First Congregational Church
164 Deer Hill Ave.
Danbury, CT 06810
Phone:(203) 744-6177

FIFTH SUNDAY OF EASTER | ANNIVERSARY SUNDAY | MAY 15, 2022

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PLEASE JOIN US FOR IN-PERSON WORSHIP at 10 AM SUNDAY.

Our service begins at 10 a.m. Facemasks are optional if you are fully vaccinated. We’ll also livestream the service on Facebook for those who cannot join us in person.

 

Family Game Night - May 20 at 6 PMRegister on Eventbrite to save your spot. For $5 per family, you’ll enjoy dinner, compete for prizes in a trivia game, and we'll feed and babysit the children! Couples, pals, and solo players are welcome.

 

 

 

FIFTH SUNDAY OF EASTER | ANNIVERSARY SUNDAY | MAY 15, 2022

 

From Pastor Pat

As I sit here today, it looks like it’s snowing outside. The wind is disturbing the blossoms of an old apple tree around the corner, and petals are flying on the breeze past my window. While I always feel wistful when the blossoms fade, the snow shower of petals reminds us of their past beauty and of future apples.

 

Those blossoms remind me of life around First Church at the moment, in a season of change.

 

Anniversary Sunday

This Sunday is Anniversary Sunday, when we celebrate our longtime members, and recall how this congregation literally rose from the ashes of its fourth meeting house to create our home here on Deer Hill Avenue.

 

It is reaffirming to be among the people with the longest memory of our mutual experience as a congregation. At the same time it brings up a sense of remembrance, especially in this year when we have lost Cindy Tyrseck, Betty Buccino and, just yesterday, we learned of the passing of Carolyn Wagner. All three were such active members, integral parts of the circle of First Church saints, that always remains unbroken, and like petals on the breeze, have returned to be with the ones they loved who have gone ahead of them.

 

Memorials

Betty’s service took place earlier last year. Cindy Tyrseck’s memorial service will be held at the church Saturday, May 28 at 11 AM, while Carolyn’s family is planning a private columbarium service in Ridgefield during the summer.

 

It was the great Protestant Founder and Pastor, Martin Luther, who said something that we all ought to keep close to our hearts as we both celebrate and remember:

“Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime.”

 

May God give you that assurance on every Spring breeze this year. --- Pastor Pat Kriss

 


ANNOUNCEMENTS:

Please share these announcements with your family and friends. Someone may thank you for the heads up!
 

COVID VACCINATION CLINIC - MAY 21 CANCELLED – This vaccination clinic will be rescheduled.  More details to come once a new date has been secured.

 

FAMILY GAME NIGHT (formerly named Parents’ Night Out) will take place on Friday May 20, 6 PM.  $5 per family for dinner, games and babysitting for your children.  Please call the office at 203.744.6177 to register in advance.  Special thanks to Dennis Perkins, Farmers Agency of Connecticut, our sponsor for Family Game Night!

 

CINDY TYRSECK MEMORIAL SERVICE – MAY 28 – Please save the date for a special memorial service for Cindy Tyrseck on May 28 at 11 AM.  More details to come.
 

BIBLE STUDY – The next meeting will take place on Wednesday, May 18 at 2 PM in the office work room.  All are welcome.  

 

THRIFT SHOP - The Thrift Shop has all new Spring clothes, shoes and handbags.  Stop by during normal business hours, Saturday’s 10 AM to 2 PM, to do some shopping! 

 

AA MEETINGS - AA Meetings are held in the church gym every Wednesday evening 7:30 to 8:30 PM.  This is an open, beginner meeting.
 

THE WEST-CONN TOASTMASTERS next meeting is on Wednesday May 18 at 7 PM.  All are welcome and the first meeting is free.

 

KNITTERS NEEDED– Help is needed to knit pocket size and full-size prayer shawls.  If interested, please call or text Heidi at 203.826.6827 or email her at HeidiP212@gmail.com.

 

$5 COUPON! Click here to sign up for the Thrift Shop’s newsletter, and you will receive a $5 coupon that you may use on your next visit to the Deer Hill Thrift Shop. You’ll also stay up to date with the latest news and special prices. Feel free to share this link with your friends and family. They’ll appreciate it!

THE UPPER ROOM books for May/June are available in the Narthex & Johnson Foyer.
 

How to Donate to Our Community

Your congregation relies on you for financial support.  Click here to donate with your credit card, debit card, or Pay Pal account. You may also mail a check to: 

First Congregational Church of Danbury
164 Deer Hill Avenue

Danbury, CT 06810
 


FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER | MAY 8, 2022

 

From Pastor Pat

Most people who know me realize that I’m a bird lover. It comes from growing up as the only surviving child in our household, in a neighborhood devoid of kids but filled with elders. It also comes from growing up in Syracuse, where the only way for a child without other children around to keep herself busy was to study nature.

 

I first became fascinated with birds when I was around seven. I would watch all sorts of birds for hours. I even had a beloved, feisty pet parakeet, Perky, who taught me a thing or two about her species.

 

Where Did Perky Go?

But then there was an incident that made me wonder if these winged creatures were more tuned into God’s directives than we were. On a very cold Saturday in March, my father decided to wash the windows, without checking first that my pet bird was secure in her cage. Perky flew out the window. My parents immediately assumed that the bird was as good as dead since March evenings in Syracuse can easily drop into the teens.

 

When Perky had been gone three days that prediction seemed to be a sure thing. But being a convent schoolgirl raised in a Franciscan faith, I just started praying for Francis to intervene. I know it broke my mother’s heart to walk by my room and see me kneeling and praying for the sure return of Perky. But true to a mother’s intuition, she did not step in and crush my faith by speaking what she thought to be true.

 

Special Delivery?

What was actually going on is that, at a distance, my prayers were being answered. Mom had put a Lost ad in the paper. Five frigid days after the bird’s escape the phone rang – a woman six miles away from us told my mother that her mailman had brought her a pretty blue bird perched on his shoulders, and it flew right into her house, to a cage where her male parakeet was.

