South Facade Windows Fully Preserved, Thanks to Many

The sanctuary windows on the south facade of the church have all been restored and installed. Check them out. They look like new!

The wood framing, which was so dry and had virtually no paint, was reinvigorated through New Outlooks’ amazing preservation process. The glass, which took quite a while to access, now fits perfectly. Each pane was custom cut to ensure the most airtight fit. We are so pleased with the “new” old windows.

We are grateful for all of the support that has been given by church members, by the Champlin Foundation, the Felicia Fund, and the Fidelity Charitable-Flanagan Fund. This support has funded the major portion of the window preservation effort. After the New Year, the Capital Campaign Committee will be planning out and starting the funding effort to complete the preservation of the sanctuary’s North and West facade windows.

94th Harvest Moon Bazaar is Huge Success!

So many people! So many crafts! So much food! So much fun! FCC Bristol’s 94th Harvest Moon Bazaar was busy all day on November 18 with people dropping in to search out holiday food and gifts.

The biggest Silent Auction ever. Vendors galore with a great diversity of products. Hats, mittens, scarves and shawls hand-knitted by the church’s Prayer Shawl Ministry. Attic Treasures donated by church members. A Bake Sale offering pies, cakes, cookies and other yummy goodies. Plants and holiday arrangements. Tea and Tarts for those with small appetites. Lobster rolls, chili, sandwiches and desserts for those with larger appetites. And last but not least, Santa and our new minister, the Rev. Dr. Nancy Hamlin Soukup were there with our trusty photographer Ron and his sidekick Bob.

See you all again at the Cookie Walk in December!

Whelks Band Performs for FCC Congregation

During morning worship, the Whelks band accompanied the First Congregational Church choir in Keith Christopher’s “Poor Wayfaring Stranger.” For the Postlude, they sang Gillian Welch’s gentle and haunting “Dear Someone.”

The Whelks are an acoustic trio hailing from Warren and Tiverton, RI, consisting of Peri DeLorenzo on fiddle, Mark Dobbyn on guitar, and Erin Lobb Mason on upright bass. They play a mix of swing, country, old time, bluegrass, Irish, folk, and their own original songs, all dressed up in glorious three part harmony.

The Whelks will be performing on November 26 at the SEMAP Event at Buzzard’s Bay Brewing, 12-4pm. You can learn more about this talented group at https://www.whelkswhelkswhelks.com/

FCC Celebrates with New Minister

November 5 marked our first worship service with the Rev. Dr. Nancy H. Soukup, our new minister. The service, including her sermon, “Traveling through the Land of Unlikeness,” can be seen HERE.

It being All Souls Sunday, we joyfully celebrated the lives of those saints and souls in our congregation and among our families who had died during the past year. As it was also the Sunday associated with Veterans Day, we celebrated the many veterans who are associated with the church family. Finally, as we do every first Sunday of each month, we celebrated Communion, to which all are invited. This Sunday, it was celebrated by intinction. As the congregation lined up to receive the bread and wine, members who have known Rev. Soukup for the many years she has been a close friend of the church took the opportunity to give her a hug and a word of welcome.

Many Hands Join in Service to the Community

October 22, 2023 was one of FCC Bristol’s community service Sundays. Several times each year, members of the congregation of all ages join together to carry out projects to help Bristol.

Often, children and adults will comb the streets looking for litter, bagging it for pickup. Other times, they will go to the Franklin Court facility to help out with landscaping projects or organize their in-house library.

Whatever the task, it is fun when we do it together.

We are Grateful for the Rev. Jack Jones

The family of parishioners at FCC Bristol want to thank the Rev. Jack Jones for his kind service filling in as our pastor during most of the period from the departure of the Rev. Deborah Tate Breault and the arrival of our new pastor, the Rev. Dr. Nancy H. Soukup.

Rev. Jones, at left, came to us in September at a time of transition for our congregation. He graciously agreed to stay with us throughout the weeks of September and October, until our new pastor, Rev. Soukup, arrived. A pastor with a special ministry for the homeless, Rev. Jones brought a gentleness and sensitivity to our families and especially the children. Each Sunday, he would come down from the pulpit and speak from the floor of the sanctuary to deliver his sermon. Speaking from the heart, without notes, he would draw in his listeners with stories from his past, insights from his long pastoral experience, messages of love and hope.

Rev. Jones is embarking on a new, settled pastorate in Worcester, MA. We thank him and wish him the best.

Rev. Dr. Nancy H. Soukup Called as Next FCC Bristol Pastor

A ministerial call agreement has been signed by Rev. Dr. Nancy H. Soukup to be the next minister at the First Congregational Church in Bristol, RI.  Rev. Soukup will begin her ministry for the congregation on November 1, 2023 and will serve as a Designated Term Minister with a term length of one to four years.  

