Thanksgiving is not a religious holiday per se, but—other than treasured memories with family and socially permitted overeating—one benefit the holiday provides is to remind us to be grateful. And gratitude, of course, is deeply related to the spiritual life. When we frame our day, or our frustrating work dynamic, or our spout with our spouse with gratitude instead of resentment, our whole perspective and demeanor can change. At root, our existence is pure gift in the first place. It’s all a gift, even that we are breathing, right now, at all. The most attuned mystics and theologians even say that in addition to our creation, the world’s creation itself is a gift, generated our of Trinitarian love (Franciscan mystic Bonaventure, for one). Why wouldn’t we be grateful? There’s so much to be thankful for that, as the apostle Paul puts it, we rejoice, even in our sufferings (Romans 5:3).
We have a tremendous amount to be grateful for at First Church this month. We have your generosity to be grateful for, completing a successful 250th anniversary-themed capital campaign, featuring just about 90 donors giving over $300,000. We have that Task Force’s leadership to be thankful for: Bruce Grinnell, Katherine Myers, Bob Behr, Phil Smith, Susan Yates, and Susan Clarke. We have small groups to be grateful for: potlucks at Steve and Lynn Chick’s, Monica Mackey’s, and Jinx Tong’s households. We have regular meetings around criminal justice reform with Rev. Mark and others at the Water Street Grill, including the special meeting of faith communities with State Senator Adam Hinds and State Representative Candidate John Barrett.
We have Christian Education Director Beth Davis and Sunday School volunteers leading classes on the theme of Courage. We have Minister of Music Ed Lawrence helping us explore the Reformation through music and song (including a 2nd Hour talk on November 12). We have a savvy and sophisticated church in which to learn about and celebrate 500 years of Protestantism launched by Martin Luther’s Reformation.
It’s no small matter that we have talented and committee volunteers who gear up every November for the church’s administrative cycle: members of the Nominating Committee, Aaron Gordon our outgoing treasurer, and the Budget Task Force. We have Susan Clarke, Stewardship Team, and the co-moderators Jody Green and Katherine Myers to thank for working on the 2017 pledge drive letter. I could go on, but I think you get the point.
There is so much happening in our church, and it is the work not of one or two individuals, but rather the entire community. May this November lead us deeper into gratitude for each other, for our own lives, and for the extravagantly generous God in whom we live, move, and have our being.
At our recent meeting the Deacons reviewed the plan to have a greeter
at the side entrance before our Sunday services. Susie Smith has been
there for the past several weeks and expressed the importance for
someone to welcome all who come to church. We like to know that
everyone is recognized there just as we like to greet people in our
area at the beginning of the service. Pastor Mark and the Deacons
encourage all to extend a greeting to all, even those long time
friends, Beginning the service with a recognition of our community
enriches worship. We look to the congregation to help with this.
A discussion regarding the number of deacons needed to carry out the
work of the team led to the decision to have eight at one time.
Presently, there are nine.
Margaret McComish gave a short “lecture” on the paraments, the two
fabric bands under the Bible. She reviewed for us the meaning of the
various colors for the liturgical seasons. We will be changing them as
needed with the colors we have on hand.
This month we began to set aside a time for meditation led by Mark. It
is our wish to make this a permanent part of our meetings; we
recognize that a quiet, introspective time gives us a time for
reflection. This month three Deacons read the same thought from
Richard Rohr’s book, “The Naked Now”. Mark led us into a 10 minute
meditations – a great addition to our meeting.
— Dick Steege
Moderated by Sherwood Guernsey, this October 30 conversation at the Water Street Grill with Senator Adam Hinds and newly chosen Democratic State Representative candidate John Barrett delved into the topic of criminal justice reform
This discussion is a part of a series organized in collaboration with three faith communities: First Congregational Church Williamstown, Street. John’s Episcopal Church Williamstown, and Congregation Beth Israel North Adams.
The Sunday Brunch Bunch will gather at the Gala restaurant at the Orchards on November 12 at about 11:45. Sam Humes and Lynn De Lay will be our host family. Everyone is welcome to this friendly gathering. We will look forward to seeing you there and getting to know more about you.
