From the Pastor — February, 2018

Mark Longhurst

Dear Church,

The following is adapted from remarks at a “Leadership 101” night for Ministry Team members.

Now is the time for God to renew the church for mission. But not all churches are at the same place on the life cycle. According to a now classic work by Martin Saarinen, congregations are made up of a blend of energy, programs, administration, and inclusiveness (EPAI). New church starts, for example, abound in energy but are low in administration and programs. Growing churches hit the sweet spot of flow in which they are high in all areas. Dying churches are high in administration and low in energy and inclusiveness.

How would you characterize the life in our church right now?

It’s important to look at where the energy is in a church. According to church renewal expert Cameron Trimble, when a church hits stagnation, something happens. It’s hard to describe, but you can feel it. Energy drops. Once energy drops, nervousness, anxiety, and fear, set in. Sadly, it’s often only when panic sets in that churches often decide to change things. A church, for example, often only wants to become more welcoming when, say, they realize they are losing money and membership is declining. They are desperate for new members or young families, but it’s not welcoming for hospitality’s sake or the gospel’s sake, it’s because the church will face severe cutbacks if the decline trajectory continues.

If there’s one thing my generation and the millennial generation sees through immediately, it’s false inclusiveness. You can’t fake authentic welcome.

Cameron Trimble of the Center for Progressive Renewal differentiates between leaders and managers. She teaches that leaders are those who are outward focused. They develop new projects and sell the vision. Managers are those who help maintain the infrastructure for that vision so that the leaders to their job.

What happens when a church starts to decline, she says, is that the Managers and Administrators take over. We start having more conversation about policies and experiencing more conflict with one another. I certainly have nothing against Managers and Administrators, because they have profound gifts to offer the church. However, management and administration needs to serve the energy of leadership and mission. Not the other way around.

If Managers and Administrators are left in charge of a church, the organization turns inward. This is when a congregation can die if it doesn’t turn itself around. So, the key question to ask ourselves is how do we feed the energy of vitality? How can we develop, nurture, and support leaders who empower, inspire, and reach out into the community? How can we build management and administrative support for those leaders?

The choice of evolution is the choice of growth, which is also the choice transformation.

I think we’re at the time in our ministry together where we need to recommit to growth. I don’t say this because I’m afraid of church decline. I say this because right now we’re doing well.

Over the past four years, we’ve had a reinvigoration of current membership. We have re-affirmed and enriched program commitments. We have attracted new members. We have deepened in prayer.

We could easily make the mistake of taking this relative health for granted by coasting a bit. I could start to phone it in and to be less serious about outreach into the community. You could start to become comfortable with the way things are. I take the opposite view: now is exactly when we need to dig down more deeply and choose transformation and courageous vision, precisely because we’re on an up swing. Otherwise the church’s vitality will plateau in a few years.

By the way, church growth isn’t only numerical, although it does include numbers. Church growth means substantive transformation: growth organizationally, growth in our inner lives and encounter with God, growth in how we treat and love each other, growth in our impact on the wider community, growth in the risks that we take.

No one knows the future of our church and anything could happen. What I do know, however, is that when we choose growth, evolution, and even risk, we open ourselves up to the work of the Holy Spirit. Our lives change, because as I’ve heard Massachusetts outgoing Conference Minister and President Jim Antal say, “God welcomes us just as we are, but God loves us enough to make sure we don’t stay just as we are.”

What are you willing to risk? What are you willing to let go of? How entrepreneurial and electrified are you willing to become?

In radiant faith,

Rev. Mark

Co-Moderator’s Update

Katherine Myers

The church has been a hive of activity over the past two months.  Most of the walls in the back wing of the church have been pumped full of insulation, the basement and the attic have been sealed and insulated and the (seemingly endless) kitchen renovation is firmly underway with high hopes that the stars will align to complete this project soon!

I am in awe of the remarkable hospitality church members have continued to provide under adverse circumstances. The innovative and creative thinking that has gone into keeping the essential hospitality of the church running seamlessly during this period is a testament to the creativity and perserverence of our congregation.

Special recognition to the faithful crew who prepare the monthly meals for the Take and Eat program. We are certain those who receive this nourishment have not perceived any diminution in the quality and quantity of meals from FCC.  Kudos to Steve Chick who pulled off the best wassail in recent memory after the Christmas Eve service and to Kay Sherman who recently conjured a lovely and abundant reception following the service in honor of our dear friend Marion Shaw.

This ability to create excellence and warmth in the face of radical disruption, is something I am tremendously grateful for.  This congregation’s patience and willingness to be inconvenienced without complaint is a gift and a blessing.

