January 2019 TRIP to INDIA

Are You Interested in a
January 2019 Trip to INDIA?
Please plan to meet on
Tuesday, February 13
from 6 to 7 p.m. to learn more!

All are invited to gather from 6 to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, February 13, at First Congregational Church, to learn more about a trip to visit our long-time mission partners at the James Hospital in Tamil Nadu, India.  This is a preliminary informational meeting – not a commitment. If you feel called to learn more about God’s work in the world, joining us at this time is a great first step! The India mission team will focus on learning about the mission and work of the James Hospital and School of Nursing, and bringing their story back to Vermont to inspire deeper connections with this meaningful ministry.
It may seem like 2019 is a long way off, but team building and preparation is key for a successful mission experience. In the next few months, we will begin the process of planning, fundraising for travel expenses, and communicating with the James Hospital leaders in preparation for the trip.
Got questions?  Contact Community Ministries Coordinator, Ava Kelly.

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LENTEN GATHERINGS for “Lovers & Fools”!

Sundays at 9 a.m. with Carrie – 2/18 through 3/18
Thursdays at 6 p.m. with Ava and Lucy – 2/22 through 3/22
Tuesdays at 2 p.m.
with Tom and Betty – 2/20 through 3/20

In an unusual twist, the secular calendar is lending special meaning to the Christian calendar!   In 2018, Lent is framed at one end by Ash Wednesday on Valentine’s Day and on the other, by Easter on April Fool’s Day!
The UCC’s Lent Devotional takes on this theme of “Lovers and Fools” to inspire us in our Lenten reflections – a time to explore faith in meaningful ways – on our own and in community.
All are invited to participate in a “Lenten Gatherings for Lovers & Fools” at any of the listed times during Lent. Though these gatherings will vary somewhat from one to another, they will all utilize the UCC’s Lenten Daily Devotional.  Click HERE for a preview.Lenten Gatherings for Lovers & Fools:
Sundays at 9 a.m. with Rev. Carrie Bail from 2/18 through 3/18 – coffee, tea, bagels and cream cheese provided.
Thursdays at 6 p.m. with Ava Kelly and Lucy Samara from 2/22 through 3/22 – this time will include music, prayer and reflection on scripture and the Lenten Devotionals. You can bring a “brown bag dinner” if you’d like; coffee and tea will be provided.
–  Tuesdays at 2 p.m.  with Rev. Tom and Betty Taylor from 2/20 through 3/20 – coffee and tea provided.Copies of the UCC Daily Devotional for Lent: “Lovers and Fools” – are available in the Church Office for a suggested donation of $5.
Those planning to participate in a Lenten Gathering are asked to pick up a copy of the UCC Lenten Devotional on Sunday mornings or during Church Office hours – Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m..  Copies of the Lenten Devotionals are also available for anyone looking for a guide for reflection and prayer during Lent.
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Carrie’s sermon on Epiphany Sunday emphasized the importance of giving to others and receiving God’s gifts.  Our church community is strengthened when we share our personal stories of receiving and giving God’s gifts. From now until Easter there will be time during worship for many of us to be part of this community building opportunity. Please consider offering to share your personal story with our wonderful church community.  Please contact Cyndy Hall via EMAIL or call her at (802) 985.3984.  Thank you.

 SEE BELOW FOR STORIES OF GRATITUDE FROM:  Dave Grace, Tony Hall, Cyndy Hall, Caroline Crawford, and Danielle Rochford

As we kick off our annual stewardship campaign, each week before the offering, a member of this church will share their personal story of how they have experienced abundance through God’s generous gifts.

I’d like to start with my story. Last summer we moved into a wonderful new old home as a direct result of being part of this church. We first heard of the house from a member of this church, who is now our neighbor, saying it would be listing soon. That early tip allowed us to formulate our plan to actually sell our old place and buy this new one, as well as gave us a connection to the neighborhood in a competitive real estate market.

