First Church this Week

Please join in our Silent Vigil for Racial Justice this Sunday from 1 to 1:30. Bring a sign – let’s stand together. Our witness is important – our solidarity is a statement.

PROP 2: 101 on Sunday! We are hosting another opportunity for you to participate in PROP 2:101 at First Church – this Sunday October 2 at noon.  Please come to this excellent program with the VT Racial Justice Alliance – and stay for our Silent Vigil at 1pm.

Prop 2 is on this fall’s VT ballot. It is an amendment to the Vermont Constitution that fully abolishes slavery.  As it is written today, Article 1 of the Vermont Constitution does abolish slavery but with some specific, significant exceptions. To learn more: 
  • CLICK HERE to sign the Prop 2 pledge and consider volunteering to support passage of Prop 2.
  • CLICK HERE for the Vermont Interfaith Action website.

All are invited to worship at 10am on SUNDAY OCTOBER 2 – in person at First Church or virtually on our YouTube channel.

JOINT WORSHIP SERVICES: The College Street Congregational and First Congregational Church – Burlington’s UCC faith communities are coming together for two joint worship services on Sundays October 2 and 9.

On Sunday October 2 – both congregations will worship at First Church.  All in the wider community – and all connected with both congregations – are invited to worship at First Church at 10am as the Rev. Elissa Johnk and the Rev. Ken White will co-lead worship inviting all to celebrate communion in community.  As UCC congregations, both offer communion to all on the first Sunday of every month.  You are invited – if celebrating communion will be a first for you – or if you have been at the communion table hundreds of times.

Sunday October 9th – will also be a joint service for the congregations.  “Service Service Sunday” will start at the College Street Church at 10am – the details are below.


WORSHIP at First Church or Online:

You are invited to worship with First Church at 10am on Sundays in our Sanctuary at 38 South Winooski Avenue in Burlington OR on the FirstChurchBTV YouTube Channel. Worship services are live-streamed at 10am on Sundays on and the recordings are available on our YouTube channel anytime following the worship service. Fellowship time follows worship at First Church and online on Zoom) following the live-stream of worship.

Worshiping remotely?

  • To view the live stream (or later recording) of the Sunday August 21 10am worship –  click on the graphic above or use this link: FirstChurchBTV YouTube Channel
  • CLICK HERE for the October 2, 2022 Order of Worship
  • CLICK HERE for the October 2, 2022 Announcements
  • CLICK HERE for the October 2, 2022 Music Insert
  • CLICK HERE for more information about the “Good Enough” Book Discussion Groups
  • Giving to First Church? For more information use this LINK
  • Visiting First Church in person or remotely? Complete our Welcome Card using this LINK
  • CLICK HERE for information about VT Prop 2
  • CLICK HERE to receive the First Church e-Newsletter


A NOTE FROM OUR REGATHERING TEAM: Our Team continues to meet regularly. Summer updates to our guidelines include optional mask wearing for all speaking from the pulpit and for those not singing while playing the organ or piano.   CLICK HERE for information about our guidelines adjusting on October 2, 2022 with masks wearing becoming recommended rather than required as of 10/2/22.

CLICK HERE to read the Rev. Elissa Johnk’s September 16, 2022 letter that addresses the upcoming regathering guideline changes.


October 9 is Service-Service Sunday:  Our two congregations will be together for a brief worship service at 10am with prayer and song at the College Street Church – followed by service projects for all ages for both congregations. There will be a service for every age and ability.


GOOD ENOUGH – SERMON SERIES & DISUCSSION GROUPS:  What if your life isn’t perfect?  Or the world?  Is your faith “good enough”, and how do you tell?   ‘

  • Kate Bowler’s book: Good Enough: 40ish Devotionals for a Life of Imperfection will shape our fall sermon series, asking us to examine deeply, compassionately, and with humor, the ways our faith life can support us in these challenging times. 
  • Book discussion groups are forming now, to discuss this highly praised national bestseller. A variety of option are offered with groups meeting in person and on Zoom – at various times on different days – and there is a men’s group being organized.
  • Copies of the book are available at Church for $15 – the book is also readily available from other sources.
  • ONLINE SIGN UP FORM: For more information about times/days of the groups that are organizing &/or to let us know that you want to participate in a group – &/or to reserve a copy of the book – please sign up online using this LINK: or contact the Church Office at [email protected] with your contact information.


The Rev. Elissa Johnk invites all to participate in a conversational Bible Study – on Zoom – on Thursday mornings at 8:30am.  All are welcome and invited.  CLICK HERE for the Zoom link. Or call in: 301-715-8592, then enter 951-190-153# –


What’s Prop 2 All About?
Vermont Voters will see Prop 2 – a VT constitutional amendment abolishing slavery – on the ballot next November.  Learn what it’s all about and consider signing the “Prop 2 Pledge” using the card now available at church on Sundays or online using this LINK
  • Watch a video of the February VIA – Vermont Interfaith Action – educational event at FirstChurchBTV about VT Prop 2 – HERE

CLICK HERE or n the graphic to learn more about the community events listed.


In the Midway Art Gallery 

In the exhibit “Behind the Hands” photographer Jorge Carlos Alvarez Diaz focuses on the lives of Vermont’s migrant farm workers.  The exhibit – open to all – is currently in our Midway Art Gallery.Through their focus on immigration issues with VT Interfaith Action, our Outreach Team learned about the photo exhibit now on display in the Midway Art Gallery.