Thanks to all for your continued hard work.

Katherine Myers

Marion Shaw 1913-2018

Marion Shaw


First Church celebrated the life of beloved, longtime member, Marion Shaw, on Saturday, January 20th.  Marion passed on January 9th, and would have turned 105 years old on January 19th.  The service in our Sanctuary was well attended by friends and family.  Thank you to Phil Smith for his beautiful flower arrangements, and to Kay Sherman, for organizing the special memorial Silver Tea reception in Marion’s honor.

Deacons Report

First, a look back at Christmas.  The 2017 Christmas Eve service was well attended by 251 people, more than in 2016. It was good to see so many young families and their visiting parents. The sanctuary glowed with candlelight, and the greens  gave a special warmth. Thanks go to Deborah Currie for doing the decorating. Thanks also to those who did the readings and  to the augmented choir. Special thanks also to Lance and River Alpi’s help with the car parking. Many helped make the service a beautiful experience.

The Deacons are welcoming Margaret Oxtoby and Sam Smith to their team. Susie Smith,  Cesar Silva, and Dick Steege are cycling off this year. Margaret McComish and Carrie Waara are sharing the chair responsibilities for the coming year. We wish them well.

In respect to those who would like to celebrate a more traditional communion, the Deacons have decided to use the in pew service using the small glasses and silver trays more often in the future.

As are all the team participants, we’re looking forward to Pastor Mark’s Leadership 101 January 24th. This will give a healthy look at our church team organization and its functioning.

Dick Steege, for the Deacons.

Text • Image | February 2018

In Memory Of A Happy Day In February
by Anne Brontë

Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry février (The Very Rich Hours of the Duke of Berry); the Limbourg brothers, 1416.

Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry février (The Very Rich Hours of the Duke of Berry); the Limbourg brothers, 1416.


Blessed be Thou for all the joy
My soul has felt today!
O let its memory stay with me
And never pass away!

I was alone, for those I loved
Were far away from me,
The sun shone on the withered grass,
The wind blew fresh and free.

Was it the smile of early spring
That made my bosom glow?
‘Twas sweet, but neither sun nor wind
Could raise my spirit so.

Was it some feeling of delight,
All vague and undefined?
No, ’twas a rapture deep and strong,
Expanding in the mind!

Was it a sanguine view of life
And all its transient bliss–
A hope of bright prosperity?
O no, it was not this!

It was a glimpse of truth divine
Unto my spirit given
Illumined by a ray of light
That shone direct from heaven!

I felt there was a God on high
By whom all things were made.
I saw His wisdom and his power
In all his works displayed.

But most throughout the moral world
I saw his glory shine;
I saw His wisdom infinite,
His mercy all divine.

Deep secrets of his providence
In darkness long concealed
Unto the vision of my soul
Were graciously revealed.

But while I wondered and adored
His wisdom so divine,
I did not tremble at his power,
I felt that God was mine.

I knew that my Redeemer lived,
I did not fear to die;
Full sure that I should rise again
To immortality.

I longed to view that bliss divine
Which eye hath never seen,
Like Moses, I would see His face
Without the veil between.







Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry février (The Very Rich Hours of the Duke of Berry); the Limbourg brothers, 1416.”

Insulating the Church

Blown insulation.

You may not realize but between December 26 and January 24 we made it easier for the Vitality team under Lyn Chick’s capable leadership to offer a warm welcome to visitors. In that month our church experienced a dramatic — if invisible — transformation as several crews from Energia, insulated and air- sealed the majority of the exterior walls in the back wing of the church and all of our attic. They also sealed the dirt floor in the basement under the sanctuary.

For this phase of the project, the crew worked from the inside of the building and you have probably noticed patches from throughout the back wing. Steve will paint these as time permits. A few areas like Beth and Annie’s paneled office will need to have the insulation blown in from the outside in the April.

In the basement spray foam and 6 mil plastic have been applied to seal off the dirt crawlspace below the sanctuary. Special thanks to Susan Yates and Kathy Nolan from ABC who did quick work right before Christmas to help remove items stored in that space. Susan also helped clear items from the attic so that spray foam could be applied above the offices, the theater, sanctuary and bell tower.

There are approximately two more weeks of work required to finish this massive insulation project but unfortunately they will have to wait until the weather warms. Energia will be back in April or May to insulate the sanctuary’s exterior walls from the outside.

