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

TWENTY-THIRD SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST | NOVEMBER 13, 2022

 

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Sunday’s service begins at 10 a.m. Please wear a face mask if you are not fully vaccinated. The service will be livestreamed to Facebook for those who cannot worship with us in person. A replay of the service is available on Facebook at the same link.

If you live in Danbury or Brookfield, you may also view last week's service at Good God Danbury! on Comcast Channel 23 on Tuesdays and Sundays.
 

Concerts and Events: Use this link to stay up to date on all events and concerts at First Church.

 

TWENTY-THIRD SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST - A Salute to All Who Have Served | NOVEMBER 13, 2022

From Pastor Pat Kriss
 

E-Tidings:

 

“No man ever steps in the same river twice.  For it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” Heraclitus

 

With Veterans’ Day just ahead of us, it always bothers me when people confuse that date with Memorial Day. It’s as if we are so conditioned to connect conflict with death, that it’s easier for us to visualize “the crosses, row on row,” than it is to think about – and recognize all those who returned home alive. For some the homecoming was not for the better.

 

The Veteran's Homecoming

From my time running the Veteran-Friendly Initiative for our church, I remember how soldiers still laboring on the unfamiliar field of conflict would virtually dream of the day when they could return to the sameness of home and family. It sustained many an enlisted person through the darkest of days, a dream that would be waiting for them at the end of deployment.

 

But then, the sameness of life that soldiers craved turned into an elusive thing. Change happens.  People back home had to pick up their lives and move forward while their soldiers were away. Spouses ended up shouldering the responsibilities of the absent soldier, and actually got pretty good at it. Children didn’t stop growing or changing either. The returning enlisted person would come into their house, discover people they never met who had become fast friends with their kids. Life had flowed on. It was the same house, but an entirely different dynamic where the soldier had to re-develop a sense of self and family role.

 

The Veteran's Healing

The late Bob Dole, whose service to the country brought him home with permanent injuries, points out that these readjustment challenges are not a disorder. But they can be aided by a caring community.

 

Other vets ending their hitch in a theater of action where concussive injuries were suffered from “improvised explosive devices (IED) may have hidden injuries and traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) that may affect daily life with family and a return to employment. Regardless of the individual sacrifice that was made, It is our job as friends and neighbors of vets, no matter how long ago their service was, to support them, so that they understand how much we appreciate their courage.

 

Senator Dole said, “In battle, courage means sacrificing our own well-being for our fellow soldiers and for our country. After battle, courage means concentrating on and being honest with ourselves, using all the tools we can gather to lead the best life we can, and, by example, giving something to those who will follow in our foot-steps.”

 

This Sunday is our salute to the courage of our veterans, and our prayers for healing. ---Pastor Pat Kriss

 

 


ANNOUNCEMENTS:

 

THANKSGIVING & REMEMBERANCE SUNDAY – NOVEMBER 20  Our Annual Remembrance Sunday will take place at the conclusion of service.  All are invited to attend as we pray for those who will be sorely missed this holiday season.

 

MARK YOUR CALENDARS FOR THESE NOVEMBER CONCERTS!

November 19 – The Danbury Music Centre will present the DMC Community Band Concert at 7:30 PM.

November 20 – Connecticut Master Chorale will present their Holiday Prelude Concert at 3 PM.  It will be a glorious array of holiday music, featuring "A Mediterranean Holiday" with music from Italy, Spain, France, and Greece. The diverse collection of seasonal selections will include music for Winter, Advent and Hanukkah, with a spectacular Holiday Film Festival, joyous carols, big band, spirituals, gospel and more!  Admission is $20 at the door (cash or check, no cards).

 

 

ARC INTERFAITH THANKSGIVING SERVICE – This event is taking place on Monday, November 21, 7 PM, at New Hope Baptist Church (12 Dr. Aaron B Samuels Blvd., Danbury, CT 06810).  It is an opportunity to show gratitude for the blessings in our lives and to celebrate religious diversity within the community.  No RSVP is required.

 

THRIFT SHOP – Stop by during normal business hours, Saturday’s 10 AM to 2 PM to do some shopping and find some new treasures.  Hope to see you soon!

 

 

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 Nov. 16 at 7 PM.  All are welcome and the first meeting is free.

 

VOLUNTEERS ARE ALWAYS NEEDED - We need volunteers to manage coffee hour on Sundays, or to do the Hebrew Bible reading during the service.  If you can volunteer for either, or both, please email Ginger at office@danburychurch.org or call her at the office at 203.744.6177.  There is also a sign-up sheet for coffee hours in Annie Orr Hall.  

 

THE UPPER ROOM books for November/December are available in the Narthex & Johnson Foyer.

 

$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!

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
 


 

ALL SAINTS SUNDAY - COMMUNION SUNDAY | NOVEMBER 6, 2022

From Pastor Pat Kriss
 

E-Tidings:

 

"I am not a saint unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying."   ― Nelson Mandela

I don’t know about you, but whenever our All Saints Sunday rolls around as it will in three days, I never feel much like a "saint." I know too much about me to think that I qualify for that designation, and I tend to side with the late Nelson Mandela to see myself as another sinner who keeps on trying.

What Is a Saint?

However, if you’ve ever wondered why Calvin referred to EVERYONE as a saint, it’s because he understood us – all of us who believe in Jesus – to be part of the Body of Christ, and a member of the Communion of Saints.

That means, regardless of how successful we've been so far in acting like saints.  The point is to concentrate on what lies ahead, rather than to look backward at all the actions we've taken and the thoughts we've had that were far from saint-like.

Fall Back on Saturday Night!

 

There’s one thing I hope all of you saints-in-training will get right about this weekend is that you remember to set your clocks BACK an hour on Saturday night as we leave the spring version of daylight-saving time behind. While being punctual for church may be a saintly virtue, being an hour too early for services is not. Here’s one of those places where you are rewarded for your saintly-ness: a whole extra hour of sleep back!

 

What’s Happening on Sunday?

