Brothers and sisters in Christ,
I have been praying for the people of Japan, and those in Libya, and for all the conflict that seems to be tearing apart the fabric of life. In my prayers I beseech Almighty God to intercede and bring comfort, healing, and peace to this broken world. When my fixation with the problems of the world begin to overshadow the joys and blessings of life I enter into a struggle with God. As the psalmists lamented, I cry out asking if God has forgotten us or perhaps thrown in the towel and given up on us. I wrestle like Jacob with the very God who blesses me as I humbly submit myself to God's love. In my struggle I am drawn to Elijah's search for God.
A great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. (1 Kings 19:11-12)
God is not in the wind of hurricanes, the destruction of earthquakes, or the
fire of artillery. No, God is in the still small voice that comforts and strengthens
us to persevere through the challenges, the setbacks, the losses, and the heartaches
of life. Jesus did not promise a life without hardships, but Jesus did promise
that he would never leave us and forsake us.
To hear the still small voice of God I need to stop and listen. I need to stop with my frantic recounting of the world's ills, as if God is unaware. I need to stop the worry that increases my anxiety to the point where I am unable to hear any voice. And I need to stop my need for control and trust in God. Hear my big sigh….. let go and let God. And then, only then am I able to hear God's still small voice. A voice that loves me and all of creation, a voice that consoles me and comforts me, a voice that invites and encourages me to be a blessing for the world. When I get out of God's way and let God lead, I find myself on a path paved with hope, joy, love, and peace. The road leads through the troubles of the world, facing the struggles, grief and strife, but it leads to the promise of God's kingdom. Let us seek the kingdom of peace and love by listening for God's still small voice.
Grace and blessings,
John 10:1-5:At Home Bible Study on Shepherding
Thoughts for Reflection
Read the Gospel of John 10:1-21 for the full discussion on how we can understand Jesus as our shepherd. Read, pray and reflect on how you are able to trust and follow Jesus. How is that you are a shepherd for others?
Come and be uplifted as we gather in the Chapel to worship God, hear Scripture, and celebrate Communion. The service will run from 7 to 7:30 am, followed by a light breakfast (or at least a cup of coffee to go!) More Info.
6-7 PM on Tuesday evenings
10:30 AM on Thursdays
7 pm, 3rd Wednesdays, October-June
7-8:30 PM, 4th Wednesdays
Confirmation Class in process..
The church office is open Monday through Friday from 9 am to 1 PM.
What is a Christian life anyway?
As we dive into our Christian Life series of discussions, this seems like a natural question. In the simplest terms a Christian life is one where we follow the call and teachings of Jesus. How we live matters, and central to how we live are our relationships. Please join us on Tuesday, April 12 at 7 PM for a discussion on Starting the Conversation with Teens about Substance Abuse, led by Sheila Vitali; and on Wednesday May 18 at 7:00 PM for a discussion on Relationships and Marriage, led by Lynne Hildreth. Rev. Don Remick, our Area minister, joined us for a discussion on parenting. Phyllis Jennings wrote up the main points of that conversation for us.
"Spare the rod and spoil the child". We have all head that old proverb but how does that apply to our day and age? Surely we are not to beat our children. Rev. Don Remick shared that the Hebrew people would have had an understanding of how a shepherd uses his rod and staff to guide and protect the sheep never to hit them. The good shepherd provides a place of safety and security. He does not let sheep bother each other. Rev. Remick referred to the 23rd psalm for more guidance as to what good parents should try to do for their children.
Other helpful hits that Rev. Remick provided for parents and all of us who are concerned about children, is that every behavior has a message. It is our task to figure out what that might be saying. If we adults feel annoyed, maybe the child needs more attention. If we "catch them being good" and provide positive attention, maybe the irritating behavior will lessen. If we feel challenged and angry, maybe the child is looking for control. We can provide limited choices, develop a routine, be firm but kind and stick to the limits without fighting or giving in. If we feel hurt or disappointed by the child's behavior, maybe they are testing us to be sure of their safety and we need to acknowledge their feelings, show we care, provide small steps for mastery. Don provided a couple more articles with ideas which will be posted on a hallway bulletin board. (compiled by Phyllis Jennings)
11:45 AM - Lunch
12:30 PM - Service
Wednesday, March 30 - First Parish Unitarian Universalist
Wednesday, April 6 - St. Theresa's Catholic
Wednesday, April 13 - New Colony Baptist
Wednesday Evening Soup Supper and Communion Service
at 6:30 PM
Come, join us for a simple supper of soup and bread in the parlor,
then we will gather in the Chapel for a simple Communion Service
Notes from the Diaconate
The Diaconate is accepting orders for flowers for shut-ins. Please see the order form below. If you would like to deliver to a shut-in please let Deacons Donna Ricarte or Ruth Boutilier know.