While we moved our possessions, families from this church organized to provide meals to us for over a week, saving valuable time and effort during a stressful period. On the biggest day of our move, another family took our kids, gave them dinner and got them to bed so we could pull off a monumental task. And last, another member entertained our kids, planted tomato seedlings in our garden, and even later planted new flowers around our yard, making us truly feel at home.

As transplants from the Midwest, we have no family in New England, let alone in Vermont, so we often struggle with the logistics of raising kids with such busy lives, but this church has become our family, and it supports and nurtures us in so many ways. We really are blessed with abundance by God’s generosity.

Now, as we head into the stewardship season, I encourage you to remember Carrie’s sermon from last week, when she asked us to think of the gifts we have received from God as well as those we bring to others. Thank you.     – Dave Grace

As a Partner In Pastoral Care at First Church, my visits to people in the hospital, rehab centers and  nursing homes are a blessing. I have been called to do this work for many years. In this calling I see the Holy Spirit at work.  The Holy Spirit leads me to bring Good News to those in need. The Holy Spirit not only comforts me but enables me to do this work. More importantly the Holy Spirit fosters an environment for healing. Just the act of being present to another human being is powerful and palpable.  Just being present starts the healing process.While I’m not physician, the Holy Spirit helps me offer another kind of medicine; healing t  hrough listening and the power of prayer.

Recently, I visited a member of our church in the hospital.  That day found my friend looking all her 90 years; a bit frail and reticent.  As we talked her story unfolded. The details rolled off her tongue as I listened and asked questions. She told me her story from day one to the present. The more we talked the more animated and engaged she became. I could see a change in her demeanor. Her eyes twinkled, she laughed and her salty personality was restored. I could feel her love for her children, the pride in her accomplishments and  see her gratefulness for friends and First Church. Her vivid memories were a tonic for her soul.

After we prayed, I told her how meaningful our time together had been to me. “Let me tell you something” she said. “All day I have prayed someone would come to visit me. All of a sudden, here you are. My prayer has been answered !”

That’s when I knew the Holy Spirit was among us. That’s when I knew we both had been healed.    What a gift.        – Tony Hall

As we continue to think about ways God’s generosity is experienced in our lives, I’d like to share a short story.

Twenty years ago when I was teaching in Bridport, the school received a grant to fund after school clubs. Naturally, I offered hiking. I scheduled two afternoons, one for K-3 and another for 4-6. I taught 6th grade so I knew what I could expect of the older kids. But kindergarteners? It had been a long time since I had dealt with that age group. And sure enough, trying to get everyone ready for our walk was a challenge; eat a snack, bathroom time, shoes tied, find the missing jacket or hat, arguments about who’s first. I thought we’d never get going. Finally we were out the door and safely across the road to a sidewalk. Things evened out, although there was the constant “slow down” for the beginning of the line and “walk faster” for the dawdlers. Soon we were on a quiet dirt road lined with trees. Suddenly a little hand slipped into mine. At that moment I felt a surge of well being. To be so trusted and loved unconditionally was a surprise. Every time I remember that moment, I feel uplifted. That small child may have taken my hand to find comfort for herself, but in so doing, she comforted me. That’s the wonder of this circle of God’s love.

A trusting hand, a smile, a word of affirmation; these are some of the ways we allow God’s generosity to flow through us. It only takes a couple seconds, but the impact is great and long lasting.          – Cyndy Hall



When I was asked if I would be willing to share a few thoughts about my experiences with God’s abundance and generosity, especially as it relates to First Congregational Church, I thought, “Where do I start?”

My name is Caroline Crawford and I have been attending First Congregational since 1997—so, for much of my adult life. In those 21 years, I have experienced innumerable moments of generosity, both from individuals and from the church in general.