 

The rest of the story was pretty astounding. It seems that the mailman was walking along his route on a busy highway when he looked down and saw a bird walking. The minute she saw him she flew up on his shoulder. The mailman knew the woman with a parakeet, and he brought Perky to her.

 

This woman hadn’t seen my mother’s lost ad at first, but a neighbor brought the ad to her. The woman added, “oh… and she kicked my shy male bird out of the cage.” When my mother told me what had happened, I said, “well, of course we’re getting Perky back. I asked St. Francis to bring her back.” This is the depth of a child’s faith in God.

 

Signs That Come to Us on Wings

In an era where so many of us are grieving a loss, whether it is a loved one, a relationship, our health or especially our faith that God is present in our lives, we need a sign. For a number of us, Mother’s Day can move that sense of loss to the forefront.

 

But perhaps we need to call on God to give us a winged sign.

 

According to a number of people I know, whenever a red cardinal suddenly appears near them, they have a sense that one who they love and miss has just given them God’s assurance that they are enfolded in divine love.

 

This Sunday we will talk about signs… and hope, and faith, and wonder – about the ways people can be unexpectedly brought together to bring light once again into our world. --- Pastor Pat Kriss

 


THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER | MAY 1, 2022

 

From Pastor Pat

“Change is the heartbeat of growth. “ –-- Scottie Somers, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Head

This Sunday as well, we celebrate a different kind of change. We honor and say farewell to Tim Koch, whose exquisite voice has been a part of many a Sunday service at First Church but, after 11 years of service as Church Caretaker, is starting a new phase of his life in a community east of Danbury.

 

May 1 is Tim Koch Day

Tim's incredible devotion to our church headed off many serious issues over the years.  Now he has the opportunity to take care of his own new house and plant the seeds of happiness.  I have it on good authority, however, that Tim's wonderful voice will still, on occasion, reverberate through our sanctuary and our hearts as part of the choir.  We will host a special coffee hour in honor of Tim Koch Day after the service.

 

Baptism's Warm Welcome

And then, as a perfect example of change and transformation, we will welcome into the kinship of Jesus Christ little Ava Lynn Nickolas, daughter of Steve and Nicole Nickolas.  Ava entered the world on October 25 last year.  She will receive the waters of Baptism on Sunday.  Ava is the most recent "bloom" on the Nickolas growing family tree.  There's no better way to celebrate transformation than to christen a wonderful new life as a member of our First Church family!

In a current world where the kind of change we encounter is too often sad and dark, this coming Sunday will be a chance to celebrate change of a bright, positive kind, and to hear our Tim Koch sing once again. Join us for the festivities. --- Pastor Pat Kriss
 


SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER | APRIL 24, 2022

 

From Pastor Pat

After the exhilaration of Easter Sunday and the joy of so many of us being together, face-to-face for the first time in many months, the question occurs to me: What makes our Church, and specifically our Sanctuary, such a wonderful, light-filled place to feel the presence of God?

 

Last week we celebrated the Empty Tomb. This week we ask, where did Jesus go, and how do we welcome him into our lives, our hearts, and our church? Surely the feeling that we experience in First Church is the result of what our church leaders, at the beginning of the 20th century, wanted to achieve when fire leveled our fourth meetinghouse to a pile of ash. To use a tragedy to create something sustaining for the future is, after all, the core message of the Easter story.

 

Finding a Healing Spirit

All of us have had to deal with a pandemic tragedy. But right now, a number of us are coping with personal challenges – challenges to our health, our relations, our finances, and our families. Where can we bring ourselves to feel the healing nature of Spirit for all these disruptions? The answer can start at First Church.

 

Why did the church leaders respond to their 1907 tragedy by building this edifice, so different from a New England white frame building?

 

Hidden Symbols of God’s Presence

I think the answer to that question is embedded in this community’s love of music. I think the German poet Wolfgang von Goethe captured it perfectly for our church:  "I call architecture frozen music."  Our Sanctuary is definitely “frozen music.” It sings to us. It reverberates with the organ and with instruments with which we praise God. It lifts our hearts just looking at it.

 

This Sunday I will explore with all who are in attendance the hidden symbols and spiritual meaning of so many elements of our Sanctuary and church that we’ve been looking at all along, but haven’t understood their deeper intent for all these years. After all, it was Jesus in the Gospel who instructed us to build our houses on firmer foundations by learning from the insufficiency of our previous “dwellings.”

 

Come and join us for a different look at First Church and this fifth Meeting House. – Pastor Pat Kriss

 


EASTER SUNDAY | APRIL 17, 2022

From Pastor Pat

They were there. They were ALWAYS there for Jesus.

 

Sometimes their role was only to follow him and listen to what he taught the people. Other times they were hostesses for dinners, fund raisers for the disciples and the young Rabbi. And then there were the times that only they seemed to understand what a privilege it was to simply be with the Son of God. Even when all others fled, they stayed. Even when staying meant going through agony.

 

I’m talking about the women, the female followers of Jesus whose contribution to his ministry has, for the most part, gone unnoticed, but was so essential.

 

Present During Great Joy and Horrific Suffering

There is something special about the feminine spirit that prepares women to be present at the time of great joy and horrific suffering. For each and every one of us, the first face we see when we emerge from the darkness of the womb is a woman – our mother who, even in her agony of delivery, weeps with joy for our existence. Women understand pain, and do not run from it when it gives birth to new blessings.

 

Who Was Present at the Crucifixion?

And so it was as, one by one, the authorities began to crush the young rabbi, like a grape in a winepress.

His male disciples scattered one by one, even those who vowed they would die for Jesus. And on that morning on Golgotha when his pierced body was hoisted against the darkening Jerusalem sky, only the women were still there.

 

Mary his mother stood at the foot of the cross where his blood and tears rained down on her. Only John remained to hold her up.

Nearby stood the women, crying and clinging to one another:

  • Mary Magdalene.
  • Mary the mother of James the younger and Joses
  • Salome. Plus many other women.

They were the ones whose hearts were pierced by Jesus’s final cry, “It is finished.”

Easter: The Death of Death

And then, three days later, it was the women who came to the darkness of the tomb to anoint Jesus’

body for final burial, because no Jewish man was allowed to contaminate himself by touching the dead.