— Anne Short
Supporting the Berkshire Food Project
Mark November 19, 2017 on your calendar – the day we donate pies for the Berkshire Food Project’s Thanksgiving feast…. and at the same time enjoy tasting a variety of home-made specialties during Second Hour.
This year our party will celebrate the successful completion of our recent capital campaign, so we will honor the members and friends of the church who contributed.
Here’s how the Pie Palooza part will work:
Your Job: Bring in or drop off two pies of any kind (homemade or commercially baked) at church (Community Hall) on the morning of Sunday, November 19, 2017 – any time between 9am and 11am. Pie #1 will be sent to the Food Project. If you wish to enter the Pie Palooza contest, your Pie #2 will be sampled by the congregation during Second Hour@The Meetinghouse. Be sure your Pie #1 does not need refrigeration and that it is in a pie plate/tin that you do not want back.
Gluten free pies are welcome – we will have a special table for that category.
Fame that awaits you and your pie! The recipes of the winning contest pies will appear in the Church Newsletter and on the website. In addition, the bakers will be declared “First Church Pie Champions.”
The Congregation’s Job: You do not have to bring a pie to be a judge/taster – everyone is welcome. Each person who attends will sample and judge several of the contest pies. (Whipped cream and cheese will be available for enhancement of these samples.) Prior to tasting your samples you will be issued a “voting chip.” Each pie will be assigned a “voting chip receptacle.” After sampling, place your chip in the receptacle of the pie you feel is best.
Help Needed: Lots of people come to this fun event, and we need a lot of pies, so everyone has a chance to sample at least two or three. Please roll up your sleeves and get out your pastry recipes and let us know your plans for bringing pies by contacting Carolyn Behr at 458-5557 or email@example.com or Susan Clarke at 458-5075 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
We will need pie cutters, coffee makers, table decorators, and a clean-up crew. To volunteer contact Carolyn or Susan as noted above.
By Massachusetts state law, we cannot accept for the Berkshire Food Project pickled or home-canned foods, pates, custards, whipped cream or cream pies, or cheesecakes.
Work is beginning this month on the production and publication of a 2018 First Church Member Directory, for release at the time of our Annual Report.
If you are not currently in the Directory, and wish to be, please send an e-mail to the church office: email@example.com and provide the following information, as relevant –
Children’s names (if still living at home)
Your Home Address
Your Home Telephone Number
Your Cell and/or Work Phone Number
Spouse’s Cell and/or Work Phone Number
If you have had a change of contact information since the 2017 Directory, please send the change(s) to us at the e-mail above, so we can update your entry. We would like to include everyone in the Directory, so please get us your information. The contents of the Directory are never shared outside the membership of the church.
Acknowledging the 500th Anniversary of Luther’s Reformation, there will be two lectures by Reformation Historian, Dr. Peter Starkenko.
The first is on Sunday, October 29, Luther After 500 Years, and the second on Sunday, November 5, Luther’s Revolutionary Children. The Second Hour lectures begin at 11:20 am, following a short coffee fellowship.
Luther sent the Theses enclosed with a letter to Albert of Brandenburg, the Archbishop of Mainz, on 31 October 1517, a date now considered the start of the Reformation and commemorated annually as Reformation Day. Luther may have also posted the Theses on the door of All Saints’ Church and other churches in Wittenberg in accordance with University custom.
Most of us are aware by now that we’ve launched an extended series exploring the sixteenth century Reformations. (Remember: it was not only what we think of as the Protestant Reformation that took place at that time, but also a Radical Reformation and Catholic Counter-Reformation). This is to commemorate the 500th anniversary year of Luther’s Ninety-five Theses on Wittenberg University’s door, 1517, which is the (somewhat arbitrary) date many folks pinpoint as the beginning of the Reformation.
At this point in our Reformation journey together, we’ve covered basic history of Luther’s initial protest, explored key Reformation concepts of baptism, and looked at the nonviolent peace witness of the early Anabaptists.
But why does this all matter in the first place? I remember as a high school student learning about some of these dates and figures, hearing the lore of Martin Luther and Wittenberg. I even lived outside of Geneva, Switzerland, home of Calvin’s project in creating a Reformed city. And yet, truth be told, I always thought it was a little bit boring. Through 16 year old eyes, Geneva’s Reformation Wall looked important, and had a gorgeous grass lawn, but the imposing statues of dour-faced men ostensibly didn’t have anything to do with my life.
