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Sunday, December 16, 2018

Third Sunday in Advent

Worship 8:00 am in the Chapel

Worship 10:00 am in the Meetinghouse

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Life Among the Believers

Advent greetings, peaceful believer.
This Sunday we’ll light our Third Candle of Advent, which would normally be Joy, but we lit Joy in celebration of the Christmas Cantata last Sunday, so we need to go back and light Peace (normally the Second Candle of Advent). Our Choir will have a much deserved Sunday off, and our Sanctuary Bells will play Shepherds this Jubilee. The scripture reading will be Matthew 3:1-12, and the sermon title is, You did it! You prepared the way! We’ll sing, It Came Upon the Midnight Clear.

John the Baptist cried out, Prepare the way of the Lord! John the Baptist is wild! He is from the wilderness, of the wilderness. He is uncontrolled emotion, power, passion - a perfect vehicle to herald the coming of the Lord! He’s clothed in camel’s hair, a leather belt around his waist, and he eats locusts and wild honey. Situated every year during Advent, John’s here to get your attention; to wake you up, shake you up, to say the spiritual life is not for the faint of heart! The spiritual life is not for keeping things all orderly and perfect - perfect church, perfect home, perfect work. If God made us from the earth, there was dirt and water involved - and, well, that makes mud. Human beings are messy. John cries, be willing to admit you’re a mess, and that you need to be forgiven!

John’s concerned with the roadblocks in our heart. He wants us to prepare the way to let Christ come in. He asks, have you struggled with a hard heart, rudeness, anger, accusation, fear, judgmentalism, gossip, prejudice, greed, dishonesty, selfishness, meanness? It can hurt to discover where our roadblocks have been… but, if we’re willing to clear the path for Christ to be born anew in our heart, we can become a new creation in Christ!

Preparing a way in the wilderness. A few years ago, Oprah Winfrey interviewed the parents of Ben, one of the children killed at Sandy Hook. Oprah had heard about the work they’re doing to prevent gun violence against children. In the interview, Ben’s mother shared that on the morning of the tragedy, December 14, 2012, she was loading the dishwasher and Ben said, “Hey, mom, what does forgiveness mean?... She said, “Well, it’s kind of like when somebody does something wrong to you, and you forget about it.” She recalled the conversation in the days after, and it has become a message to them. Ben’s father said, “Our purpose now, as human beings, is found in and through love. We have to make all of our decisions out of love. Every day we ask ourselves, Are we being as loving as we could possibly be?”

It makes me think about how many of us say it’s difficult to find time for our spouse and children. Time is what our family most needs from us, not the presents we buy, the decorations we put up - what they want from us is love. We can hide behind those to-do lists. The gifts they really want are to hold hands. It clears the path and makes way for more love.

I once watched interviews of small children who were asked what is their biggest, boldest dream. It’s so revealing about our culture that they all said the same thing… They want their parents to be happy. They want the whole world to just be happy. Parents who raise children have so much stress from work, bills, marriage, laundry, meals, schedules. They don’t see us happy and it affects them. I know an older woman who is so proud of all the dust bunnies she left when she was a young mother; and, a father who makes sure to sit down for a tea party with his son or daughter, or to catch a ball with them. Abe used to like to sit with me in the late afternoon or after dinner, cuddle in, and tell me about his day. The slowing down was good for me, to give the most important child in my life my attention, comfort, and happiness.

So, John busts into our life and says, do you have any scales on your heart that need cleansing? Is there something to repent? To repent doesn’t just mean to confess. It means to actually stop doing what you were doing, to turn around and do something different. My prayer for each of us is that by turning around, Christ will open the door for us to a new reality, maybe even a new peace. And, who doesn’t need more of that in their life?

Come, let’s light the Candle of Peace on Sunday.

May you have Peace in your heart,

Peace in your thoughts,

Peace in your words,


Making Christ’s Love Known in Word and Action,
Rev. Suz, Interim Senior Minister
Office Hours: T-Th 9am-3pm (or 1p-3p visits) if evening mtg., 3pm-9pm; church (203) 488-7201, ext. 107; cell (860) 304-1054

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What Shall We Bring?

From your Stewardship Board:

Thanks to those members and friends who have submitted their pledges for the Church in 2019. We have received $158,255 from 85 pledging units to date and appreciate your support.