Instead, peering into that empty tomb like an abandoned womb, they were greeted by angels.

 

“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.”

 

In an instant they knew, something beautiful had been birthed that morning. It was the death of death. The woman ran to tell the other disciples. However the men dismissed their story as a silly tale. It would take Peter’s visit to the tomb before the men believed. But the women, you see, were always there.—Pastor Pat Kriss

 

 


 

PALM SUNDAY| SERVICE OF THE PALMS | APRIL 10, 2022

From Pastor Pat

"Have a blessed Palm Sunday. Remember a week before he was crucified like a criminal, he rode into the city like a king." -Unknown

 

Palm Sunday celebrates one of those events in the life of Jesus that is perfect for the unpredictability of early spring. It’s when things appear to be one way, but in reality they can swing in a moment to its opposite. If you live in New England in April, you know that it’s warm enough that you’ll need to run a fan in the house in the morning, and turn on the heat by nightfall.

 

The First Illusion: ‘Save Us!’

In fact, Palm Sunday itself is all about illusion. The crowds that gathered on the main thoroughfare of Jerusalem were expecting one of the grand, pompous entries of a Roman Procurator or even a king. They were a form of street entertainment for the low-born masses. That spring day they expected prancing, snorting steeds pulling gold-adorned chariot behind a cohort of sword-wielding soldiers.

 

But instead, their gaze was met by a donkey whose back was straddled by a low-born Rabbi, his toes grazing the dust in the road. The crowd was stunned. But then some of them recognized this Jesus, the man who had come to save Israel. A cry went up from the people: Hosanna! Hosanna! Which, spoken with passion, means "Save Us! Save Us!"

 

The Second Illusion: Dark Shadows in Parade

Of course, Jesus chose to enter Jerusalem not to proclaim his royalty, but to mock the pomposity of the people presently in power. I doubt the people watching the parade understood this. All they knew is that this young Rabbi was, as their minds could process it, a political Messiah who would use the sword to set his people free from Roman bondage.

 

Because of all of the hubbub, all the strewn palms and cloaks on the road, hardly anyone noticed the shadows skulking behind the mob, keeping pace with the little donkey and his holy cargo. It’s interesting how well hatred blends into dark shadows. we see it on the streets of Jerusalem, and in the bombed-out shells of Ukrainian dwellings.

 

The Third Illusion: What’s on the Donkey’s Back?

I can also guarantee you that no one in Jerusalem recognized the powerful symbol that this donkey carried on his back, under Jesus. Every donkey is marked with a dark cross that runs over his shoulders and intersects the line that follows his spine. I’ve been with people when they’ve seen a donkey and thought the cross was painted on. But the one who placed the cross there, was the one who originally created these little creatures.

 

The Fourth Illusion: A False Spring

By the time the parade was ending, the warm air of a Judean spring day had become a chill. Another False Spring. Another false Hosanna that all too quickly would turn into cries of "Crucify him!"

 

On this coming Sunday as we gather amid the green spring smell of fresh palms, we need to anticipate how, on a Golgotha hill, the scent of blood and tears will wash over the few people who had not abandoned God’s perfect sacrifice.

 

There is a darkness we all carry inside us.  And yet, a Sunrise is coming…. soon.  - Pastor Pat Kriss

 


THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT| JAZZ SUNDAY | MARCH 20, 2022

 

Considering Pastor Pat's illness this week there will be no eTidings.  

 


SECOND SUNDAY OF LENT | MARCH 13, 2022

 

From Pastor Pat

The tears we cry in both frustration and in joy bear the saltiness of the ocean of human existence we all share. Jesus knew this and chose to
sail the same ocean we sail.  
– Rev. Pat Kriss

 

This past week has been one of coming together in prayer and hopefulness at the Peace Vigil for Ukraine

and the world, and having our hearts torn apart by enormous atrocities. Vladimir Putin’s indiscriminate rocket and missile launches have pockmarked the surface of Ukraine and the souls of its people.

Last Monday the community Peace Vigil we organized in our church drew together 90 people from all walks of life and all faith backgrounds. We came to hear one another’s deepest desires for the cessation of war, and prayers for the first steps toward mending the breach between political ideologies.

Ironically, by comparison this worldwide conflagration has placed our own squabbling about mask/no mask, vaccine/no vaccine on the back burner with other petty spitting matches. Ironically as well, the place on our life journey where we are at the moment has caused us to interpret the horrific images in the news this week differently.

 

War Has No Winners

Those of us who are old enough to remember the end of WWII or what we saw as tiny postwar children, have had flashbacks. We remember the emaciated bodies of people victimized by REAL Nazis.

We remember film reels of the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the clear lesson that in war there are no winners, but the losers are always the people.

We remember watching the mushroom-shaped bombs on TV, and even now our bodies recall the feel of crouching under our school desks as the air raid drill sirens wailed in the Cold War.

 

The Raw Reality of War for a New Generation

Some of us who are younger and can barely recall 9-11, have listened with only partial attention for so long to our grandparents’ tales of what war is like. Now, they no longer think that their grandparents were exaggerating what war looks and feels like and the taste of salty tears. Some young adults are witnessing firsthand what was thought to be old stories of a bygone era.

All of us start to realize that what we’re seeing in real time could jump the ocean and replicate itself here, too – if no one has the courage to take a risk to stop it.

 

Jesus Faced His Own Raw Reality

Ironically, too is the fact that this week’s Gospel is about a Jesus who is targeted for death by a mad ruler -- Herod.

Leaders who take on the mantle of changing the world for the better often are marked for destruction by those who will sacrifice people to keep their power. And here, too we see the maternal side of Christ who envisions himself to be like a mother hen, who protects her children under the mantle of her love.

This is the Jesus who is manly enough to weep over us and our sins, yet defensively maternal enough to shield us with his own body. This Sunday we will journey with him to a high hill over Jerusalem, and from there we may even be able to envision the streets of Kiev. – Pastor Pat Kriss

 


FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT|COMMUNION SUNDAY| MARCH 6, 2022
 

From Pastor Pat

He gives beauty for ashes 
Strength for fear
Gladness for mourning
Peace for despair
When sorrow seems to surround you
When suffering hangs heavy o’er your head
Know that tomorrow brings
Wholeness and healing
God knows your need
--Crystal Lewis, Author
 

It’s only the day after Ash Wednesday when I came across this poem.