I am a people person, so for me, the moments that stand out are as interactions with people, about people. I think about Bruce Hewitt, who sold me my first house, and Nancy McClellan, who was the midwife present when my daughter Elizabeth was born, and Jamie Polli, who was in a play—It was “Lend Me a Tenor”—with me back in 1999. Developing relationships with these people, and countless others, within the church has brought me a depth of relationships that comes with seeing people week after week, year after year, that just isn’t possible with so many other social interactions.

In many ways, First Church has helped me raise my children—in the nursery, in Sunday School, in youth groups, in Super Bowl sub sales. Many of you have been coming here long enough to remember my son Carl’s lively contributions to Bob Lee’s Word of God for All Ages—and now at this very moment, he’s working at the security desk in the midway and helping to prepare the coffee for coffee hour.

My daughter Elizabeth was born six months after her father, my husband Alan, passed away, and the way that this church came together when I had her baptized here, by Adrienne Carr, ably assisted by Nancy McClellan, was a bright light for my whole family. And this morning Elizabeth is at work with the high school youth planning Youth Sunday in two weeks.

God’s abundance and generosity, as manifested in this church, has revealed itself again to me just in the past week or two. I am an outgoing person, but I always sit in paralyzed silence during the prayers of concern and celebration—I just can’t bring myself to open my mouth and speak of things so close to my heart in a group setting—unless I’m at a podium, I guess. But I filled out one of those blue pew cards two weeks ago, letting the church know that a beloved aunt had suddenly passed away, and that I had to travel unexpectedly to Florida to help my parents while my father was having some surgery.

The outpouring of support from this church has moved me deeply. I had phone calls, emails, and mail reassuring me of the church’s support and prayers. And it moved my parents too—and through that outreach, my mom discovered that she’s attending the same church in Naples Florida that some of our snowbird members attend, and she’s hoping to connect with them.

My question was where do I start, and now it is “where do I end?” I’ll end with the invitation to consider for yourself how this church exposes you to God’s abundance. I am grateful to each one of you for being part of my overflowing cup here.

– Caroline Crawford


My name is Danielle Rochford and I have been a member of First Church for almost five years now.  I initially started coming here on Wednesday mornings for bible study. It was important to me to find a church that was opening and affirming, welcoming, and not just tolerant but accepting of others. The only church that responded to my email inquiry was First Church.  This made my decision rather easy.
Cindy Hall asked me to speak today to share my story of gratitude. I’ve just shared my gratitude of finding a faith community that accepts me for me. However, this is about gratitude towards a community that has become my chosen family.
Two years ago, January 31st, my father passed away.  My father died from complications with Parkinson’s Disease; there had been a sudden decrease in his health and his death was unexpected.  I was feeling empty at 4 AM that Sunday morning in the Brattleboro Memorial Hospital. I remember thinking on my way back to the motel that I was going to miss church that day. I didn’t grow up UCC and the task of finding a church that morning seemed daunting. Exhaustion enclosed me as I entered my motel room; I informed a few people about dad’s passing before I fell asleep after a long night.
I woke up later that day feeling alone, numb, and in need. As I started considering options for pastoral care while being four hours away from the church my cell phone started ringing.  Lucy Samara was on the other end of the line. She let me know that the church heard of my father’s passing before 10 AM service.  I was told that my family was being held in prayer and I was asked if there was anything the church could do right now. I can’t remember what Lucy and I spoke about, that whole day is still a blur to me, but what I do remember is that Lucy spent a significant amount of time talking to me. That following week, while I was still miles away, Rev. Sally May embodied our welcome of “who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here” by coming to me via Facebook pastoral care sessions.  Space was held, where space needed to be held, where it was most meaningful to me.
Returning to church after my dad’s death initially was anxiety-filled.  I am a very private person and I dreaded constant questions surrounding dad’s death.  Yet, pardon the cliché, home is where the heart is. I did not just re-enter a community, but I was surrounded by love and grace by my chosen family. In the year following my dad’s death chosen family unconditionally supported me in ways that my estranged family was unable to. Through condolence cards, conversations, hugs, and the question “how are you doing?”  I am grateful for a church family that cares so much about me, who wants me to take a place at the table, and who continues to support me in my aspirations.
– Danielle Rochford

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SUPER BOWL SUB SALE: Pre-Order for Sunday, February 4!

