Weather Concerns – Updates for Sunday Jan. 20

Weather & Travel Concerns – Updates for Sunday January 20
  • Your safety is our first concern.
  • The snow storm is challenging – it is extremely cold – and driving is reported to be hazardous this morning.
  • Many church programs are cancelled – the details are below.
  • There will be a 10 a.m. worship service
    •   David Neiweem says: “I am sorry to say – I could not clear my driveway and am unable to get to church.  Though I am cancelling Sanctuary Choir this morning, I am sure that those who gather will sing!”
  • Be aware that parking may be limited as the parking garages are used by Burlington residents during snow storms with parking bans.

What’s NOT happening on Sunday January 20?

  • The 8 a.m. worship service is cancelled.
  • Additional cancellations:
    • Sanctuary Choir
    • Children’s Choir
    • Youth Choir
    • Drum Choir
    • The Nursery/Toddler/PreSchool Room will not be staffed this morning.
    • The sale of “Part Two” Pick-A-Party Tickets for Winter and Spring Parties has been delayed until Sunday, January 27 – before and following the 10 a.m. worship service.
  • The 5 p.m. Sacred Spaces worship service is cancelled
What IS happening on Sunday January 20?
10 a.m. Worship:
  • Preacher: We are serving as a neutral pulpit this morning – our preacher is a candidate to serve as an associate minister with a Vermont UCC congregation (details below).  Members of our Worship Committee will assist in leading the worship service.
  • Rev. Carrie Bail will not be in this morning as she is with family mourning the death of her brother.

10:20 a.m.  – Any Middle School Youth and Grade K thru 5 children present will meet with Becky Johnston and Caroline Sheehan following the “Word of God for All Ages” – they will watch a cartoon video of Esther (Linked HERE for home viewing!) as a fun, informal introduction to the upcoming unit focused on the Book of Esther.

11 a.m. – Fellowship gathering with refreshments in the Chapel

     Our search for a settled minister candidate was aided by the Vermont UCC congregations that quietly served as “neutral pulpits” for candidates to preach with our Settled Minister Search Committee present in the congregation.
On Sunday, January 20th at 10 a.m. we will have the opportunity to quietly support a Vermont UCC congregation that is searching for a minister by serving as a place for their candidate to preach. Please join us for this worshipful opportunity to support a “sister” Vermont UCC congregation.  Thank you!

JANUARY 20 MLK EVENT POSTPONED: The 3 p.m. Martin Luther King Day Remembrance Event featuring Dr. Michael Eric Dyson has been postponed.  When the event is re-scheduled we will be in touch to update you and will have free tickets available.

Message from the New Alpha Missionary Baptist Church: Given the extreme weather advisory and plunging temperatures New Alpha is canceling its worship service for tomorrow January 20th.  Blessings, see you all next Sunday,
Deacon Jarvis

Thank you for your thoughtfulness and patience.
Stay warm and safe!
Lucy Samara, Communications Coordinator

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Rev. Elissa Johnk: Our new minister!

Rev. Elissa Johnk to Serve as Minister
at First Congregational Church UCC of Burlington
Sunday, January 13, 2019: It is with great joy that we announce that at today’s Congregational Meeting, the gathered congregation unanimously approved the recommendation from our Settled Minister Search Committee that Rev. Elissa Johnk be called to serve as the next Minister of First Congregational Church UCC of Burlington! 
     Rev. Johnk has accepted our call and will begin her ministry with us on April 9.  She will begin leading worship services on Palm Sunday, April 14.


Use this LINK to view Rev. Johnk’s January 13, 2019 sermon: “Beloved”

SUNDAY, JANUARY 13 at 11 a.m.
Warning:  In accordance with Articles VII, VIII (c)  and X,  Sections 3, 4 and 5 of the Bylaws of The First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, Burlington, Vermont,  a Special Congregational Meeting will be held on Sunday January 13, 2019 at 11:00 AM to consider the report and recommendation of the Minister Search Committee to call a new minister.                                                                                                                                            – Linda Elrick, Clerk

January 6, 2019:

 Announcement from our Settled Minister Search Committee – our candidate is:
Rev. Elissa Johnk
Dear Members and Friends of First Church:
As you all know by now, the Settled Minister Search Committee has selected a candidate that we will ask the congregation to approve at a church-wide meeting on January 13, 2019, following the 10 am service.
It is my honor and privilege to share with you the name and some brief information about our selected candidate below.  But first, I will share with you how we got here, so that you may come to see why we believe this is the best next step in the life of our church and the best person to lead First Church into the next chapter of its life and ministry.
In October of 2017, this committee was commissioned and asked to meet this extraordinarily important goal:  to articulate who God is calling us to be as a congregation and to find who God is calling to next minister with us.  I think it is safe to say that none of us truly understood the depth of work this would involve when we each said ‘yes’.  What we did understand is that after the last few years, which included periods of transition and change, as well as some uncertainty, we were each 1,000% dedicated to making the best choice for this congregation and each member took his or her role as a member of this committee very seriously.
Your search committee created a Church Profile that describes First Church with an extraordinary amount of detail, candor and sensitivity, based on the time we spent listening to the congregation while crafting this 50+ page document.  The response from ministerial candidates was quite positive, and our summer months were spent meeting weekly and spending the time in between reviewing numerous Ministerial Profiles, checking references and reviewing candidates’ online sermons and writings.  We interviewed numerous Ministers from all over the United States, who saw promise in our church and its future and we attended several neutral pulpits throughout Vermont, finding ourselves with a few very talented and faithful finalists.
And then, it came time to end the investigation and to begin the discernment.  As the very wise Rev. Carrie Bail explained to me: discernment is what happens when you let God in.
And as we came to the time to decide among some extremely skilled, faithful and qualified candidates, God did indeed join us.  As Advent, the time of hope, joy and expectation, unfolded, we came to a unanimous decision as to the candidate that we believe is the best fit for our church; a candidate who will serve us as we discover who God is calling us to be.  And here we are.
Our committee unanimously recommends to this congregation that the Rev. Elissa Johnk, currently Senior Minister of Old Meeting House in East Montpelier, serve as our next Settled Minister at First Congregational Church of Burlington, Vermont.
Rev. Elissa Johnk is an ordained UCC Minister who has served since 2011 as the Senior Pastor at The Old Meeting House church in East Montpelier, a thriving, multi-denominational church with strongest ties to the UCC. Before the OMH, Elissa served with Rev. Martin Copenhaver as a Pastoral Resident at the Wellesley Congregational Church UCC, and also held a ministerial internship at the Old South Church in Boston. She has also worked with Habitat for Humanity, and as a Fulbright ambassador in South Korea.
Elissa graduated summa cum laude from Wellesley College, and earned her Masters of Divinity from Harvard Divinity School, where she received a presidential scholarship, the award for Excellence in Liturgical Reading of Scripture, and was a Billings Preaching Prize finalist.  Elissa lives in Middlesex with her wife, Sarah, who is an attorney, serving as the State of Vermont Bar Counsel for disciplinary matters.  Elissa and Sarah will continue to reside in Middlesex with their two dogs and six chickens.
Elissa greatly impressed us from the beginning.  We came to our first meeting after reading her profile with our jaws dropping and eyes widened in reaction to her gift with the written word.  In our initial interview with her, Elissa wowed us not only with her ability to articulate her love of God and ministry, but with her ability to take the interview and transform it into a discussion about our goals and hopes for this church family.
In this extremely secular time and place, Elissa has led and grown a Vermont church over the past several years.  She demonstrated a willingness to learn about our church community and work beside us to realize our vision of the present and future for First Church.  The outside sources that we consulted about Elissa confirmed our belief as to her extraordinary faith and talent, speaking of her unique ability to hold sacred space during a church service. Her references repeatedly used the word “joy” when describing her approach to worship.  One experienced Minister who knows her quite well articulated his wish that she was his Minister.
       We look forward to sharing more about Elissa with you over the next few days and look forward even more to the time you will be able to meet and get to know Elissa at our church-wide reception for her on Saturday, January 12th at 1 pm. Elissa will also lead our worship service on January 13, 2019 at 10 am, immediately prior to our church-wide meeting to consider this Search Committee’s very strong recommendation that she serve as the next Settled Minister of First Church.
This process has been an amazing adventure for our committee.  We worked very hard and very well together, as each member of this team was completely invested in taking all the time and care needed to call the candidate we believe to be the best fit for this church.  There are too many examples of love, care and sacrifice (not to mention utter hilarity, ingenuity and joy) each member contributed to this endeavor to list in this letter.  I know each member of this team leaves this commitment more dedicated to this congregation, its members, life and mission than when we started.  We thank you for the opportunity to serve you and the future of First Church.  And speaking for myself, it was my absolute honor and privilege to serve as the Chair.
I also need to thank Carrie Bail for her never ending support and wisdom during this process.  Our staff provided unfailing support throughout this journey for which are ever grateful.  And most of all, we thank the congregation.  Without your generosity of time and spirit, we could not have done this.
Thank you,
Susan Ellwood, Chair of the Settled Minister Search Committee

The First Congregational Church UCC of Burlington
“Church Profile”

referenced in Susan Ellwood’s letter (above) is available for members to
read on the Governance page of our Church Website.
The password to this page can be acquired by emailing our Clerk, Linda Elrick.