Last evening as we sat in the light of dying candles and soft music, we did so by putting away the bitter points of the week: an unprovoked war, a pandemic that is dying but is not done with humanity yet, a world that is suffering yet hating at the very same time.

The temptation for us at this point is one word: despair.

 

The Function of Evil

But that, quite frankly, is what Evil wants us to do. When we start to doubt that God is in control, we start to feel unprepared for the task of faithful love in a time of chaos. That’s the function of Evil. To tempt us away from Goodness. From Godliness. To make us doubt.
 

Face to Face with Temptation

As we know from this Sunday’s Gospel, Evil has even tried this stunt on Jesus himself.

 

Right after the waters of the River Jordan, Jesus was compelled by the Spirit to spend 40 days in the wilderness, face-to-face with temptation. We even learn from the last line of this passage that, when Evil failed to tempt Jesus to sin, it noted that it would return to try again.

 

All of us have from time to time been tempted, and even have given in to that temptation, perhaps. All of us know that it might have been the first time, but it wouldn’t be the last, either.  But in this thorny world, God will give us the armor to protect our tender souls from harm.

 

This Sunday we’ll put on the armor of God and know that God is as present for us now as he was for Jesus in the desert. Come and hear how.
- Pastor Pat Kriss

 


TRANSFIGURATION SUNDAY | FEBRUARY 27, 2022

From Pastor Pat

Dear Friends – so many of us have desired to somehow help the people of Ukraine and the people of Russia who are also watching the wheels of war push their way into the lives of innocent people. I am sharing with you as today’s E Tidings the prayer of Reverend Maren Tirabassi, who expresses the same desire as we have to be able to do something to help. Here is her new prayer – Pastor Pat Kriss

 

Prayer for Ukraine under invasion

God of plowshares, pruning hooks,

and peace-making,

translate such old archaic words

into hope today in Ukraine

that your promise to shatter

bows and swords, spears and shields,

may mean now

an end of missile strikes

and long-range artillery,

the silencing of Kyiv’s air-raid sirens.

We pray for those who flee the capital

and those who shelter in place

and in fear in Kharkiv to the east.

We pray for troops already exhausted

from their long watching.

We pray for NATO land and air forces,

knowing that means people,

and we pray for Germany and Poland

as they open borders to fleeing refugees.

God, we have studied war for so long,

let it be no more, no more.

Teach us a new peacemaking,

guiding the leaders of nations,

and holding gently in your heart

the many who live and die

because of their decisions,

for we pray in the name of Jesus

who wept for our great needing

of the things that make for peace.

AMEN

 


SEVENTH SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY | FEBRUARY 20, 2022

From Pastor Pat

 

"Be still before the LORD, and wait patiently for him; do not fret over those who prosper  in their way, over those who carry out evil devices. Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath.  Do not fret—it leads only to evil.” --- from Psalm 37

 

I believe it’s probably true for all of us. When we look back over our lives and the many people who have touched us in one way or another, it’s easy to remember the kind and loving people we’ve met on our journey. They have contributed a light to our path.

 

On the other hand, every bit as vivid in our memories are those difficult people who, for a variety of reasons, decided to make life contentious or even confrontational. The reasons that difficult people choose to lock horns with us can vary widely from the fact that we may be wrong about something, or simply because they have a need to be right about everything, regardless of whether they have a knowledge of the topic or not.

 

Find a Way to Forgive

In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus doesn’t mince words about what we call difficult people. He uses a much stronger term. Jesus tells us, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” 

 

Instead of punching back literally or verbally at those who oppose us, Jesus offers several steps we can take that, in a kindly way, confound the person who would like to aggravate us, by supplanting the anger they expect to receive with a “barrage” of loving care. Key among them is the ability to set aside our anger and find a way to forgive.

 

We’ll have a closer look at these techniques on Sunday. In the meantime, enjoy the hint of spring in the air and maybe there will be a robin in your future! ------ Pastor Pat Kriss

 


SIXTH SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY | FEBRUARY 13, 2022

From Pastor Pat

People shop for a bathing suit with more care than they do for a husband or wife. The rules are the same.  Look for someone you'll feel comfortable wearing.  Allow room to grow.  – Erma Bombeck

 

Right now we’re standing on the cusp of one of the most lucrative, commercial annual events: Valentine’s Day.

 

Honestly, if an alien from another galaxy were to drop in now and engage in social media or watch TV, he or she would think that for humans it’s essential to bury your beloved in a mountain of Lindt chocolates, necklaces from Zale’s, or drive them in your gift of a brand-new BMW to an expensive steakhouse where you fill them with enough cholesterol to kill them.

 

Is Saint Valentine Real?

Today most people don’t even know there was a man known as Valentine. In fact, there are many, many stories about who Valentine was. But suffice it to say the most popular tale is that he was a kindly 3rd Century bishop practicing Christianity in the days of the dying Roman Empire and in the process angering the emperor. It is said that he used to secretly marry young men and women so that the young men would not be conscripted as soldiers into warfare.

 

Another charming, but factually correct, story explains why his name is attached to February 14. Even today, this is the time of year that birds come together, they court and mate. Chaucer even mentions this in the Canterbury Tales. While many people are known to lose their heads over love, Valentine actually did when he was martyred by Emperor Claudius Gothicus. February 14 was picked as his feast day by the early church because it is associated with early spring love.

 

A Gospel About Real Love on Valentine’s Day

Of course, American consumer culture aside, we know that Jesus taught us that real love is not measured by the carat. This Sunday we listen to the Lukan Gospel known as the Sermon on the Plain, where Jesus sought a level place to talk with his disciples and the growing number of people following him for a healing.

 

A fitting place, one may say, for Jesus to level with us about what is really expected of us if we say we really love and follow him. Unlike the lovely Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount, this time Christ tells us not only of the blessings we will have even if we are poor or hungry or hated for our faith, he also tells us of the “woes” that befall people when they are privileged beyond others, and yet they still oppress the poor, the hungry and the outcast.