The exhibit includes two sets of photos by Jorge Carlos Alvarez Diaz.  The “Hands that Speak” images— are paired with Dartmouth College student interviews with migrant workers at six dairy farms.  The interviews and photos seek to bridge cultural barriers and tell the stories of essential workers who, though our neighbors, are nearly invisible in VT society.

The second set of photos: “Look Me In The Eyes; Face to Face with People on the Other Side of the Wall” are images taken at a Mexican border wall by Diaz in an effort “to unveil everything that darkens the judgment towards these faces. It is a genuine avenue to open artistic windows of empathy.”   Diaz sees photography serving as a “witness, language and sense of communication enriching culture.”

The Midway Art Gallery is open on Sunday mornings and during Office Hours: Tuesday through Friday 10am to 3pm.


STORY-TELLERS WANTED! We’re organizing a FirstChurchBTV Moth-style story telling event for October Friday October 21 – from 6:30pm to 8pm.  All are invited!

The theme is, “Toto, I have a felling we aren’t in Kansas anymore!”

We are looking for stories of surprise and unusual context. Do you have a story to tell? Haven’t told a story to a group?  We will support you and help you through it!

Stories create connection and build community – let’s have some fun!


CLICK HERE to learn more about making music at First Church!


2022- 2023 Youth Programs – A Burlington UCC Collaboration:  The College Street Church & First Congregational Church UCC

YOUTH PROGRAMS: We are happy to share that our collaboration with the College Street Church will be on-going and that the fall calendar for youth programs is taking shape!  For details make sure that you subscribe to our Church Newsletter. Families with middle and high school youth are encouraged to contact Hilah Clarke, Director of Faith Formation ([email protected]) to be added to the e-list for youth program updates.

 The Youth Program update for  September 30 is LINKED HERE

First Church & College Street Youth are participating in the 2022 CROP HUNGER WALK on October 16

Our Burlington UCC Youth Group is teaming up with the South Hero youth group to raise funds and awareness for the 2022 CROP Hunger Walk, and we’re inviting you to join us!

CROP Hunger Walks are community-led interfaith events that raise funds to end hunger locally AND around the world. Your participation impacts individuals and families in more than 35 countries. In many developing nations, people could walk up to six miles a day to get food and water. One in nine people worldwide lack access to clean water and a healthy diet. We walk to show solidarity and to bring awareness while raising funds for permanent change.

You can join us on the walk on October 16, 1pm at the Congregational Church of South Hero and/or sponsor us on our walk. To do so, please visit this website and click “Join the Team” to sign up for the walk, or click “Make a Donation” support us:   If you prefer to donate with check/cash, please contact Youth Leader, Jason Vanderlaan at [email protected]

Thank you so much for your support!   – Jason





BOOK SELECTIONS for 2022-2023: The Women’s Book Group has made their reading selections for 2022-2023. Most months, the meetings are on Zoom at 7pm on the 4th Monday.  CLICK HERE to learn more.



There are many ways to support First Church by helping out… outside!

  • If your “green thumb” is experienced… or if you are a novice gardener or mower… we are grateful for your involvement and will help you get started.
  • Many volunteers work in pairs – we can match you up with someone or you are welcome to schedule your time volunteering with someone.
  • Please complete the form linked here: and we will be in touch soon!
  • Got questions?  Contact Caroline Catlin in the Church Office: 802 862 5010 ext 4 or email: [email protected] OR contact Bob Wolf of our Connections Team at: [email protected]


CLICK HERE for the “Sermons Online” page of this website – giving you access to video recordings of many past worship services at First Church.


The Outreach Team is organizing a group of 5-6 individuals/families who will commit to contributing a meal once per month for people living at Burlington’s Anew Place. Interested? Please contact Reid Willis of our Outreach Team at: [email protected] for more information.


Our PIPC – Partners In Pastoral Care – Team and affiliated volunteers known as: “Friends at First” have been busy in the ministry of providing meals for many years.  In collaboration with our clergy, PIPC coordinates meal deliveries within our church community in response to various times of need.  Interested in participating in an upcoming Meal Train? Contact PIPC Chair: Janice Clements at [email protected]


NAME TAGS help BUILD COMMUNITY We’ve rolled out new, magnetic name tags!  Please use this LINK  to request a name tag  – let us know your specific name request (nickname, pronouns, etc.). Thank you


ZOOMING: We are hosting regular and periodic gatherings using the platform “Zoom”.  You should be able to join a meeting simply by clicking on the link provided, and following the instructions.  You can also call in using the numbers listed below each event.  For more detailed instructions on how Zoom works, CLICK HERE.


CLICK HERE for First Church Phonic  – – offering you the opportunity to listen to:
– Sermons
– Spirit Seekers Interviews – including recent Spirit Seeker guests: Helen Head, Becky Levasseur, Richard Gagne, Hilah Clarke and Carlanne Herzog!  Listen online on HERE.



OUR THRIFT STORE – THE POSSIBILITY SHOP is OPEN: The Possibility Shop is open – 10am-3pm on Wednesdays and Fridays.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Requirements  & Limitations include: Masks are required; physical distancing required;  limited number of shoppers at a time (you may need to wait for your turn to shop).