Saturday, January 12 from 1 to 3:30 p.m. at “First Church”  
Meet & Greet our
Settled Minister Candidate: Rev. Elissa Johnk

All – including children and youth – are invited and welcome!
time for our community will include a
“question and answer” forum as well as much
time to informally meet Rev. Johnk and enjoy refreshments.

Sunday, January 13 is “Candidate Sunday”
There will be one worship service at 10 a.m. in the Sanctuary.
Rev. Elissa Johnk, will lead the worship and preach –
all are invited and welcome!
Important Information for Families: In order for as many people as possible to be present for this important worship service, we will not offer a full Church School program on January 13.  The Nursery/Toddler/Pre-school space will be open and staffed throughout the worship service and the Congregational Meeting.  All elementary aged children and youth are encouraged to participate in the worship service and Congregational Meeting.
A special “Congregational Meeting to Call a New Minister” will be held at 11 a.m. in the Sanctuary
 (please see formal meeting warning above)
Special Reception for the Candidate & Congregation
All are invited and welcome to the Chapel for a special reception
following the Congregational Meeting.
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2018 Advent & Christmas Calendar Highlights

All are invited and welcome at First Congregational Church UCC/BTV!

LINK to printable 2018 Advent~Christmas~Epiphany Worship and Program Calendar


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Service Trip to Puerto Rico

     We have an incredible team of people getting ready to head to Puerto Rico for disaster recovery work on September 30th. In light of the recent finding about the number of victims from last year’s Hurricane Maria, we feel like it is more important than ever to show our support and stand in solidarity with our neighbors.
     Our team of volunteers will be going as part of UCC Disaster Recovery efforts currently being coordinated by a UCC clergy couple from Sharon, VT. We’ll be working to re-roof houses in a village about 45 min outside of San Juan, as well as spending time with a local hospital and church.
       Donations are welcome in support of our travelers!   To make a donation, please use the “Service Trip to Puerto Rico” fund in the “Mission” category on the online giving page of the First Congregational Church UCC of Burlington website (LINK) – or – mail or bring a check to the church at 38 South Winooski Avenue in Burlington, VT 05401 – or – give your check directly to one of our travelers – made payable to: First Congregational Church, Memo: Puerto Rico Service Trip.  Donations are tax deductible to the extent allowed by the IRS and the State of Vermont.
     Watch the Church E-Newsletter and E-Updates for further details and opportunities to support our travelers as they prepare for time in service helping to rebuild homes in Puerto Rico.      – Ava Kelly, Community Ministries Coordinator
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Get Involved @ First Church & in the Wider Community!


There are many ways to connect, put faith into action, work for social justice, and make a difference through service opportunities at First Congregational Church UCC of Burlington. Some opportunities are listed below; more are coming up this fall!

You can stay up to date by following us on Facebook &/or Twitter reading our E-Newsletter & E-Updates – use this LINK for information about how to subscribe.
New ideas for mission and social justice advocacy are most welcome. Please consider this an open invitation to step into service and community at First Church!

TAKING ACTION – This has been a year of marching for me – we marched with our high schoolers in DC last spring, in Burlington to “Bring Families Together” in June, and then stood in solidarity with our nurses in July. I’m working with Vermont Interfaith Action to keep track of upcoming opportunities and will do my best to keep you all informed of ways to take action. I invite you to join me on August 16 at the VIA – Vermont Interfaith Action – Statewide Convention in Randolph to learn more about what is happening at the intersection of faith and action around the state of Vermont.
Ava Kelly, Community Ministries Coordinator

The Joint Urban Ministry Project – JUMP: We have provided free space for JUMP’s Tuesday through Friday “drop in center” for 28 years! A core ministry of our faith community, JUMP provides thoughtful and practical resources for people in need – thousands of children and adults each year. First Church connects with needed, donated space, material items (toiletries, food), significant financial support through our Mission Budget and support of special events, and with much volunteer support. To learn more about volunteering, please contact Rebecca MacDonald. To learn more about this vital mission, visit JUMP’s website at

SMALL POTATOES SANDWICH CREW with Becky: Becky Winward coordinates our connection with Small Potatoes – our 30 year collaboration with the Burlington Friends Meeting to offer an every Saturday morning breakfast and bag lunch to all in need in the community. Becky is organizing a crew of sandwich makers for Fridays, August 24 – please send Becky an email and connect about the details.

