July 7 “Holy Hike” to Red Rocks Park in South Burlington.


Sundays at 4:30 p.m. during July & August

Our “Sacred Spaces” worship service is taking a break for July and August.   As an alternative, all are invited to gather at local scenic hiking trails to enjoy the beauty of creation on Sunday’s at 4:30 p.m.
– Each Sunday’s “Holy Hike” meeting place will be announced on the church website, on our church Facebook page, and in our E-Update and E-Newsletter. If the weather is poor for a hike, look for a cancellation notice on the First Church Facebook page by 3 p.m. on Sunday.
– All ages are welcome and invited to participate!

HOLY HIKE sites for July:

  • Sunday, July 7 at 4:30: Meet at the entrance to Red Rocks Park on Queen City Park Road in South Burlington
  • Sunday, July 14 at 4:30: Meet at “East Woods” on Swift Street (between Shelburne Rd. and Spear Street) in South Burlington
  • Sunday, July 21 at 4:30: Meet at Centennial Woods in Burlington (meet at the parking lot at the end of Catamount Drive – behind the Sheraton/DoubleTree/Hilton at 870 Shelburne Rd).
  • Sunday, July 28 at 4:30: Meet at the entrance to Red Rocks Park on Queen City Park Road in South Burlington
  • Sunday, August 4 at 4:30: Meet at the base of Mt. Philo in Charlotte. Want to carpool? Let’s meet at FCCB at 4:00. RSVP about carpooling to the Mount Philo Holy Hike to [email protected]
  • Sunday, August 11 at 4:30: Meet at the base of Snake Mountain in Addison. CARPOOL: Let’s carpool from FCCB at 3:00. RSVP about carpooling to the Snake Mountain Holy Hike to [email protected]
  • August 18 and 25 “Holy Hike” Sites, TBA
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Rev. Gary Lewis – “Parental Leave Pastor”

The Rev. Dr. Gary Lewis – “Parental Leave Pastor!”
    On Sunday June 30, 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 expects to be on maternity leave from mid-August through mid-November.
The Rev. Lewis will bring 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.“A BIT OF A BIO” FROM THE REV. GARY LEWIS:  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 those 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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Register for Peace Camp

Peace Camp is a true multi-generational faith exploration experience.
Peace Camp will kick off on Sunday June 23rd during the 10 am worship and will continue Monday thru Thursday, 5:30 to 8 pm.

Rev. Elissa Johnk will participate at the opening and closing of each evening’s Peace Camp program when all ages are gathered and lead Shalom Cabin (adult breakout sessions).
Our Faith Formation Team is planning creative and active programs for children and youth.

Monday through Thursday Peace Camp Itinerary:
–    5:30 – Check in and meet for dinner out on the lawn.
–    6:00 – Camp”fire”! Gather with the Peace Camp band and fellow Peace Campers to share in music and story.
–    6:30 – Breakout into age group specific “cabins” to go deeper with the evenings theme
–    7:30 – Reconvene at the Camp”fire” for closing vespers including music and prayer.
–    Themes for the week include Alhoa, Ubuntu (led by our High School youth!), Shalom and Agape.

Registration for all four evenings of Peace Camp – or for one or more –  Here.

Registration fee includes meals and t-shirts for all participants.
Payment online, check or cash in advance preferred.
Camp registration is $20/adult or $15/child
Maximum fee per household: $40.
Camperships (tuition assistance) available.

Contact Jennifer Jorgenson, [email protected] with questions, concerns or campership inquiries.

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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 began her ministry as Senior Minister at First Congregational Church UCC of Burlington on April 9, 2019.
For the previous eight years, Rev. Johnk served as the Senior Pastor at The Old Meeting House, a thriving, multi-denominational church with strongest ties to the United Church of Christ. Before her ministry with The Old Meeting House, Elissa served with Rev. Martin Copenhaver as a Pastoral Resident at the Wellesley Congregational Church UCC, and held a ministerial internship at Old South Church UCC in Boston. She has also worked with Habitat for Humanity and as a Fulbright ambassador in South Korea.
Rev. Elissa Johnk graduated summa cum laude with a Master 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.

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

Use this LINK to see all recent videos of Rev. Johnk’s sermons

Palm Sunday 2019 highlights:

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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 jumpvt.org.

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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