      • DONATIONS: Please bring Possibility Shop donations to First Church any time between 10am and 3pm – Tuesday though Friday.  Clean clothing and household items in good  condition are always needed.
      • ESPECIALLY NEEDED NOW:  Warm winter outerwear for children and youth.
      • VOLUNTEERS INVITED: On open days (Wed. & Fri., 10-3); on weekdays when the shop is closed (Tues. & Thurs.); &/or projects at home.
        • Greet customers in the midway (near Church Office), count those entering and exiting, keeping the number within the allotted safe amount… a great opportunity for readers and knitters!
        • Assist with the financial aspects of the shop, @two to three hours per month.
        • Handle and help sell older, valuable items that are donated to the shop.
      • Questions?  call Karan Dewar 802-922-3821 or Brenda Fraser 802-862-4747.  Thank you.







Posted in First Congregational Church, News and Announcements | Comments Off on First Church this Week

First Church Responds to COVID-19: Guidelines & Updates

As people of faith, we understand that Science, Math and Reason are all gifts of God.  As such, we trust the research that indicates we must do our part to flatten the curve.  All of this has informed our decisions to do our part to lessen the advance of the Coronavirus. We are implementing the practices urged by the CDC , W.H.O., and the Vermont Health Department, doing our very best to protect the health of all.    


CLICK HERE to read the Rev. Elissa Johnk’s September 16, 2022 letter that includes some upcoming regathering guideline changes planned for October 2, 2022


An August 26, 2022 Update & Survey from the First Church  ReGathering Team: 

Dear First Church,

For more than two years our Re-Gathering Team, comprised of representatives chosen by our Deacons, staff and by our Buildings and Grounds and Worship Teams, have been meeting a minimum of once a month and as frequently as weekly to assess our response to the Covid pandemic.

As we plan for the months ahead, we are asking for your thoughtful input via the survey LINKED HERE .

In April 2021, the Re-Gathering Team shared a similar survey that asked for your feedback on virtual worship, vaccinations, and the potential for offering in-person worship. The Re-Gathering Team analyzed every response and formulated our re-opening plan in coordination with those results, as well as local, state, and Vermont UCC Conference recommendations. Over the last 18 months, we have resumed in-person worship with singing (!), began offering outdoor fellowship with refreshments, hosted community events, and many more amazing offerings!

We understand that while there are no perfect answers, plans, or policies, as the body of Christ, we affirm our responsibility to do our best to care for all in our congregation, including our oldest and youngest participants, and those in the congregation and staff who are, or who live with, those who are immune-compromised or too young to be vaccinated.

In creating any proposed revisions to our gathering guidelines, the Re-Gathering Team will take into consideration responses from the survey, along with local, state, and Vermont UCC Conference recommendations. Before making any policy changes, a proposal from our Team will be presented to representatives of our Executive Team, Board of Trustees, and Lead Minister. Please complete the survey as soon as possible, and if you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact members of the Re-Gathering Team.

In Faith,

The Re-Gathering Team: Doug Viehmann, Bob McKearin, Hilah Clarke, Ann Vivian, Caroline Catlin, and First Church President Paul Hobbs (proxy for Rev. Elissa Johnk)


An AUGUST 18, 2022 NOTE FROM OUR REGATHERING TEAM: Our Team continues to meet regularly. Recent updates to our guidelines include optional mask wearing for all speaking from the pulpit and for those not singing while playing the organ, piano or other musical instruments.  We are no longer roping off every other row in the center sections of the Sanctuary but do continue to reserve the balcony and under the balcony for those wanting to maintain physical distancing.  Social gatherings and any gatherings with food are held outside.  All over age 2 continue to wear masks for all indoor church activities and meetings.  Whenever possible a virtual (Zoom) option to worship, programs and meetings is offered.

On February 4 2022 – the guidelines below were updated to allow congregational singing – with masks – and with physical distancing.

January 7 2022 Update from our Covid Response Team

Dear First Church Friends –

We know you’ve been following the news on the Omicron variant and keeping close tabs on the rising case numbers and record hospitalizations – because you’ve told us! Here at First Church we have been doing the same thing.  Your Covid Response Team – comprised of members of Personnel, Buildings, Deacons, Worship and Staff – has been watching the trends closely, and consulting with those in the medical field about how to best proceed over these next few weeks.

As you might imagine, the answer is … cautiously!

To protect our most vulnerable populations and staff, and in order to continue gathering in person, we are temporarily returning to an earlier stage of our Covid precautions.
For this week:

  • Every other pew in the sanctuary will be roped off in order to observe physical distancing at all times during the service
  • There will be no congregational singing (UPDATED on 2/4/22 to permit signing – with masks).
  • ALL worshipers are asked to depart the building immediately following the service, to socialize outside or over our zoom fellowship gathering.
  • All non-essential, in-person church events be postponed
  • The Possibility Shop and Church School activities will continue as they have been – with strict distancing guidelines, upgraded masks, and new air purifiers.  Church School now has a zoom-in option during the 10am worship.

We want to reassure you that our Covid Response Team is meeting weekly, and will attempt to make decisions for each week in “real-time”.  We understand that none of this is ideal, and there is no one solution that will feel right for all of us. One of the things that has been so remarkable about this community over the past two years is the adaptability and respect we have been able to grant one another as we navigate these challenging decisions and care for one another in these challenging times. Please know your patience and understanding is seen and appreciated.