 

Love, it turns out, is about breaking down barriers. It's about leveling the “playing field” so that we share our blessings with others. Those blessings don’t cost thousands of dollars but are measured in their person-to-person ability to change lives.

 

Join us this Sunday when we return to in-person worship in our Sanctuary along with our online service brought to you on Facebook Live. It will be our real Valentine this upcoming Sunday. – Pastor Pat Kriss  

 


FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY | COMMUNION SUNDAY | FEBRUARY 6, 2022

From Pastor Pat

Does God exist? If so, does God really care?

 

Amidst all of the stress, anxiety, and uncertainty of this current pandemic age, it’s really not surprising that people are asking these most fundamental questions. When people carry in their hearts an unspoken question of “Why?” they deserve to hear their house of worship acknowledge their concerns.

 

“Where Is God in All This?”

Over the past months of talking to congregation members, the discussions have danced on the edge of these thoughts, and recently people asked me if we could delve into the question during worship. This Sunday we will begin touching upon the question of faith in the face of suffering, and ask, “where is God in all of this?”

 

A topic of this size is too big for one Sunday service, so be assured that we will be discussing the topic at more length in the future. Included in our upcoming discussions will also be the question of healing and miracles which, along with suffering, have been part of the experience of this challenging time.

 

Blessings, and see you this Sunday online for our Communion service. --- Pastor Pat Kriss

 


FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY | JANUARY 30, 2022

From Pastor Pat

“Resilience is born by grounding yourself in your own loveliness, hitting notes you thought were way out of your range.”
--Father Greg Boyle

 

Probably the one thing that is in short supply for us these days is our confidence in our own resiliency. We are beset by a growing fatigue; so very little of what life is today resembles what was familiar to us for most of our lives, whether it’s simply going to the supermarket or even attending church. Between the fear of more than one COVID strain, our own insecurity at what’s happening next in terms of politics, or the way that people have become confrontational on so many issues -- even among our own family members -- it’s draining.

 

Daily life finds us feeling a little short on our supply of resilience. Ironically, even the ranks of clergy are witnessing a “great resignation,” when pastors become bent and broken under the weight of everyone’s needs piled on top of their own, and they have exited their professions permanently.

 

Jesus Takes a Risk

Surely, we might think, Jesus never went through anything like this in his ministry. After all, didn’t all the people always love Jesus and accept his teaching? The answer to that is a resounding “No.”

 

The Gospel this Sunday shows Jesus just after he has preached in the synagogue in his hometown, Nazareth. People listening to him are the very people he grew up with, when they knew him as the carpenter’s son. While Jesus was a rising star with his own mystique all around Galilee’s towns, in Nazareth there was no mystique. He was known so well as a local like themselves that people didn’t take him seriously.

 

At the same time Jesus knew the Nazareth congregation so well that he understood that they, undeservedly, thought that God favored them above anyone who was not a Jew, and especially above “outsider” tribes of people. So, Jesus told them the truth. Jesus told them: Not only did God show love to people other than Nazarenes; God’s prophets actually chose to help an outsider widow and a leper instead of the Chosen People, because they were people in greater need.

 

Telling the Truth Is Risky

Of course, we all know that truth telling isn’t the most popular thing to do when people treasure their superiority over others, when they spend their lives erecting barriers to keep others out, defining others as “less than” themselves. The hometown crowd was so enraged, they tried to run Jesus off a cliff. Father Greg Boyle, who has devoted his life to working with gangs and gang members, knows the wideness of God’s love extends even to the people we reject. As he says, “How much greater is the God we have than the one we think we have.”

 

Find the Goodness and Find Your Resilience

In this era of anger and violence and fear, how do we restore OUR resilience in order to survive these times of confrontation? Father Greg says we have to start by finding and reclaiming our own goodness, so that we can recognize goodness in even the most lost among us. You DO have a light that shines in you.

 

This Sunday we’ll find that light and realize that this light is the key to navigating through the hearts of those who confront us, even the most despondent.   --- Pastor Pat Kriss

 


SECOND SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY | MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. WEEKEND | JANUARY 16, 2022

From Pastor Pat

“Let the first act of every morning be to make the following resolve for the day:

                - I shall not fear anyone on Earth.
                - I shall fear only God.
                - I shall not bear ill will toward anyone.
                - I shall not submit to injustice from anyone.
                - I shall conquer untruth by truth. And in resisting untruth,
                  I shall put up with all suffering.”

                                                                     ― Mahatma Gandhi

On this particular January weekend, our attention turns to two particular men. One is Jesus in the gospel, where we find him uncharacteristically reluctant to perform his first miracle by turning water into wine at a wedding. The second is the man for which this weekend is named: Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. He, too, was reluctant about his career path. The son of a “rock star” preacher father, he knew he could never reach that level and only wanted to be a religious researcher and teacher.

Why were they so reluctant?  Despite the divinity of one and the intellect of the other, both shared one thing in common.  They were human.

An End to Human Suffering

The other thing Jesus and Martin shared in common was the soul-deep urge to help stop human suffering. After the miracle at Cana, Jesus went on to perform six more miracles as a sign of who he was,

each of them ending types of human suffering. For Martin who was thrust into a fight for racial justice that he initially had little interest in, he lent his presence, his voice and his very body to the cause. He taught people of all races that evil cannot stand against love and justice, even if it ends one’s life with a bullet.

When Bad Things Happen to Good People

But that brings us face to face with some questions we usually avoid pronouncing out loud:

If our God is all-powerful, why doesn’t God simply put an end to suffering?
If there is an all-just, all powerful God, how can God stand by, and watch humans suffer?
What, if any purpose does suffering serve?

This topic, known among theologians as theodicy, will be the focus of our talks on Wednesday, January 19, at 2 p.m. on Zoom. If you’ve never been to our gathering but would like to be there, just let us know and we will include you to receive whatever readings we will use.  