Meals on Wheels

MEALS ON WHEELS with Al: Al Weldon coordinates our connection with Meals On Wheels making sure that we have pairs of volunteers for each of eight Meals On Wheels routes on the second Wednesday (morning) of each month. Substitute drivers and “runners” are needed – please be in touch with Al by email to learn more.


DISMAS HOUSE with Donal: Donal Dugan is newly coordinating our long-time connection with our Buell Street neighbors at Burlington’s Dismas House. Volunteers – on their own – or two or three working together – are needed to prepare, donate and share dinner with the staff and residents (10 to 12 adults) of Dismas House on the third Thursday of each month. This can be a great activity for a family to do together; for decades, our youth have volunteered to make and share dinner at Dismas House a few times a year. Please be in touch with Donal to learn more about volunteering on August 23 – or on a future third Thursday.

Lawn Mowing Helpers Needed – Call Steve & Bob: Last year we saved about $2,500 by mowing the church grounds ourselves. We have included these savings in our budget for 18-19. What we need now are folks who would be willing to volunteer, on a rotating basis, to mow! If you are willing to support the church in this way please contact: Steve Hyde at or Bob Wolf. We have a great riding mower! If you are new to riding mowers, orientation is available!

Coffee Hour

Sunday Morning Hospitality Helpers with Steve: Steve Hyde is working on a new initiative to build a team of volunteers who will help Sunday mornings run smoothly over the summer months. To learn more about this effort to engage folks in brewing the coffee (with our amazing new coffee machine), making the lemonade, and helping to serve and clean up for a Sunday 9 a.m. worship service in August or September – please be in touch with Steve to learn more.

SERVE in the POSS SHOP with our GREAT TEAM:  The Possibility Shop invites you to join our great crew of volunteers! Help is needed when the Poss Shop is open on Saturdays (once or twice a month from 10 to 1) and on Wednesdays and Fridays when we open from 10 to 3. For more information, stop in when we are open or contact Becky Winward. Thank you!


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Summer Sunday Worship thru Sept. 2 is at 9 am & 5 pm

First Congregational Church of Burlington, Vermont (United Church of Christ) welcomes you to join us in worship, fellowship, and service. We are a diverse congregation based in the heart of the city that lives our commitments, values, and beliefs: “Welcoming All, Seeking Justice, Finding God.” We invite you to learn more about our faith community and its members and explore how we might share this pilgrimage together. Read our Open and Affirming Declaration.

Sunday Worship Services September 9 through June:

– 8am in the Chapel
– 10am in the Sanctuary

– 5 pm Sacred Spaces: alternative, contemporary, participatory worship gathering for all ages.

Summer Sundays thru September 2 – there is one Sunday morning worship at 9 am.

Sunday, September 9 – is the date for our 11 a.m. “Homecoming Picnic!”


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Sacred Spaces ~ Alternative Worship ~ Sundays at 5 p.m.

in the “First Church UCC/BTV” Chapel
SUNDAYS at 5 p.m. 
Please accept and share this invitation to
a new model for worship,
a new way of creating sacred space in community:
     Sacred Spaces is exploring the First Congregational Church 2018-2019 theme:
The Road We Share, by starting a new journey using Alexander Shaia’s book: Heart and Mind: The Four-Gospel Journey For Radical Transformation as a guide for our worship gatherings. We’ll use the four gospels to discuss the four major questions along the journey of transformation:
  • How do we face change?
  • How do we move through suffering?
  • How do we receive joy?    &
  • How do we mature in service?
     These are the four questions reflected by Matthew, Mark, John, and Luke respectively. We’ll use the gospels as a lens to view the circumstances of our own lives and community, and as a framework for understanding our own opportunities for transformation. In addition to the discussion on gospel transformation, each service will feature silent prayer, meditation, and music.