 

When you join us Sunday, we will remember and honor those members and friends of our congregation who have gone on ahead of us to God, since January 2021. We’ve included those who we lost during the pandemic since, while we were away from the Sanctuary, so many of these departures went unnoticed.

 

We will also have a chance to hear Luke’s story of Jesus giving his followers a version of the Beatitudes that includes the blessings and woes of sticking to the path to being saintly.

 

Blessings to you and see you Sunday. --- Pastor Pat Kriss

 

 


NINETEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST | OCTOBER 13, 2022

From Pastor Pat Kriss
 

E-Tidings:

 

I lift up my eyes to the hills—from where will my help come?  My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.  
He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. -from Psalm 121

 

Persistence, Blessings and Justice

This week and during this Jazz Sunday, we’ll be exploring the parable of the elderly widow who kept nattering a judge who couldn’t care less about her. She finally wore him down enough that she received justice for her situation.

 

Jesus tells us this story, not to imply that God is like that judge, but to show us that achieving justice in an unjust world requires relentless work on our part, and that God is with us at all times as we fight the battle.

 

Blessing the Animals

As I sit down to write eTidings, my heart is still full from last Sunday’s “Pets in the Park,” held at the Danbury Town Park. From 2:30 to 5 pm I must have blessed more than 150 dogs – and one rather nervous cat. They came to us in all kinds and sizes -- there was a Great Dane and a Scottish Deer Hound, and on the other end of the yardstick, many chihuahuas and pint sized yorkies and Shih tzus.

 

Most of them were dressed in Halloween costumes – pirates and princesses, lobsters and horses with mini jockeys strapped on their backs. For the most part the dogs seemed to happily humor their human owners’ choice of costumes, although a few had that “why are you doing this to me” look on their faces.

 

Dog Parents and Their Dogs (and Cats)

What struck me the most were these pet parents – I use this word rather than “owners” because people who take a pet into their lives quickly find that they are as much “owned” by the pets as the other way around. When most of these pet families came forward for a blessing, I asked God to grant them health and happiness, respect and fun for many years to come.

 

And then there were the owners reaching out for hope – carrying a sick dog or coming to tell me that their aging pet might not be around for another year, so they had come for a blessing. You see, beyond the laying on of a little water and my giving them a small bag of treats with our Church card in it, what we really did is to bless the people and the creatures they love.

 

One of the couples who came by had a special request: the husband was dressed head to tail as a big red Satan; his wife asked me to exorcise him, which I humorously obliged with a smile.

 

Justice and Healing Take More Than a Blessing

As Jesus’ parable suggests, obtaining hope often is much more than receiving a blessing. It’s an uphill battle to make sure the oppressed are not ignored, with our help as Jesus’ disciples. – Pastor Pat Kriss

 


EIGHTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST | OCTOBER 6, 2022

From Pastor Pat Kriss
 

E-Tidings:

 

“The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.” ---Isaiah 11:6

 

Most of us, when we were little, learned what goodness and love is from a few key individuals. If we were lucky, it was at least in part from our own parents; perhaps it was a kindly aunt, uncle, or teacher. But for many of us, our best teacher may have had four paws and a tail, or even a feathery tail. Regardless of the species, our pets were often a major part of our formation as good human beings and a first source of love.

 

Pets, People and Companionship

Not only were our pets – most likely dogs and cats – our teachers, they were our consolers when we cried, they stuck by us when we were upset. Sometimes the roles were reversed when there was thunder or a visit to the vet’s office. If the pet had whiskers and purred, consoling our pet might have meant finding them first. (A famous veterinarian who made house calls for cats wrote a book he titled, “All My Patients Are Under The Bed.”) When your pet loved you, it affirmed in your heart that you were worthy of love. Likewise, your love for your pet taught you the first lessons about what it means to have a caring, loyal relationship. A pet is both a friend and is also like a furry child, a member of the family.

 

Does Heaven Have Pets?

However, when we cherish an animal, their lives are never as long as ours, and the end is always a sad parting when they die. As the saying goes, in the end “grief is the price we pay for loving a pet.” When that time comes, we often end up thinking, “I can’t even imagine what heaven is like if my dog isn’t there,” or “it’s not fair if my cat who always stuck by me with love hasn’t gone on to be rewarded for her faithfulness.”

 

In this October week, when even Protestant churches recognize the great Franciscan, Francis of Assisi, the question hangs in the air: Do dogs and cats go to heaven? If we asked Francis who respected and engaged with the souls of all creatures of the earth, water and skies, the answer is an unequivocal “YES.”

 

But what about the Bible? What does it say? What did Jesus say about them? This Sunday we will go searching for the answer that may bring comfort to those of us who in our hearts hope that when their time comes, there will be a joyful welcoming committee waiting for us. I will also be providing pet blessings at the Danbury Town Park at 3 PM on this Sunday. --- Pastor Pat Kriss

 


SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST | SEPTEMBER 29, 2022

From Pastor Pat Kriss
 

E-Tidings:

 

One of the heartwarming things that we encounter when we gather for the Lord’s Supper like we do this Sunday, is the sense of sharing. This Sunday in particular we’re aware that the Family of God is far and wide, since it’s World Communion Sunday. We are called by Jesus to work toward the unity of all who recognize that Christ is our Lord no matter where they live or their belief system.

 

Where You Encounter Jesus

That means that our eyes need to be open to the presence of Christ when we encounter him in our average day. I especially agree with the great Christian theologian and writer, Frederick Buechner. He has told us to be on the lookout:

 

“Jesus is apt to come, into the very midst of life at its most real and inescapable moments. Not in a blaze of unearthly light, not in the midst of a sermon, not in the throes of some kind of religious daydream, but...at supper time, or walking along a road...He never approached from on high, but always in the midst, in the midst of people, in the midst of real life and the questions that real life asks.”

 

Some other things that Jesus expects of us are some of the harder ones to achieve: Forgive, even it means forgiving again and again. Perform acts of goodness, and do not expect that you will receive praise for your work.