If you have not yet pledged, please remember to do so either in church, online at the website, or by email to

We are well on the way to our goal of $200,000, yet need your support to make it happen. Please help us reach our goal.


Life Among the Believers Conversations

We’re holding 2 more life among the believers conversations following the Discernment Team’s report and recommendations. This Sunday at 11:30 am in Pilgrim Hall, we’ll focus on the church’s endowments. And, on January 6th we’ll discuss the staff recommendations. In these conversations, which Dave Reif and Kathy Fox will facilitate, please know that you’ll have a chance to talk and to be heard. ~ Rev. Suz

Ideas given from Life Among the Believers 12/2/18 Conversation on Church Mission

1) Emphasis to get Branford people out of homelessness cycle; Financial counseling
2) Single parents (feeling of isolation) FCC has a lot of experience; bring families together, listen to their needs; Grandparent project
3) Is there a way to leverage endowment? Loans? Rent subsidy? Repairs?
4) Should we have committees? A. Leverage with others B. Open church for meetings, host meetings run by others, share building as an asset C. Work with other churches - Interfaith - Take-A-Vet-Fishing as a model & resource
5) Have one focus (can’t be all things to all people) - one major mission with plenty of offshoots
6) Use of Building as Outreach
7) Follow-up following Branford Builds Project in May 2019
8) Build internal community
In terms of actual mission, being Christ’s hand, feet, and heart, it appears there are 4 ideas that have come forth: emphasis on homelessness, single parents and other families in need, Branford Builds, work with other churches in their mission projects. The congregation will discuss this again at the Annual Meeting on January 27th, and hopefully look to adopt a focus mission. ~ Rev. Suz


Come Darkness, Come Light

This is a beautiful Advent song by Mary Chapin Carpenter.
Here's the link to hear it on youtube.

Come darkness, come light
Come new star, shining bright
Come love to this world tonight

Come broken, come whole
Come wounded in your soul
Come anyway that you know

Come doubting, come sure
Come fearful to this door
Come see what love is for

Come running, come walking slow
Come weary on your broken road
Come see Him and shed your heavy load

There's a humble stable and a light within
There's an angel hovering and three wise men
Today a baby's born in Bethlehem

Come darkness come light
Come new star burning bright
Come love to this world tonight


Branford Builds

The First Congregational Church of Branford has received a nice monetary donation from one of its parishioners along with a request that the money be used to assist folks in Branford. Specifically, the funds will be used to make repairs to homes whose owners do not have the resources to pay for needed work.

Applications will be accepted until February 1, 2019. Each application will then be reviewed and a site visit made prior to selecting projects to complete. Work selected depends on budget and time available. Submission of this application does not guarantee that any work will be done on your home. Work groups will consist of home improvement contractors, experienced workers, and volunteers.

Applications will be available at the reception desk in front of the church office. Applications should be submitted to the Mission Board of the First Congregational Church, 1009 Main Street, Branford, or emailed to Upon review of the application, more information may be required and a home visit scheduled.

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The choir needs you!

The choir needs you! If you want to sing with the choir for the Christmas Eve 5 pm service, please join us for our final rehearsal on December 20th from 7-8pm. We will be singing carols and two anthems. The choir would love to have anyone interested in singing join us for this joyous service no matter their age or experience in a choir!

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Christmas Offering

At Christmastime, we at First Congregational Church remember the joy and promise that the birth of the Christ Child brings to us. We also reflect on the blessings of another year. The annual Christmas Offering is an opportunity for our Church family to share its gifts and continue its mission.

Two thirds of this year’s Christmas Offering will be given to the Ministers’ Compassion Fund, which furnishes our ministers with resources to provide emergency relief to people in Branford who are in need when other avenues of assistance are unavailable.

One third of the donations will go to the Asian Rural Institute (ARI). The mission of ARI is to help develop sustainable agricultural solutions to rural poverty. Through ARI, individuals are trained in hands-on skills that they can take back to their villages and use to improve the lives of people in their homelands.

