Share Christmas 2019

2019 is the 31st Year of Share Christmas!
    A meaningful – thirty-one year – First Church tradition, Share Christmas is a wonderful opportunity to help local families during the holidays. Share Christmas sponsors provide Christmas dinner groceries and/or gifts to families – or funds for others to purchase food or practical gifts.
Learn more about SHARE CHRISTMAS and connect to the sign-up form which is also available at church in the Sunday Order of Worship and on the Midway Bulletin Board.
Questions? Need more information?  Please sign up as soon as possible if you are  purchasing food and/or gifts. Financial contributions to Share Christmas are needed and welcome through December. Thank you!
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Town Hall Meeting on 11/24/19

– The entire congregation is invited to gather for a meeting with the Rev. Elissa Johnk, our Trustees and Executive Team, following the 10 a.m. worship service on Sunday November 24 in the Dining Room on “Thanksgiving Sunday”!
– Our Executive Committee and Trustees are planning an engaging agenda to get everyone up to date with matters related to budget, building and our various, vibrant missions and ministries.
– Please plan to be present for this opportunity to be in community – to welcome Elissa back to her ministry with us – to hear updates about, and discuss, the latest happenings and plans at First Church!
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It’s Time to Order Christmas Wreaths & Garlands!

It’s Time to Order Christmas Wreaths & Garlands – a fundraiser that supports our Middle & High School Youth Programs including our 2020 YETS Trip!

     Thank you for supporting our programs for middle and high school youth by ordering Christmas wreaths and garlands!   Throughout November, our High School Youth students will be taking orders for Vermont-made Christmas wreaths to raise funds in support of both middle and high school youth programs at church and their 2020 YETS Trip (Youth Experience in Travel and Service).
Wreath & Garland Order Forms are available ONLINE and at the Church.
–  Orders for wreaths to be delivered to family and friends by mail order, need to be in (at the Church Office or by email to Karen Bushey) by Sunday, November 17.

–  Wreath and garland orders are requested as soon as possible or by November 24.
Wreaths will be available for pick up at Church on Saturday, December 7 from 10 a.m. to noon. 
Thank you!
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11/8 Chicken & Biscuit Dinner & Harvest Bazaar 11/8, 9 & 10!

Tickets at the door for Friday November 8 Chicken & Biscuit Feast!

Harvest Bazaar opens Friday at 3 p.m. –

the Harvest Bazaar continues on Saturday

with a delicious lunch available from 11:30 to 1:30 lunch!

Mini-Harvest Bazaar on Sunday from 9 to 10 and from 11 to noon!

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Nov.1 – The Saints of Our Lives

Friday November 1
The Saints of Our Lives – A “Moth-Style” Story Telling Event
and Pizza Dinner at 5:30 pm
All are welcome!
Admission is by Donation

Our amazing story-tellers: Donna Lee, Tom Taylor, Susan Saunders, Mary Ann Wolf, Baki Nelson and Lauren Larken Scuderi are ready… come and listen to their tales about the “Saints of Their Lives” today at 5:30 p.m.!
Pizza, brownies and beverages provided. Childcare will be available. Admission is by donation. Didn’t pre-register? No worries – we would love to see you there tonight!

Let’s gather for this event that promises a compelling story-line!

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Choirs & Programs for Children & Youth Begin Anew

PROGRAMS for CHILDREN AND YOUTH begin anew on Sunday, September 15:

Our Church School for Grades 1 through 5 (during the 10 a.m. worship service), Children’s Choir (at 9:15 a.m.) and both the Middle and High School Youth Programs (during the 10 a.m. worship service) begin on Sunday September 15.

      Our Nursery/Toddler and PreSchool/Kindergarten Rooms are open and staffed every Sunday beginning at 9:50 a.m.  Families are asked to register and sign-in children for Church School, Nursery/Toddler and PreSchool/Kindergarten – before the 10 a.m. worship begins – at the Faith Formation Kiosk in the “Welcome Area” (located adjacent to the front of the Sanctuary – across the midway from the Church Office).

A BLESSING FOR A NEW SCHOOL YEAR: On Sunday the15th, the “Word of God for All Ages” will include a “Blessing of the Backpacks” – all are invited to bring their backpacks for a blessing as a new school year begins.  We will give each child/youth a small item to attach to their backpack as a symbol of the “blessing”.

