First Congregational Church
 

February 16, 2020

Sixth Sunday after Epiphany

Worship at 10 am in the Meetinghouse

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Life Among the Believers

Hello, beloved Valentine! Here’s your Valentine’s Day Blessing from Jesus: Love one another, as I have loved you. ~ John 13:24 With a Valentine like Jesus, all other valentines pale. But, I do hope you have an additional one or two! Beloved, will you be mine?

May Love rule your day. May Love rule your life. May a commitment to Love make you pause before and during all of your interactions. Ask yourself, is this the path of Love? In our Old Testament scripture for Sunday, Deuteronomy 30:15-20, Moses instructs the people that God has given them the ways in which they should order and conduct their life in the 10 Commandments. If I keep these commandments, I am choosing life, I am choosing blessing. If I don’t choose the path of life, I’ve chosen to go by my own way, which no doubt will alienate me from the path God has chosen for me. Choosing a path of self-interest might lead to a life that is cursed, it might lead to self-harm, and harm of my neighbor. You shall love the Lord your God, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself. Let us choose Love, and Life.

In the Gospel passage, Matthew 5:21-26, Jesus has continued in his Sermon on the Mount, and this part of the sermon is called Concerning Anger. I’m going to talk on Sunday about uncontrolled anger. We’ll begin with the wolf in “The Three Little Pigs.” ‘Member him? Jesus warns of unresolved anger between neighbors and calls for a concrete act of reconciliation.
At FCCB, I’d like to think that we are building and strengthening relationships with God and one another. But, it’s always good to pause, to see if we need to think about anything we might’ve said or done to a fellow church member - to step back and reflect, am I good with everyone, am I in right relationship with them? If I’m not, what do I need to do? How can I choose Life, how can I choose the path of Love? Love one another, as I have loved you.

Sunday’s bulletin quote is:

“blessing.

curse.

it’s your call”.

~ Danielle LaPorte

It’s always our choice. That’s how much power we have in life - to bless or curse. The sermon title is “Blessing or Curse.” The choir is taking a Sunday off, so I thought we’d sing a congregational introit, which will be the beautiful Taize hymn, “Ubi Caritas” (Live in Charity). We’ll also sing the powerful hymn, “The Gift of Love.” We’re blessed to have Carol Titcomb as our liturgist.

Whatever is going on in the world, in our country, in our state, in our town, in our home, in our church, we can try to prepare the way inside of us for peace. We can pause, breathe, take the time to be at peace with the peace Jesus gives. Be still. It’s hard for a soul at peace to lash out in anger!

Thank you, God, for life, for love, for blessing. Thank you for the power within me to choose kindness. The prophet Micah instructed the people when he gave them this: “O mortal, what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.”

Choose Life. Again and again.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Luv!

Making Christ’s Love Known in Word and Action,
Rev. Suz, Interim Senior Minister
revsuz@hotmail.com

As seen in the periodical, The Christian Century

(submitted by Rev. Suz)

Martin Luther King, Jr. observed that 11 a.m. Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in America. But that reality is slowly changing. The percent of people attending multicultural congregations increased from 18 percent in 2012 to 24 percent in 2019. (Multicultural congregations are defined as those in which no racial group constitutes more than 80 percent of the congregants.) Today 18 percent of multicultural congregations are led by black clergy, compared to 5 percent in 2007 (Ozy, January 13).

Alcohol-related deaths in the United States more than doubled from 1999-2017. Alcohol played a role in 2.6 percent of US deaths in 2017, mostly related to liver disease or alcohol overdoses. The increase was dramatically greater among women (85 percent) than men (35 percent), further narrowing the gap between the genders when it comes to alcohol-related problems. “The rapid increase in deaths involving alcohol among women is troubling and parallels the increase in alcohol consumption among women over the past few decades,” said Dr. George F. Koob of the National Institutes of Health (NIH, January 10).

Copyright © 2020 by the Christian Century. Reprinted by permission from the February 12, 2020 issue of the Christian Century. Subscriptions: $65/yr. from P. O. Box 429, Congers, NY 10920–0429. (800) 208-4097. Christiancentury.org

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From the Desk of Kerry Stewart, Christian Education Coordinator

I wanted to take a moment to thank all of you for the incredibly warm welcome you all have extended me upon my arrival at FCCB! I have enjoyed meeting so many of you and look forward to fellowshipping with you all and enriching your faith walk. I had the wonderful pleasure of visiting with the Sunday School classes this past week and was so impressed by the children and the teachers. This is such a wonderful community rich in faith and tradition.

I am generally at the FCCB Sunday’s from 8:30-12 and Tuesday-Thursday from 9-2. This will be subject to change with evening programming and meetings. Please reach out anytime by email to kerry@firstcongregationalbranford.org or at the church by phone at (203) 488 7201.

I am hoping to see lots of our families and children at the Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper. I will be there with games, activities and crafts. And am hoping to get to know many of you better that evening!