You are warmly invited to join us for worship on Sunday, December 23 at 8:00 or 10:00 AM and then return for our traditional Christmas Eve Service which will be held at 5:00 PM on Monday, December 24th.
As you share gifts with family and friends this Christmas, please reflect prayerfully on the gift of Jesus Christ to you, and help spread this gift through your offering donation. May God bless you and your family this holiday season.


This Sunday December 16th is the last day to place orders for poinsettias and wreaths!

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Donate a Wreath

In Memory/Honor of: _______________________________

Given by: _________________________________________

Cost: $12.00 – These wreaths will adorn the Meetinghouse for the Holiday Season. Make checks payable to FCCB. Please drop this form in the collection plate. Thank you.

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Donate a Poinsettia

o IN MEMORY OF…………………………...……………………...……………………

o IN HONOR OF ………………………………………………………………………….
CONTACT NAME……………………………………………………..……………………………
o Deliver my plant to a homebound person
o I will take my plant home after worship December 24th

Cost: $12.00—Please make checks payable to First Congregational Church and note Poinsettia in the memo line.
Please drop this form in the collection plate or at the Church office.
Deadline 12/16/2018


This Sunday is the last day to make gifts to the Giving and Mitten trees! There are still plenty of ornaments on the Giving Tree if anyone would like to come in this week to take one or more. Thank you!

giving tree

The First Congregational Church of Branford, in co-operation with the Branford Counseling Center, will be collecting Christmas presents for families in need. As in previous years there will be a tree in Pilgrim Hall decorated with “wish list” ornaments. Please select an ornament and purchase the listed gift. PLEASE DO NOT WRAP THE GIFTS. Bring the un-wrapped gift with the ornament attached and return it under the tree. The tree will be in Pilgrim Hall on Sunday, December 2nd. All gifts must be returned to the church on or before December 16th. Thank you for your generosity in fulfilling the wishes of the Center’s children!

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December 2 – December 16
We are collecting new mittens, gloves, hats and scarves to be distributed
in Branford by the Branford Counseling Center.
The tree will be located by the reception desk.


Hospitality in December

A new approach for all to participate in the coffee hour after the 10:00 AM service when we greet each other, share a cup of coffee and meet new friends.

Each month a group will be asked to donate a snack or treat and when possible serve coffee. In December all those who whose last name beginning with H, I, J, or K are asked to bring a snack or treat and serve one Sunday in December. This month servers and snacks are needed December 16 and 23rd.

In January those members whose last name begins with L and M are asked to bring a snack or treat and serve coffee one Sunday during the month. That means you are asked to bring food and serve coffee only once during the year!

John has the coffee ready for us each Sunday.
Each month supplies will be available in the kitchen: milk, half & half, sugar and juice for the children.

If you have any questions, email, text, or call me.
Deanna O’Connell


Book Group

The Book group has decided that for the winter, until the time changes in the spring, we will continue to meet at 5:30 pm.

January 8, 5:30-Biography or memoir of your choice
February 6. 5:30-Sourdough by Robin Sloan

Everyone is welcome. We meet in the Russel Room.

Barbara Colley


Confirmation Calendar

December 16 4:00-5:30 New Testament
January 6 4:00-5:30 Speed Dating with Church Council
January 13 4:00-5:30 History of UCC
February 3 4:00-5:30 History of FCCB
February 24 4:00-5:30 Sacraments
March 4 4:00-5:30 Justice and Peace
March 18 4:00-5:30 Make up class if snow day or Topic TBD
April 7 4:00-5:30 The Faith Journey Continues
April 28 4:00-5:30 Confirmation at 10:00 am Service



(All times will be 6:00-7:30 unless noted otherwise)

December 16th
January 6th & 13th
February 3rd & 24th
March 3rd & 17th
April 7th & 28th
May 5th (5:30pm start) Youth Group Tool Time


New Email Address for Church Office

To contact the church, please email

Office Hours

Tuesday to Thursday: 9 am – 2 pm

Friday: 9 am – 12 pm


For Our Prayers This Week

We give thanks for…
Jeff Buggee, for being a co-founder of Take-a-Vet-Fishing 12 years ago, and for all that he has done for our veterans
For the peace that Advent brings
Our church building offering space for community dinners and events