     Got questions? Want to be added to email lists for details about our various opportunities for children and youth, please contact Hilah Clarke, Director of Faith Formation at: [email protected]

SERVE WITH US – BECOME A “FAITH FORMATION VOLUNTEER”:  We are blessed to have a wonderful “Faith Formation” team in place to support our Church School and youth programs.  In addition to a talented team of part-time staff who create a knowledgeable, consistent, caring presence on Sunday mornings, we are looking for people interested in serving with children on Sunday mornings.  To learn more about volunteering where we need assistance this fall – with our youngest children (Nursery/Toddler & PreSchool/Kindergarten) &/or in our Grade 1 through 5 Church School classes – please contact Faith Formation Director, Hilah Clarke at [email protected]  Thank you!


CHILDREN’S CHOIR – Laura Elder-Connors will be leading our Children’s Choir this year with rehearsals set for Sunday mornings at 9:15 in the Stone Room – starting on September 15.  Laura will be at the Homecoming Picnic and looks forward to singing with all elementary school age children.  Register for Children’s Choir any Sunday morning.
Got questions? Contact Laura at [email protected].

  • YOUTH CHOIR – Ana Ruesink is leading our Youth Choir this year – rehearsals begin at 9:10 a.m. on Sunday September 15.  See Ana any Sunday or email her for more information at: [email protected]
  • JOIN THE BELL CHOIR! The Austin Chimers Bell Choir weekly rehearsals are at 6:45 p.m. on Wednesdays at First Church. Interested in learning more? Come to a rehearsal – or connect with Bell Choir Director Jennie Coleman, [email protected]  any Sunday.
  • JOIN THE SANCTUARY CHOIR! The Sanctuary Choir weekly rehearsals are at 7 p.m. on Thursdays at First Church and at 9 a.m. on Sunday mornings. Come to a rehearsal to learn more – or connect with Music Director David Neiweem, [email protected] any Sunday.
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Radical Hospitality!

with Gary Lewis & Ava Bilton!

“Radical hospitality is hospitality that goes beyond being friendly. It is intentional hospitality that surprises and delights people by making them feel noticed, giving them personal attention, and providing excellent follow through. It is hospitality that makes them feel so welcome they want to return again and again.”      – The Art of Radical Hospitality, UMC Church of the Resurrection

This fall, we are focusing on ways to create a radically hospitable, welcoming community in order to strengthen the relationships among our congregation, and intentionally invite others to join us. All who are able are asked to participate in a 90 minute training in the practice of radical hospitality. You’ll learn simple, proven methods of welcoming new folks, connecting with current members, and how to foster a growing community. This opportunity is a collaborative effort of the Connections and Outreach team and will be led by Ava Bilton (Dir. of Programs and Development) and Gary Lewis (Parental Leave Pastor).
Please pick a time that works for you in the “Ten Days of Radical Hospitality” schedule below…

Ten Days of Radical Hospitality
Friday Sept 20 thru Sunday, Sept 29:
     Starting on September 20th, the Outreach team is hosting 10 Days of Radical Hospitality. We invite you to join us for:
  • 10 days of devotionals for individuals and families,
  • Opportunities to learn more about activism and social justice in our area,
  • Witnesses in worship to the power of God’s love, and a church-wide day of service in the community on Saturday September 21st.
  • Devotionals and service opportunities are available for all ages and skills.
  • No special equipment needed!
  • Sign-ups have begun – use the printed insert in the Sunday “Order of Worship” – pick up a copy in the Church Office – or use the online SIGN-UP form linked HERE: 10 Days of Radical Hospitality.
 Participating Organizations Include:
Dismas House                               Ronald McDonald House
JUMP                                           The Possibility Shop
The Boys and Girls Club                  Anew Place
COTS                                           Habitat for Humanity
Outright Vermont                          Vermont Gleaning Collective
Ten Days of Radical Hospitality Schedule:
  • Sunday September 15 –  “Radical Hospitality Training with Gary & Ava” – 11:30 to 1 pm – includes lunch – all are invited – no RSVP needed.
  • Friday September 20:
    – DAY 1!
    Devotional begins – use online sign-up linked above.
    – Radical Hospitality Training with Gary & Ava – 3:30 to 5 pm for Possibility Shop, JUMP and other weekday volunteers and security staff – no RSVP needed.
  • Saturday September 21Big Give Day! Join us at the church at 8am for a light breakfast, and then head out into the community in teams to serve with local organizations – use online sign-up linked above.
  • Sunday September 22 – Saturday September 28th – Various service opportunities throughout the community + Daily devotionals – use online sign-up linked above.
  • Sunday September 29 – Radical Hospitality Sunday + Witnesses in Worship
  • Sunday, October 20 – “Radical Hospitality Training with Gary” – 11:30 to 1 pm – includes lunch – all are invited – childcare available – no RSVP needed.
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The Rev. Gary Lewis – “Parental Leave Pastor”