Except that it did.
The belief that God’s loving embrace is a total gift, accessed through trusting faith emerged from the Reformation. As did a religious outlook that was, for better or worse, free from penance, formal confession, and transubstantiation (if you want to know what that is but don’t, ask me!) And the churches that never would have existed had it not been for the Reformation: the Congregational Church I attended as a young boy; the rock-band worship, charismatic Vineyard Church I attended in Boston; the Episcopal Church in which I dipped my nose in college; the Disciples of Christ/UCC Church I found in Jamaica Plain, Boston. In fact, we can even trace the rise of European nation-states and the United States herself back to the sixteenth century Reformations. The Reformation shapes our lives now.
And, at the same time, many people (such as writer Phyllis Tickle) believe we’re in a time of new Reformation. A time in which new technologies, economics, institutions, beliefs and practices, social movements, intellectual theories, and more, are undergoing massive change. Just to give an example: discoveries in the sciences continue at rapid pace, but our theology lags far behind. How many people think of the quantum Christ?! But that’s where we need to go.
This series is intended to accomplish two things: 1) to educate us about critical history in our faith tradition and 2) awaken us to embrace today’s reformation with vivacity and courage. God is always reforming the world, and us; or, as the UCC’ers put it, “God is still speaking…”
The hot, lazy days of summer seem to be past us now, and we all look forward to the cooler days and the beautiful colors of the fall. With this time comes the activities of church so familiar, like the Frittata luncheon, the Blessing of the Animals, the ABC sale, the potluck and small group get togethers. We start again the Second Hour programs, which invigorate our brains with educational topics, and our youth Sunday school which get into their rhythm of educational and fun activities. It feels like we can all breathe a sigh of relief and anticipation as life at church begins to swirl again.
This fall we have a new kitchen to look forward to and there will be a flurry of activity which will be the result of this construction. We will need to become more patient with each other and flexible in our thinking due to this disruption of construction and the inconvenience of not having space to make coffee, prepare meals or generally know where things are ( “now which box has those dishes or drying towels”). But if we can get past those disgruntled feelings and inconveniences, we will have a exquisite new kitchen which will be more functional, a safer environment to work in and have more modern conveniences. This new kitchen will draw more users and visitors and bring new excitement to this space. Those of you have renovated your own home kitchen will appreciate this analogy.
With the success of the Capital Campaign, we are able to consider other projects to make our building more secure and energy conscious. Katherine Myers is gathering your suggestions for projects to tackle to reduce our carbon footprint, secure our building for the future, and make it more comfortable for our activities today. I hope that you will be forthcoming in your ideas as we all may have something valuable to add to her list of recommendations. Please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thankfully, tag sale time is over for the year and was very successful with gross receipts of $28,396. For me, I breath a sigh of relief as I can return to spending time with my husband, my home duties, and gardening. This tag sale experience this year was a little daunting for me as my co-pals, Cynthia Payne and Annie Parkman, were preoccupied some of the time with family needs and health issues. We want to give a special thank you to those people who stopped in frequently to check on what help was needed and lent a hand, to William’s Center for Learning in Action folks and to Williams students. We could not have managed to get this ready by Sept 9th without the continuous help from those awesome students. For many, this was their first introduction to our church and we hope it will encourage them to join us during worship and other social activities. They lightened our load and the work atmosphere with their music, laughter and conversation. We are forever grateful to all of you who helped in so many ways.
Now, onto the other important duties of this time of year: the Budget Task Force, work of each of the ministry teams, and Nominating Committee. Under the leadership of Magnus Bernhardsson, Chrissy Gordon, and Marilyn Faulkner and based on a recommendation from Pastor Mark and co-moderators, Church Council voted to temporally suspend the bylaws description of the Nominating Committee work and streamlining the nominating process. An article in this month’s newsletter gives the details of this new approach.
We begin this work refreshed after a summertime of spending time with family and friends, enjoying the beauty of our countryside and the excitement of seeing local theater and visiting our county museums. We are truly blessed by all which surrounds us. – Jody Green
A Blessing of the Animals will be held at First Church during the 10 am Sunday worship, on October 1, 2017. Everyone is invited to bring their dog, bird, hamster, or other animal friends to the church this Sunday for a our fall Blessing of the Animals. Bring a photo or a memento from a dear, departed animal friend, or children may bring a favorite stuffed animal. All will receive a blessing on this Communion Sunday.
