Open and Affirming!

Open and Affirming!

All are welcome!

First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ
40 South Fullerton Avenue
Montclair, New Jersey 07042
Phone: 973-744-4856

Friday, April 30, 2010

Reminder! RSVP to FCC organ fundraiser by May 3!

Dear Friends,

May is almost upon us and time is running out to send in your RSVP to a wonderful afternoon of music, wine and dessert to raise funds to repair our historic and beloved church organ!  Mr. Gregg Monsees, a dear friend of the church, is sponsoring this event at the beautiful Van Vleck House and Gardens and it promises to be a delightful event.

Attached is the invitation.  If you are able to attend and make a donation, please send the check made out to First Congregational Church to Gregg's address as listed on the invitation.  If you are unable to attend but would like to support the fundraiser, you contributions are greatly appreciated.  All giving levels are welcome. Please forward your response by Monday, May 3.

Many thanks for all your support of FCC!


[Image courtesy of Van Vleck House and Gardens]

New Member classes continue!

This Sunday (May 2) immediately after worship, we will gather for our third of three New Member Classes. All who are interested in learning more about the United Church of Christ and our congregation will gather in the library. This Sunday we will discuss the history of our own congregation and learn what membership at FCC is all about.  All are welcome and child care is available upon request.  Contact the Church or Rev. Ann for details.

Bible Study!

Bible Study this Sunday, May 2:  the class will begin the discussion of the book The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, led by seminarian Sarah Pomerantz.   Whether you have read the book or not, all are welcome to join in this thought provoking discussion on the nature of sin, evil and the human condition. The study begins at 9:30am in the library.  Child care is provided.

This Sunday at First Congregational Church!

 "A new heaven and a new earth" -- that is what is promised in our scripture text this Sunday.  These mystical and provocative words are found in the Book of Revelation, one of the most fantastic but misunderstood books of the bible.  Beyond the remarkable imagery of cosmic battles, this passage offers us a glimpse of the renewal and reconciliation that God intends for us. Rev. Ann Ralosky will preach on Rev. 21:1-6 in a sermon entitled "At Home With God."

As it is the first Sunday of the month we will be celebrating the sacrament of Holy Communion and all are welcome to come to the table and join in the feast that God has set before us!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Costly Grace

Excerpt from Acts 26: 1-8

"But get up and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you to serve and testify to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you."

Reflection by Ron Buford
Several black FBI cars and trucks pulled up the street of my gentrifying neighborhood with its mix of half-million dollar and old homes of little value. An army of men with bulletproof vests emerged, walking briskly toward Fred and Jane's (not their real names.)

Fred, a talkative, hard-working white man of short stature, scruffy beard and missing teeth, talks tough, but is kind. He says he was in prison and alludes to having killed people. Jane, his wife, once an unhappy woman, used to sit in her front window most of the time . . . until Fred got home from prison. They now work hard together, cutting grass, shoveling snow, and other odd jobs to make ends meet. Jane, the apple of Fred's eye, now smiles all the time.

But the authorities are still always after Fred. In this case, the FBI is looking for a relative on the run. They want to send a message -- costly to Fred and Jane who are powerless to stop them. It's always something.

I wish Fred had a community like the church in Acts. Remember Paul's past life. He once persecuted, terrorized and killed Christians in the very community he is now called to serve. Imagine it was your mother, father, son or daughter that Paul tortured, widowed or orphaned in God's name, who now claims to be a changed man.

Could you forgive him?

The church in Acts did.

They believed in a God who forgives, no matter how heinous the crime, without respect of persons. As a result, they changed the world. Do you believe in that God?

Does someone in your life need your forgiveness? Is that person you? God says, "Accept my love. Stand and testify. Give it away." Do it today. Make it known.


Gracious God, please give me the power I lack to forgive someone -- even if it's me -- who has hurt me deeply. I turn my heart over to you. I receive your help in moving beyond hurt to positive action that transforms relationships and the world around me. I want to help make the world around me -- even my own -- a bit more like you: forgiving, restoring, and reconciling. Amen.
null About the Author
Ron Buford is Director of Development for the Northern California Nevada Conference of the United Church of Christ.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

"Put me in, Coach!"

Excerpt from Isaiah 6:1-8

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!"

