On the Fourth Sunday in Advent, the children and other members of the church gave us all the precious gift of their reenactment of the Christmas Story. Directed by Susan Brosnihan and using a script created by Rhonda Waters, baby Raymond made his acting debut as Jesus in the manger, surrounded by his parents Lindsey and Doug, the choir of Angels, talented Sheep, caring Shepherds, wicked King Herod, and wise Magi. Pastor Deborah and Bob Evans narrated the timeless tale, interspersed with Christmas Carols that brought joy to everyone’s heart. The full service, including this glorious Christmas Story, can be seen here.
The Board of Deacons at First Congregational Church in Bristol was filled with joy to be able to once again sponsor an in-person Alternative Christmas Giving Event on Sunday December 5th. Representatives were present from eight organizations: The Tomorrow Fund, Heifer International, The East Bay Animal Shelter, The Matthew Patton Foundation, The East Bay Food Pantry, S.H.A.R.E., The Community String Project and R.E.S.T. Those attending the event generously donated more than $6500 as “alternate Christmas gifts” to their family and friends as a way to further the work of these organizations.
Anyone who was unable to attend this event and who wishes to make a contribution, may contact the church office at 253-7288 for more information.
What a wonderful gift was given by the children of the Sunday School during last Sunday’s Stewardship worship service. Based upon an original production written by Susan Brosnihan using this year’s UCC Stewardship theme “Rooted in Love,” all of the children presented the dramatized story of “Seed and the Stewards of the Garden.”
Incorporating the foundational setting of the Garden of Eden, sad little Seed asks for God’s help to grow. The Stewards of the Garden — Earth, Rain and Sun — are called out to answer Seed’s prayer. But the results are mixed. One of the Earth stewards seems just too busy to help out little Seed. Fortunately another of the Earth stewards is happy to give Seed all the earth needed to give Seed a healthy blanket of soil to grow in.
Now what was needed was some water. But when one of the Rain stewards came by, she had a different use for all her water. She didn’t have much water to spare, so she only gave Seed a splattering of water. Not looking too good for little Seed. Fortunately another Rain steward came by and happily gave Seed all of the pure rainwater that Seed needed. Even when all of Rain’s water was used up, Rain wasn’t worried: “There’s more where that came from. God always finds a way!”
Finally it was time for the Sun to rise, bringing the light and warmth that Seed needed to grow to the fullest potential, a beautiful tree providing shade, shelter and food for all. Firmly rooted in LOVE.
Many thanks to all of the Sunday School children for all of the hard work you put in to bring us this powerful message. And many thanks to Susan Brosnihan and the Sunday School teachers who supported the children in their loving mission.
On Sunday, November 7th, First Congregational Church celebrated All Saints Day, through a service of remembrance for eight members of the church who had passed away since January 2019. Rev. Deborah Breault lit a candle as each name was read, and this was followed by the ringing of a chime. Those members of our church family included:
December 31, 1923 – January 24, 2019
Deborah Pratt Wiacek
October 27, 1942 – August 24, 2019
Muriel C. Spence
November 10, 1924 – February 17, 2019
Gladys L. Usher
December 16, 1929 – September 27, 2019
May 23, 1926 – August 18, 2020
August 2, 2931 – October 7, 2020
Lester Warren Cory
July 25, 1939 – April 24, 2020
Edward “Ned” Wilbur
September 23, 1937 – January 25, 2021
Parishioners were then invited to light other candles in the sanctuary in memory of their own loved ones who have passed.
This special service also included a tribute to military Veterans, in anticipation of Veterans Day on November 11th. Deacons read a moving poem which honored veterans, and members of the congregation recognized all veterans who were present.
After worship last Sunday, October 31, the sun was shining, the children were dancing around the front lawn in their Halloween costumes, and everyone was enjoying the opportunity to visit and catch up, as well as the cider and donuts. The bright autumn foliage was swaying in the breeze and everyone was happy to just be together.
The start of the fall Stewardship campaign, with its focus this year on the phrase “Rooted in Love,” has brought everyone’s attention to the strong ties each of us develops through our loving church relationships. Whether through weekly worship, through Sunday School, through service on the Council, Board of Deacons, one of the church committees, Ecumenical Meals, the Coffee House, the Prayer Shawl Ministry, the Dolphin Ministry, or other ministries at FCC, every time we come together to do God’s work in the world, we are nurtured through the deepening faith that results when we are rooted in love.
On Sunday morning, October 17th, two dozen FCC members, from first graders to seniors (and even one cute puppy dog), put on their orange service vests, said a prayer of thanks, and marched off with plastic garbage bags and gloves — ready to clean up the town.