In Peace,
Kerry

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Member Musings

Are You There God?

by Suzanne M. DeLuca

I got hooked on journaling at the age of 11 when I received a small pink diary as a birthday gift. The lock feature was the most exciting part because with five siblings, I knew my secrets would be safe from their snooping eyes. Around the same time, I was reading the popular tween novel “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” by Judy Blume. If you’re not familiar with the plot, it’s a coming of age story about a young girl who writes to God in her diary. There’s plenty of tween angst and Margaret even has a brief spiritual crisis.

The book left its mark on me and I quickly decided that I would write to God in my diary, just like Margaret. I began each entry in my journal with “Dear God,” and poured my tiny heart out to Him. Entries ranged from dramatic details about arguments with my siblings to socially embarrassing moments at school. Daily communication with God ended up being a lifeline for me throughout the ups and downs of adolescence. I kept on writing and several years later, I wondered if God had anything to say to me. Turns out, He did! The messages were simple and reassuring, like “I love you”, “I’m here for you” and “Everything is going to be ok.” Today, over 30 years later I’m still writing my heart out to God and He’s continued to offer words of comfort.

Are you curious about journaling with God? Do you have a question for Him? If you’re anything like me, you have tons of questions about your life and could use any morsel of wisdom from our All-Knowing Creator.

If you’re willing, grab a pen and notebook, it doesn’t matter what kind. You can use a tablet/laptop too. First, take a few breaths, get quiet and connect with God. When you are ready, write at the top of the page “Dear God,” and simply begin talking to Him about anything. It doesn’t have to be fancy or even grammatically correct. I usually begin my entries with praise or thanks and write about my day or worries and concerns. Next, ask God a question. My typical go-to’s are, “God, what guidance can you give me around ____?” Or “God, what would You like me to know for today?” Then, write whatever comes into your mind and GO WITH IT. This part is so important! Allow the words to flow and suspend any judgement.

Maybe this feels silly or you’re skeptical and the pen doesn’t want to move. Perhaps a quote from Jeremiah 30:2 will inspire you, “Thus speaks the Lord, God of Israel, saying: ‘Write in a book for yourself all the words I have spoken to you.’ I interpret this as God’s wish to communicate with us through writing.

If you’re struggling you can try asking this question, “What advice would God give me about ___?” See if this question gets the pen moving across the page.

Through this method of writing to God, I’ve received beautiful and helpful advice that has helped me cope with the disarray and challenges of life. Even though I am no longer a gawky preteen fumbling toward adolescence, I still write to God and humbly ask for His help. By His grace, I’ve discovered that the answer to “Are You There God?” is always “Yes, I AM.”

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Tillana

Ever Building CCCLXXV Book

Congratulations, Wayne! You’ve compiled, written and illustrated a remarkable book. It’s a history, it’s a gathering of stories, and the drawings are cute, clever and cunning. As Karen Jensen, Blackstone Librarian, said, “Wow, what a wonderful publication!”.

Copies of the book are available for $10 each for this run. The next one, they’ll cost $18.

Please order by email 375@firstcongregationalbranford.org and send your checks made out to FCCB, with “375 book” in the memo. Or, see Margot Hardenbergh roaming around after coffee hour, or whenever.

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Scholarship Program

The purpose of the First Congregational Church of Branford Scholarship program is to provide some financial aid to needy and worthy young men and women who are members or are children or grandchildren of members of The First Congregational Church of Branford (FCCB). Applicants for a scholarship grant must be a senior at a private or public secondary school, who are planning to attend a post-secondary school. Scholarship grants are given to the recipients for use during their first year of post-secondary education and are paid in two halves. The first half of the grant is paid to a recipient after confirmation of the school the recipient will be attending. The second half is paid to a recipient after the recipient provides to the Scholarship Committee a copy of their first semester transcript, showing they have achieved at least a “C” average. Applications are available in the office. The deadline is April 1, 2020.

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Shrove Tuesday Pancake Dinner!

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Indulge with decadent toppings, sprinkles, whipped cream, chocolate chips, strawberries!

Gluten free pancakes available.

February 25th, Tuesday

Pilgrim Hall

5- 7 PM

Free

All are Welcome

RSVP: call the office or sign up here

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Hospitality

February

In February those members whose last name begins with N,O and P are asked to bring a snack or treat one Sunday and serve coffee one Sunday during the month. That means you are asked to bring food and serve coffee 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.

In March, if your last name begins with R, send me an email if you can serve one Sunday during the month.

If you have any other questions, email, text or call me.

Deanna O’Connell
doconnell28@comcast.net
203-483-8039

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BookGroup

Book Group

(note date changes for March and April)
Here is a list of the books we have chosen:
March 5 – Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
April 2 – Rules of Civility by Amor Towles
May 6 – The Library by Susan Orleans

Please plan on joining us when you can. We meet in the Russel Room, usually at 7 PM.

Barbara Colley

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New Office Hours as of February 25, 2020

Tuesday & Wednesday 5:30 – 8:00pm

Thursday 9:00am – 4:00pm, Friday 8:00am – 1:00pm

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Church Cancellations

As we prepare to enter the Winter season, there may be an occasion in which we'll need to cancel church, or a church-related activity. Please look to Channel 3 news for announcements of church closings.