 

The Lord’s Work and Other Thankless Tasks

Some years ago, before I was called to First Church Danbury, the church I pastored housed the Berkshire Food Project. Every weekday we served a hot, sit-down lunch on real dishes and with real silverware to as many as 150 people. The people we fed included not only seniors alone in this world, but disabled veterans, alcoholics, drug addicts, single moms with kids, homeless people, and those with mental illness. Almost everything we accomplished was the result of volunteers, in the kitchen and in the dining room.

 

But one day a new volunteer arrived who apparently had never met people in need before. After she had served plates of food to a number of guests, she left in a huff into the kitchen. When we went to check on her, she said, “WELL… at LEAST they could do is say ‘thank you’ when I give them some food.”

 

We asked her to think about what it must be like to be in their spot – with no money and unable to rub two pennies together to buy their own lunch. Did she think they would be happy, or perhaps a little embarrassed to be in that position? Ultimately, we explained that we served people not for the thanks, but because that’s what people following Jesus did for others, without fanfare.

 

Love Without Expectations

That’s what is at the center of this week’s worship: doing what is right without expecting reward. We feed one another at the communion table as a remembrance of the way we should seek out and find Jesus in the faces of others at “supper time,” or on the road, in the lowly tasks of breaking bread. -- Pastor Pat Kriss

 


SIXTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST | SEPTEMBER 22, 2022

From Pastor Pat Kriss
 

E-Tidings:

 

"When I was in seminary . . . we had a running joke.  Whenever someone said something was in the Bible that wasn't, we'd say it must be from the Book of First Opinions.  I can tell from all the misattributed Bible quotes I've heard through the years, First Opinions is a pretty long book.  It doesn't need anything added to it." - - Kyle Chastain, Koinina

 

Just about everyone I know at one time or another has quoted something that sounds like it's from Scripture that actually isn't found anywhere in the Bible.  Kyle Chastain compiled a few that you may have used yourself, including:

  • God helps those who help themselves.
  • This too shall pass.
  • Love the sinner, hate the sin.
  • To thine own self be true.

….AND, my favorite: Money is the root of all evil.

 

Is Money Evil?

This last one is actually quite close to the real quote that this week we find in 1 Timothy:   For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Now, even at first glance, reading this may evoke in you, “So…what’s the difference?” But there is so much importance in the actual quote’s words: The love of money.

Money in and of itself is an inanimate object. It can’t be the agent of evil. However, humanity’s obsession with enriching itself to the detriment of others IS the root cause of so much heartache, so much division. The truth is we are given free will to make a choice. Do I CHOOSE to do what is supportive of the community to which I belong, or do I exploit, cheat and plunder others to seize way more than my share of material blessings?

 

Is Being Rich a Sin?

We’ll be discussing these points on Sunday, but also we’ll see one important thing: Being rich is not a sin.

Having the talent and ambition to become rich is not a sin. It’s what you do when you get there and what you did to make it that holds the difference. So if you do come this Sunday you may learn a thing or two. As the Bible DOES NOT say, “God works in mysterious ways.”  --- Pastor Pat Kriss

 


FIFTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST | SEPTEMBER 15, 2022

From Pastor Pat Kriss
 

E-Tidings:

 

“…Since you went away the days grow long.

And soon I'll hear old winter's song.

But I miss you most of all, my darling

When autumn leaves start to fall.”

-Johnny Mercer

 

Personally, I’ve always loved the fall, especially when the air turns crisp and the leaves turn vibrant colors. For me it’s a happy time. But autumn – especially THIS autumn – is not necessarily a time of joy for many people who have weathered the pandemic.

 

Bring the Grief in Your Life to God

Too many of us bear a sense of loss this year. We may be mourning the loss of friends or family. We may be missing our old sense of security, when it comes to our health, our housing, our livelihoods. Autumn looks utterly different to the families who lost a dear person to the violence that has stalked our streets and school classrooms.

 

Sadly, it seems as if in the rush to get out of the pandemic and back to what we call “normal,” there is a tendency to hustle other people through their grieving process for the people and things that counted to them. “Let’s get back to business.” And as we all know, grieving a loss is not something to which we can attach a “one size fits all” tag.

 

Grief will last as long as it needs to last. Jeremiah reminds us this Sunday that lamenting our losses is not an embarrassment. It is an important part of the Psalms and the Hebrew Bible when Israel was in honest dialogue with God, calling out with their own pain.

 

Your Path to God

This Sunday we’ll not so much focus on mourning, but upon the pathway to keeping things honest between ourselves and God.

  • How do we teach our children and grandchildren to be honest in a world that seems to reward people who are not?
  • When God seems to be hiding from us, where to we seek God?

Join us this Sunday to explore the answers.

(P.S. - Church School resumes this Sunday!) --- Pastor Pat Kriss

 

 


 

FOURTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST | HOMECOMING/RALLY SUNDAY | SEPTEMBER 8, 2022

From Pastor Pat Kriss
 

E-Tidings:

Ah, September! You are the doorway to the season that awakens my soul.  – Peggy Toney Horton

 

This Sunday is our official Homecoming Sunday at First Church, where we gather once again to see old friends, meet new people, and rekindle the feelings of peace and joy that we need so much these days.  And this particular year, after we were kept apart for nearly three years by the pandemic, getting back together is particularly poignant.

 

I know Jim Moriarty has been hard at work on the music for Homecoming Sunday, along with the full Meeting House Choir.

 

Fall Events and Programs at First Church

We at First Church have also lined up a number of special events this autumn to enrich our experience of worship for the whole family:

 

Sunday, September 11 – Homecoming Sunday

  • 10 a.m. Homecoming Sunday: The whole Meeting House Choir will sing this Sunday morning!
  • Ice cream and cake during Coffee Hour  following the service.
  • The Thrift Shop’s exciting new Opening Sale will be available for shopping after this Sunday’s coffee hour and services.
     

Game Night Begins on Sept 16

  • Our popular Family Game Night and Dinner resumes Friday, September 16, with food and a Trivia Contest. Cost: $10 per family, or $5 per person. Please register on Eventbrite.