This topic in particular may not hand you a set of answers to these questions, but we can guarantee that it will expand your mind and perspective. Come join us Sunday at 10 a.m. for our online service, and then at midweek for a lively discussion. --- Pastor Pat Kriss

 


CHRISTMAS EVE SERVICE | DECEMBER 24, 2021

From Pastor Pat

“Christmas is built upon a beautiful and intentional paradox; that the birth of the homeless should be celebrated in every home.”  ― G.K. Chesterton

 

Christmas, it seems, is filled with paradoxes. We peer through the window of time to see them.

The pregnant virgin.

The curious census count by the powerful Emperor of powerless people he couldn’t have cared about.

People converging on the towns where they were born, in an era of instability, a time of doubt in what was true or not, when no one trusted authority itself.

The exhausting trip in the cold from Nazareth to a little nothing of a town.

And the town with a name that belies the hungry trek of this couple: Bethlehem – meaning The House of Bread.

 

What glorious thing could possibly rise like yeast from this little backwater?

And then there was the fact that, for the time being, this couple and a baby pushing to come forth into this dark world, were homeless. When the only place that Mary could bring forth her baby was among the cattle in a stable, here in the House of Bread, Mary laid her little boy in a manger, a place for grain and hay: cattle feed.

 

And in this moment, this brief second between the groans of delivery and the first cries of a new life, the Bethlehem skies are filled with angels. And they announced to the poor and the inconsequential, and that includes us, that the whole Universe had changed: Behold, for this day The Bread of Heaven has risen in the City of David, Bethlehem. Glory be to God in the highest.

 

Christmas: Bread of Hope, Bread of Heaven

We likewise live in a time of paradox. For many of us, our lives this Christmas are tinged with mourning, for those we’ve lost from ill health and from our own fear of pestilence. But more than many recent Christmases, we need the nourishment of hope.

 

So this Christmastime we do a very faithful thing. We bake cookies. We frost them with our trust in God. We sprinkle them with sprinkles because, well, that’s what Christmas is about. Our homes become the houses of bread. And then we share this bread of hope, this bread of heaven, with the people that we are fortunate enough to see in person this year.

 

As we prepare to follow the Star to Christmas Eve services, my prayer for you all is that you will let the starshine fill your heart. Blessings and peace be yours this Christmas. --- Pastor Pat Kriss

 


FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT | JAZZ SUNDAY | DECEMBER 19, 2021

From Pastor Pat

"Life is a flame that is always burning itself out, but it catches fire again every time a child is born."  ---George Bernard Shaw

It seems so fitting that this Sunday’s reading revolves around the women who are at the center of the Christmas story. After all, in this final Sunday of Advent, the season of waiting, women, especially those who are expecting a child, are masters of the “Art of Waiting.”

In general, we humans as a species are not very adept at waiting, especially in this current era of “I want it NOW.” There is however, no DoorDash for baby delivery. Ask any pregnant woman and you will learn that she has to adapt to the fact that her interior is a “construction zone” she shares with one who is on the way, but at his own pace. With an occasional kick in the ribs to make sure she’s paying attention.

 

Masters of the Art

This Sunday we meet both Mary the soon-to-be mother of Jesus, and her cousin Elizabeth. Talk about mastering the art of waiting! Elizabeth had faced decades of infertility and the derision that went with it in a society that solely valued women for their baby-making capacity.  But God not only chose Mary as the perfect person to usher his Son into the world; God also gave Elizabeth the role of mother to John, to be called The Baptist, who in his adulthood would pave the way for Jesus and his ministry. Mary, too, found herself the subject of gossip, when she turned up pregnant before her marriage to Joseph was completed.

 

A Woman’s Prophetic ‘Yes’

What’s wonderful about this Sunday is that, for one of the few times in either the Hebrew Bible or the New Testament, we hear the voice of a woman, and a prophetic voice at that, describing the blessed role that God has asked her to play.

Not only that, but in our Christian version of the story, Mary was given a choice to accept, and has said ‘yes.’  Yes not only to birthing the Word of God, but to the pain that will follow as evil and power try to suppress his word.  Yes to the heartache of standing under the cross.

Sadly, it’s been too long within Protestantism that we’ve shied away from learning the beauty of Mary’s commitment to God’s will, and of her own role in starting Jesus in his public ministry at the wedding of Cana, by insisting that it was time to reveal who he was in changing water into wine.  

This one Sunday of the year we Congregationalists get to hear Mary’s voice – that the long-awaited Savior of the world has chosen her, and sleeps within her, until she and Joseph complete an arduous 90-mile trek through the mountains from Nazareth to tiny Bethlehem. The waiting is nearly over.
--- Pastor Pat Kriss

 

A note about Christmas Eve and staying safe in an inside-the-church setting: This Christmas Eve we are thrilled to have everyone back in our Sanctuary for our Lessons and Carols and our traditional candlelight service. We will also honor our Christmas Angel this year with a light display right before the candle lighting.

In order to keep everyone as safe as possible, our seating will provide a distance between the people in attendance, and everyone will be required to wear a mask (we will provide one if you don’t have it). Of course, you can take off your mask to blow out your candle. Come join us in the joy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT | DECEMBER 12, 2021

From Pastor Pat

This Third Advent Sunday is also known as our “Pink Sunday,” the Sunday of Joy because we’re drawing nearer to Christmas.

In our congregation we will especially celebrate what would have been the 100th birthday of our beloved Dorothy Johnson on November 30, who for decades as Church Administrator, kept our congregation’s “trains on the track.” (More about Dorothy on Sunday.)

In fact, joy can take many forms, including remembering. My gifted colleague Reverend Maren Tirabassi took time this week to remind us that even clergy shouldn’t try to define for others the difference between joy and happiness. The truth is, it doesn’t really matter, as long as we generate a smile in others.

I’m sharing a poem from Maren Tirabassi. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if a few beautiful “ugly sweaters” show up. Blessings to you all. –Pastor Pat Kriss

 

Celebrate the Sunday of Happiness

How many sermons have I preached, seriously suggesting that “happiness,” is not “joy,” but only a trivialized replacement for the true depths of Advent?  Who am I to decide between them, and avoid giving little happy times to people?  For someone one happy moment might define the joy of a whole season.  Get the tabletop tree and put it in the dining room where more people see it.

