will work with the Michigan conference of the United Church of Christ to find an interim pastor before Young leaves in February, and the other will look for a permanent pastor to replace him.
Young has drawn people of all ages to First Congregational here, said Dr. Charles Seifert, a longtime church member who led the committee that chose Young.
"When we called David Young, we were an aging congregation ... He has led us with youthful energy and challenging vitality. Now we are a church with multigenerational membership and more participation and leadership."
Young encouraged people to get involved, Joyce Seifert said. "He presented challenges and opportunities in which church members could grow spiritually. He believes all of us can minister and should."
Under Young's leadership, about 1,000 people contributed to a $6 million expansion project at First Congregational. It included major sanctuary renovations, a large courtyard, a glassed-in garden, additional meeting rooms, updated mechanical systems and a new lobby and library.
"It made the building more meaningful and useful ... more organized and functional," Charles Seifert said. "He just stimulated people to get involved and to work things out."
Cathy Schultz said she will miss Young's leadership. While she was the church's Christian education director, "his door was always open," Schultz said. "I could always go to him for advice, for help from Scripture, or for ideas. He was always there for guidance, but he didn't tell us how to do our ministries."
Schultz said she will not forget Young's creative sermon series, especially the one conducted as a courtroom drama. "He brought excitement to his sermons, but they also contained practical, down-to-earth guidelines," she said.
Young has been "someone to look up to," said Rick Hulsey, director of Willard Library. Young is a longtime member of Willard's board of directors and its current president.
"He will be sorely missed," Hulsey said. "He is a pleasure to work with and a great leader in the community."
Under Young's leadership on the board, Willard built a branch library, expanded its youth services and experienced other growth and progress, Hulsey said.
"He has such great values. He epitomizes values-driven decision-making."
Young served a number of leadership boards, including Habitat for Humanity, Battle Creek Symphony Orchestra and Olivet College. He is a part of the start-up team for JONAH - the Joint-Religious Organizing Network for Advocacy and Hope - and has led the Forward in Faith and In One Accord Clergy groups. He also is a member of the Battle Creek Enquirer Clergy Forum and a regular contributor to its "Questions and the Quest" column.
Afternoons Live 2005
January 9 Robert Ainsley, piano
January 16 Millette Alexander and Frank Daykin, piano duo
January 23 Early music ensemble BREVE
January 30 Rautenberg-Saathoff Duo, violin & piano
February 6 Elizabeth Kluegel, soprano, Deke Polifka, piano
February 13 Youth Musical: Godspell
February 20 to be determined
February 27 Richard “Cookie” Thomas, jazz vocalist
March 6 Chamber Ensemble: Mary Fike, flute; Gunnar Sahlin, cello; Eric Hunter, piano
End of Season Garden Report
Throughout the entire gardening season we have been blessed with a marvelous group of volunteers; more than 60 people donated materials, plants, labor, prayers and expertise. With plenty of rain and good growing conditions, the 55 1/2 by 22 foot garden produced a variety of fresh vegetables which were then distributed to Neighbor-to-Neighbor, Yerwood Center, Meals on Wheels, Person-to-Person in Darien, and other charities.
Our best estimates of good quality vegetables that were distributed are listed below:
Peas - 24 pounds
The final harvesting was in the a.m. of October 30 and by the end of the day, some 15 volunteers had cleared away all plants and stakes, and raked the entire garden. Only the flowers planted by the church school children were left untouched, as they were still blooming. In November, the last crew of workers spread lime and fertilizer, roto-tilled the garden and sowed a crop of winter rye.
We wish to thank all those who contributed in any way to the First Church Garden, a church-wide labor of love to produce food for our hungry neighbors. Your prayers and contributions and hard work are shining examples of God's people reaching out to help those in need.
So far, all the feedback about the garden has been positive and many people have already volunteered for next year's garden. If you have any comments, ideas, or suggestions for improvements, please phone Marge York 637-4207 or Don Walton 637-0213.
Toward the end of October we received an e-mail from Bruce and Linda Hanson, our United Church of Christ missionaries currently working with the Evangelical and Reformed church in Honduras. They notified us that the church was in the process of transition, reorganizing its church structure. Where once the schools, medical clinics and housing efforts were operated independently of the church under the auspices of AIEH, (the Association of Institutions of the Evangelical and Reformed Church of Honduras), they now are falling under the oversight of the church which includes the concerns of the churches and pastors.
In this reorganization, the needs of the churches and the training of ministers are factored in, moving the operations of the medical services of the church to a lower priority. The reasons for this are complex, but include the great debt that the church is carrying, and their efforts to struggle through a difficult economic time.