Children’s Activities

  • Church School begins on Sunday, September 18. Call the office at 203-744-6177 to register your children now. Pat Moriarty is our new Church School director and is looking meeting your children.
  • September 18: Our very popular Children’s Community Chorus resumes on Sundays at 1 p.m. Call the office at 203-744-6177 to register your children. An effort has been made to place gatherings with our young people on Sundays so that families can engage with activities without adding to their jammed weekday schedule.
  • October 29: Howl with the wolves on Howl-O-Ween -- A field trip to the wolves for Halloween. We will meet at the Wolf Conservation Center at dusk (5 p.m.). We will be with at least two live ambassador wolves, and we will howl along with them as the sun sets. Costumes are encouraged. Space is limited, so adults and children please sign up early – call the office (203-744-6177) to save your spot! First Church will pick up the cost for young people. Tickets for adults are $20 and include environmental education about the challenges of protecting this important species. A trip for ice cream afterward is also included.

Real Theology Sunday on October 23

“How to have Respectful Discussions About Difficult Things.” Learn how to communicate in social settings with people who may have differing opinions from yours. Just in time for the midterm elections and holiday season family gatherings. This Fall’s first Real Theology Sunday will begin with Pastor Pat sharing the pulpit with a guest speaker, and follow up with a Q&A session in Annie Orr Hall after the service.

If you live in the Danbury area, I sincerely hope you’ll join us at church for Homecoming. Or, if you follow us on Facebook, I hope you’ll be watch us and sing with us!

Blessings!

 


 

THIRTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST | COMMUNION SUNDAY | SEPTEMBER 1, 2022

From Pastor Pat Kriss

E-Tidings:

“A vessel is formed from a lump of clay with care, however, it is the empty space within the vessel that makes it useful”. Lao Tse

One of my favorite Bible images of God is the potter at his wheel, forming a pot out of the humble

essence of clay. If the pot is not to God’s liking, it’s a simple matter to press it down hard and start all over. The next time it will be without whatever imperfections the first one might have had.

On this Labor Day weekend, it’s the first days of what we traditionally treat as the beginning of autumn. It’s also a time when we start thinking about the future, about the things we’d like to change and about the good things we want more of.

The Potter’s Lessons Teach Us How to Change the World

It’s up to us to learn the lessons the potter teaches us, because we want to become that lovely pot whose center is open to receive God’s graces. But before that, we must do what every potter does to the clay before it goes on the wheel: we must take the raw clay that is us, and make sure there are no air pockets in the material. If the air allowed to become part of the pot and goes into the kiln, it becomes “hot air” that will expand and explode the pot. The potter does this with his strength and by “wedging” it in half on a wire to look for air bubbles.

It's not a surprise that further along in in this passage from Jeremiah, God the potter is warning Israel, with its political puffery and “hot air” taking the people away from listening to the Creator, that the Lord says this:

“Can I not do with you, O house of Israel, just as this potter has done? says the LORD. Just like the clay in the potter's hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. At one moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, but if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will change my mind about the disaster that I intended to bring on it.

“And at another moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, but if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will change my mind about the good that I had intended to do to it.”

Changing the World Begins with You

Are we as a nation and a people wise enough to remove the “hot air” from our dialogue with one another, and look for ways to peacefully share, to become a stronger “vessel” for what God intends for our futures? How can we be a part of this?

Find out more this Communion Sunday as we share bread, wine and wisdom for the season ahead. --Pastor Pat Kriss

 

 


TWELFTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST | AUGUST 28, 2022

From Pastor Pat Kriss

E-Tidings:

 

"Time is a pool to swim and dream and create in."  - Jay Woodman
 

Sunday, August 21 is our annual End of Summer Picnic and Poolside service, and this year we are grateful for the generosity of Pat and Jim Moriarty who are opening their backyard and pool for us to enjoy.

 

Because of limited parking, we are encouraging people to park at the Church and make use of Gary Kriss and Greg Pings “shuttle service” to the house on Wooster Heights.

 

Bring a side dish/dessert/BYOB: We’re asking everyone who is attending to bring a side dish or dessert and bring a beverage of your choice. 

 

Please RSVP to Ginger at 203.744.6177 or office@danburychurch.org and let her know what you will bring when you RSVP.

 

There will be no service at 10 am. Instead, we will have an abbreviated service poolside at the conclusion of the picnic. Please bring your swimsuits and towels to enjoy the pool! The weather is predicted to hold off any showers until the nighttime.

 

Restoring Joy

We are all in the process of creating an Autumn Church Calendar of events that are sure to restore our sense of joy and commitment to Christ’s urging that we follow the path of caring for one another in our lives and in all of the challenges of a complicated world. Stay tuned for more information.

See you Sunday as we celebrate the end of a simmering Summer! – Pastor Pat Kriss

 


 

ELEVENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST | AUGUST 21, 2022

 

From Pastor Pat Kriss
 

E-Tidings:

 

"Time is a pool to swim and dream and create in."  - Jay Woodman
 

Sunday, August 21 is our annual End of Summer Picnic and Poolside service, and this year we are grateful for the generosity of Pat and Jim Moriarty who are opening their backyard and pool for us to enjoy.

 

Because of limited parking, we are encouraging people to park at the Church and make use of Gary Kriss and Greg Pings “shuttle service” to the house on Wooster Heights.

 

Bring a side dish/dessert/BYOB: We’re asking everyone who is attending to bring a side dish or dessert and bring a beverage of your choice. 

 

Please RSVP to Ginger at 203.744.6177 or office@danburychurch.org and let her know what you will bring when you RSVP.

 

There will be no service at 10 am. Instead, we will have an abbreviated service poolside at the conclusion of the picnic. Please bring your swimsuits and towels to enjoy the pool! The weather is predicted to hold off any showers until the nighttime.

 

Restoring Joy

We are all in the process of creating an Autumn Church Calendar of events that are sure to restore our sense of joy and commitment to Christ’s urging that we follow the path of caring for one another in our lives and in all of the challenges of a complicated world. Stay tuned for more information.