We pray for…
Jeff Buggee, as he steps down from his lead role in TAVF, and we pray for his health
For those affected by the snowstorm southeastern U.S. where as much as 20" of snow fell over the weekend
For the family of the 5 children who died in a house fire on Sunday in Youngstown, Ohio
For those who work to shelter and support people who have suffered from domestic abuse and violence
Immediate efforts to treat refugees humanely

We grieve with…
The Rinker family at the loss of Carol on December 8th
Folks experiencing the holidays without loved ones

Ongoing prayers for…
David Specht (friend of Carol Hoadley), Nancy Johnson, Lou Bocciarelli, Linda Mitchell, Jeff Buggee, Marge Nalewajek (Meghan St. Pierre's mother), Norm Roberts, Ella Furjes, and her mom, Gwen (Jennifer and Mareyna McCaughtry’s friends), Grace Chaplin (Paul’s mom), Judy Whittaker, Cory Martens (Kelly Marten’s brother), Rick Barker, Jim Bolan, Betsy & Peter Boynton, Edward DeFrancesco, Dormer Family, Robert & Margaret Gehm (parents of Nancy Gehm), Martha Hickman (Lil Sakai’s mom), Alison Hobbie (Betsy Gay’s daughter), John D. Kelly (Mindy Yester’s brother), Ethel Marchesseault (Linda’s mother), The Family of Sharon Reynolds, Sylvia O’Brien, Debbie Pearl (friend of Lil Sakai), George Spear, and Lou Wells.

Life Among the Believers

Sunday, December 16
8:00 am Worship Service Walker Chapel
10:00 am Worship Service Meetinghouse
11:30 am Life Among the Believers Pilgrim Hall
2:00 pm Branford Messiah Chorus Rehearsal Meetinghouse
4:00 pm Confirmation Class All Purpose Room
6:00 pm High School Youth Group Pilgrim Hall & Kitchen

Tuesday, December 18
10:00 am Staff Meeting Russel Room
1:30 pm Killam’s Point Meeting Russel Room
7:00 pm Bell Rehearsal Sanctuary

Wednesday, December 19
7:00 pm Branford Messiah Chorus Rehearsal Meetinghouse
7:00 pm Church Council Meeting All Purpose Room

Thursday, December 20
7:00 pm Choir Rehearsal Sanctuary

Friday, December 21
7:30 pm Branford Messiah Rehearsal and Performance Meetinghouse

Sunday, December 23
8:00 am Worship Service Walker Chapel
10:00 am Worship Service Meetinghouse

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Looking Ahead

December 24: Christmas Eve Service at 5:00 pm in the Meetinghouse
December 27: Knitting, Purling, Praying at 10:00 am in the Russel Room
December 30: 10:00 am service only; bring fresh produce for the last Sunday of the month




Our weekly worship service is recorded and replayed on BCTV
Channel 18 or 1070 for Comcast customers,
Channel 6004 for Frontier customers
at 5:30pm on Sundays.

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Sanctuary Flowers

The 2018 Sanctuary Flower chart has now been placed on the bulletin board where the board minutes used to be located, outside of the Russel Room.

Please come and fill in the dates!

A $35 donation to the flower fund is suggested.


Check Out The Church Facebook Page

This is a public page for everyone to be able to see everything going on at OUR church.

Please be reminded that this page is open to the public and therefore no pictures should be shared of children unless the parents are asked specifically. The FCCB Youth Ministries CLOSED GROUP is where pictures including children can be posted.

Click the link below to be brought right to the page and like it! And be sure to share with your friends.


Amazon Smiles Donations

PLEASE shop at, and First Congregational Church can receive donations from AmazonSmile.

StartWithaSmile at for your purchases and Amazon donates to First Congregational Church.

Information Regarding The eSpire

• The deadline for an article to be published in the weekly e-spire is 12pm on Tuesdays.
• There is no longer a monthly paper spire. Those who have requested a paper copy now receive a copy of the weekly e-spire in the mail.
• The e-spire is only mailed out weekly if it can be done in a timely fashion.

Are You Connected?

Make sure you get all emails and updates from First Congregational Church. It’s easy and automatic to sign up for our email list – just go to and there is a sign-up form. Don’t miss another issue!

The eSpire is now available on our website at

Grocery Cards

Grocery Cards will now only be sold after worship on Sundays.

 Big Y  Stop and Shop 

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