We are happy to give this business to Energia. Based out of Holyoke, MA, they are a triple bottom line company, striving to maintain a balance between social, ecological, and financial concerns. They seek to provide green career ladders and real equity in their company for the disenfranchised. You can learn more on their website

We have been fortunate to cover half the cost of this important work with a large grant from Williams College through Center for Ecological Technology’s Community Climate Fund. The CCF provides technical and financial assistance for local non-profits to help install energy efficiency projects.

We should see some reduction in heating oil use this year but the savings on heating oil in future years should be dramatic. From our initial proposal (which did not include insulating the walls in Community Hall) CET calculated that we would save 2493 gallons of oil annually and generate an annual CO2 reduction of 24.25 e-tonnes. Depending on the cost of oil, we should save more than $6500 annually. The addition of the extra wall insulation will boost that number even higher.

For me, equally important to the bottom line is the savings to the environment. One of the reasons I joined this church was because of the core commitment to the environment. Yet in spite of our principles, our building has been an energy-wasting behemoth that has demanded attention. This investment continues our mission of caring for God’s creation and is a giant step in the right direction. Saving money while doing the right thing makes it a true win-win.

Katherine Myers, Co-Moderator

Focus on Education

The Jesse Tree Pageant on 12/17 was a meaningful time of worship, a chance to brush up on Old Testament Stories, and a great deal of fun. The lessons and carols style worship service presented many of the stories our students focused on over the summer and fall – the very same stories Jesus would have heard as a child. Do you have any photos of the Christmas Pageant for the Jan/Feb newsletter? Send copies to to share with families and post with permission.

In Sunday school older students have been studying Martin Luther and the essential theology that emerged from the reformation. In addition to reading texts, the class is exploring “Guilt, Grace, and Gratitude” with dart games, vacuum cleaners, ping pong balls, black markers and white shirts. The class has also had the opportunity to done wigs that allow the wearer to sport a monk’s tonsure.

Our younger students are on a time travel quest with Beth Davis, to reconstruct the “Scroll of Time” and visit some of the events and people who shaped Christianity over two millennia. We are working backwards from the Dead Sea to Jesus’ death and resurrection, hopefully arriving at the same time as Easter. Both older and younger students have been entranced by the PBS movie, “Martin Luther the Idea that Changed the World.”


Upcoming Calendar

Tween (4-8th grade) are meeting for lunch after Sunday school for fellowship and service. This is a “when life permits” group where homework, family activities, and other commitments come first.

Tween February Calendar:

Sunday 1/28, 11:30 – 1:00, walk to St Patrick’s Church on Southworth Street to bring donations to Food Pantry. Return to First Congregational to make pancakes and play Pandemic.
Sunday 2/4, 11:30 – ?, After Sunday school and worship kids of all ages are invited to have lunch and work on a special shrinky-dink art project with Sally Sussman and nursery staff during the annual meeting.
Sunday 2/11, 11:30 – 1:00, Last pandemic and pancake lunch.
Sunday 2/18, 12:00 – 3:00, Lunch and open studio at Beth’s loft 209, Eclipse Mill. Parents and siblings welcome. Drop in and out as your schedule allows.
Sunday 2/25, 11:30 – 1:00, Lunch and start of pottery project for the empty bowl dinner to benefit Berkshire Food Project.

From the Pastor

Dear Church,

The liturgical entry into Advent always straddles an uneasy tension with the rituals of Christmas commercialist frenzy. All of which really have very little to do with the advent of Christ. The word “advent” comes from the Latin adventus, which means coming or arrival, but also means a ripening or development, a visit. It can even mean—perhaps shockingly—an invasion.

The invitation of Advent, then, is always to ready ourselves for what is to come, which is the realm of peace and joy through Christ. The coming of a Messiah signifies much more than an individual person or baby, though. As wonderful as babies are, the coming of Christ is far more cosmic in scope, stirring anticipation for a different and more hopeful reality itself. In a time of American moral crisis, along with our habitual resistance to encountering God in our inner lives, Advent becomes a time that destabilizes and overturns our priorities. Because we are, truly, so rarely people of authentic peace, nonviolence, joy, and freedom. (Consider the United States’s unauthorized complicity in the Saudi Arabian bombing and hunger crisis of Yemen, for example). To anticipate the coming of Christ—which is a historical reality through Jesus, but also an archetypal revelation of God’s realm of love—offers the possibility of a ripening and development of our consciousness. It also feels like an invasion.

When people of violence are faced with the possibility of peace, the truth of our violence is mirrored to us. God’s invasion of love unsettles us because it shows us who we are, and how much we lack and are desperate for such love.