SUPER BOWL SUB PRE-ORDERS are invited and needed by Thursday, February 1.
       Order forms are available at church or you may order with the form online.  Please complete the form, scan and send it by email to Karen Bushey, or drop it off at church during the week.
       Our middle school youth, along with Sub Sale Coordinator Karen Bushey, will be making delicious, fresh Sub Sandwiches of many varieties, to order for pick up on Super Bowl Sunday, February 4.  Pre-orders help us be sure we have enough sub creating ingredients and pre-cooked items – and homemade Chex Mix, Chocolate Chip Cookies and Baked Beans –  for all.
      Funds from the SuperBowl Sub Sale help support youth programs at First Congregational Church including a special spring service experience we our planning with our Middle Schoolers.   As they have for many years, the Middle Schoolers will be making (and donating) “Super Bowl Subs” for all of the residents of the Burlington and Winooski Dismas Houses to enjoy on Super Bowl Sunday!
Thank you for supporting our YOUTH PROGRAMS!
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2018 Community MLK Events – Tickets Available at Church

The wider community is invited to hear:
Rev. Robert W. Lee, IV
the 2018 MLK Convocation Speaker at Saint Michael’s College
Monday, January 22, 2018 at 4:30 p.m. at the Saint Michael’s College Chapel

“The Cost of Silence:
Asserting our Responsibility in the Face of Injustice and Oppression”   

   Robert Lee IV, a direct descendant of Robert E. Lee, the Civil War general whose statue was at the center of violence in Charlottesville, is a pastor, is an author, activist, commentator, writer, and preacher. Lee is a native of Statesville, North Carolina and graduate of Duke University Divinity School in Durham, North Carolina. He has preached extensively across the nation on the Christian ethics of personal responsibility, repentance, and racial reconciliation.   Learn more HERE.


UVM’s 2018 MLK Keynote Speaker: Dr. Marc Lamont Hill

Tuesday, January 23  |   4:00pm – 5:30pm  |  Ira Allen Chapel

(Tickets are required and are free.  To reserve one of the tickets available through First Congregational Church – please email us or call the Church Office – 802-862-5010.  Tickets are also available at UVM and other community outlets – learn more HERE. See complete UVM MLK Calendar event details HERE.)

Dr. Marc Lamont Hill is one of the leading intellectual voices in the country.

He is currently the host of BET News and a political contributor for CNN. An award-winning journalist, Dr. Hill has received numerous prestigious awards from the National Association of Black Journalists, GLAAD, and the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences.

Dr. Hill is the Steve Charles Professor of Media, Cities, and Solutions at Temple University. Prior to that, he held positions at Columbia University and Morehouse College. Since his days as a youth in Philadelphia, Dr. Hill has been a social justice activist and organizer. He is a founding board member of My5th, a non-profit organization devoted to educating youth about their legal rights and responsibilities. He is also a board member and organizer of the Philadelphia Student Union. Dr. Hill also works closely with the ACLU Drug Reform Project, focusing on drug informant policy. Over the past few years, he has actively worked on campaigns to end the death penalty and to release numerous political prisoners.

Ebony Magazine has named him one of America’s 100 most influential Black leaders.

Dr. Hill is the author or co-author of four books: the award-winning Beats, Rhymes, and Classroom Life: Hip-Hop Pedagogy and the Politics of Identity; The Classroom and the Cell: Conversations on Black life in America; the New York Times bestseller Nobody: Casualties of America’s War on The Vulnerable from Ferguson to Flint and Beyond; and Gentrifier. He has also published two edited books: Media, Learning, and Sites of Possibility; and Schooling Hip-Hop: New Directions in Hip-Hop Based Education.