Curious about the origins of the Blessing of the Animals? The Humane Society of the United States has a very detailed article about this faith tradition that goes all the way back to St. Francis of Assisi sometime around the year 1220 A.D.
At the September Church Council meeting, there was discussion about changing the Nominating Committee’s role to the described draft proposal below. Pastor Mark and co-moderators presented this proposal, assisted by nominating members, Magnus Bernhardsson, Chrissy Gordon and Marilyn Faulkner who will lead this committee. Church Council voted unanimously to temporally suspend the bylaws description of this committee’s work and streamline the nominating process, starting now to December 31, 2018. This change will be subject to review by the Council in September 2018.
Nominating Committee Draft Proposal
We wish to enhance the Nominating Committee’s ability to recruit
effective church leaders and to work with ministry teams in an
evaluative and support capacity. To that end, for the calendar year
2018, we propose an experimental adjustment in the work of the
Nominating Committee as follows:
- That ministry teams serve in an advisory capacity to the three
elected Nominating Committee members rather than designating
members to participate in Nominating Committee meetings.
- That the three elected Nominating Committee members meet with
each team chair and team once a year to evaluate how teams are
functioning, what skill sets and personality types are needed for
effective mission, and what goals teams have determined.
- That the Nominating Committee recruit for specific skills and goals
rather than just filling a slot.
- That the Nominating Committee collect a “spiritual gifts inventory” of
congregation members and friends to identify skills, hobbies, and
passions to support ministry team needs.
- That the Nominating Committee determine whether or not to invite
team members to stand for election for second three-year terms.
Should this experimental adjustment prove to be an effective process for recruiting church leadership, we can adjust the bylaws accordingly.
Since 2015 ABC has stood for A Better Community. The ABC Clothing Sale’s mission is to benefit local charitable organizations that serve at-risk youth and families by addressing hunger, poverty, and inequality in our communities. The sale also continues the commitment to recycle and reuse clothing and household linens.
This weekend is time for the huge ABC Clothing Sale again, held in Community Hall, this Saturday, September 30th, from 9 am to 2 pm. A huge selection of fall clothing, coats and jackets, shoes,and accessories for women and men will be sold at excellent prices. All money raised by the sale goes to supporting charities in our Berkshire Community. Come early as the line forms well before opening time. Car pooling will help.
By now, Mark is well into his sermon series on the Reformation. You know some of the terrain: the names of the principals, some of the signal events, and you are undoubtedly learning more.
Have you thought about the effect of the Reformation on music? Maybe you have heard the hymn “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” referred to as “Luther’s Hymn,” or you know its use in Mendelssohn’s “Reformation Symphony.” It’s really nice, if we get one good hymn out of the deal, but there is much more to it than that. First off, I always thought that Luther, being a theologian, may have written the words to that hymn. But, it turns out that priests in the sixteenth century were trained in the “Quadrivium,” a group of disciplines that included an academic study of music. Scholars today think that Luther himself did, in fact “compose” the music to that and several other important hymns.
The whole concept of congregational singing is new in the early Reformation, so the development of hymns, and hymns with vernacular texts was crucial. A number of the hymns by those early reformers are still part of what we know as a congregation today, and we’ll be singing some of them, and hearing others from the choir. Watch for names like Walter, Decius, Crüger, Neumark, and Schütz.
With the importance of congregational song, the organ went through a transformation, as well. No longer accompanying the Mass as sung by the clergy, the organ had to support the singing of a large body of people untrained in music. The Northern European organ gained a number of new sounds: larger, higher-pitched, sharper, to pull the congregation along. New ways of playing developed to “teach,” to lead into the hymn tunes. Listen for music by some leading lights of Reformation organ music: Scheidemann, Weckmann, Lübeck, Buxtehude, even J.S. Bach.
Choir rehearsals have started
Senior Choir is meeting on Thursday nights at 7:30 in Community Hall. Now is an excellent time to join the choir. We would love to have you! We sing each Sunday and have a great time at rehearsals and services. Speak to Ed Lawrence.
