News and Events

From Many Paths, Embracing our Differences, Finding Our Story Together

An Open and Affirming Congregation



Weekly News From The First Congregational Church in Essex

News of August 16, 2018

Provided weekly via e-mail to members.


  • Worship on Sunday August 19 begins at 9AM. Rev. John Van Epps will lead the Service. Thank you to Susan Christopher and Bob Johnson for hosting this week's Coffee Hour.  Mike Hennessy has volunteered to provide rides to those who live in local group homes and would like to attend  this Sunday's service.

  • Beginning Sunday September 16, we will resume the 10:30 AM start time for Worship. Rev. Ken and the Sr. Choir will lead the service.

  • The Thrift Shop is open this Saturday beginning at 10 AM.

  • Sign-up sheets are in the Narthex for various volunteer positions at Sunday Worship. Please sign-up.


Our Monthly Newsletter

September, 2018



Return to Regular Season Schedules


With the arrival of September and the end of summer comes the return of our regular order of business at FCC Essex.

The last 9:00 am summer worship service is September 9.  On September 16, we return to the two service schedule with Ivoryton Congregational Church’s service at 8:45 am, followed by ours at 10:30 am.  Rev. Ken will lead his first service since returning from sabbatical on that day. 

Committee meetings resume with the Christian Education Committee meeting on Tuesday, September 4, followed by Trustees on Thursday.

Senior Choir begins the season with rehearsal on Thursday, September 13, at 7:30 pm.  The choir will sing at worship at the 10:30 service on September 16.

This year we’ll be using some new video capture equipment to record the services.  Soon, we will be live-streaming the services to the internet so that people can watch our services from anywhere. 

It’s going to be a great year.  See you all in church!



“Renewal” is the 2018 Stewardship Campaign Theme


What shall we bring? This familiar passage was heard with fresh ears recently during a retreat for 3rd-5th grade youth. The leader was thinking together with children about this scripture and asked, “I wonder how it might feel to hear Jesus tell you that you are the light of the world?” The room went silent for a moment.

Then an 8-year-old young girl raised her hand, “Do you mean me?” She looked around the room at the other kids gathered, “Do you mean us? Do you mean we can light up the world?” “Yes,” the leader responded. The little girl sat with a stunned look on her face, and then in hushed reverence whispered, “Wow.”

The leader asked the kids again, “I wonder what it would feel like to hear

Jesus tell you that you are the light of the world?” The kids responded, “amazing,” “powerful,” “important,” “loved.” One child very seriously responded, “This is a big responsibility.” The kids all nodded in agreement. Another child spoke into the

silence, “I think we can do it y’all.”

A scripture that has become rote for many of us left them feeling empowered, called, and ready to make a difference for love in the world around them.

Can we hear that same challenge and feel that same excitement about being light for the world?

It is the faithful steward’s question: What would happen if we fully employed

the gifts we have for the bringing of light into the world? What if we imagined Jesus telling us – telling you and telling me - that as his disciples, “You are the light of the world!” It’s a big responsibility, but I think we can do it, y’all, if we put our mind to it.


The 2018 Campaign starts in September.  Stewardship Sunday is November 11.


Bell Tower Update

The bell tower work by Dahill company is complete! They have installed the vinyl siding up to the top of the arches. Two of the arched trims were replaced and the remaining two have been inspected and in good shape. When the two new arched trims are fabricated, Dahill will put them in place and finish the top of the tower. Dahill may complete the bell tower by September.

The scaffolding will remain to be used by Verizon, and waiting for them to start construction.


Christian Education News


We are anticipating a great year in CE.  Last year we learned about many of the old testament figures including Abraham, Isaac, Noah, Moses, and King David.  We will continue to learn about these heroic bible figures.  We also hope to learn more about the life of Jesus.  Everyone is familiar with his birth and death but there is much to learn about the events of his life.  We look forward to a wonderful year.