See you Sunday as we celebrate the end of a simmering Summer! – Pastor Pat Kriss

 


TENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST | AUGUST 14, 2022

 

From Pastor Jean-Fritz Guerrier
 

E-Tidings:

 

Learn How to Fly Over Your Issues.

Reverend Jean-Fritz Guerrier notes that the very first chapter of the Bible talks about birds. Rev. Jean-Fritz will lead our communion service on Sunday.

He also notes that Shakeseare associates birds with love, and that Emily Dickinson argues that singing birds represent hope in our lives, as shown in this passage from "Hope" is the Thing with Feathers. 

“’Hope’ is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all …”

 

What a Bird Can Teach You

Birds are a sign of life, Rev. Jean-Fritz said, and another proof that a new season has come.  Humans who have observed birds have created a number of inventions or improvements to our lives, including aircraft, building materials and even small spy planes. Birds have mastered migration long before humans came up with the concept of a global positioning system (GPS).

Especially important, birds teach us that if we have faith, God will allow us to fly over our issues.  We may have to live our everyday lives with unwanted struggles.  However, we all must know by faith that, one day we will reach our destiny.

 


NINTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST | AUGUST 7, 2022

 

From John Harmon, Deacon

E-Tidings:

 

“Miracles happen everyday, change your perception of what a miracle is and you will see them all around you.” -- Jon Bon Jovi

 

Miracles do happen as God is right by your side, revealing His love in miraculous ways. Some fill you with awe, others restore your faith and are answers to prayers.

 

Where Are the Miracles?

They can be everyday news stories of a lost child found alive days later, when rescued from being stuck in a storm drainpipe. Some may take more time, like the healing of a forest after a wildfire's destruction. Then there are the random acts of kindness, a waitress receiving a needed month's rent as a tip from a "pay it forward" customer. A homeless family given permanent shelter, or a school janitor using public transportation given their own vehicle as a gift from students and teachers.

 

These aren’t the obvious miracles of well-known saints, but those wonderful events which happen daily aren’t any less great or effective than the ones we consider major wonders. 

 

The Hidden Reality of Miracles

God guides us so that we can open our eyes to the hidden reality, which is the true and profound actuality of our daily world. Isn’t this what apostle Paul meant when he urged us to concentrate not on what’s perceptible to the bodily senses but on the “unseen” in the depths of our world? These are the everyday action of God’s grace, maintaining the universe for eternity? 

 

“We look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.” (2 Cor. 4, 18)

 

So, to the naysayers, like Joseph Heller: "I don't believe in miracles because it's been a long time we've had any."

 

My response is: "Have you really looked?"

 


 

EIGHTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST | JULY 31, 2022

 

From Heidi Palmer, First Church Vice Moderator

E-Tidings:

We all have something to worry about, but does that do you any good? Heidi Palmer, who will lead Sunday’s service, will discuss this and the role faith has in managing your worrisome meanderings. Heidi presents her top three lessons from Zen Buddhist Monk Shunmyo Masuno that will help your worry less.

Three Lessons That Can Help You Worry Less:

REDUCE, LET GO, LEAVE BEHIND.
Don’t delude yourself; we will delude ourselves because we are human. Cheer yourself up, say "I believe in my absolute self without compare."

CONCENTRATE ONLY ON THINGS YOU CAN ACHIEVE HERE AND NOW.
By doing so, you’ll stop thinking about unnecessary things. Cherish the things that you have always taken for granted. Appreciate the here and now. (Are you detecting a theme here?)  This attitude will help you to have gratitude for experiences and what you do have. Again, we are reminded THY will be done.

CHANGE HOW YOU WORRY ABOUT THINGS AND YOUR LIFE WILL CHANGE FOR THE BETTER.
Human desire is boundless. There is no limit to it. Classic manifestation of desire is money. We get something as soon as we want it, we want something else. Live your life thinking, "I have plenty, I am grateful."

And how does faith fit into this?  Join us on Sunday at 10 a.m., and I’ll tell you.


 


SEVENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST | JULY 24, 2022

 

From Pastor Pat

E-Tidings:

 

"Heat cannot be separated from fire, or beauty from The Eternal." -- Dante Alighieri
 

It’s hot. I saw a church sign this week that simply said, "Satan Called. He Wants His Weather Back."  In all seriousness, this current heat wave is supposed to continue through next Tuesday.

So how are we going to deal with it for this Sunday’s service?

First of all, if you have any health concerns, this Sunday is the time to make use of the online broadcast of our services, whether you watch it live during the broadcast, or later in the day on our website. Or you can come to church, for we are making the service much shorter than usual because of the heat.

You really don’t want to miss this service, because our talented Nancy Wildman will be playing her cool guitar and singing meaningful hymns to support what is one of our favorite Gospels – the one where Jesus shares with us the essence of what we call The Lord’s Prayer.

God’s Opportunities
If you’ve ever wondered when someone tells you that God loves you if it’s true, you’ll find the answer to your doubt when we explore the last lines of this gospel. Sometimes the hardest thing for us is to listen to the opportunities God sends our way, and trust in God. We will spend a few moments with that verse:

"So I say to you, ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened."

See you this Sunday, one way or another. – Pastor Pat Kriss

PS: After this Sunday I will be on vacation through August 15. My thanks to Pastor Jean-Fritz Guerrier and our lay preachers who will pinch hit for me until I return.

 

 


 

SIXTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST | JULY 17, 2022

 

From Pastor Pat

E-Tidings:

A child is a beam of sunlight from the Infinite and Eternal, with possibilities of virtue and vice, but as yet unstained.” 
— Lyman Abbott, Congregational Minister

 

I’m always fascinated by the fact that a child who looks up at the star in the sky sees something entirely different that someone in their 30’s, 40’s and beyond. We may see a bright, distant being. But the child sees colors.

 

The Vision We Lose as We Mature

It seems that something is lost as we mature, in the eye’s ability to discern the clouds of gases in deep space, the nursery for new stars being born even as we gaze. The constellation Orion becomes visible to us here in Danbury in the late fall and throughout winter. Its “sword” hangs from the giant’s belt includes a star nursery with vibrant colors that any child with binoculars can see. How sad it is that most adults see no color but muted light.