My pastoral challenge to you is to create intentional spaces for yourself in this Advent season to prepare God’s way in your life. Because if we create space for God’s invasion, the rough initial shock of an invasion does soften into a ripening, deepening, and developing experience. Whether it is solo skiing, meditation practices, taking a day off to reflect on your life, or engaging in a “Buy-Nothing Christmas,” the coming of God is always momentous, always transformative. Life is too short to miss it.

With loving anticipation,

Rev. Mark

From The Deacons

Celebrating Rick Spaulding’s Retirement

We are wishing just the type of retirement you hope for, Rick. Our
congregation is so grateful for your constant help when needed,
meaningful sermons, and your cheerful presence. It has been our good
fortune to have you in our community these several years, giving a
richness to our spiritual lives.
All the best for the new life ahead of you.  Well deserved!

The Deacons have been discussing Communion services and the ways it
has been provided. We look into various forms it may take and the
congregation’s response to them.  We welcome your input. Either send
an e-mail to one of us or speak to us at church.  We are open minded!

Great to see that the many charitable offerings have increased by
nearly $1900 since last year. Our church continues to hold out a
helping hand to our local as well as world community. Just one of the
areas we see as most important these days.

You may have noticed a “Greeter” at the door Sunday mornings. The
Deacons are making a decided effort to make all welcome at our church.
We encourage everyone to introduce yourselves especially to people you
do not know and to introduce them to people you do. It is always an
easy matter to combine the two. You might make it your goal to meet
one person each week. Pastor Mark’s opening welcome is an opportunity
to invite people to Coffee Hour after the service. That way they will
already be familiar with you.

We will be very busy during Advent. It’s important to keep checking
the church calendar.


Dick Steege, For the Deacons

Co-Moderator’s Report

In my role as co-moderator I tend to focus most of my attention on the “business” of keeping the church moving forward. It is reassuring in the midst of the joys and frustrations of that work to be reminded of all the good work our members do to enhance the spiritual life of the congregation. Fall’s small groups and potlucks sparked (for some) and renewed (for others) the abiding sense of community. The spectacularly well-organized (and delicious) pie palooza seemed a fitting cap to those weeks of fellowship outside of Sunday services.

I was particularly delighted by the “winners” of this annual pastry contest (though I suspect eating a lunch consisting of at multiple pieces of pie makes us all winners.)  I have always deeply valued the cross-generational aspect of church and the quartet of pie  victors ran the gamut from newly minted teenager to well-seasoned grandmother.

Its easy to get siloed associating exclusively with people at your same stage on life’s path.  Most of the people I spend my time with outside of work are 50ish with high school or college age children. I value the wisdom and support of these friends but relish the opportunity to  see things from a different vantage point through those younger and older than me at FCC.

In this pledging season, this diverse, supportive community strikes me as something worth pledging to support and sustain.

It might, in fact, be priceless.

Katherine Myers



Music Notes – A Singing Church

I was honored to give a Second Hour presentation on “The Reformation and Congregational Song” a few weeks ago.  Preparing for the talk reminded me of the importance the sixteenth century reformers placed on the role of the congregation in singing the word. It was a literal embodiment of the principle of “the priesthood of all believers” to engage the entire worshiping body in singing the service. I remember when I was interviewed for my position at the church that I expressed the ideal that there would be no distinction between choir and congregation, that we would all be singers together. I often remind the choir that their role is to provide leadership in hymn singing and that the anthems we sing serve as a model for excellent singing.

Our “Bible” for congregational song is the hymnal. I’ve been around long enough that I still think of the New Century Hymnal as “the new hymnal.” The Pilgrim Hymnal, its immediate predecessor in our pews, seemed to have been around for a long time; it was the first hymnal in the late 1950s for the newly formed United Church of Christ. We learned, around the time of the current book, that the life-expectancy for hymnals in our denomination is about 20 years.  The Pilgrim Hymnal had been around a good bit longer than that. It wasn’t always easy to find the best material in that hymnal to reflect the direction of our preaching in the 1990s.

Now, the songbook that we use has been around for about 25 years. We have learned many new and excellent hymns. Some have already become “old favorites!” Lots of familiar hymns stayed with us, others were re-commissioned for new uses. It’s been a good book for us. But, we are always looking to enliven the singing of the church. To match the preaching of the twenty first century, the direction of our church today, we are seeking other music to sing. Let us know when you think we are hitting it right. Suggest new songs that you might have encountered elsewhere. How can we better supplement the repertoire we all share?

