FCC Members go to Disney World, singing with HS Choir

Over this past Spring vacation, several members of our FCC Bristol family flew down to Disney World as part of the Mount Hope High School Chorus presentation. Ellie Donovan, Avery Walsh, Nattie Grant and Kara Pisasole sang in the high school choral group while Lindsey Walsh, Erin Donovan and Grace Donovan went along for the ride.

Nattie is second from the left in the first row. See if you can pick out the other girls from the church.

Lindsey said that listening to the chorus and their beautiful voices was the highlight of the trip for her, followed by some amazing rides, perfect weather, magical nighttime shows and delicious food.  Sounds like it was a lot of fun. Just the way to start Spring!

Capital Campaign Progress and Next Steps

On Sunday, April 7, 2024, the Chair of the Capital Campaign to raise funding for the preservation of the Sanctuary, Caroline Jacobus, provided the following report and invitation to the congregation:

A few Sundays ago, on what Rev. Soukup called “Mothering Sunday” – we were all asked to think back to what each of us considered to be our “first” church, the church in which we grew from a toddler to a child, perhaps from a child to a teenager, the church where we first heard the stories about Jesus and God’s plan for His people. I would ask you to remember more – to remember what you did within those church walls and classrooms and sanctuaries. I remember making little plaster figurines at Christmas time for my own personal creche. That was 3rd grade in Sunday School. Do you remember hearing the stories in Sunday School about how angry God was because of his disappointment with the Israelites, but then His forgiving them. That was a helpful message in my childhood. I remember Youth Fellowship meetings and parties, ski trips and even plays we used to put on. Lots of fun. That’s how I met my husband. But I remember other things – the visiting pastor from Africa who stayed with our church, the annual musical that our parents wrote and put on as a fundraiser to pay for needed community services, the challenging issues we, as teenagers, were asked to consider. YOU remember other activities from YOUR early church years. Most of them took place within the walls of the church. At FCC Bristol, we gather in this building not only to hear God’s message on Sundays, but to make music at Saturday night Coffee Houses, to show films, to share our lives with each other at Fellowship Hour or potlucks, to raise funding through Craft Fairs, Bazaars, Cookie Walks. All of these experiences take place because we, the people who ARE this church, have a HOME, a place to make things happen. We have these walls – these windows. Even this ceiling with its flakey paint.

As a relative newcomer to FCC Bristol, I can honestly say that I am a bit in awe of all of you. Numbering over 100 parishioners, you not only carry out all of these activities and events each year, each month and each week. But when the need arises – when rotten sills are discovered, when the 2-foot thick stone walls slowly sink and the plaster cracks, or the massive sanctuary windows dry out with age and the glass panes start falling out, you raise your hands, roll up your sleeves, dig into your pockets, create your Action Plan, and get the job done. In the early 2000s, major structural deterioration of the sanctuary foundations and other major building challenges jump-started a $1.2M effort to keep the church from falling down. You built new foundations and a new basement, repaired the bell tower, roofs, gutters, plumbing, repaired the DeWolf Room acoustics, put in new landscaping, made upgrades to the Wardwell Room and the Sunday School wing, upgraded electrics and so much more, both at the church and the Guiteras House. In 2019, the Narthex project raised an additional $20,000 to make repairs to the tile flooring, plumbing, plaster, and painting, and to add beautiful new lighting fixtures. In 2021, we launched the Capital Campaign to preserve the windows in the sanctuary. Since then, the church – led by our Facilities Committee, has tackled repairs and replacements of the Sunday School and Guiteras roofs, new audio-video systems, electronic and plumbing upgrades, and the creation of the rental unit on the second floor of the Guiteras House which is currently bringing in monthly long-term income.

I am here this morning to report on the progress of the most recent Capital Campaign, focusing on the preservation of the Sanctuary windows. Starting in 2021, the church has raised funding totaling $147,400, primarily through pledges and grants, and contracted with New Outlook Historic Window Restoration, to cover the cost of preserving the windows on the South facade of the sanctuary. These were by far the most damaged windows. These windows are now back to their original state, including the ability to be opened! With these restorations, including tight-fitting etched glass panes, we will no longer have uninvited winter breezes blowing into the building. This should lower our heating costs in addition to looking beautiful.