 

I think there’s a reason for this. Adults are too busy to notice a lot of things. We need the children to remind us. A child can look at the picture of Earth as a tiny, fragile, little blue marble floating in the vastness of eternity. I think they understand that Earth is God’s gift to humankind.

 

But like so many blessings we adults are gifted without our asking, we take them for granted. To us, the earth is a place to drain of its resources. It’s a place of commerce, of making a buck or a million, and not really caring about others on the planet.

 

Visions of a Gift Taken for Granted

This Sunday’s Hebrew Bible reading comes from Amos, a not-quite-prophet in 722 BCE who has visions of how hurt and angry God is by our human abuse of one another and the gift of the world. In Amos’ apocalyptic vision, God has given us a basket of ripe summer fruit, but we in our greed and exploitation have turned God’s abundance into decay and destruction of nature.

 

He speaks of drought, wildfires, famine, storms, and darkness. Ironically, we watch today’s TV as firefighters try to wet down the Giant Sequoias, some of them 3,500 years old, to protect them from wildfires. We watch as our plastic waste and trash is fished out of the ocean before more ocean life is killed. We watch as billionaires fight over ways to enlarge their fortunes through oil exploration – niggling battles on the surface of our fragile Little Blue Marble spinning though earth, as her balance of life and weather are upended.

 

A Vision of Infinity

And yet the children can see. They see not only the stars and colorful birth of the new. They also seem to understand that God’s Universe and God’s timelessness are beyond human comprehension.

 

With the release this week of the James Webb Telescope’s first pictures of the far distant universe, the children and we adults are looking at galaxies that are 296 million LIGHT YEARS away. That distance is literally beyond our feeble human minds’ comprehension. We are looking at galaxies’ that are 6 sextillion years away – not million billion, trillion or quadrillion miles distant.

 

And children understand the infinite scale of God’s creation. We may take the sunshine for granted, but kids know that the light we feel now actually left the sun eight minutes ago.

 

This Sunday we will celebrate not only a precious baptism, but also the gift of children and the amazing things we are learning about the gift of the earth. Come celebrate with us! –Pastor Pat Kriss

 


 

FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST | JULY 10, 2022

 

From John Harmon, Deacon

E-Tidings:

"Most churches when they have images of the Good Shepherd, they show Jesus carrying a nice fluffy lamb. Now fluffy little lambs don't stray from their mommy's. The sheep that will stray is the most obstreperous, troublesome one."  Desmond Tutu

 

This Sunday's message is taken from one of the most famously known and favorite passages of the Bible's "Old Testament", the 23rd Psalm. It's used in so many ways, because of its symbolism and application to multiple events in our lives.

 

Because its words are so simply put and easily understood, we are given peace and comfort.  But sometimes, it becomes rote, and we forget its historical background, the extent of its application to us personally and in our daily life. 

 

Is ‘The Good Shepherd” Relevant Today? (Yes.)

Especially in these trying times of continued, or imminent health threat of the Coronavirus, the war in Ukraine and its expanding threat, and our current national uneasiness and divisiveness. Sometimes it's easy to dwell so much on the negative, that we can take the view of Aldous Huxley on the 23rd Psalm: "From the point of view of the individual lambs, rams and ewes, there is no such thing as a good shepherd."

 

But I think he misses the mark, and greatly understates what's going on -- or maybe not?

 

With a verse-by-verse review bringing in some of the historical context as well as its meaning in today's troubled world, we'll see that the Lord is truly the Great Shepherd that's in much need, especially in our daily lives.

 

And we are the sheep needing much shepherding -- both encouragement to walk the good path, as a follower of Jesus as well as needing His safety and security when we stumble from that path? 

 

Other Questions About the Good Shepherd

 

Are we just the sheep or is the Good Shepherd the only shepherd - or are we at times, both sheep and shepard?

 

What are the worries of the sheep, and the dangers faced? How about the Shepherd?

 

Who are the good shepherds of today's and tomorrow's world, and how will we recognize them? 

 

So, whether you're at church this Sunday in person, or watching from your computer at home, take these moments to reflect on the meanings behind the 23rd Psalm, how it was written at a time when people were closer to nature, dependent on it, and the daily caring for their crops and livestock for survival. Yet at the same time, it transcends to today's world and our needs.

 

Also, please enjoy the music and song that fills the church each Sunday from the soloists, to the piano and organ, all under the direction of Jim Moriarty.

 


FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST | COMMUNION SUNDAY | JULY 3, 2022

 

From Pastor Pat

E-Tidings:

For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.  – Nelson Mandela

 

We all need to sparkle.

And our Sunday Service is surely going to give us that opportunity.

 

After all the recent strife and conflict, America truly needs a moment to reflect and shine on its Independence Day. The thing is, we know we’re not perfect, but we’re working on it. It’s important for us to remember that in 1776, equality was stated as being for many, but not all. Freedom was the goal, but not given out to all. It was the condition of the world at that time to partition people into unequal stations in life. But the American Revolution was the very first step toward human liberty, even though so much more still had to be accomplished. America’s slaves, indigenous peoples and even its women – none of them were even thought of in those first drafts of the Constitution that stated all men are created equal. But as I’ve said, we weren’t perfect – but we were working on it, and still are to this day.
 

Fueling us for the rest of our journey toward the American Dream is God’s wisdom and encouragement.

 

Right now, to restore our “sparkle,” our belief in America, we need to celebrate. We need to recognize the path this Country has already carved through an indifferent world, to establish what liberty and equality CAN look like, with respect for others and their liberty.

 

So whether you’re at church in person this Sunday or watching via your computer, expect to have your soul encouraged to sparkle. Our Music Minister Jim Moriarty will lead some of our favorite soloists and choir members in a rousing Fourth of July selection of song and music. Singing with us this Sunday will be Tim Koch, Stephen Dickson, Daniel Madeson and, of course, Jim Moriarty.