Junior Choir, for students in grades 2 through 6, is on Thursdays at 3:15. We sing about once a month and have a wonderful time learning new songs as well as learning about singing and about the church.
“The More Things Change,…”
At the beginning of September, I had the honor and pleasure to play the 52nd Annual Labor Day “Organ Barn” Concert for the Friends of Music in Guilford, Vermont. Guilford is a loose settlement of mostly dirt roads and farms to the Southwest of Brattleboro, along the Massachusetts border. There, well out of the way of the busy everyday life most of us enjoy, and beyond the reach of internet connectivity and GPS, someone has built a modest pipe organ in a barn.
The original version of this instrument was built in 1897, and moved to the barn in the 1960s. I chose, I hoped appropriately, a program of music by New England composers active at the time the organ was made. Come to find out, over the half century of its Vermont life, this instrument was periodically “improved.” At one point, someone had wanted it to sound more “Baroque,” or at least someone’s idea of what “Baroque” should sound like. Later tastes looked for other changes. The Estey organ company had been one of Brattleboro’s main industries a century ago, and a number of skilled workers were in the area long after the business closed. At one point, pipe building continued at an operation in Algiers, VT, another Brattleboro suburb you pass through on the way to Guilford. So, my 1897 organ was really not the “time capsule” of historic sounds I had imagined, but instead contained almost none of its original pipes.
On the day of the recital, Diego traveled with me. Since I was rehearsing during the day, I dropped him off with the family of John Potter, the son of Lil Potter, whom many of you will remember from our church.
The farm where the “Organ Barn” is located was owned beginning in the 1960s by Andrew Kopkind, a noted journalist and regular contributor to “The Nation” magazine. Today, the Kopkind Colony holds retreats for writers at the property. Back at the end of the ‘60s and the early ‘70s, this farm, “Tree Frog Farm,” and a neighboring one, “Total Loss Farm,” became exemplars of the “hippie” ideal of communal living. I was intrigued by this history, especially since my host at the farm had been there since those days. In digging around, I found the best source of information about this time in a Brattleboro Reformer article written by none other than John Potter!
The room where the organ sits looked to me as though it could handle maybe 40 people if you had a shoehorn to get them all in. When I arrived on recital day, more than 100 chairs had been set up in the space. By recital time, I would guess that we had between 60 and 70 people. I am sure that some of those in the audience had been living on those farms since their “hippie” days.
Following the concert, the listeners were eager to talk to me. Everyone seemed to know much more than I about something I had played or about one of the composers I talked about or about the instrument. Humbling.
One woman was eager to talk to me about Williams College. She began, “Do you know how many students Williams had in the 1890s?” I was stumped. “My grandfather went to Williams, and graduated in 1896. He wasn’t supposed to go to college. He didn’t have enough money to go, but he went along with a friend of his who was going to go there, and they got him to stay. He had to work his way through school. That’s why I was wondering how many students went there back then. The President of the college came up to him and said, ‘Thorpe, you’re working too hard. I want you to spend more time on your studies and less on earning your tuition.’ Now, how many college presidents would know the name of an average student?”
That’s a nice enough story, and there was more, also interesting. But, here’s the clincher: “Do you know what he did to earn the money to go to school? He collected all the furniture from the Seniors when they were leaving, and then he fixed it up to sell to the Freshmen coming in!” All I could say to this nice lady was, “Oh, I wish you could come over to my church with me in the morning and see what it looks like today.”
Yours in Christ,
Edwin Lawrence, Minister of Music
Sunday School Notes
What is happening in Sunday school?
Looking back to September:
Students prepared for communion during the month of September by considering three stories of Jesus breaking bread: Feeding the 5000, The Last Super, and The Road to Emmaus. These stories offer three simple ideas – the miracle of sharing, remembering Jesus, and recognizing the presence of Christ in others. Follow up activities in different classes included learning and singing “In back of the bread”, reading Stone Soup, playing cooperative games, drawing story sequences, baking bread, and of course breaking bread in half to share with each other. Many thanks to Jason Velazquez, Rieko Hatakeyama, and Fi VanWingerden for teaching our tweens, early elementary, and preschool classes.