Reflection by Lillian Daniel
If you watch little kids playing basketball, you see a lot of different attitudes from the kids on the bench. Some of them look relieved to be there, glad for a bit of rest. Others seem anxious, wondering when they might get put in and if they are ready. And then there are the enthusiasts, the ones who seem unable to sit still on the bench, ready to spring to their toes, eagerly making eye contact until they just can't stand it, and finally they blurt out, "Put me in, coach!" They are dying to get in the game.

Isaiah didn't want to get in the game at first, but when he finally got to the point when he was ready, he didn't say something passive to God, like "Ok, I'll go." He said something much stronger: "Send me." Saying, "Ok, I'l go," is reactive. Saying "Send me," is active. It's like saying, "Put me in, Coach!"

A lot of people will feel called to something but the most they can muster is an "Ok, I'll go, Lord." Then they sit back passively and wait for the pieces to fall into place, and when they don't, they say, "Oh well."

But to really follow your calling, you need energy and action. Once you say, "Here I am. Send me," you're on the record. You can't look back and say you didn't know what you were doing. You are like the kid on the bench who says, "Put me in, Coach." You may miss a few baskets, but at least you've got your heart in the game.

God, give me an active and passionate approach to whatever you want me do in life. Here I am. Send me. Amen.
About the Author
Lillian Daniel is the senior minister of the First Congregational Church, UCC, Glen Ellyn, Illinois. Her new book, This Odd and Wondrous Calling: the Public and Private Lives of Two Ministers, co-authored with Martin B. Copenhaver, has just been published.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Language of God by United Church of Christ

The Language of God from United Church of Christ on Vimeo.

5 Intentional Minutes with God

Excerpt from Psalm 42

"As the deer longs for the flowing streams, so my soul longs for you my God."

Reflection by Ron Buford

A Facebook intermediary connected me with Beverly, a dear college friend and symbol of so much of who I am -- someone I'd not seen for more than 20 years. As Beverly and I reconnected by phone, it was like old times.

Suddenly, I realized that underneath the daily drone of busyness, I've always missed her . . . missed us . . . and so had she.

After hanging up the phone, I thought of the following text and wept . . .

"As the deer longs for the flowing streams, so my soul longs for you my God."

Not only do our souls long for God when we neglect intentional time with God, but God also longs for us. Hear the poet in the Song of Songs 5:8,

Swear to me, daughters of Jerusalem!
If you find my love
You must say that
I am in the fever of love.

When we take time to be alone with God, in prayer, in meditation, not just taking a hike in nature but setting aside time for a hike in nature with God, something different happens. Not only does God's heart dance for joy at your and my intentional journey that dares reach beyond itself toward the ineffable God, but so does our own heart.

Spend five intentional minutes with God today: in prayer, Bible study, a nature walk or run, lovemaking, yoga, the rosary, golf -- whatever . . . . Intentionally set aside 5 minutes with God today. See what happens. It's not what you do, but that you do it intentionally that matters. (Here's a bonus: Do the same for the one or someone you love today -- take five intentional minutes!) Write me by commenting on our Daily Devotional Facebook fan page. Let me know what happened. I'm expecting miracles! Are you?


O God, perhaps without realizing it, I've been longing for intentional time alone with you. Funny, I never thought about how much you might have actually missed me, too. I don't want to wait until a crisis brings us together. Help me set aside five intentional minutes . . . today. I love you. Amen.
null About the Author
Ron Buford is Director of Development for the Northern California Nevada Conference of the United Church of Christ.

Friday, April 16, 2010

This Sunday at First Congregational Church!

April 18, 2010, 10:30 a.m.

As we continue our journey through the Easter season we witness the risen Christ in many ways.  For Peter and his friends, still reeling from the events that led to Jesus' death, the resurrection appearance brought grace, courage and hope.  This Sunday we will gather on the beach with the apostles as they encounter the risen Christ -- and Peter realizes that God's grace conquers fear.  Rev. Ann Ralosky will preach on John 21:1-19 in a sermon entitled "Around a Charcoal Fire."

We will also be celebrating the sacrament of baptism as we welcome Brendan into the faith and family of God.  Join us as we rejoice in this wonderful event!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Benefit Concert May 23

Benefit concert for The New Jersey Roundup and Broadway House at 3:00 p.m. in the FCC Sanctuary.