If possible, there will also be a notification on Facebook, on our website and we will try to send out an eSpire notification if worship is cancelled.

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Pick up your church directory in Pilgrim Hall during coffee hour next Sunday, February 23, 2020.

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The flowers are given in celebration of Valentine’s Day.

For Our Prayers This Week...

We give thanks for...
Those who work with mentally ill children and adults to teach them to be successful in their lives
A congregation who works well together
Family; also, we pray for them because members, and we, ourselves, can be a challenge

We pray for…
The people in China as they struggle to work and retain normal lives due to the reactions to the coronavirus
Those suffering or grieving after a shooting in Thailand on 2/9/20 which left 29 dead and
27 injured
Our Pastoral Search Committee
Our next Settled Minister and family (whoever they are, wherever they are, surrounded in
love)

In honor of our covenant as a church conference, please pray for these Southern New England Conference churches this week: Congregational Church of Westborough; West Yarmouth Congregational Church, UCC; The First Congregational Church of West Tisbury; West Suffield Congregational Church; West Stockbridge Congregational Church, UCC; First Congregational Church UCC, West Springfield, MA; Mittineague Congregational Church, West Springfield, MA; Stratford Street United Church, West Roxbury, MA; The Second Church in Newton, UCC, West Newton, MA; First Congregational Church of West Haven; Covenant Congregational Church of West Hartford

Ongoing prayers for…
Weston Margaroff (age 5, friend of Lois Hoadley Kolligian), Rick Barker, Don Potter, Frank Barron, William Chisholm (Teresa Sander’s Grandfather), George Spear, Janet Young, Jean Andros, Marie Donofrio, Colin & Justin Williams (Linda Mitchell’s cousins), Bill Mayer (friend of Linda Mitchell), Grace Chaplin (Paul’s mother), Nancy Dougherty, Joseph Arnson (Take-A-Vet Fishing Volunteer Care Member), Wayne Childs, Marge Nalewajek (Meghan St. Pierre's mother), Ella Furjes, and her mom, Gwen (Jennifer and Mareyna McCaughtry’s friends), Cory Martens (Kelly Marten’s brother), Jim Bolan, Rose & Tom Moore (Sharon Reynold’s Mom & brother), Betsy Boynton, Edward DeFrancesco, Dormer Family, Robert & Margaret Gehm (parents of Nancy Gehm), Martha Hickman (Lil Sakai’s mom), Alison Hobbie (Betsy Gay’s daughter), Ethel Marchesseault (Linda’s mother), Sylvia O’Brien, Debbie Pearl (friend of Lil Sakai), and Lou Wells.

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Life Among the Believers

Sunday, February 16
10:00 am Worship Service Meetinghouse

Monday, February 17
7:00 pm KPMT Russel Room

Tuesday, February 18
9:30 am CDC Movement Class Pilgrim Hall
2:00 pm Bridge Club Pilgrim Hall
7:00 pm Bell Choir Rehearsal Sanctuary

Wednesday, February 19
5:30 pm Lotus Yoga Pilgrim Hall
6:30 pm CDC Parent Meeting Pine Room
7:00 pm Church Board Meeting All Purpose Room

Thursday, February 20
5:30pm Discipleship Team Meeting Russel Room
7:00 pm Choir Rehearsal Sanctuary

Friday, February 21

Saturday, February 22

Sunday, February 23/Fresh Salad Collection
10:00 am Worship Service Meetinghouse

Looking Ahead:
February 25, 5:00pm-7:00pm, Pilgrim Hall: Shrove Tuesday Pancake Dinner (free)

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Sunday Flower Chart

If you’re able to contribute $35 for flowers, please consider signing up on the bulletin board outside of the Russel Room, or call or send an e-mail and Missy will sign up for you. Include who/what you would like the flowers to be in honor/memory/celebration of. Thank you so much for keeping our altar adorned, and our flower fund supported!

The Upper Room daily devotional booklets are very good! Pick up a free copy in either the narthex, Pilgrim Hall, or outside of the Russel Room. It has two months of devotions, and our sexton, John Woods then puts out the next two-month supply.

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Notifications

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GROCERY CARDS WILL NOW ONLY BE SOLD AFTER WORSHIP ON SUNDAYS

 Big Y  Stop and Shop 

Did You Know… FCC Branford makes 5% of every dollar on the grocery cards we sell?

If you buy a $100 grocery card, you get $100 in groceries, and FCC gets $5! It’s that easy. This currently adds up to about $2000 income annually for FCC and could easily be more. We offer both $50 and $100 Stop and Shop cards and $50 and $100 Big Y cards. Cards are sold after worship every Sunday. Why not try it out and help support FCC?
THANK YOU

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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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Check Out The Church Facebook Page

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

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

https://www.facebook.com/FirstCongregationalBranford/

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Amazon Smiles Donations

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

StartWithaSmile at smile.amazon.com/ch/06-6042800 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.
• Email articles to office@firstcongregationalbranford.org
• 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.

 
 
 
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