The Rev. Dr. Gary Lewis – “Parental Leave Pastor!”
    In late June, the Rev. Elissa Johnk and First Church President Rob Backus teamed up to announced that the Rev. Gary Lewis will serve as our “Parental Leave Pastor” while the Rev. Elissa Johnk is on leave this fall.  Rev. Johnk and her wife Sarah are expecting a baby in late August.
While serving with us, the Rev. Lewis will lead worship services on Sunday mornings and will cover other key areas of responsibility including participation with our Executive Committee, Trustees, Deacons and he will lead staff meetings.  The Rev. Johnk will be on maternity leave from mid-August through mid-November.
The Rev. Lewis brings much experience to his ministry at FCCB.  Gary is known for his dedication to community ministry, mission, pastoral care and preaching, and for a warm, dry sense of humor.  He preached at “First Church” in March 2019; you can see a video of his sermon using this LINK or see the “Sermons Online” page on our church website. We are fortunate that Gary will serve with us this fall and are grateful for his availability.
     Gary and Betty Lewis, after graduating from Springfield High School (VT) and graduating from college (Albion and UVM respectively) were married, moved to Burlington and began raising a family (two daughters Karen and Kelly).
Gary worked in the management program of JCPenney when it was on Church Street and Betty continued her education and began a teaching career.  In 1979 they joined First Church Burlington and over the next 4 years taught Sunday School and Gary was on the Mission Committee.  In 1983 they moved to southern Vermont and became active in the Chester Congregational Church.  It was in that church that Gary sensed a call to the ministry and in 1986 the family moved to Lancaster, Pennsylvania so he could attend seminary there.  Betty continued teaching over the next three years and in 1989, Gary accepted a call to the Vergennes Congregational Church, where he served until his retirement in May of 2018.
     Through the years Betty continued her profession in education with rewarding positions in literacy and culminating in the role of Special Education Director for the school district.  Throughout Gary’s time serving Vergennes, he was the Addison County Hospice Chaplain for 25 years (as a volunteer).   In 2005 Gary completed the Doctor of Ministry program at Hartford Seminary.  Their daughters  both graduated from Vergennes High School and both went to college (Karen currently works at Porter Hospital in Middlebury as their CNO and Kelly lives in South Windsor, Connecticut and works in Hartford as a Speech- Language Pathologist in a hospital there).  Both are married and each has a son (this Fall Colby will be 18 and Nathan, 12).
Gary and Betty now reside in Williston and have joined the Williston Federated Church, where they sing in the choir and try to behave!
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All are invited! June 9, 2019

Jazz Sunday & Ice Cream Social
June 9, 2019
All are invited and welcome!
 The Onion River Jazz Band
will get started in the Sanctuary at 9:30 a.m.

and will play during the
10 a.m. Jazz Sunday worship service!
Mark your calendars and invite
your friends and neighbors
to this unique time in worship followed by more jazz
and our annual ice cream social on the lawn!
Let‘s treasure this joyful time in worship and community!  We’ll enjoy the jazzy sound of the Onion River Jazz Band that – with founder Tony Hall – got their start at the very first Jazz Sunday in 1984. Take in the beauty of the “First Church” peony and Memorial Garden flower beds while strolling with a delicious scoop of ice cream… there may even been some dancing on the front walkway as the “ORJB” plays from the “First Church” portico.  Hope to see you there!
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