Do the mitten drive (it’s not a manger and it is also not rent) but some folks need warm fingers to recognize the manger already in their lives.  Buy the silly toy which may be remembered longer.  Send a paper card. Make a phone call, especially after a loss.  Go caroling in assisted living facility, correctional institution, border shelter, under-the-bridge, camp-in-woods where the unhoused gather (Avoid ‘I’ll be home…’ ‘There’s no place…’) Put on a mask; no one expects you to be a herald angel.  Wear the holiday sweater – it’s not ugly if one person smiles.  – Rev. Maren Tirabassi

 


SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT | REMEMBRANCE SUNDAY & COMMUNION SUNDAY| DECEMBER 4, 2021

From Pastor Pat

"Love is the doorway through which the human soul passes from selfishness to service.”  --Jack Hyles, Baptist pastor

On this Second Sunday of Advent, we put our attention to that oft-misinterpreted word, love. Not the mushy kind of love, but the enduring kind that transcends the years, even beyond the end of life itself.  Quite frankly, we pay dearly for loving others. To love someone is to know that one day there will be emptiness, there will be mourning.

 

As we move closer to the light of Christmas, we need to realize that, for some people missing a loved one this year, the bright lights of the season cast a shadow of loss on every moment they once would have enjoyed with another. Here at First Church, we feel that all of our loved ones need to be part of our journey to Christmas.

 

Remembrance Sunday

This Sunday is our Remembrance Sunday. If you haven’t done so already, please plan on bringing a printout of a picture of the ones you are missing, and we will hang them on the Christmas trees and honor them after this Sunday’s message.

I will also offer a hands-on healing blessing to anyone who wants to come forward at the point in the service when we usually offer up our joys and concerns. This is your chance to offer love to those who are experiencing grief, and also a time to feel the love of God poured down upon you, to bring you closer to wholeness.
 

Please Wear a Face Mask

An important thing to note: I am asking people attending the service in person to wear their masks on Sunday, and through the remaining Christmas season. We will remove them this Sunday in order to receive the Lord’s Supper. This is done in an abundance of caution at a time when new there is concern about a new variant of COVID starting to show up in areas outside of Connecticut. Consider it an act of love for those with whom you share the space of worship. – Pastor Pat Kriss

 


FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT | THANKSGIVING WEEKEND| NOVEMBER 28, 2021

From Pastor Pat

"We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have." —Friedrich Koenig

We are, indeed, a Pilgrim people, but I often wonder how many of us appreciate what it took to plant the seed of their quest for religious freedom, there in the sandy soil of New England. It’s fitting on this Thanksgiving, which marks the 400th anniversary of the pilgrims’ arrival, that we pause and think and give thanks for these brave souls, and the people who rescued them from disaster.

Our religious forebears had already fled England to avoid being made to toe the line of the State-determined of Protestant theology that the Church of England demanded. They lived in the Netherlands for 11 years before hearing the opportunities that they might find, if only they were brave enough to sail across the Atlantic to a new continent. On September 6, 1620, the Mayflower, laden down with 102 passengers, departed Southampton, England. Actually, of those 102 people, only 37 were the religious separatists known to us as Pilgrims. The rest of them were fare-paying passengers whose interest was a brighter future for themselves, not necessarily on a spiritual but on a financial basis.

For 66 horrific days, they all endured the passage. Sickness and scurvy plagued the people below deck. Amazingly only one person- a young man – died on the voyage. But after stopping briefly in Provincetown, the crew and passengers disembarked in what is now Plymouth Harbor in November. That’s when the real hardship set in for the new arrivals. Between starvation, hazards and disease, 45 out of the 102 people died that first year.

However, the Pilgrim colony was saved by a very unlikely duo: Massasoit, the Chief of the local Wampanoag natives and his son Squanto, who spoke English.

How did he learn the language? Years before, Squanto was captured by other Englishmen exploring the Cape who took him to England and there they sold him into slavery. It seems odd that someone who was so poorly treated by white explorers would want to help the dying Pilgrims, but after escaping and making it back to Plymouth with another expedition, he did. Squanto translated for the Pilgrims and most importantly of all, he taught the Pilgrims how to plant corn and where to fish. The poor sandy soil of the area wouldn’t have grown corn if it were not for the trick of burying a fish along with the seed corn.

After the very first successful harvest of corn planted by the Pilgrims in 1621, the colonists and the natives engaged in an autumn feast that lasted four days. But be advised: There wasn’t a turkey on the menu. Instead, diners feasted on deer brought by the natives, on swans and lobsters. Roasting and cooking was primarily done by the Wampanoag, since the Pilgrims didn’t have ovens or hearths yet in which to cook. (There was no Stovetop Stuffing in sight.) But there were profound thanks offered by all. The spirit of gratitude was always a cornerstone of the New England native tribes’ spiritual tradition.

Sadly, as we all know, some of the more mercenary Mayflower crowd were responsible for taking native land, devaluing their culture, and inadvertently bringing disease to indigenous people for which they had no immunity. But it’s fitting that the day after Thanksgiving this year is observed as Indigenous Peoples Day – in honor of those crucial friends of the bedraggled Pilgrims, without which there would have been no tomorrow for which to be grateful.

As you gather this year, take a moment and remember the bravery of the Pilgrims and the forgiveness by the natives who cared for them.  --- Pastor Pat Kriss  

 


TWENTY SIXTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST | THANKSGIVING SUNDAY | NOVEMBER 21, 2021

From Pastor Pat

"In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams." - Acts 2:17

Wow! It took so much visionary planning and hard work for so many people at First Church to pull off a smashing celebration of our 325th anniversary!

My profound thanks to all of our Fellowship Group, our Deacons, our Staff, our amazing Jim Moriarty and Meeting House Quartet and of course, our three guest speakers who set the tone for this event. Bravo to all! These representatives from the Southern New England Conference of the UCC were most impressed with you all. Our special thanks to Reverend Darrell Goodwin, Reverend Bob Naylor and Reverend Michael Ciba for being such wonderful assets to our service.