Trained as an anthropologist of education, Dr. Hill holds a Ph.D. (with distinction) from the University of Pennsylvania. His research focuses on the intersections between culture, politics, and education in the United States and the Middle East.

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Faithful Friday Worship & Dinner on Jan 19

We are resuming our inter-generational dinner and worship on Friday January 19th at 5:30 p.m. with the theme “Warm Hands, Warm Hearts” referring to the scripture from James 2: “If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill’, and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that?”
For an opening activity we will assemble hand-warming kits with an energizing snack that will be distributed to some of the youth and adults in Burlington who are homeless.     Our worship will focus on warm hearts; and our dinner will feature…. Comfort Food.

(Speaking of which, Cyndy Hall, who has been volunteering as our “Faithful Friday” food coordinator, needs a sub for January thru March.  Anyone out there willing to do coordinate the food, please talk with Carrie for details.)

FAITHFUL FRIDAY DATE SWITCH:  We have decided to switch this program from the First Friday to the Third Friday to ease the busy-ness of the first part of the church month.  Hope this works for you!   See you there!

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Sunday, Jan 14 at 3 pm: MLK Remembrance Event


The Greater Burlington Multicultural Resource Center announced that Academy/Emmy Award Winner Louis Gossett, Jr. will deliver the 2018 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. address during their annual Martin Luther King Remembrance Event. The event will take place Sunday, January 14 at 3:00 p.m. in the Sanctuary of the First Unitarian Universalist Society Meeting House, 152 Pearl Street.

The event is free but ticketed. Tickets are available at the Fletcher Free Library, City Market, and the Peace & Justice Center. We have (26) tickets available in the Church Office.  To reserve one, please drop by the office to request a ticket, or email Lucy Samara at [email protected]



MLK DAY PANEL to FOCUS ON CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM: The Greater Burlington Multicultural Resource Center will host a panel discussion on Monday, January 15,  at noon at the Fletcher Free Library: “Race, Crime and the Criminal Justice System,” an examination of the disproportionate number of minorities incarcerated in VT. Panelists are: TJ Donovan, Attorney General; Karen Richards, VT Human Rights Commission; Tristram Coffin, former VT US Attorney; Sherwood Smith, UVM; and Henri Sparks, Burlington High School.

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Sunday, January 7: Bells Concert at 3 p.m. at First Church!

Songs of Good Cheer – Bells Ring in the New Year!
Sunday, January 7
Bells Concert at 3 p.m. at First Church!
     Vermont’s Northern Bronze Handbell Ensemble is collaborating with our own Austin Chimers Bell Choir to ring in the new year with an upbeat concert of Bells on Sunday, January 7 at 3 p.m. in the First Congregational Church Sanctuary.   Delicious treats will refresh all at the concert’s intermission reception.  Admission is $12 for adults and $8 for children.  Mark your calendars now to begin the new year in good cheer!
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Settled Minister Search Updates & Contact Information

Our Settled Minister Search Committee was named and officially commissioned, in a “Covenant to Serve,” during worship services on October 15, 2017.

The members are:  Rob Backus, Matt Bushey, Janice Claypoole, Jeff Comstock, Libby Elder-Connors, David Grace, Cyndy Hall, Mike Knauer, James LaPierre, Mary McKearin, Cleophace Mukeba, Ann Vivian and Chair: Susan Ellwood.

CONTACT US: Our Committee will make every effort to keep the congregation up to date with the search process and welcomes your input.  Please speak with one of our committee members &/or email your thoughts and questions to the Settled Minister Search Committee at [email protected] (or U.S. mail comments/questions to our attention at the Church Office).  Thank you!   

– LINK to November 3, 2017 Letter from Settled Minister Search Committee Chair, Susan Ellwood

Additional Opportunities to meet with members of the
Settled Minister Search Committee
Sundays February 18 and 25
following both worship services
during the fellowship time in the Chapel.