In faith,
The Staff and Covid Response Team


Worship In Person at First Church – June 2021 Update
Weekly Live-Streaming on YouTube

    It’s time to re-gather physically! Stay tuned for updates on guidelines, but we are ready to welcome one and all back to the sanctuary starting Sunday, July 4, 2021!
Of, course, we understand not all of us will be able to be there physically, so we are committed to continuing to integrate our digital congregation, by live-streaming at 10am on Youtube!   Our Zoom Fellowship time will continue after worship – as will in person fellowship on the front lawn at church!   CLICK HERE for details about programs for children and youth this summer.

A Letter from Our Deacons About In-Person Worship

June 25, 2021

Dear Members and Friends of First Church

In a year of many firsts, changes and challenges, this congregation is about to embark on a new experience with much joy and celebration: First Church will be opening its doors again for live worship on Sunday July 4.   The Deacons are excited to be part of this joyful and celebratory time, and want to share with you some information as to how our worship life will work, once we begin to welcome folks back within our church walls.

While many of our friends and neighbors cannot wait to walk into the Sanctuary and reclaim that favorite pew, we do expect some in our community will continue to worship virtually; some maybe for a brief period of time and some may continue permanently.

In addition to our physical re-opening, our ministry leaders have been working hard to adapt our worship to support an ongoing remote worship along with our live Sunday services.   We want our tradition of radical hospitality to extend to folks who will continue to participate remotely on Sundays, to ensure all can access our time of worship, even if their physical presences is not possible due to issues of health, accessibility or distance.   It is our goal to make remote worship an extension of our Sanctuary service, so that those worshiping virtually can share sacred time and space with those who are participating physically.  READ MORE…



“We will serve communion in pre-torn pieces, we won’t shake hands for the passing of the peace, and we have hand sanitizer in the pews.  I think we have a good plan in place.”
-Elissa Johnk, Trustees, 5/10/2020

I have heard it suggested that a pillar of wisdom is learning to laugh at yourself.  If this is true, some of us should be emerging from these last 15 months like Solomon. None of us knew what was in store, of course, but for quite some time it has felt as if we were constructing a raft while already floating down the rapids, praying there aren’t larger waterfalls ahead.

“If all goes well, we will be able to welcome into the building anyone who wishes to physically attend worship on…”  CLICK HERE to read the full letter


April 16, 2021 – Covid Update from the Rev. Elissa Johnk


Dear Friends –

This past week marked our two-year anniversary together, and it seems strange to think that the last year has been our own congregational version of a long-distance relationship!  Instead of gathering in our beloved sanctuary, I have been invited into your homes for every meeting, every visit, every worship, every week.  You have offered yourselves in testimony and witness, and I now know how it is you respond to forms of trauma and stress. While these are not the same things we would have learned about each other in any other year, in many ways, it has felt like many years of ministry condensed into one.

But I’ll tell you what I miss (beyond the obvious preaching to a present congregation, communal music, laughter, and prayers) – I miss the hallway conversations. The ways you get to know someone, and what is happening in their life, in passing. The details that are shared over a warm mug of coffee or tea, with children running just a little too fast around your knees.  Like me, I am sure you are eager to get back to this – even if it means forgoing the warm mug.

To this end, I am pleased to tell you that the Covid Response Team (comprised of members of staff, Deacons, Building and Grounds, Personnel and Worship) has been working to establish a plan to get us back to one another as soon as it can be done, and done safely.  Drawing on resources from public health officials, denominational resources, and the wider church, we have developed what we are calling our “PEACE Plan”, which establishes a five-part plan for a phased reopening.

P, or phased-in worship regathering, involves our worship LEADERS coming back to the sanctuary to record our worship for streaming. This will involve staff, lay readers, musicians, leaders, and our new A/V team, to begin to learn the new equipment.  We anticipate this will start in late May or early June, as our staff will (hopefully!) be finishing their vaccinations by this date. Indeed, all who are in the building during this phase will be required to be fully vaccinated, to wear masks, and practice social distancing. There should be no more than ten people in the sanctuary at any given time.

Phase Experimentation will begin shortly thereafter, and will involve staff, worship leaders, and designated groups such as the Trustees, Deacons, Worship Team, or Faith Formation Team, gathering to test out what a hybrid regathering would be like, then discuss it later and make changes based on experiences and science. During this phase masks and distancing will be required, and all present will be required to have at least the first dose of a vaccine. There will be no more than 25 people in the sanctuary at any given time.

Once Phase Experimentation is underway, and we begin to work out the “kinks” of hybrid gatherings, we anticipate Phase A adding the broader adult congregation – will occur shortly thereafter, hopefully in mid to late June. This is, of course, the phase we are all waiting for!  And, as exciting as this will be for all of us, I want to remind us that this will not look like what it has in the past – there will be no congregational singing, or passing of the peace, attendees will have to register in advance, and masks and distancing will be required.  To move into this phase, a few additional factors will have to be established:

  • most of the adult church population has been vaccinated with at least one dose,
  • the majority of the Chittenden County adult population has been vaccinated with at least one dose
  • No more than 2 percent positivity rate in the County, and 14-day downward trends
  • No known presence of vaccine-resistant variants in the area

The next two phases – adding Children, and Everyone! Everywhere! – also have a set of environmental and congregational “triggers”, which we will tell you more about as we get closer to those stages.