A few key points to be aware of:

  • You don’t have to buy the book in order to participate in the gathering, but you will definitely get more out of the gathering if you’re reading along during the week as we go. We have copies available in the Church Office ($22). The book is also available for purchase online.
  • Spiritual transformation is in many ways a discipline (like the word discipleship!); those looking for more depth, growth, or just something new in your spiritual practice are encouraged to make a commitment to attend as often as possible so we can reap the benefits of consistency and have more opportunities to build our community.
  • The gatherings will continue to evolve as we figure out what works for us.
  •  All are invited to join us every Sunday at 5 p.m –  Community Ministries Coordinator, Ava Kelly sends out a weekly email update with themes, music, and materials for reflection. If you’d like to be on that list, email her at [email protected]

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PEACE CAMP for All Ages! July 23-27

“Night Lights” – the summer multi-generational  experience that we have been inviting you to – has announced its theme! July 23rd-27th “campers” of all ages (adults, youth, pre-K/nursery)  are invited to join us for “Peace Camp”. This 5-evening series will engage campers around the theme of peace, letting us explore our faith together through fellowship, worship, and age-appropriate interesting discussions and fun activities.

     We are so excited to be partnering with College Street UCC on this project. What a great opportunity for our two communities to join together in faith and friendship.

Here’s what you can expect at Peace Camp:
5:30 – 6pm: Picnic Supper
6:00 – 6:30: “Campfire” + Storytelling – each evening will start with the sharing of a Bible story that exemplifies the central theme of peace in Christianity. This is a multi-generational time.
6:30 – 7:30: Age-based Breakout Time (Adults, Elementary/Youth, Nursery/Pre-K): Adults will meet on their own to discuss the story in depth with leadership from Rev. Carrie Bail and Rev. Ken White.  The youth – in elementary grades and older – will be involved in creative, hands-on activities to explore the story. The youngest children will have fun, age appropriate activities.
7:30 – 7:45: Closing Vespers – a multi-generational song and prayer time.

Volunteers Needed: We need your help to make Peace Camp a success! We’re looking for people to help with meal prep, set-up/clean-up, storytelling, teaching, and activity leading. You can volunteer AND enjoy participating in the camp- no need to choose, or be there every day.  RSVP to learn more about volunteering with Peace Camp by emailing Ava Kelly ([email protected]) or on the Peace Camp REGISTRATION FORM

Camp registration fee is $10/individual or $20/household and includes meals and a camp T shirt. Sign up for Peace Camp using this REGISTRATION FORM. Thank you. Email Ava Kelly [email protected] with any questions!

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We’re Hiring!

Children’s and Family Ministries Coordinator & Youth/Young Adult Ministries Coordinator

Please click on the titles below to find links to job descriptions and application process

details for the following openings at First Congregational Church UCC of Burlington,


Children’s and Family Ministries Coordinator Description.March.2018

Youth and Young Adult Ministries Coordinator.Job Description.3.2018

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Sunday April 15: Pulpit Exchange & Association Spring Meeting

On Sunday April 15, we are participating in the:
      This Sunday’s Vermont Conference UCC Champlain Association annual “pulpit exchange” will bring Rev. Jared Hamilton of the United Church of Hinesburg to serve as our guest preacher for both the 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. worship services.
Jared received his Master of Divinity from Andover Newton Theological Seminary in 2012. He has served as a chaplain at New England Baptist Hospital and on staff at the Human & Civil Rights Organizations of America. He is a member of the Society of Biblical Literature and the Next Generation Leadership Initiative of the United Church of Christ.  Jared gardens and keeps bees. He is married to Leah Hamilton and spends his down time with their three young children.
As part of the pulpit exchange, our interim minister, Rev. Carrie Bail, is preaching at the United Church of Hinesburg on Sunday.  Interestingly, the United Church of Hinesburg is a congregation with roots in the Congregational, Methodist and Baptist traditions.

Contemporary Topic: Civil Discourse

         The Vermont UCC Champlain Association Spring Meeting will be held this Sunday at 12:30 p.m. at the United Church of Hinesburg. Delegates have been invited to represent our congregation and the meeting is also open to all interested in participating. Please plan to participate if you can!
Lunch will be available at 12:30 in the Hinesburg Parish Hall.  The Spring Association Meeting & Program begins at 1:15 and will include a presentation by Mark Hews, Maine Director for the National Institute for Civil Discourse. Mark will meet with us (via teleconferencing) from Maine to offer a 30 minute introduction to the process of Civil Discourse and will answer questions about how we can implement this in our churches. We are also encouraged to participate in the National Week of Civility Challenge from April 20-28. For more information about Civil Discourse use this LINK.  In this time of what can feel like extreme political division, the approach that Mark Hews will be discussing seems promising to assist communities and small groups seeking to participate in  civil and productive conversation where there are deeply held differences.
Please plan to participate in the April 15 Champlain Association meeting if you can!
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