Rev. Soukup was ordained in the United Church of Christ in November 2009 and is currently completing her call as the Interim Minister at the Amicable Congregational Church in Tiverton, RI.  Previously she served as University Multifaith Chaplain and Director of the Office of Spiritual Life at Roger Williams University and the SNEUCC Conference Vice President for Justice & Witness.  She has also served in pastoral and academic positions at both Brown University and Harvard University.  She availed herself of the graduate level academic opportunities at the institutions by completing coursework in church history, international relations, human rights, and counseling.   Rev. Soukup began her vocational journey by graduating from the University of Delaware and then attending the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, MA where she earned a Masters in Divinity.  Ultimately, she earned a Certificate of Study from Andover Newton Theological School in the Doctor of Ministry program and then a Doctor of Ministry from the Hartford International University for Religion and Peace.

The parishioners of First Congregational Church in Bristol feel blessed to have Rev. Dr. Soukup as their new pastor.

FCC Bristol 2023 Women’s Retreat

A dozen women came together from September 22-24 at Irons Homestead, the Rhode Island UCC Camp and Retreat Center. Irons Homestead is described as “A sacred space that enables lives to change through encounters with God, nature and others.” The group experience was led by Valerie Tutson, a graduate of Brown University with a self-designed major, Storytelling As a Communication’s Art. A life-long member of the UCC (United Church of Christ) Valerie works ecumenically, sharing her gifts and helping others to tell the stories of their faith.

One of the first experiences we shared was learning a song from Malawi, sung in Chechewa. Valerie taught it to us, just as it had been taught to her by Masankho Banda. Translated, it said: “I see you with my eyes. I see you with my heart. I see you, fellow human, in front of me, and greet you with respect.” Throughout the retreat, we sang this song, repeatedly recognizing the innate value of every person as a beloved child of God, a valued member of God’s family.

At another gathering, we sang songs from our childhood, some learned in church school or camp. Valerie inspired us to think about how we see ourselves in relation to the name our parents had given us and how we perceive the journey each of us has taken in her life — the points of decision-making that we have navigated, the many women and men who have played a part in shaping us, the many roles we have played during our lives.

After supper on Saturday evening, we carried out a ritual called the Despacho Ceremony that is part of the spiritual traditions of the Andes mountains that Valerie had learned from her teachers in Peru. We were to make a Prayer Bundle, a collective offering that provides a way to give thanks or to release what needs letting go, a way to call in or ask for what we and the world need.

First, Valerie laid the fire. Then, starting with a clean white cloth, she laid out large sheets of white tissue paper, and in the center a large clam shell was placed. A symbol for the world? Small gummy creatures — Adam and Eve? — were placed in the shell. Special leaf bundles were placed at the four compass points. Then our hands went around and around, layering the offerings — bay leaves, special beans, rice grains, herbs, other grains, spices — around and around, each person adding her contribution to the layer, each ingredient symbolizing a different element of life, the hopes, the regrets, the ancestors, the children born, the children yet to be born. Pink flowers, white flowers — around and around.

Then the “good” stuff, the “fun” stuff we were offering up — the ginger snaps, the gummy bears, the chocolate drops — the sparkly ribbon, the brightly colored beads, the pink and blue cotton candy.

The bundle was prayed over as all hands and hearts embraced it. As the final act of this ritual, Valerie wrapped the bundle up tight, lit the fire and gently placed the bundle on the burning logs. Within seconds, the bundle felt the heat and opened up to the flames, releasing all of the prayers up into the heavens, crackling and snapping as we watched the Despacho bundle burn up, rise and disappear.

Looking back at the Women’s Retreat, Valerie said that her intention for our time together was to create and hold space for us to connect more deeply with our selves, with one another and with God and the presence of the Holy Spirit…through sharing our stories, singing and sacred ritual…and have it be a joy/full and nourishing experience, so that we could return home feeling good and energized and inspired in our day to day lives.

One participant looked back at her Retreat experience and felt “Grateful to have spent this past weekend making peace with all the women I once was. Grateful for the women who were by my side.”

Showering Love on Baby Harrington

We love the children in our church and everyone at FCC Bristol is so happy to be welcoming Lindsey and Doug Harrington’s new baby. She will join her brother Raymond who has been delighting us all for more than two years.

Following worship this past Sunday, we dedicated our Fellowship Hour to celebrating the forthcoming arrival of a new baby. After enjoying some cake and ice cream, we gathered around Lindsey, the expectant mom, to watch her opening good wishes and presents. Quite a few had been handmade by our talented parishioners. Raymond was a big help. And he was excited about the dinosaur truck he received as the designated Big Brother.

You Are Welcome Here

Thanks to the hardworking Deacons, FCC Bristol has both a colorful and cheerful rainbow array of flowering flowerpots, and also a sign that proclaims our church family’s core Open and Affirming belief: “No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.” An open-armed message of acceptance that cannot be said too often.