I want to reassure you that your Covid team has been incredibly thoughtful about putting together this plan.  A summary of this plan can be found by clicking here.  Please note, however, that this is not locked in stone.  In fact, every part of this plan is subject to change, based on new information or circumstances.  We are putting this out to you simply so you have a better sense of the guiding principles behind our decision making and procedures.  Before each phase is complete, and we move to the next, conversations will be had between the Deacons, Trustees, and Covid Response team, to ensure we are safe to proceed to the next steps.

To help us ensure we are on the right track for you and your family, we have compiled a short survey we hope you will complete.  This will help us evaluate our plan, and consider appropriate steps between phases.  As it has been all year this is a congregation-wide effort, and we really do need to hear from you to make sure we most effectively focus our attention and resources moving forward.

There is an old joke that a man bought his wife a bouquet of 48 roses for their 50th anniversary.  When she asked why 48, he said “one for every good year.”  She looked at the bouquet and threw out a few more before giving him a kiss.

I know this year has been hard. But with the amount we’ve learned about one another, and ourselves, I would still call it good. So happy anniversary, friends. Here’s to the year ahead, in faith.


The Rev. Elissa Johnk

November 19, 2020 Covid Update from the Rev. Elissa Johnk

September 2020 Update from our Staff & Covid-19 Response Team


May 21, 2020: As the country begins to ponder re-emerging from our homes, I am reminded how grateful I am to live in Vermont, which leads the nation in successful response.  As we are consistently reminded, however, now is not the time to lose our diligence.  Even as restrictions are loosened, we are being asked to follow best practices – staying close to home, wearing masks, and limiting social gatherings.
CLICK HERE  for The First Church BTV Covid-19 General Guidelines including guidelines related to: Worship, Team Life, Office and Building Protocol, Pastoral Care, the Possibility Shop and Renters.


June 18, 2020: In her sermon on workplace relationships this winter, Elissa called worship our “staff meeting.”  It is the place we come to “discuss the issues at hand, encourage one another, and equip ourselves for our particular jobs spreading the love of God, serving God in the world, each in our respective assignments.”  It has been just over three months since we were able to physically gather for “staff meeting”.
CLICK HERE to read the full update from the Task Force for ReOpening

Transformation & Vision: Our Next Steps

June 2020: Few are the moments in one’s life that are so transformational that you know you are experiencing one in real time: saying “I do”, the birth of a child, the death of a beloved. They are moments so profound, so disorienting – so re-orienting – that you know you will be changed forever.
Pentecost, which we just celebrated in worship, was one such moment for Peter.  Having denied even knowing Jesus three times, at Pentecost he finally had the chance to take it all back – to be who Jesus believed he was: the rock upon which even our church here at 38 South Winooski is founded. Here at First Church, we are in an extraordinary place, because we are living in the middle of two transformational moments at once.
CLICK HERE to read Elissa Johnk’s Message: Transformation & Vision: Our Next Steps


  • For any prayer requests, emotional support, or other assistance you may need during this time, please email our Partners in Pastoral Care and Clergy at [email protected]  
  • Our Partners in Pastoral Care and Deacons Teams are working together to be in regular contact with our members and friends during this time.  If you haven’t received a call, or know of someone who is in need, please email [email protected]  


Your stewardship is more important than ever in this time.  You can mail in your checks, or use one of the options below.

Click HERE to Give Now

  • GIVE to First Church by texting: FCCBUCC to 73256 to give a gift using your text messaging. Standard text message rates apply.


  • JUMP – with COVID-19 precautions in place in Vermont – JUMP has created “JUMP FLEX” – so that phone and email can be used to connect people in need with valuable and much needed direct services. 
  • Our AA and NA meetings will resume meeting at First Church when they feel comfortable after “stay at home” is lifted. 
  • Small Potatoes continues serving Saturday morning breakfast and bag lunch (now outside) at First Church having made adjustments to menu and serving methods; volunteers have agreed to disinfect any space used following the meal. 
  • The New Alpha Missionary Baptist Church has temporarily cancelled all in-person events. 
  • The Possibility Shop is closed and can not accept any donations at this time.  We are grateful to our volunteers, donors and customers for their generosity and patience.
  • The Office will be open from 10-3 Tuesday thru Friday, but most staff will continue working from home for the time being.  To make sure that staff will be present, it is always good to call ahead (802-862-5010, ext.4) before visiting the church.  Ring the doorbell when you arrive.
    • A small crew of volunteers will be regularly disinfecting the common areas for the safety of our office staff and volunteers.


Posted in First Congregational Church, News and Announcements | Comments Off on First Church Responds to COVID-19: Guidelines & Updates

The Vision Process at First Church

What’s Next in the FCCB Vision Process?

The Vision Team is excited to invite you to participate in a Vision Project Team – we promise it will be a fun and interesting ride!

We’ve shared the six Vision Projects that received the most votes from the congregation – and have published expanded descriptions of the Vision Projects – including the preliminary proposals that support each of the six areas.  The Vision Team made some change to the process timeline in mid-July – keeping the Vison Project Team registration open through September 15. Learn more by opening the online sign up form HERE.