Then, there is the choir, the “leader and model” for our singing. You could preach a sermon about the loyalty and dedication of our terrific singers. A genuine inspiration! But, how I can I spread the choir net a little wider, maybe to include you? The commitment to regular Thursday rehearsals may seem daunting. How about committing to a shorter term? We have enjoyed women’s choir and men’s choir in some of our summer Sundays, and it’s been fun to welcome more new singers each time. We have a couple of new opportunities on the closer horizon:

  • Christmas Eve choir. We will rehearse music for this service on Thursdays, Dec. 7, 14, and 21 for the Dec. 24 service.  There will be lots of singing, and we’d love to have you be part of it. High school students and returning college students are also welcome. Rehearsals begin at 7:30 and end at 9:00.
  • I have invited Tendai Muparutsa, the director of the Zambezi Marimba Band, to help us with the music for a service built around African percussion. There will surely also be singing. I’m hoping to get a group of our folks to work with Tendai for a few weeks in preparation. Interested?
  • We will repeat the Lenten Messiah sing-along. As we did last year, I will offer a series of rehearsals for singers who may be less familiar with the Lenten portions of the great choral work.  Watch for dates.

Here’s to a singing church!

Yours in Christ,

Edwin Lawrence, Minister of Musicere’

Christmas Pageant Worship Service

Save the date: December 17, The Jesse Tree Pageant Worship Service

“And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots” Isaiah 11:1

A peaceful kingdom, ruled by a descendant of King David (who was the son of Jesse) is prophesied in Isaiah 9:1-7 and Isaiah 11: 1-9. Traditionally, Christians interpret this prophecy to be about Jesus. The Jesse Tree illustrates Jesus’ genealogy and his ancestor’s stories in the Hebrew Scriptures.

Dating back to the 11th century, the Jesse Tree became a popular subject of Christian art in the middle ages.  It was found in many contexts – stained glass, carvings, paintings, needlework and illuminated manuscripts.  At a time when few Christians could read, the Jesse Tree was a visual aid for teaching and learning Bible stories.

This year our Christmas Pageant is truly an Advent pageant; it is about waiting for the Prince of Peace through many generations, and includes seven dramatic lessons based on Old Testament stories.  We need people of all ages to bring these stories to life.  If you would like to sign up as a family or as an adult individual, send Beth an email at  Most roles are short and lines do not have to be memorized.

Upcoming calendar:

  • November 26,
    • 10:15 – 11:00 Sunday school – Preparing for Christmas with Advent Traditions, make a Jesse tree.
    • 11:00 – 11:30 Fellowship time honoring Rick Spaulding.
  • December 3,
    • 10:15 – 11:00 am Sunday school – Music and storytelling with drama;
    • 11:30 – 12:30 pm Pageant props and sets workshop with lunch.
  • December 10,
  • 10:15 – 11:00 am Sunday school – Music and storytelling with drama;
  • 11:30 – 12:30 Pageant props and sets workshop with lunch.
  • December 16,
    • 10:00 – 12:00 pm Pageant Rehearsal for wranglers and speaking roles
  • December 17,
    • 9:00 – 9:30 am Jr Choir and pageant cast warm up;
    • 10:00 – 11:00 am Jesse Tree Pageant Worship Service;
    • 11:00 -11:30 am catered luncheon;
    • 11:30 – 1:30 pm Children’s candle making workshop concurrent with the annual budget meeting.
    • Nursery open till end of budget meeting.
  • December 24, 5:00 pm Christmas Eve worship service. No Sunday school, nursery open.
  • December 31, Hymn Sing Sunday, No Sunday School, Nursery closed.

You Can Be An Angel!

Once again the Outreach Team is sponsoring the Angel Tree for Christmas season. Both the Salvation Army and Louison House family shelter have submitted holiday gift requests.  Please take a gift tag from the tree in the west entrance lobby and be sure to sign it out on the clipboard so we know who has which tag.

The gifts are due back by Thursday,  December 14, and can be put around the tree or left in the church office.

The tag will tell you whether to wrap the gift or not.  YOU ARE NOT OBLIGATED TO GET EVERYTHING LISTED ON THE TAG – ONLY DO WHAT YOU CAN!  These are suggestions of what types of items would be needed.

If you would rather give a cash or check donation please leave it in the church office clearly labeled for the Angel Tree.  It will be used to buy bus passes or gift certificates or fill in where items may be needed.  This is totally a local effort to benefit families right here in northern Berkshire!

Do help by being an ‘angel’ to bring joy to others this season! It can be a fun family holiday project!

Thank you!

Marilyn Faulkner

Seventh Annual Pie Palooza and The Winning Recipes

On a grey, windy November Sunday over ninety people assembled after the worship service to enjoy each other’s company and to satisfy their craving for sugar.