What's Your Vision for the Year Ahead?
Speaking of visions, it occurred to me that when we talk about Christmas, we often refer to certain kinds of "visions" -- as in "visions of sugarplums danced in their heads" for little children dreaming of St. Nick’s visit. But what about Thanksgiving? Do we have any visions for that holiday? I know it’s true for me and for many people. This is my FAVORITE holiday of the whole year, because it is surrounded with less commercialism and hawking of stuff that most people don’t need in the first place.
So I’m asking, with this being the first time in over 18 months that the pandemic has eased enough with vaccinations and sound planning, that we can gather with loved ones.

  • What visions do YOU have for the year ahead?
  • What would you like to see grow that is positive?
  • What negative things would you consign to the "fires" of oblivion that has disturbed your thoughts in the middle of the night during this period of crisis?

As we sit around the table and realize, perhaps more deeply after a year apart, how truly blessed we are, let us all remember the role that America’s indigenous peoples played in helping the first Pilgrims to even survive their first year on this continent.
Our Thanksgiving Service this Sunday will give us a chance to discuss the vision WE want to have in our church lives and in our personal lives.

Christmas collection for Women and Children
In addition, this Sunday will mark the beginning of this Christmas Season’s collection for the Center For Empowerment and Education, formerly the Women’s Center of Danbury. The focus this year are on badly needed things by women and children, especially diapers and wipes, baby food and baby snacks, cereal, feminine products, and gift cards from Target, WalMart, grocery stores and pharmacies. We will be collecting these items at Church until Sunday December 19 which is the 4th Sunday of Advent. It seems especially fitting that a time that celebrates the movement of a mother and Child to a manger in Bethlehem is when we’ll be helping mothers and babies nearby. -- Pastor Pat Kriss

 


TWENTY FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST | 325th ANNIVERSARY SERVICE SUNDAY| NOVEMBER 14, 2021

From Pastor Pat

"Tomorrow belongs to those of us who conceive of it as belonging to everyone; who lend the best of ourselves to it, and with joy." --Audre Lorde, American writer

I hope that, as you read this message, you’re already planning on joining us this Sunday for the celebration of our 325th year, rooted here in the land that is the beginning of the Berkshire foothills. As I was researching how the first eight families came here and clung together against the wilderness, I learned that they had looked around at the hills and marshes, and decided to name the place Swampfield.

Obviously, marketing was not an effective skill at the end of the 1600’s, but descriptive truth was.

Before long the Governor for the area who, like many a politician, DID have a sense of marketing, thought the better of it in that “Swampfield” invoked thoughts of mud.  The Governor was fond of a beautiful town in Essex, England and so he took the initiative of renaming it Danbury.

 

We’re Celebrating 325 Years

The pandemic may have pushed our festivities toward the end of the year, but it only gave us time for our enthusiasm to grow.  Music minister Jim Moriarty has a spectacular “procession” of joyful hymns through the centuries we’ve been gathered as a church. Our own Meeting House Quartet will be performing along with the jazz undertones of Doug and Ginny Hartline and their excellent band.

Some of the people who attend may be dressed in any one of many costumes our members wore over the centuries we’ve existed. If you’re vaccinated you are welcome to join in the festivities, whether you’re masked or not. And if you’re not vaccinated, come anyway and we’ll give you a mask.

 

Our Roots Are Love

Of course, one of the greatest joys this Sunday will be our time with people who represent the past, present and future for First Church Danbury. Our guests will include Reverend Dr. Michael Ciba, our regional Conference Minister; Reverend Darrell Goodwin (if our denomination believed in bishops, he’d be one of ours), Executive Conference Minister; and a very beloved pastor and my mentor, Reverend Robert Naylor, who is no stranger to our pulpit, as he was our 24th pastor. I will be speaking about the ways our “roots” planted in faith have produced a beautiful creation that has borne fruit for our conger and our community.

Our Fellowship folk have prepared a reception after the service that would make Annie Orr very proud, with tea and sandwiches PLUS a display on the history of First Church that will bring back memories for us all.

So, whether it’s been a long time since you were last at our church or not, you are welcome here, to join in our joy and fun this Sunday. It starts with the 10 a.m. service and continues for as long as the smiles and memories flow afterward. See you Sunday! –  Pastor Pat Kriss

 


TWENTY FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST  | COMMUNION SUNDAY |  NOVEMBER 7, 2021

From Pastor Pat

“The older I get, the more I'm conscious of ways very small things can make a change in the world. Tiny little things, but the world is made up of tiny matters, isn't it? --- Sandra Cisneros, American writer

So very often, we overlook the power of tiny things because we’re dazzled when someone has clout and status. But even the mightiest emperor can be reduced to hiding under his own bedcovers when there’s just one tiny little mosquito buzzing around his bedroom in the dark.

We’ve learned the hard way these past two years what the tiniest thing can do to our great human plans. A tiny virus ravaged the globe, and tragically swept away over 750,000 people just in our nation alone, and over 5 million in total. The repercussions are still not over.

Positively Small

But small things can indeed bring great positive changes as well. It can be an idea, shared by a few people. That’s how our church got started – as an idea shared among eight families who thought they might be able to take their faith on a journey from Norwalk, and plant the faith up north in the “wilderness” of field and swamp, where it would one day grow into Danbury and First Church. God notices such small things and helps them become great in their own right.

 

The Power of Small

That’s exactly what goes on in this Sunday’s Gospel when Jesus and the disciples are standing outside the Temple Treasury. They watch as powerful, wealthy men deposit their donations for in the Treasury with a flourish, making sure that the maximum number of onlookers see that the fact that they can make a large donation demonstrates that they are righteous, “blessed” by God. But then Jesus notes a poor widow who quietly comes forth and place two tiny coins in the donation plate.  

“[Jesus] called his disciples and said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.’”

 

Sweeping Changes That Started Small

Once again you see, God notices such small things, and helps them become great in their own right.  In this case true generosity is worth more in the Lord’s eye than all the pomposity of those who believe in their own superiority.

This Sunday we will be looking at some small things that made sweeping changes for the good, including all the truly remarkable ideas that have led First Church to where we stand today, in our 325th year. Join us!  --- Pastor Pat Kriss

 


 

TWENTY THIRD SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST | ALL SAINTS SUNDAY | OCTOBER 31, 2021