  • Participate in a Vision Project Team:
    • Learn more and sign up for a Vision Project Team using our ONLINE SIGN UP FORM by September 15.
    • Paper sign up forms are also available at church, or contact Caroline in the Church Office (802 862 5010, ext. 4; [email protected]).
    • CLICK HERE to learn more about each of the six Vision Projects and use this information to decide which team to join.

Thank you for participating in this important step toward forming a faithful future for First Church!   – The FCCB Vision Team: Rob Backus, Mandy Grace, Tony Hall, Jennifer Jorgenson, Susan Saunders, Charlie Smith, Kipene Tabu, and Claire Bamberg, Consultant


May 2022:

More than 125 votes were submitted for 9 preliminary Vision Proposals in late May 2022!  Our Vision Team writes:  “Please share a big “Thank You” from our Vision Team to all who took part in online and in person vision voting during the last week of May.  We will have an update for you soon!”

Recent phases of our Vision Process are described below.  They lead up to online and in person voting at the end May.  Vote tallies will determine areas of  study for groups meeting over the summer months to formalize specific proposals to be presented to the congregation at a fall meeting.

You can watch the live stream of  the May 29 after worship Vision Proposal Presentation, Discussion and In Person Voting gathering here:



Welcome to the next phase of our vision-to-reality work!  In this phase you will find proposals that are balcony-view, with broad parameters articulated.

As indicated throughout the process, your Visioning Team has carefully, thoughtfully, and comprehensively reviewed the submitted proposals and grouped them according to topics and populations served.

  • Who was able to vote?  All members and friends of First Church.
  • In person voting took place at First Church on Sunday May 29 following the 10am worship during the Vision Team’s Vision Proposal Presentations, Discussion and In Person Voting.
    • The recording of the live stream of the gathering is posted above and is linked HERE
  • Online Voting (now closed) was open and promoted in late May. The online voting information included descriptions of  9 Preliminary Vision Proposal Descriptions.

Vote for one proposal:

  • This was intentionally not a ranked-choice voting system, but a caucus system, that the proposals might be quickly narrowed down to a few finalists.
  • These finalists will move immediately into development of formal proposals, that will take a good deal of research over the summer, to be presented to the congregation for a final vote in the fall.
  • More than 125+ people voted!

Thank you!
       – The First Church Vision Team


Learn more about our Vision Process…

  • Read the Rev. Elissa Johnk’s April 29 letter updating all on our Vision Process HERE
  • Read the Rev. Elissa Johnk’s May 6 letter on our Vision Process HERE



The Rev. Dr. Claire Bamberg, Vision Consultant

SPECIAL PROGRAMS were held after worship on April 24, May 1, May 8 & May 15: With our Congregation’s Listening SessionsCommunity Listening Sessions, and Lenten Book Study Groups concluded, we turned our attention to reflecting and sharing ideas as all are were  invited to craft vision proposals (due Sunday May 22) for the whole congregation to consider as we seek to make a difference in the world, in God’s name.



Catching Up on Visioning?

  • CLICK HERE to watch the 5/8/22 Vision Gathering – Week 3
  • CLICK HERE to watch the 5/1/22 Vision Gathering – Week 2
  • CLICK HERE to watch the 4/24/22 Vision Gathering – Week 1
  • CLICK HERE to watch all or portions of the recordings of the April 24, May 1 and May 8 worship services.  These services included leadership from our Vision Team, our Vision Team consultant the Rev. Dr. Claire Bamberg, and participants in the three Lenten Book Study experiences and highlight our visioning process.
  • Vision proposals were due on Sunday May 22. Proposals were invited – and online and printable templates were provided.


Getting caught up with visioning at First Church – here’s more about the process we started in 2020:

We started by asking what you thought in a series of cottage meetings during 2021. 
Here’s what the congregation had to say:

  • “What Brought You Here?” –  CLICK HERE
  • “Why Have You Stayed?” –  CLICK HERE
  • “What is your vision for First Church, 3-5 years from now?” –  CLICK HERE
  • “What do you think it will take to get from where we are today to your vision of ourfuture?”CLICK HERE


In response to your feedback, we selected these books to read as a congregation.
Check them out to catch up:

  • Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help (And How to Reverse It) by Robert D. Lupton, 2011  Toxic Charity shows us how to start serving needy and impoverished members of our communities in a way that will lead to lasting, real-world change.”
  • Praying with Our Feet: Pursuing Justice and Healing on the Streetsby Lindsey Krinks – 2021   “Readers looking for ways to get involved in their communities will find plenty to motivate them in Krinks’s personal testament.”  Publishers Weekly
  • An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz – 2014  “The first history of the United States told from the perspective of indigenous peoples.”
    • Check at the Church Office if you are interested in borrowing a copy – we are circulating a few copies of each book: [email protected]
  • The Rev. Elissa Johnk’s 2022 Lenten Sermon Series: Discerning a Communal Vision” – March 6 through April 10 lifted up the responses to the four questions from our many Vision Cottage Meetings – and introduced the three books selected for our Lenten Book Study.    Similarly – the worship services led by our Vison Team on April 24, May and May 8 – also lift up the themes of these three books.
    • You can find these worship services using this LINK to our website’s Sermons Online page.


What is the vision process?  