At the same time FCC fulfilled its obligation to support the important work of the Berkshire Food Project. Members of the church community brought 35 pies for BFP’s annual Thanksgiving Feast, which this year served 235 people on the Monday before the holiday.

The 23 creations donated for the pie contest were eagerly gobbled up and voted on by an enthusiastic crowd. FCC is grateful for tasty contributions from the church members and friends and also from Tunnel City Coffee, Stop and Shop, and the A-Frame Bakery.

In a tie for first prize in the tasting contest were Lola Bohle’s Blackberry Blueberry Crumb Pie and Carrie Bond’s Vermont Maple Oatmeal Pie. Second place went to Elizabeth Smith’s Pumpkin Chiffon Pie, and third prize was awarded to Jina Ford’s Chocolate Coffee Truffle Gluten Free Pie. The recipes are included below.

The Pie Palooza is an annual reminder of several of FCC’s goals: meaningful outreach to the community and warm intergenerational fellowship.

Thank you to all who helped by contributing pies, by setting up, by cleaning up, and by washing forks, napkins, tablecloths, and dishtowels.

Susan Clarke and Carolyn Behr

Carrie Bond’s Vermont Maple Oatmeal Pie Recipe

This yummy pie has an old-fashioned feeling, but is so easy to prepare. Serve it with ice cream drizzled with maple syrup or top it with maple- or cinnamon-flavored whipped cream


8 servings


Prep: 20 min. Bake: 50 min. + cooling


  • 1 sheet refrigerated pie pastry
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup quick-cooking oats
  • 3/4 cup corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup flaked coconut
    Vanilla ice cream, optional


Unroll pastry into a 9-in. pie plate; flute edges.

In a large bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt. Stir in the oats, syrups, butter and vanilla; pour into crust. Sprinkle with coconut.

Bake at 350° for 50-60 minutes or until set. Cover edges with foil during the last 15 minutes to prevent overbrowning if necessary. Cool on a wire rack. Serve with ice cream if desired. Refrigerate leftovers. Yield: 8 servings.

Lola Bohle’s Blackberry-Blueberry Crumb Pie       

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea or table salt
  • 1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 1/4 cup or more very cold water
  • 4 cups (about 2 pints) blueberries
  • 2 cups (about 12 ounces) blackberries
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar (for a moderately, but not very, sweet pie)
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 7 tablespoons tapioca flour or (5 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • Finely grated zest of half a lemon (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • Two pinches of salt

Make pie dough:
In the bottom of a large bowl, combine the flour, salt and sugar. Work the butter into the flour with your fingertips or a pastry blender until mixture resembles a coarse meal and the largest bits of butter are the size of tiny peas. Add 1/4 cup cold water and stir with a spoon or flexible silicone spatula until large clumps form. Use your hands to knead the dough together, right in the bottom of the bowl. If necessary to bring the dough together, you can add another tablespoon of water.
Wrap dough in a sheet of plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour, or up to 48 hours, or you can quick-firm this in the freezer for 15 to 20 minutes.

Heat oven: To 400°F.

Roll out crust: On a floured counter, roll the dough out into a 12 to 13-inch circle-ish shape. Fold dough gently in quarters without creasing and transfer to a 9 1/2-inch standard (not deep-dish) pie plate. Unfold dough and trim overhang to about 1/2-inch. Fold overhang under edge of pie crust and crimp decoratively. Save scraps in fridge, just in case.

Par-bake crust: Freeze for 15 minutes, until solid. Dock all over with a fork. Coat a piece of foil with butter or nonstick spray and press tightly against frozen pie shell, covering the dough and rim and molding it to fit the shape of the edges. Bake for 20 minutes, then carefully, gently remove foil. (Set the foil, still molded, aside. It will come in handy later.) If any parts have puffed, just press them gently back into place. Patch any tears or cracks with reserved dough scraps. Reduce oven temperature to 375°F and leave oven on.

Meanwhile, make filling: Mix all filling ingredients in a large bowl and set aside.

To make crumb topping, stir sugar, zest, baking powder, flour and salt into melted butter in a large bowl with a fork until crumbs form.

Assemble and bake: Pour filling into crust and scatter crumbs over the top. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes with these two important things in mind:

  1. This crumb browns much more quickly than the pie is done. Grab that piece of foil you set aside from the parbaking phase and upend it over the top of the pie to protect it against further browning once it reaches the color you want. This might only take 20 to 30 minutes.
  2. Fruit pies are done when you can see bubbles forming at the edges, with some creeping through and over some crumbs. If it takes longer, that’s better than an underbaked pie.