Today I am not only reporting on what has been accomplished in our most recent capital effort, but the Church Council, the Sanctuary Construction Committee and the Capital Campaign Committee want to hear from you what you think the next steps should be. We would like you to freely share your views on what you believe the church’s priorities should be and what you want from the church. This moment is a particularly auspicious one for our church, because in 6 years FCC Bristol will be celebrating its 350th anniversary, just as the Town of Bristol will be celebrating its 350th anniversary – since the town’s founding in 1680 was only made possible because of the founding of FCC Bristol. We hope that our church – and our sanctuary – will be playing a major role in these municipal celebrations. We will be playing our part, as we have throughout the past 350 years, fulfilling our mission to the wider community. Toward this end, the Council, Sanctuary Construction Committee and Capital Campaign Committee are inviting everyone to two congregational gatherings. The first will be next Saturday morning, April 13, in the DeWolf Room from 10:00am to 12:30pm and the second will be Saturday morning, May 4, from 10:00am- 12:00noon. These will provide an opportunity for you to share your views on what about FCC is important to you, what new missions may be needed, and what the next steps should be. Refreshments will be provided. We’ll be sending out a MailChimp reminder. If you aren’t sure if the Church Office has your email address, would you see me after church so that I can get your best email address. Thank you.

Game Night is a Winner

Start with vats of Mac n’ Cheese, add some Potluck salads and desserts, and stir in a cartload of Games and you have the ingredients for a night of fun! On Friday, March 8, more than 30 parishioners of all ages gathered in the DeWolf Room for a super supper followed by playing board games of choice.

First, many thanks to the Johnson family who brought their culinary expertise to bear on the Mac n’ Cheese front and all the attendees who brought delicious salads and desserts. Thanks again to Chris Johnson who brought a selection of his hundreds of board games for us to choose from.

My table tackled a new one for us, “Saving Dr. Lucky.” This is a companion game to “Killing Dr. Lucky” which I enjoyed at the last Game Night. It’s a great game, though a bit of a struggle the first time around. But lots of fun — and that is the point.

Come to Star Island this Summer, as a Family or Youth!!

Our own Jennifer Johnson will be at Star Island off the coast of Portsmouth, NH for the week of July 26 – Aug 4. Join her in all of the fun, activities, great fellowship — and great food. If you can’t make it for the week of July 26, there are other dates you can explore. Financial aid and discounts are available. Ask Jennifer.

You can come as a family — perfect if you have younger children.

Or come on your own — perfect for teens.

FCC Bristol works to stop Gun Violence

On March 5, 2024, faith leaders from across all of Rhode Island's denominations gathered at the State House to make a joint statement to state legislators about the urgent and morally imperative need to pass current proposed legislation in support of the safe storage of weapons and a ban on assault weapons. FCC Bristol minister, the Rev. Dr. Nancy Hamlin Soukup, was among this impressive group.  Parishioners Sue and Tony Morettini numbered among the organizers, as volunteers in the Rhode Island Chapter of Moms Demand Action.  Parishioner State Representative Susan Donovan joined fellow legislators and other FCC Bristol congregants in the audience in support of the legislation.

Because surrounding states including Massachusetts and Connecticut have banned the sale of assault weapons, Rhode Island has become the “go to” state for the purchase of these weapons of mass killing.

Ministers spend their lives looking for the words that will move people to do the right thing. It is so impressive when one hears such a condensed outpouring of eloquence coming from 13 faith leaders. Among the powerful words from all of the ministers, the Rev. Elizabeth Lerner Maclay, senior minister at the First Unitarian Church of Providence, stated: “for those who ignore or resist these bills, your choices are undemocratic. They are irresponsible. We are not willing to wait for the mass deaths of our children, our congregants, our families, our people … to the unstoppably vicious and powerful projectiles of an AR-15 … and then pass this legislation.”

Rev. Soukup’s remarks drew upon one of her February sermons, holding up the words of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. regarding the necessity of joining love to power, recognizing the power of love, in the quest for change.