“Church Has Left the Building” has been a project of the congregation for many years. In years past, we have done both indoor and outdoor projects. We have gone into local organizations to carry out requested projects, such as visiting Franklin Court to clean up their gardens or organize their library. This year, to keep everyone safe from COVID, we focused on outdoor projects. Under bright, sunny skies, with light breezes blowing the autumn foliage, teams of parishioners went to Independence Park, Rockwell Park, the Town Common and High Street to pick up every scrap of litter and every tossed beverage container we could find. After an hour, we gathered back at the church to tell the stories of our journeys and enjoy some refreshments. One group told of a kind householder who came out to offer freshly fried apple fritters. Yum!
Showing the love of Christ to our neighbors and our neighborhood is our mission, every day of the year. “The Church Has Left the Building” is one way that we show that love. We look forward to it every year.
At a Potluck Supper on Friday, October 1, members of the congregation embarked on a journey to explore the past history of the First Congregational Church in Bristol, as a way to better focus our efforts on the present and plan for the future. FCC Bristol has played a central role in our community from its gathering in 1680. Back in the 17th c., a town could not be formed until there was a “settled pastor.” That condition was met in 1680 when Bristol’s first church was gathered. FCC was Bristol’s only church from 1680-1720. In a broad overview of the role that FCC has played in the history of our community, right up to the coming of our new pastor, Deborah Tate Breault, participants were able to better appreciate the core values of the church and its relationship to the greater community. This was followed by a small group deep dive into the strengths and “growing edges” of our most recent 5 pastorates. It also began a dialogue about how organizations deal with challenges from within and without, and what are the forward-looking intentions of the church family. We are planning a greater exploration of these central issues at future “Telling Our Stories” events. This initiative originated with Pastor Deborah and was sponsored by the Church Council.
FCC Bristol launched a Capital Campaign on July 1 to raise substantial funding toward the restoration of the Gothic windows and the repair and painting of the plaster in the sanctuary. We invite every member and visitor to our church to make a pledge toward the restoration of our sanctuary — the beating heart of our church family. While our progress to date has been inspiring, we still have a long way to go.
In addition to the pledge commitments made by some members of the congregation and funding drawn from Endowment Fund earnings, a $10,000 grant award from the Felicia Fund, a family fund in Providence, RI, was received. Additional grants are being submitted to Rhode Island granting entities.
Pledges of any size are welcome and all pledges can be paid in over a 3 year period. If you have not yet made your pledge, we urge you to consider doing so. Our commitment to restoring our sanctuary will provide a more welcoming message to visitors and members alike and help keep our sanctuary at the center of our spiritual growth and fellowship. If you have any questions, feel free to contact Caroline Jacobus, Chair of Stewardship.
On Sunday, September 12, FCC held its intergenerational worship service welcoming all its children, families, and members to celebrate the kick-off of our FCC Sunday School Year! Balloons were flying over every pew, rainbow-colored frogs (more on that, below) were peaking out from the balcony, the pulpit, and every other hiding place as our students, teachers and members of the Christian Education Committee were commissioned to carry out the church school ministry with love, respect and a commitment to nurture our children and to seek Christ’s way of peace and justice for all. The Children’s Sermon focused on F.R.O.G. — “Fully rely on God” — as a way of meeting life’s challenges and encouraged the children to find as many of the frogs hiding in the sanctuary as they could. The service also included a commemoration of 9/11 and a sermon on the building blocks of the Christian Community, including among others: Love, Prayer, Courage, Jesus, and Awe. The service was followed by an an All-Church Picnic on the front lawn under sunny skies.
Since the first days of the evacuation of at-risk Afghan families and Americans in August to Naval Air Station Sigonella in Sicily, Italy, the Board of Deacons at FCC Bristol and members of the congregation have responded to the humanitarian needs of these refugees with donations of more than $1,600 toward the provision of personal and sanitary items. In doing so, they have sought to fulfill one of the important missions of our Christian faith and therefore of our church community to reach out and assist those whose lives have been upended by war, terrorism, and displacement. Deacons wish to thank all those who have contributed to this mission, which has now been closed.
Throughout these weeks, we have been working with volunteers to Operation Allies Refuge to help the thousands of refugees arriving at the Naval base in Sicily. We were fortunate to be able to work through the daughter of one of our Deacons, whose husband is stationed at NAS Sigonella, serving as a Navy Seabee. Members of military families in conjunction with the U.S.O. were volunteering their time, money, and energy to collect and purchase items needed by the evacuees.
Yours in Christ,
F.C.C.’s Board of Deacons