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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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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The 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 daughter, 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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