Those in our Thoughts and Prayers


Rod Wilcox; Henry Helme (23), the family of Patrick McGreevy, Nancy Miller; Chris Noonan, Anne Easton, Peter Bucchi, JoAnn Dongweck, Joanne Kottke; Muriel Thompson, Doris Ross, Rudy DeGiovanni, Mary-Lawrence Bickford, the family of Don Connor, and Paul McGrath


 Western Regional Youth Event reaches across the water to the people of Puerto Rico

By Connie Larkman

Published by the United Church of Christ, on 8/6/2018


More than 400 youth and adult leaders at the Western Regional Youth Event (WRYE) in Hawaii, living into a strong feeling of connection to another U.S. island, sent more than $1,400 to Global Ministries to help the people of Puerto Rico.

"The theme of WRYE 2018 was 'Come to the Water / E Hele Mai I Ka Wai', a theme based on Isaiah 55 which emphasized inclusion and tied into the island perspective that water is not what separates us, but rather, water is what connects us," said the event chair, the Rev. Brandon Duran, minister of Spiritual Formation at Central Union Church, Honolulu. "This theme enabled us to see our connection with the people of Puerto Rico and WRYE wanted to help."

The gathering of young people and their chaperones from eight UCC Conferences of the Western Region was hosted by the Hawai'i Conference at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa, June 25-29. According to Duran, WRYE collected a $480 offering at closing worship for a Global Ministries partner in Puerto Rico, arranged a text-to-give system with Global Ministries which collected an additional $210, and another $750 donation to the gift, given by a local church inspired by the generosity of the youth at WRYE.

AMANESER 2025 (Alliance for Sustainable Resources and Management), a network of local community leaders in Puerto Rico, will benefit from the offering. The local leaders work together to prepare their communities for increased natural disasters and irregular weather caused by climate change. They provide material resources, like solar panels, rainwater harvesting systems, water filters for families, and battery-operated communication devices to people in their areas. The gifts from WRYE will help cover some of the costs of these items.

"I would never want to see Puerto Rico suffer again from another disaster after going through so much already," said Makenna Kinsler, youth member of Central Union Church, Honolulu. "I know that having families not be worried about needing water, electricity, and a something to communicate with each other, will help them in great amounts."

"It seemed like a great fit given the current effort by in Puerto Rico by UCC Disaster Ministries," Duran said. "We were confident that through WRYE the Holy Spirit would bless those who came to the island of O'ahu. It was amazing to see how the Holy Spirit would move through WRYE to bless those on another island over 5,000 miles away."

"I learned more about the symbolism of water in the Bible and how it is similar in Hawaiian culture," said Kinsler. "Even though Hawai’i is my home, I still learned so much about my own culture and got to see others learn it as well. My biggest takeaway from WRYE was understanding God’s purpose and that Hawaiians have similar beliefs as well."

Keoki Kiwaha, a youth member ofPukaana Congregational Church,Captain Cook, Hawaii,up the week in his message saying, "On Monday we came to the water. Today we go out emboldened, impassioned — to seek justice for all."


 Hearing Voices

By Jeff Birch


With God’s help I have begun my seminary journey with the completion of my first class, and have begun the process of putting my affairs in order to support retirement and full time study in January.  Although barely started, I can tell you that on-line study is assuredly a different experience than the more traditional on-campus one.  But the differences are esoteric…

The classes consist of on-line lectures and guided discussions and lots and lots of reading and lots and lots of writing.  If anything, there is more writing, because the discussions are accomplished by posting written messages on an electronic bulletin board.

There are quizzes and exams and research papers.

Instead of the college bookstore, there is with the same options to buy new or used books.

Instead of the student union, there is a private Facebook group to interact with other students.

Instead of the college library, there is…the college library!  The card files of my youth are replaced with a searchable database, and the books are “checked out” and delivered by mail.  They are returned in the same fashion.

There will be time spent on campus.  I’ll be required to spend four weeks at the campus in Lexington during the course of my studies taking classes in person with my classmates. 

And, this being seminary, there will be times when I’ll be in the pulpit preaching to you while someone tapes the sermon, and others write comments about your reaction to it.  This is something very different from traditional seminary:  FCC Essex will at times be my classroom and you my teachers.

And there’s more.  I’ll have a week in Cleveland at the National Setting of the UCC that all seminarians attend.  I’ll have an ordained mentor from the Middlesex Association that will help me learn and grow, and that person will report my progress to the seminary.  And I’ll have you, my sisters and brothers in faith to urge me on.