To serve: Try to let the pie cool until close to room temperature before serving. This gives the pie thickener a chance to help the pie set. The pie will be even better set after a night in the fridge. Bring it back to room temperature before serving.

Elizabeth Smith’s Pumpkin Gelatin Chiffon Pie

One 9 inch single-crust baked pie shell

Soak: 1 Tbs. Gelatin in ¼ cup cold water

Separate the yokes from three eggs.  Save the egg whites for later!

Beat slightly:

3 egg yolks


½ Cup white or brown sugar

1 ¼ Cups canned or cooked pumpkin

½ C. milk

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp each cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger

Cook and stir these ingredients in a double boiler – over and not in – boiling water until thick.  Stir in the soaked gelatin until dissolved.  Chill until mixture begins to set.

Whip until stiff but not dry 3 egg whites.

Stir in gradually ½ cup white sugar

And fold into the pumpkin mixture.  Fill the pie shell.  Chill several hours to set.

Serve garnished with whipped cream.

Note:  If you use your own squash I recommend that you use two tablespoons of gelatin instead of one!  (It will set up and produce a firmer filling)  My Mother’s recipe from the Joy of Cooking:  It is light and not too sweet!

 Jina Ford’s Chocolate-Coffee Truffle Pie

Coffee is the perfect accent to the deep, rich, chocolately flavor of this pie. Crispy gluten-free chocolate wafers also work for the press-in crust.

Prep time: 10 min. – cooking time 25 mins.

Ready in 35 min – serves 12.

12 tbsp butter                           1 Tbsp espresso powder

1 (19 oz) box Nabisco             ¼ cup maple syrup

Famous Chocolate wafers       1 tsp vanilla extract

8 oz bittersweet chocolate       1 tbsp confectioners’sugar

2 large eggs                                ½ cup heavy cream

1 cup raspberries

Step 1: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Melt 6 Tbsp Butter. In a food processor, pulse the chocolate Wafers and melted butter until fine crumbs form.

Transfer crumbs to a 9-inch pie or tart pan. Using the bottom of a large mug, press crumbs firmly into an even layer. Bake 10-12 mins., until crust has set.

Step 2: Meanwhile, chop the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a small saucepan of simmering water. Melt chocolate and remaining butter on medium, stirring often. Remove bowl from saucepan. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, espresso powder, maple syrup and vanilla extract. Slowly whisk egg mixture with melted chocolate until smooth.

Step 3: Pour the chocolate mixture into the crust and smooth the top with a small offset spatula. Bake 15 min., until filling has mostly set, but still jiggles slightly in the center. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and garnish with raspberries.

Per serving: 346 calories, 2 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 80mg cholesterol, 172mg sodium, 27g carbohydrate, 4g fiber, 12g sugar, 6g protein.


Financial Secretary’s Report, December

FCC$ 250






Record of Pledge Contributions

 2016  2017
 Needed monthly  $15,868.00   $17,180.00
 Needed (January 1 – November 30, 2017)   $206,158.00  $188,978.00
 Received (January 1 – November 30, 2017)  $170,208.00  $179,158.00
 (Including prepaid amts.: $18,702.18 & $20,684.87 respectively)
  2016 Pledge shortfall: $3,519.00
 (Received toward shortfall through November 30, 2017)  $3,339.00

We have received pledge contributions through the month of November of Calendar Year 2017 at the rate of 86.90% down, slightly, from last year’s rate of 89.39%. Thank you for your generous contributions! The church greatly depends on your continuous financial support.

2017 Tag Sale – Charitable Contributions? – If you donated special “Treasures” to our Tag Sale for which you wish to claim a deduction on your 2017 tax return, please contact me with your list of items.

2017 Charitable Contribution DEADLINES Checks must be hand delivered to the church & placed in the OUTSIDE MAILBOX by NOON Friday, Dec. 29th (church office will be closed the last week of Dec.)

(or) postmarked by Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017 to claim a charitable contribution deduction for 2017.   On Jan. 4th we will make a special bank deposit of all 2017 checks postmarked Dec. 30th.

Boxed Envelope Sets If you order envelopes for your new 2018 pledge, they will be ready on

December 17th. The envelopes will be located on the west side windowsill as you enter the sanctuary.

Please remember to make a small initial envelope contribution by March. Our cost is $4.00 per set.