At that time, we also learned from the Hansons's that there have been staff cuts in the area of medical services which include Dr. Reniery Espana being let go. As you might expect, this news has been of great concern. In the ensuing weeks we have been in touch with the Wider Church Ministries Office of the United Church of Christ, in particular, with Rev. Felix Ortiz-Cotto, the Area Executive for Latin America and the Caribbean. With his help we have set up a meeting with the Church on January 4th, 2005. First Church is sending a delegation to be present at this meeting which includes Fred Laffan, Lisa Norrgard, Juliana Pugliese, and myself. Rev. Ortiz-Cotto will also be in attendance. Additionally, the other four churches from the US who support the Department of Medical Services have been invited to attend. We are anxiously looking forward to this meeting as an important opportunity for dialogue, an opportunity to hear and understand the rationale that has led to these changes and to build upon our previous relationship of the past, into one of real partnership. It will be equally important for the church to hear our concerns.
The church in Honduras is struggling, and we have been longtime friends. Our relationship is facing a time of challenge. Most meaningful relationships do face challenges over time. As we enter into the new year and journey south, we hope you will hold us all in your prayers. We look forward to sharing our findings with you at a Second Hour to follow in January.
Blessings to you all in this new year.
Now Is Our Time
During the first half of December, First Church recorded receipt of 34 additional pledges of financial support toward the 2005 Stewardship campaign, bringing the total number of pledges received through the middle of December to 418. The Trustees extend their gratefully appreciation to all. The most recent (excluding those who have asked to remain anonymous) are listed below; a complete list will be part of the 2004 Annual Report. By that time, the Stewardship Committee is hoping for a number at least as high as the 503 pledges that were made to the 2004 campaign.
Lift Your Voice!
The older I get the more convinced I become that people need to sing. This is particularly true of God's people. It seems to me though, as I lead the choir in procession, that more and more people in our congregation are not trying to sing the hymns, or even opening the hymnal to fake it. This is an unacceptable situation and I intend to do what I can to correct it.
Worship is not a spectator sport. Without the full participation of the congregants, our worship falls short of its goal of being a corporate expression of praise to God. While I can imagine some possible reasons why people aren't joining in, the only one I can do anything about is their belief that they CAN'T SING. Unless a person has suffered some physical damage to his/her vocal apparatus, this is an ERRONEOUS BELIEF.
Join me any one or all of the Wednesdays in January (5, 12, 19, 26) at 8 pm, for forty-five minutes or so, in my office in the corner of the top floor near the choir room. I'll talk about the voice and in a casual atmosphere I will help all who come to find their voices. Please let me know if you plan to come at 637-1791, ext. 22.
Happy New Year 2005! The members of the Wellness Committee and I wish you and your loved ones a wonderful year ahead, full of blessings and joy! We thank you for your support of the services and educational programs planned and presented by our ministry.
As your Parish Nurse for the past 8 months, I have been blessed with meeting and working with so many wonderful people. Thank you all for your welcoming and helpful attitudes. More specifically, I would like to acknowledge the members of the Wellness Committee and express my gratitude toward them for their assistance and support in bringing you programs that will help you live a more healthy life - physically, spiritually, emotionally, and in relationship to one another. The members are: Mary Bausch (Chair), Ginny Breismeister, Rosemary Calderalo, Ruth Davidson, Paul Kretschmann, Betsy Kreuter, Ginge Liddel, Tina Marshall Birkic, Pat Myer, Ruth Reed, Darleyne Sandreuter, and Jean Watkins. The next time you talk with one of them, please join me in thanking them for their contribution to the congregation's wellness.
Here are just a few of the things the Wellness Committee has planned for you this year:
January 23 - Second Hour, guest speaker Victoria Hackman, highlighting the services offered at the Greenwich Adult Day Care. You'll be surprised at what is offered under one roof, easing the dilemmas that arise with decreased mobility.
February- Cooking for the Heart, a tasty event, that also teaches heart-healthy habits. Volunteer to prepare one of our delectable dishes (recipes provided) and receive a free copy of the Cooking for the Heart cookbook!
April 21- Lifeline Screening for osteoporosis and several vascular diseases.
If you have a topic you would like to present or explore, please speak to me or one of the committee members above.
As always, if you would like your blood pressure taken, or you have any health-related concerns or questions, stop in to see me in room 203.
January Parish Nurse hours:
The Members of The First Congregational Church of Greenwich, Ministers
Ralph Ahlberg, Interim
Sunday Services of Worship - 8
& 10 am