My first college textbook is “An Introduction to the New Testament” by Raymond E. Brown is 878 pages long…quite an introduction!  This is going to be interesting!

Read Jeff’s blog at


Many Voices, One Mission: Forming the Faith of 21st Century Congregations

By Deborah Gline Allen

Published by the Connecticut Conference, UCC, on 8/1/2018


Have you noticed that it has become increasingly difficult to recruit volunteers to teach Sunday School and lead youth ministry programs? Have you noticed that the number of children and youth in your congregation is not the same as you had even just a few years ago? Have you noticed that your congregation is not the only one to be noticing this? It seems the Church is noticing that the pot of water sitting on the stovetop is now boiling.


Yet this metaphorical pot of water has been heating up for quite some time, and a number of factors have been contributing to this change in temperature:

•             the number of choices currently available to families on a typical Sunday morning,

•             the desire of working parents to spend focussed time with their children on the weekend,

•             the appeal of the digital culture that many churches have not assimilated,

•             the shift in belief that spirituality need not involve church attendance,

just to name a few.


Another shift that is having a substantial impact on faith formation ministries is the dwindling number of trained Christian educators. The pot of water began heating up back when congregations chose to reduce full-time Christian educator positions to part-time or volunteer. Over time this shift has caused seminaries and colleges to discontinue their Christian education courses due to the low demand, and this has left us with relatively few trained and qualified church educators.


So how can we continue to bring up our children and youth in the Christian faith when it’s beginning to feel as if there are few left to support this ministry? How do we find the faith formation volunteers we need when the members of the most qualified generation of teachers and mentors are too tired or “too retired”? How do we run effective Christian education programs when there aren’t enough participants to maintain them?


While our goals for forming the faith of children and youth must remain the same, I believe that we need to shift our objectives away from Sunday School and youth group models toward methods and strategies that rely on the resources currently available in our congregations. These resources lie within the relationships already occurring naturally in the life of our Christian communities.


I encourage you to look at what you do successfully and joyfully as a congregation. Then ask yourselves how can you make this an activity or ministry that can be enjoyed by all ages engaging in it together. How can it be modified to provide educational and/or spiritual elements in ways that people of all ages may take away something meaningful, each in their own way? And how can intentional and nurturing relationships be fostered between generations so that children and youth can be formed in their faith with these positive role models?


We need to stop believing that teaching the Bible in an educational setting will bring today’s children and youth to a life of faith. (This fallacy is affirmed with every teen we confirm who does not return to church.) The children and youth who are welcomed into the entire life of a congregation will learn from every adult present as they engage together in the practices of our Christian faith (prayer, worship, scripture, mission, stewardship, etc.) And the relationships that are formed through these Christian practices will form faith within their hearts in ways that classroom learning can not.


Step out in faith. Take the boiling pot off of the stove. yourselves from methods of education and formation that are no longer producing the results you desire. Be bold and try something new! (You can always try something else if it fails.) And contact your conference faith formation/education/youth staff members for support, encouragement, and resources. Your children’s children’s children will thank you.


Neighbors in Need Special Mission Offering


Neighbors in Need (NIN) is a special mission offering of the United Church of Christ that supports ministries of justice and compassion throughout the United States. One-third of NIN funds support the Council for American Indian Ministry (CAIM). Two-thirds of this offering is used by the UCC's Justice and Witness Ministries (JWM) to support a variety of justice initiatives, advocacy efforts, and direct service projects through grants. Neighbors in Need grants are awarded to UCC churches and organizations doing justice work in their communities. These grants fund projects whose work ranges from direct service to community organizing and advocacy to address systemic injustice. This year, special consideration will be given to projects focusing on serving our immigrant neighbors and communities.

We will gather this offering at FCC Essex on October 7, 2018


Need a Ride to church?


Need a ride to church services  or events?

Please call the church office to let Karen  know that you would like a ride to church.  Karen will contact the Ride Committee and someone will call you to set up your transportation. 

Can you provide a ride to others?

Please call the church office and volunteer!

Other News From the United Church of Christ

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First Congregational Church in Essex

United Church of Christ

6 Methodist Hill

Essex, Connecticut 06426

phone:  860-767-8097

fax:        860-767-7855