Annie M. Parkman,  Financial Secretary



Christmas Music Events

Lessons and Carols
The Williams College Lessons and Carols Christmas Service at Thompson Chapel is coming up soon. This much-loved annual event is scheduled for both Dec. 9th and 10th. For detailed information, please click here.

North County Chorale and All Saints Bell Choir
Under the direction of Michael Daunis, the North County Chorale and the All Saints Bell Choir will perform at a North County Christmas event on Sunday., Dec. 10 at 3:00 pm, First Congregational Church, Main street, in North Adams. Members of congregations from northern Berkshire and southern Vermont are members of the North County Chorale as well as local soloists. There is no cost to attend the event as it is a “freewill offering” to benefit the Berkshire Food Project, which provides a healthy, full-course meal to the community, five days per week.

Through the Dark Night with John of the Cross

A webcast with James Finley

Center for Action and Contemplation Invites You
Join a webcast with James Finley. In a live video webcast, James helps us navigate periods of darkness and doubt, deepening our desire for and openness to union with Love.
Through the Dark Night with John of the Cross
Thursday, December 14, 2017
4:00-6:00 p.m. US PST / 7:00-9:00 p.m. US EST

Register for as little as $1 at

God has to work in the soul in secret and in darkness because if we fully knew what was happening, and what Mystery, transformation, God, and Grace will eventually ask of us, we would either try to take charge or stop the whole process. —John of the Cross

In a live webcast on the Feast of St. John of the Cross, James Finley explores the 16th century Spanish mystic’s life and writings. John went through a purifying process of the Dark Night of the Soul. His description of this experience helps us navigate our own times of darkness and unknowing, coming to a profound knowing of God’s presence in our lives. Through reflections on John’s texts, Ascent of Mount CarmelThe Dark Night of the Soul and Spiritual Canticle, Jim shares how our powerlessness in prayer is gradually transformed into contemplative intimacy with God. John believed that Infinite Love is the architect of our hearts. We are made in such a way that nothing less than an infinite union with Infinite Love will do. The Dark Night deepens our desire and openness to this love.

James Finley is a core faculty member of the Center for Action and Contemplation. His written and recorded teachings include Jesus & Buddha, Following the Mystics through the Narrow Gate, Merton’s Palace of Nowhere, The Contemplative Heart, and Christian Meditation. Jim is a clinical psychologist in private practice with his wife in Santa Monica, California.

Join the live webcast to participate in the conversation; during the live event, you will be able to submit questions for Jim to consider. Registration includes access to the online replay.

This webcast will be streamed from St. Monica Catholic Community Church, Jim’s home church. We are so grateful for their hospitality!

“A Holiday Open House”

Sunday, December 10 from 3:30 – 4:30 pm, a holiday open house event features a tour of the museum, music by “Singing School” with Deborah Burns and friends, and light holiday refreshments.

The museum is located at 32 New Ashford Road, Route 7 South. At 5:00 pm, the annual tree lighting and caroling at the Store at Five Corners sponsored by the South Williamstown Community Association will follow. This is right next door to the museum, a very short walk and will offer even more refreshments!

From the web administrator

Dear Church website users,

Terry Plumb-Clark has been on me for a while to add a note of introduction about myself to this newsletter since I took over from the extremely talented and reliable Moira Jones a few months ago. In some area of my life, I don’t mind being quite public. In other areas, I’m inexplicably retiring. In the role of web admin, I suppose I’ve taken a more traditional “behind the scenes” approach. I think that was fine while I was getting used to the duties of this position. Going forward, I believe that the accessibility of the person who tends the digital window into our Church needs to be a priority.

I appreciate the patience you have all shown as I’ve learned which levers and switches cause what to happen on the site and with the newsletter. The mistakes I’ve made have ranged from comical to infuriating (although they may all have landed on one side of the spectrum or the other for you). Some of the additional features I’ve been most excited to implement have had to wait as autumn blew by like a whirling of activities and obligations on the breeze. Why does patience  have to take so long to master?!

I have, however, been fortunate to have received some great suggestions from several members of the congregation. That’s exactly what I’m aiming for—openness and interaction when it comes  to how you’d like the website to serve all our needs. You don’t have to be a “techie.” You don’t have to know anything about how websites work under the hood. If you have questions about the site, have an idea that you think might be possible, or (gasp!) see something broken, out-of-date, or just plain wonky, let me know. In the future, I’ll build a “contact the web administrator” link in a logical place on the site. For now though, I want all to know that I can be reached directly by phone at 413-884-6163, or by e-mail at

Again, thank you all for your indulgence as I settle into this role, and keep the suggestions coming!

Jason Velázquez, Web Administrator