 

So lay aside your blues, don your red, white and blue, and join us at 10 AM as we celebrate who we truly are and truly need to be. I’ll be providing some fascinating insights into the way that religion and churches factored into the American Revolution. --- Pastor Pat Kriss

 


THIRD SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST | JUNE 26, 2022

 

From Pastor Pat

E-Tidings:

It's not your freedom to choose that makes you free. It's what you choose in that freedom that makes you free.    
-- Erwin McManus, Postmodern Pastor

 

Probably if we were do a count of the most frequently encountered words in today’s news stories, we’d find freedom and choice somewhere on the top of that word count. Unfortunately, these words are also being used by politicians these days to frighten people, to claim that these are the two things people will risk by voting for “the other guy.”

 

The freedom to choose – or what religious teachers have called free will – has been a hot button topic from the Bible’s Book of Genesis. The freedom to choose was one of God’s gifts to Adam and Eve, along with the temptation of low hanging fruit on the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. There, of course, is the challenge. Freedom is a wonderful thing. But when we don’t clearly understand what our goals should be in the future, it is easy to stray off the straight path that should lead to goodness.

 

What it Means to Follow Christ

In Luke’s Gospel this Sunday, Jesus responds in what seems like a strange way to a few young men who have chosen to follow him. In one case, the young man begs Jesus to accept him, but wants to go home first and say goodbye to his family before joining up. Jesus refuses, saying, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” While this sounds harsh, we need to think about the metaphor of the man plowing the field. If the one steering the plow allows himself to turn around with constant distractions from the task at hand, how straight is that row he’s plowing going to be?

 

When we ask to follow Jesus and call ourselves “Christian,” that means choosing to truly LIVE our life like Jesus, not to merely wear that title like a badge, and diverge from the loving, compassionate path when it suits us.

 

This Sunday we will look at how we can LIVE the life, and not to be “Christian in Name Only.” --- Pastor Pat Kriss

 


SECOND SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST | JAZZ SUNDAY | JUNE 19, 2022

 

From Pastor Pat

E-Tidings:

“Satan is screaming lies over us all day long. And God whispers the truth in a still, small voice.  So often the voice we listen to most is the one we hear loudest.”  ― Steven Curtis Chapman, author

 

This Sunday features one of my favorite stories of healing anywhere in the Bible, because it’s so fitting for the disturbing times we live in. Jesus steps out onto the shore opposite Galiliee, and right into the cemetery where a tormented, howling man runs naked between the graves, as he had for years.

 

With a physician’s calmness Jesus speaks to the man, identifies the “demons” possessing him, and leads the town madman to wholeness and sanity. Meanwhile a herd of swine was infected by the displaced evil spirits. They run screaming, headlong into the sea.

 

Hearing the commotion, the townsfolk hurry to the cemetery. There they find Jesus calmly chatting with the once-possessed man, who is completely in his right mind.

 

Now, if you were one of the townspeople, what would you do next? Congratulate the man and thank Jesus? Nope. They ordered Jesus to leave their town. They were afraid of the light Jesus had brought the man. Jesus had changed the order of things.

 

The Bravery of Changing Your Mind

It’s sad but true. Human nature doesn’t change without a lot of effort. Just as it was nearly 2,000 years ago, people prefer to listen to the howls of Satan rather than the small, calm voice of truth. They would rather continue on believing lies than admit to themselves that they have been taken in by evil.

 

When God speaks to us today, in a still small voice or in silence, it’s up to us to accept truthful things and help dispel ignorance.

 

This Jazz Sunday we will talk about truth and the bravery needed to change our minds and work to bring the truth to others. We will also talk about the ways fathers play a key role in teaching us how to be truth seekers. ---- Pastor Pat Kriss

 


TRINITY SUNDAY | RECOGNITION SUNDAY | JUNE 12, 2022

 

From Pastor Pat

E-Tidings:

“Volunteers are the only human beings on the face of the earth who reflect this nation’s compassion, unselfish caring, patience, and just plain loving one another.”   --Erma Bombeck

 

I’ve just returned from the funeral service and reception for our beloved Ed Hamlin. While I was there, I noted that If anyone ever needed to learn what volunteering was all about, this would be the perfect example. This coming Sunday we honor our choir and volunteers for what they do every day of the year for all of us.

 

Volunteering Is a Gift from the Heart

The beautiful thing about volunteers is that what they do is done from the heart, from the perspective that every person has something to offer, and offer freely, for the benefit of the greater community to which they belong.

 

You see, the people who give of themselves realize that they can be a gift to others.

 

For some, the gift is of their obvious special talent, as is the case for our choir members. They realize that they, and only they have the ability to penetrate the very spirits of the people listening to them with such beauty, to ignite the flame of faith in people.

 

Sometimes the giving, as in the case of the reception for Ed Hamlin’s family, requires much planning. The volunteers have a vision for running an event and feeding the friends and family of our community at a time of loss. The best condiment for a reception menu is our own warmth and care.

 

Most of the time, for those of us who can’t actually carry a tune, we share of ourselves in some very different ways. But the gift is ALWAYS a gift of being personally present.

 

Volunteers Make an Impact

The vital but often invisible aspect of many aspects of volunteering can be large or small.

 

It’s being there before services to open the church, put out the flags, and sometimes prepare communion.

 

It’s hours knitting at night so that we have prayer shawls to give out to people living in times of crisis.

 

It’s carving enough time to serve on the Church Council or managing the finances for the church.  

 

It’s spending part of one’s weekend running the Thrift Shop, sorting, and selling and displaying the donated wares.

 

It’s running events that attract children and adults through music, so that they and their families can discover a community that believes God is still speaking. Indeed, God speaks through their actions, the gift of their time, and their wisdom.

 

Volunteering is giving of yourself, above and beyond what anyone might expect of you. As Elizabeth Andrew says, ““Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart.”