We also added a teacher to our nursery staff in September. Caitlin DeBrei runs the Footprints Home Childcare Center in Adams and will be sharing the lead nursery teacher job with Austin. By working different weeks Austen and Caitlin can share their Sunday mornings with both our church and their families. Fi VanWingerden and Amelia Murphy will continue to provide extra hands, eyes, and attention for active infants and toddlers.
Looking forward to October:
In October Sunday school classes will focus on the topic of courage, create a new piece of art, and take a field trip to MASS MoCA to see Cavernous – The Inner Life of Courage by Wes Sam-Bruce in Kidspace. We will explore the old testament account of the Prophet Samuel, who had the courage to tell the truth, even when he didn’t want to. We will be joined by artist Sally Sussman on our field trip, and also Trever Bayliss who will work with the pre-school class. – Beth Davis
If you can spare a little time after church this Sunday, we could use some more hands for the process of putting kitchen items in storage, for the duration of the kitchen project. Pizza will be served to those kind souls who show up to help. Please let Kay Sherman or Beth Davis know if you are able to be present.
Anyone who is storing food in the church kitchen refrigerator/freezer needs to have all their food items cleared out by Friday, 9/28. Anything left after 9/28 will be thrown away. The freezer is full of food, so whoever owns it needs to make other arrangements. Thank you.
Also remember that some kitchen items are available to church members who might want them – make an offer and you haul:
- The two metal, freestanding cabinets in the kitchen – free, due to condition
- The large kitchen refrigerator
- A 30 cup electric coffee percolator
- The wooden cabinets currently on the kitchen walls
- The two butcher block wood block tables that are currently at the center of the kitchen.
This month we have been following Pastor Mark’s exploration of Luther and the Reformation that happened 500 years ago and to ponder the Reformation that is happening today. Our role as Deacons is to try to be aware of the spiritual life of the church. We have decided that we need to use our meetings to have some time to address our own spiritual growth as well as tend to the nuts and bolts of preparing the sanctuary for worship. We plan to meet separately from our usual meeting and discuss a book that addresses the current reformation, Phyllis Tickles’ book, The Great Emergence. We will let you know how that discussion goes, and what we learn from it.
As part of Mark’s sermons, we are excited about looking more deeply into the use of ritual to renew us as a faith community. Mark’s sermon on baptism when baby Tess was baptized was meaningful, and we look forward to learning more about communion, funerals and weddings involving our spiritual participation. – Jina Ford
Our Vitality team has created a fun and informational way to learn which First Church members with whom we may share neighborhoods. The Hello Neighbor map, located on a bulletin board in Community Hall is there for you to identify your neighborhood.</p?
Stop by the board one Sunday soon. Pick up a numbered pin from the table and put it on the map where you live. Alongside the map is a numbered list. Enter your name on the line corresponding to your pin number.
Step back and see who lives near you! Maybe do a pot luck gathering with your new-found First Church neighbors, and get to better know each other.
Our church storage areas are bulging with items. The Stewardship Team, in the spirit of reuse/recycle, would like to offer furniture items to church members, friends, and others.
Estimated Value $200 per chair. A discount is offered for purchases of 3 or more. These are the same chairs that have graced our parlor for many years and we have more in storage than we need.
Estimated Value $250/bench. There is also a discount for a purchase of more than 1 bench. These are the same benches that are in the Youth Chapel downstairs. We have many of these in storage also.
Children’s School Chairs
Estimated Value $20/chair. Discount for bulk purchases. We no longer need to fill all the basement classrooms with chairs. Some are available to view in the nursery.
Significant price discount is offered if someone is interested in items that need repair. If you are interested, please contact the church office for assistance – 413-458-4273.
Now that summer is over and our teams and groups are meeting again, with more activity, it is a good time to remind everyone about completing a Building Use Form, available in the church office, or by request over e-mail.
It is important to fill out the form because it allows us to schedule the use of available rooms, without use conflicts that might affect your meeting or activity. It also give us advance notice on any A/V or room set-up needed. Additionally, the form also lets us know who is in the church during a particular time, which is valuable information in the event of a medical, or other type of emergency. Lastly, the Building Use information allows us to track usage of the building for reporting purposes.
Even if you want an early morning quick meeting in a room, please submit the form so that we know you are here, and need to use a room. Effort will always be made to accommodate everyone needing to use church building space.