You are invited and encouraged to reach out to members of the Settled Minister Search Committee to give input on what is one of the most important questions that we as a Congregation need to answer:

“What qualities and skills are we looking for in a new minister?”

You are also welcome to ask us any questions on the search process while sharing your thoughts on this question.  Members of the Search Committee will be in the Chapel on Sundays 2/18 and 2/25 from 9 to 10 and following the 10 a.m. worship service to meet with all interested in sharing their ideas and questions.  You will find them near the easel with the large search process poster.

Forum with Settled Minister Search Committee
March 11 following 10:00 am service
   The Settled Minister Search Committee invites the congregation to join us for a Forum to discuss what we have learned over the past few months, to answer your questions about where we are in the process and what comes next, and to preview some of the information that will be included in the church profile.  Lunch and child care will be provided!

Our Settled Minister Search Committee is working with the congregation to craft our church profile.

What is the Church Profile?
       The profile document that the committee is working on is newly developed by the national UCC.  It is the primary document that every ministerial candidate will review when considering whether to apply for this call and it is critical to our search process that it accurately portrays our current congregation.
      The profile asks excellent questions. To answer them honestly and thoroughly, our committee and our congregation needs to “dig into” the process and figure out how to portray our many strengths and our goals for the future.  There will be opportunities for various committees to reflect on our church’s current positions relative to areas such as finance, mission, and membership over the next few weeks.  Most important will be the input from the wider congregation on the “essay” questions in the profile to ensure it accurately portrays who we are and what we are looking for in a settled Minister.
      We are committed to completing this process and trust you will help us gather the information to complete the profile.  We look forward to your participation in the process. Our committee is actively establishing a timeline to move this process as efficiently as possible and will share this with you in an upcoming update.
      The big questions that we will be addressing in the church profile are:
“Who are we now?”
– “Who is our neighbor?”
– “Who is God calling us to become?”
– “Who is God calling to Minister with us?”
       Representatives of our Search Committee met with members of the congregation in December and in January to begin gathering input for writing the church profile.  We will soon announce additional opportunities to meet directly with members of the Settled Minister Search Committee to discuss the questions that we need to answer to complete the Church Profile.
In January we focused on the question:                  
“Who are we?”
       Please help us describe “who we are as a congregation” by identifying important events in our church history and the impact of these events on who we are today.  We welcome your thoughts, ideas and questions during our announced gatherings and by email or in conversation with members of the search committee.
       Please speak with one of our committee members (listed below) &/or email your answers, thoughts, and questions to the Settled Minister Search Committee at [email protected] (or U.S. mail comments/questions to our attention at the Church Office).   Thank you!   
Settled Minister Search Committee:
Rob Backus, Matt Bushey, Janice Claypoole, Jeff Comstock, Libby Elder-Connors,
David Grace, Cyndy Hall, Mike Knauer, James LaPierre, Mary McKearin, Cleophace Mukeba, Ann Vivian and Chair: Susan Ellwood.
LINK to November 3, 2017 Letter from Settled Minister Search Committee Chair, Susan Ellwood
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New Year’s Eve Day Worship – 12/31 @ 10 a.m.

New Year’s Eve Day – Worship @ 10 a.m.
A Worship Service for All Ages!

All are invited to “Sing in the New Year” in this worship service for all ages.

Our own Ava Kelly will offer a reflection and we’ll take carol requests and sing as many as we can in between prayers and readings about this “between” time of year in our lives.

Bring your willing voices, suggest your favorite carols… breathe in the sounds of the season and share cinnamon rolls and coffee with First Church friends!

(The Nursery will not be staffed but will be available for parents and children.)

There will be one worship service on Sunday, December 31 at 10 a.m.

The Sunday 8 a.m. worship service will return on January 7.

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