  1. Our Vision Team was formally commissioned and charged* by the congregation in late summer of 2020.  The Team meets regularly, collaborating with consultant, the Rev. Dr. Claire Bamberg, church leaders, the congregation, and community members – to engage us in developing a plan for the future mission and ministries of First Church that will include a set of goals and a strategic plan to guide us over the next decade.

* To read the Vision Team’s original charge, and documents such as their 2020 and 2021 Annual Reports – use this LINK to go to our Vision Team website page and scroll down.


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Give to First Church: Giving, Pledging & Special Offerings

STEWARDSHIP is GIVING to FIRST CHURCH: The ministries and missions of First Congregational Church UCC of Burlington rely on the pledges and support of all of our members and friends.  See below for information about giving online and via check – about our current special offerings – and about making a pledge to support First Church during 2022.


Online/E-Giving & Giving by Check: One-time donations & recurring pledges  – all of your donations fuel the missions and ministries of First Congregational Church.

TO GIVE ONLINE – connect to First Congregational Church’s secure Online/E-Giving system by clicking here.  Use the drop-down menu provided in “Fund” to designate your donation.YOU CAN TEXT A DONATION to FCCBUCC to 73256 – standard text message rates apply.

Or… GIVE by CHECK – made payable to First Congregational Church (to designate a specific use – such as the Pastoral Care Fund – or a special offering – use the MEMO line on your check) and mail to: First Congregational Church, 38 South Winooski Avenue, Burlington, VT 05401


2022 Stewardship Campaign

LOOKING AHEAD to 2022: The First Congregational Church 2022 Stewardship Campaign was initiated in November 2021.   Pledged giving is needed and invited throughout the year.  As 2022 begins, we have yet to meet our pledging goal for 2022 but we are close!  Please join in supporting the ministries and missions of First Congregational Church UCC of Burlington – CLICK HERE for the online pledge form.

HOW IS GOD CALLING YOU? Like everyone, I have particular thoughts and values associated with money. After reading Richard Rohr’s daily meditation for September 22, 2021, “Rights and Responsibilities,” I’ve taken a second look. The meditation is a reflection on the parable in Luke about the nobleman who gives his servants money, and instructs them to do business with it while he is away. Don’t hide it, put it to good use, consider the possibilities. One servant hid the money out of fear of losing it, and he was strongly condemned by his master. In this stewardship campaign, the Stewardship Team asks you to consider the possibilities, many of which are presented in this brochure. These possibilities can become a reality with your financial pledge and a pledge of your time and talents. – Steve Hyde, Stewardship Team Chair

CLICK HERE to open the 2022 Stewardship Brochure

CLICK HERE to open the Rev. Elissa Johnk’s Stewardship Letter

PLEDGING:  Our church leaders and Stewardship Team are inviting your 2022 Pledges in support of the ministries and missions of First Congregational Church.

CLICK HERE to make your 2022 pledge to First Church online  – OR – you can pledge thru your First Church Realm Account.  If you have yet to access your First Church Realm Account – please contact our Office Manager, Caroline Catlin at [email protected]

Or… MAIL in your pledge using the pledge card linked below – or – please request a printed copy from the Church Office (802 862 5010, ext. 4).

  • CLICK HERE to access a printable copy of the pledge card to print and mail.

CLICK HERE to complete a Time & Talent Pledge Card for 2022 . We are also inviting you to pledge your time/talents in support of the missions and ministries of First Church.

Thank you!

2022 Stewardship Messages


2021 Stewardship Videos


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Discipleship Then & Now: Celebrating the Promise – Lent Sundays at 11:15 a.m.

March 8 thru April 5 at 11:15 a.m.

During Lent we will gather after 10 a.m. worship, looking to our history for inspiration to form a vision for the future… what has our discipleship looked like here at First Church? How will this history lead us forward?

The first three sessions – at 11:15 a.m. – are:

  • Sunday March 8: the Rev. Elissa Johnk on Discipleship.
  • Sunday March 15: Lucy Samara (and friends!) on Discipleship and Mission. 
  • Sunday March 22: Hilah Clarke on Discipleship: Youth and Faith Formation.
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Hannah Sachs: Director of Creative Ministries

Our new Director of Creative Ministries is: Hannah Sachs

On Sunday March 1, 2020, Caroline Crawford (Church President-Elect for 2020-2021 and Chair of the Search Committee for Director of Creative Ministries) announced that Hannah Sachs has been selected to serve with us at First Congregational Church.

Hannah is a theatre director and arts educator who is passionate about serving God in creative ways. Originally from Virginia, she graduated with highest honors from Smith College with a degree in theatre directing, religion, and social change. Hannah then spent a year teaching in the Czech Republic on a Fulbright, during which time she met her wife, Renata.

In addition to more conventional theatre and art education work, Hannah has been blessed with many opportunities to use the arts in diverse ministry contexts–including serving in refugee camps, leading workshops for survivors of trafficking, and creating programs for individuals experiencing homelessness. In May, Hannah and Renata will both be graduating from Yale Divinity School. Hannah will have earned a Master of Divinity degree, along with certificates from the Institute of Sacred Music and Andover Newton Seminary.

Hannah Sachs will begin her work as our Director of Creative Ministries in June.  She is absolutely thrilled to be joining First Congregational Church of Burlington’s vibrant community and is looking forward to collaborating with all of you in the beautiful work of creatively embodying God’s extravagant love.