The statement signed by Rhode Island’s faith leaders, along with Everytown for Gun Safety and other advocates, calling on all Elected State Executive and Legislative Officials, and all Citizens of Rhode Island to uphold the universal truth that human life is a sacred gift of God and to pass gun-safety legislation this session, was read out. It stated, in part:

“We, the undersigned, and all those who stand with us, together and today proclaim that gun violence in our nation is a grave injustice that has caused the appalling loss of hundreds of thousands of innocent lives and inflicted insufferable pain on millions more.

“When these tragedies occur, we often send our thoughts and prayers…. It is not enough,” the statement said.

“It is, indeed, our moral obligation to take action to stop the needless horrors wrought by the many forms of gun violence…. those who die by gun suicide … [and those] murdered, wounded and scarred in spaces we have long thought were safe: places of worship, schools, shopping malls, roads, theaters, grocery stores.”

Many members of the press were present. Channel 12 televised a segment on this event during their evening news on March 5.

Seniors had a bunch of fun!

February 21 was the day of FCC Bristol’s annual Senior Luncheon, hosted by the Deacons Committee. More than 40 senior members and friends of the congregation gathered at noon to catch up, share stories, give thanks and enjoy a delicious meal provided by CP’s Catering of Bristol.

Everyone was especially happy to see our dear friend Sue, whose unexpected presence made everyone grateful. Another member whom we were so glad to see was Mike. Our members from the “Atria Aquidneck contingent” — Anne, Charlotte, Grace and Bob — were also mobbed with friends who wanted to hear their latest news and just spend some time with them. They follow us on-line each Sunday with our live-stream services, but we wish we could visit with them in person more often.

Many thanks to the Deacons for all their loving efforts to plan this fun fellowship event. We are grateful for any time we can get together — an even more so when there is yummy food provided.

Groundhog Band Celebrates 30th Birthday with Joyful Noise

February 4th was FCC Bristol’s 30th Annual Groundhog Day Celebration. Masterfully conducted by our own Maestro, H. Bennett Burnham, 20 musicians led the congregation in praising the Lord with a joyful song. Strings, woodwinds, brass, and percussion — accompanied by Director of Music Nikita Sabinski — were played by members and friends of the congregation, ranging in age from at least aged 9 to some in their 80s.

The words of Psalm 92 were proclaimed: “O LORD . . . at the works of your hands I sing for joy” and the musicians raised their instruments. And the gathered worshipers raised their voices. And the old, rousing favorites rang out through the sanctuary: ”Lord, I Want to Be a Christian,” “Glorious Things of Thee are Spoken,” “Holy, Holy, Holy,” “My Faith Looks Up to Thee,” “America the Beautiful,” “Joyful, Joyful,” culminating in a hand-clapping rendition of “O When the Saints Go Marching In.”

Worship closed with the Prayer of Dedication which challenged us all: ”Help us to see and appreciate the diversity, beauty and transformative powers of all music and the arts as they lift our spirits and send us on our way rejoicing.”

Bringing the Light to Christmas Eve

This year, the Christmas Eve worship service filled hearts with the light of the coming celebration of the birth of the Messiah. The congregation shared in the singing of the old Christmas carols.

The Rev. Dr. Nancy Soukup told the children the story of the shepherd Hannah, with her trusted sheepdog Gideon, who saw the stars in the sky that led Hannah and the other shepherds to the manger where the new Messiah had been born. Meanwhile, back in the fields, Gideon, the rest of the sheep, and Shadow the Wolf, had their own Christmas enlightenment, learning to listen to each other and better understand what each cherished. 

After sharing Communion, Cara Massey sang a solo “O Holy Night” in the darkened sanctuary as the Deacons lighted each parishioner’s candle, bringing the light of Christmas into the world. After the congregation sang “Silent Night,” Rev. Soukup blessed all with wise words, urging those present to go out and carry on the work of Christmas — which was to spread the beauty of Christmas. MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL.

Cookie Walk Brought Out the Elves

Cookies . . . Cookies . . . Everywhere COOKIES! On Saturday, December 16, Bristol’s Annual Cookie Walk attracted a huge clientele. Church members generously brought their hundreds and hundreds of home-baked cookies to support this fundraiser. 

And, sneaking in on the night before were a gathering of special Christmas Elves who baked and decorated cookies all night long. At least that is what I heard . . .