 

For each and every one of you who have given the gift of your heart, I am truly grateful. – Pastor Pat Kriss

 


PENTECOST SUNDAY | COMMUNION SUNDAY| JUNE 5, 2022

 

From Pastor Pat

A single conversation across the table with a wise man is better than ten years mere study of books. ----Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 

Right now, given the tumultuous state of our own culture, it’s pretty hard these days to find much wisdom just floating around for us to seize and absorb.

 

Sunday is Pentecost Sunday, which to the average person, may not ring a familiar bell. And yet Pentecost is famous for at least two things. First, it’s the official Birthday of the Church, with believers coming together as one. But second -- and most important for all of us starving for wisdom these days -- it’s the celebration of the Holy Spirit descending upon us and, especially that first Pentecost, literally setting us “ablaze” with hope and a sense of purpose.

 

On Sunday I will be sharing with you a few real-life contemporary stories of the times when we are sure that the Holy Spirit has taken the wheel and guided us through tumultuous times.

 

Wisdom from Irma Bombeck

But in the meantime, to relieve the sad and confusing last month we’ve all lived, I want to share some thoughts that are both wise in a practical way, and offer a little humorous look at our funny human nature. Those thoughts belong to the late Irma Bombeck, who can teach us a lot about ourselves. Her words of wisdom:

  • No one ever died from sleeping in an unmade bed.
  • If you can't make it better, you can laugh at it.
  • It seemed rather incongruous that in a society of super sophisticated communication, we often suffer from a shortage of listeners.
  • It takes a lot of courage to show your dreams to someone else.
  • Never go to a doctor whose office plants have died.
  • Success is outliving your failures.

And finally some wisdom for us all:

If I had my life to live over again, I would have waxed less and listened more. ... I would have cried and laughed less while watching television ... and more while watching real life. ... But mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute of it ... look at it and really see it ... try it on ... live it ... exhaust it ... and never give the minute back until there was nothing left of it.

 

See you on Sunday for the Pentecost Birthday Service. --- Pastor Pat Kriss

 

 


ASCENSION SUNDAY | MAY 29, 2022

 

From Pastor Pat

FROM REVEREND PAT KRISS- SAD SUDDEN NEWS AND REFLECTIONS ON THIS DARK WEEK

May 26, 2022

These are not the thoughts I had in mind early this morning when sitting down to write eTidings for you all. But then, after a week like the one we’ve just had, we should know that anything can happen at any time, without warning, and without reason.

 

Ed Hamlin Passed Away on Thursday

Just as I sat down to write, the phone rang, telling me that our beloved Ed Hamlin had passed away this morning at Ed and Jan’s home. Jan has been in a rehabilitation facility for a number of days after surgery, compounding for her the shock of his departure. Ed and Jan are part of the very foundation of First Church, both descendants of the Barnum family that was part of the original group of families who created the church and, virtually, the beginning settlement of what would become Danbury.

There have never been two more devoted people than Ed and Jan to one another and to our congregation. This morning when I visited Jan she shared with me that this coming month would mark their 60th  wedding anniversary. A loss like this leaves a hole in the heart that no amount of tears can fill – only cherished memories, eventually, can do that.

As Ed’s pastor, I can tell you -- as I told Jan -- that he epitomized the role of “disciple” for Jesus, devoting himself wholly and with humor to whatever needs the church has had. He will be missed, but most of all, he will continue to be loved.

 

News from Uvalde, Texas; Echoes of Sandy Hook

Back at the very beginning of this week with Memorial Day looming this Sunday, I had thought I would be writing about our brave, departed soldiers who had willingly marched into danger to preserve our nation, and laid down their lives in the process. These are the dear souls we celebrate with fields of poppies, or even just one in a lapel.

But that was before Tuesday and the small town of Uvalde, Texas, where a madman would tear a huge hole in the fabric of the United States by obliterating 19 elementary school children and two teachers.

For those of us who were here ten years ago when First Church became one of the Sandy Hook Massacre houses of worship that held funerals for the victims, it was a moment of PTSD. The memories of the brutal moment, its impact on the families in our own church and especially the fact that one of our own – Lauren Rousseau, cradle raised in this congregation, was sacrificed on the pyre of madness – all of this came flooding back. I found myself longing to write about the simple poppies and tribute to the fallen. But my arms still have the muscle memory of holding an urn of ashes that didn’t have to be.

 

Beyond Tears

This Sunday will be different. I find myself beyond tears.

Even in this environment of violence and hatred, I find myself beyond howling in despair. I find myself standing with a mouth gaping in pain, open and yet with no sound coming forth, looking up toward heaven for an answer. The soldiers we will honor on Sunday gave the ultimate sacrifice, yes. But they knew the risks when they signed on. Our little children, on the other hand, never signed up for this.

 

Drilling for Mayhem

Some of the students the press has talked to said that they “have been drilling for this possibility” regularly at school. Drilling for mayhem? That is something a Marine might expect to do. But elementary school children? No Innocent should be taught that being an American requires combat training. And neither should people buying groceries or going to the movies.

 

Pray for the Fallen; Pray for Ourselves

When we gather this weekend to pray, we’ll pray for the fallen. But most of all, WE need to pray for ourselves, for we have truly lost our way if we have to weigh the value of a child against a level of commerce in the gun industry.

WE are The Fallen. – Pastor Pat Kriss

 


SIXTH SUNDAY OF EASTER | JAZZ SUNDAY | MAY 22, 2022

 

From Pastor Pat

 

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” ---Jesus in John 14:27

 

Peace. That elusive thing that we talk about and offer as a blessing for others, but so infrequently acquire for ourselves.

 

In our current environment of stress, uncertainty and growing sense of scarcity, too much of our internal dialogue with ourselves is spent criticizing ourselves. Instead we should recognize our strengths or our humanity. Jesus points out that he gives us every reason NOT to live in fear, but in hope and comfort.

 

Why Self-Forgiveness is Important

This Jazz Sunday, we will spend a little time as we work to unwind our souls, turn down the internal critic, and uncover the difference that self-forgiveness can make so that we can enjoy our lives. We’ll learn how to be as kind to ourselves as we wouldn’t hesitate to be kind to others. --- Pastor Pat Kriss

 


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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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