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I & Thou: Creating Sacred Relationships – Sermon Series & Discussion Groups


Link HERE to watch videos of the  I & Thou Sermon Series




Sermon Series: I & Thou – Creating Sacred Relationships

January 26 – February 23:

Discussion Group Opportunity

         Based on a sermon and study series originally crafted by the Rev. Adam Hamilton, “I & Thou” is designed to help us engage one another in conversation about how the lessons and stories of our faith can teach us about the most important relationships of our lives.

Using both scripture and scholarship, I hope “I & Thou” helps you delve into one of humanity’s deepest mysteries – that we are made in and for relationship.  And discipleship, like faith – and life itself – is born from awe, from encounter.

Attend worship on Sunday, and then enjoy this journey in free-form discussion with a small group (whenever your small group decides to meet throughout the week) and discover the power of faith in relationship.

To sign up to host a small group, or to indicate your interest in participating in a group, email Caroline: [email protected].                 – The Rev. Elissa Johnk

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Epiphany Sunday – January 5 at 8 & 10 a.m.

SUNDAY, JANUARY 5  –  “Epiphany”

“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?”    – Matthew 2: 1-2

We’ll celebrate the arrival of the Magi at the manger during “Epiphany Worship Services” at 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. on Sunday, January 5.

The 10 a.m. service will include K-5 Church School, Middle, and High School youth meetings (starting at 10 a.m.) before all ages gather in the Sanctuary for the “in person” arrival of the wise ones, followed by Communion.

Both worship services will include Communion – for all ages – with gluten free bread and un-fermented grape juice.

The Nursery/Toddler/Pre-School room will be open at 9:50 on the 5th for our youngest children.  All ages are invited to be in the Sanctuary for the re-telling of the great story of Epiphany.

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Star Sunday with VT Folk Artist Patti Casey – January 12

Star Sunday – January 12 – worship services at 8 a.m. & 10 a.m.

  • Get your star for next year—where will it lead you?
  • Don’t know what this is all about?  You’re in for a treat!
  • Our new minister, the Rev. Elissa Johnk will lead this innovative, joyful worship for all ages.
  • Vermont folk artist and singer, songwriter Patti Casey will be our special guest, leading music, during the 10 a.m. – January 12 – “Star Sunday” multi-generational worship service.
    • The nursery/toddler room will be open and staffed from 9:50 through the worship service.
  • There will be an 8 a.m. worship service on Sunday January 12.

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Advent, Christmas & Epiphany at FCCB – All are Invited!


The Rev. Elissa Johnk invites the congregation to invite family, friends, neighbors and the wider community to participate in Advent, Christmas and Epiphany at “First Church” – all are welcome and invited!

All are welcome and invited to all worship services at First Congregational Church of Burlington – an Open & AffirmingCongregation – of the United Church of Christ.
The Second Sunday of Advent – “Peace” 
Sunday, December 8 at 8 am & 10am with Janet Green, cello.
The Rev. Elissa Johnk’s sermon will focus on “Peace.”  All children and youth are invited to rehearse for next Sunday’s (December 15 at 10am) Christmas Pageant.
The Third Sunday of Advent – “Joy”
The Christmas Pageant! Sunday, December 15 at 10am: Young musicians, a timeless story of hope with costumes and carols aplenty. Followed by a reception with sweets and treats for all and our Annual Christmas Wrap.
     – The Annual Christmas Wrap, Sunday, December 15 at 11am: After the pageant, stay for cookies and punch and quickly wrap hundreds of simple, practical gifts for local children and adults!
The Fourth Sunday of Advent – “Love”
  • Blue Christmas: Sunday, December 22 at 8am. The holidays aren’t always joyful. This service, with Simon Jorgenson on Blues guitar, is a sacred space for people living through challenging times, seeking healing and hope.
  • Christmas Sunday: Sunday, December 22 at 10am. Celebrate with love and joy the coming birth of the Christ-child.  Followed by a special Christmas Reception for all!
Candlelight Christmas Eve Services:
Tuesday, December 24. Childcare available at 4 and 7:30.
 4:00pm Family Service of Lessons and Carols  
 with the Children’s & Youth Choirs,
the Austin Chimers & the Hobbs Family brass

7:30pm Traditional Service of Lessons and Carols

           with the Bell Choir, Sanctuary Choir & Strings
10:00pm Intimate Service of Lessons and Carols
with the Sanctuary Choir & Harp


12 days of Christmas! Sunday December 29 at 10am: Did you know Christmas lasts 12 days? Come celebrate with favorite stories and carols during this multi-generational worship. Our Worship Team is gathering “favorite Christmas stories” to compile and share. To participate, email Wendy Scully, [email protected], by Dec. 26 and in a few sentences describe a favorite Christmas memory. (One worship service this Sunday.)

The Star Service: Sunday, January 12.  Get your star for next year—where will it lead you? Don’t know what this is all about?  You’re in for a treat!  Vermont folk artist and singer songwriter Patti Casey will be our special guest, leading music during the January 12 “Star Worship Service” at 8 a.m. and 10 a.m.


Use this LINK for the full detail of Advent through Epiphany worship services, happenings, missions, ways to connect and offerings
at First Congregational Church UCC of Burlington!


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