Dale Livingston will be presenting a concert to benefit two
organizations, the New Jersey Roundup and Broadway
House. The concert will be held in the FCC sanctuary at
3:00 p.m. on Sunday, May 23rd and will be featuring baritones
Dale Livingston and Richard Byrne, soprano Julie
Morgan and pianist Stephen Wu. It will run approximately
1½ hours and will include both classical and semi-popular
numbers from opera, Broadway and American semipopular
composers. All proceeds from the concert will be
divided between the New Jersey Roundup and Broadway

Tickets in advance are $15 and will be $20 at the door.
Additional donations are gratefully accepted. All are welcome
to attend even if someone is not able to afford the
ticket price. For more information please email or call, thank you! or 973-744-4856

Women's Peace Circle

Come join the women of FCC for food and fellowship at
the next Women’s Peace Circle meeting on April 16 at
8:00 p.m. at the home of Maureen Connolly (26 Euclid
Place, Montclair, NJ). We will be discussing The Blue
Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between Rich and Poor in an
Interconnected World
. The author, Jacqueline Novogratz,
is founder and CEO of Acumen Fund, a nonprofit
venture capital firm that invests in sustainable enterprises
helping to make people in impoverished parts
of the world more self-sufficient.

Bring a snack to share… Bring a friend. All are welcome!

For more information, details, etc., please email or call, thanks! or 973-744-4856

Book Discussion Group Meets May 2

What is the nature of evil? How do we define demons? This spring the book discussion group will delve into the question of spiritual warfare with this CS Lewis classic. The book’s success as a piercing insight into humanity’s and bent toward evil is due to Lewis’ lucid capacity to make his readers squirm in self recognition. When first published in 1942, it brought immediate fame to this is little known Oxford don, including the cover of Time magazine. The Screwtape Letters is still one of Lewis’ most influential works, along with such other classics as The Chronicles of Narnia (including The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe), The Great Divorce and Mere Christianity.

Lewis dedicated it to his close friend JRR Tolkien who had expressed to Lewis delving too deeply into the craft of evil would have person consequences. Despite the funny and provocative nature of the work, Lewis admits that this was the most difficult book he ever wrote.

Book/ Bible study is held each Sunday morning at 9:30 AM in the library.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Scripture - Loneliness

Being Available 24/6

Being Available 24/6

Excerpt from Isaiah 58:13-14

"If you refrain from trampling the sabbath, from pursuing your own interests on my holy day… then you shall take delight in the Lord."

Reflection by Martin B. Copenhaver

Recently I sat next to a man at the movies who spent the entire time working with his Blackberry hand-held computer and then sending text messages on his cell phone. Occasionally, he would look up at the big screen, but then he would bow his head to the tiny screens in his lap. Obviously, he had taken to heart the slogan from an ad campaign: "Now anyplace can be your workplace."

At first I was a bit annoyed, but then I came to have something like sympathy for the man because his behavior had the look and feel of addiction. More and more it seems as if we are addicted to busyness. It starts with alluring promises ("you will save time," "you will have more freedom"). Eventually, however, there is no pleasure in it. We feel trapped. Even though we may begin to sense, "This is not good for me," we no longer see a way out. We are stuck in patterns we didn't exactly choose and don't know how to change.

A friend of mine, speaking of the time she was a pastor, says she felt that she had to make herself available at any hour, every day of the year. Laughing at herself, she said, "There used to be a time when only God was that important."

It is precisely the reminder that "only God is that important" that is the basis of the practice of keeping Sabbath. When we stop working for a time we can see that the world does manage very well without us. The sun still shines. The tides still ebb and flow. We are fed. We are not indispensable, but we are valued nonetheless. It is good to have that reminder on occasion. In fact, it is essential.


God, I confess to you the sin of perpetual busyness. Please slow me down, make me pause, help me to receive the gift of peaceful rest. Amen.
null About the Author
Martin B. Copenhaver is Senior Pastor, Wellesley Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, Wellesley, Massachusetts. His new book, This Odd and Wondrous Calling: the Public and Private Lives of Two Ministers, co-authored with Lillian Daniel, has just been published.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Karaoke Night!

3rd Annual
FCC/First Montclair House
Karaoke Night!
Saturday, April 10 at 5pm
at First Montclair House,
56 Walnut St. Montclair
Join the residents of First Montclair House for night of fun, food, and really old songs!
Bring a dish to share for potluck!
Questions?  Contact Angel Soto at  <>

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The Responsible Leader

The Responsible Leader

Excerpt from Judges 6:36-40

"Gideon said to God, 'If this is right, if you are using me to save Israel as you've said, then look: I'm placing a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. If dew is on the fleece only, but the floor is dry, then I know that you will use me to save Israel, as you said.'"

Reflection by Ron Buford

Colin Powell once said he was proud of being called a "reluctant warrior." Powell is typical among warriors who actually risked their own lives to save others and who can also never erase the brain-searing memories of horrific death and human carnage--of friends and enemies, comrades and combatants, all believing they were "right." Such warriors are rarely eager to go to war--stereotypes notwithstanding. So it is with Gideon: if he is going to battle, he wants to be absolutely certain his cause is just, that it is God's will.

Each day we face battles. Some days we take on battles that satisfy our egos but that leave behind human and spiritual carnage. Is it worth it? Look at what it costs you to be right? Is it at the center of God's Divine purpose for you, your family, those for whom you are responsible? Slow down; take time to be mindful today.


Gracious God, thank you for the gift of Divine choice. May my choices and actions today maximize your Divine presence, power, and creativity in the world, in my home, for good in the world. Amen.
null About the Author
Ron Buford is Director of Development for the Northern California Nevada Conference of the United Church of Christ.

Friday, April 9, 2010

New Member classes will begin Sunday, April 18th

Interested in learning more about our congregation and what it means to be a member?  Contact Rev. Ann for details.

This Sunday at First Congregational Church! April 10, 2010, 10:30am

Alleluia! Christ is risen!   We are now in the season of Eastertide and we continue to celebrate the wonders of the risen Christ in our midst.  How do we respond to this wonderful event?  How do our lives embody this Divine “Yes”?   These are the questions we will explore this Sunday as we watch the apostles begin to spread the good news in a world sometimes unprepared to hear it.  Rev. Ann Ralosky will preach a sermon based on Acts 5:27-31 entitled "The E-Word."

Monday, April 5, 2010

Less Boasting

Less Boasting

Excerpt from 1 Corinthians 5:6b - 8

"Your boasting is not a good thing. Do you not know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough?"

Reflection by Donna Schaper
Less is usually more. Subtraction is a good spiritual strategy. A little often means a lot. And yet, many of us spend a lot of time on our resumes or on social networking, We present or we represent. We may be warned against boasting but that doesn't mean we don't boast! Karl Jung says we sneak our biography into just about everything we say.

Many of us want to be recognized more even than we want to be known. We want to be seen for who we are. We want people to know what we've come through. This hunger for recognition is human being 101. If you don't believe me, feel the warmth you know after a good conversation with a friend.

Paul is advocating recognition and being known. He wants the good bread to rise. Perhaps less boasting and more yeasting would achieve the results of recognition we so very much want. And deserve.

O God, understand how much we want to be seen and known. And then lead us to a good batch of dough and let us sprinkle our yeast upon it. Amen.
null About the Author
Donna Schaper is Senior Minister of Judson Memorial Church, New York, New York.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

This Sunday at First Congregational Church!

Alleluia! Christ is Risen! This Sunday we will celebrate the joy of the Resurrection, the enduring act of transformation of death into life. We will witness along with Mary Magdalene the wonder of the empty tomb, the risen Christ, and the promise of God to make all things new. Rev. Ann Ralosky will preach on the Gospel of John 20:1-18 in a sermon entitled “Death – Interrupted.” Join us for music, wonder and a celebration of life!

Reader: Missy Pentecost

Poetry reading: Jeanne LoCicero

Usher: Phil Daly, Karen Marden, Jackie & Mark Jackson

Coffee Hour Host: FCC Members and Friends

Special Announcements

It’s a pot-luck coffee hour (also known as “loaves and fishes”)! Bring what ever breakfast/brunch treat you have and we’ll have a feast!

There will be no bible study this Sunday.