On Palm Sunday, members of Outreach and the Diaconate will be delivering Palm Sunday meals, palms, and Easter flowers to the shut-ins of the congregation. This one of the ways we reach out and show our love to shut-in members.
In March we held our Women's Retreat: Cultivating Joy. It was refreshing
and opened new avenues for prayer. We were blessed with the leadership of
Rev. Ellie Richarson and the Catherine Miller. We look forward to more opportunities
for women's ministries in the future.
Please join us for Wednesday Evening Worship during Lent. We will gather at 6:30 for a simple supper, followed by worship at 7:00 PM
- Tamara Potter
TULIPS AND LILIES
Lilies _________________ - $14.00
Farolito (Light pink)Lily _____ - $14.00
Flowers will be available for pick-up on Saturday, April 16 or Sunday, April 17.
Last day for ordering is April 10.* Need info? Call Donna Ricarte - 663-4043 or Ruth Boutilier - 667-9654.
Make checks payable to FCC of Billerica
How do we live our faith? This series helps us grow in faith and discipleship.
Rev. Katherine Adams and guests will lead discussions that explore what it means to be a disciple of Christ in our daily living. Developing and strengthening relationships will be central to our discussions. Parents are especially encouraged to attend. Childcare will be provided.
Discussions will be on the 3rd Wednesday of the month, October through
June, at 7:00 PM:
Apr 20 Caring for the Caregiver
May 18 Christian values, morals & ethics
Jun 15 Finances and Faith
Why do some congregations thrive, others languish? This was an article written by Anthony Robinson, Minister in the United Church of Christ and author of several books on church vitality. I read this article recently for my course on Transforming Church Culture. The article was in review of a book titled Practicing Congregations by Diana Butler Bass. The book spoke of mainline Protestant churches that should have been in decline and how Bass in the course of her research found many vital congregations.
The approach Bass took in her research was different from many researchers. It was not to ask, "Why are some churches failing?" But rather to ask, "Why do some succeed?" How are some churches finding new life in a time of religious change? And, "What can those of us seeking a meaningful Christianity learn from them?"
The article goes on to explain what we might learn from these vital congregations, take spirituality seriously. By attending to personal spiritual quests with more traditional forms of religious life in community churches can be renewed.
Last fall the United Church of Christ began a program to bring back or emphasize spiritual practices as a means of transforming congregations. It is believed that by returning or emphasizing these practices congregations rediscover and reinterpret a forgotten part of their heritage. These practices can include hospitality, keeping the Sabbath, testimony, discernment, forgiveness and healing.
As many of you know we already practice several of these in our church. We practice with diligence hospitality, we have heard testimony from some on occasion and many of us strive to keep the Sabbath. I wonder, are we a vital congregation?
But, of course, as Christians it is much easier to call oneself a Christian than to live as one. Jesus took forty days in the desert to self reflect and fend off the devil. He did this in preparation of his ministry and continued to set time aside to pray and reflect during his life. Let us be good stewards of our relationships this Lenten journey, taking time to reflect, pray, and honor our loved ones.
Levi Sunday is April 10. We will be serving pizza for lunch for all
- Kevin Button
|Date||General Fd||Outreach FD||Deacons FD|
Our average weekly General Fund expenses are $4370. Thank you for your continued prayers of support and financial stewardship to support the work of the Church.
2011 Outreach Members
Your 2011 Outreach Committee members are: Jackie Gullage, Terry & Steve Lewis, Don Lovegrove, Nita Owin, Bob & Linda Miner (co-chairs)
There are now over 100,000 "charitable" organizations and we receive
hundreds of requests for assistance annually.
First, you should know that we don't "marry" charities, we "date" them. A charity must make its case anew each year and show it remains among the most efficient and effective in its category.
It is said that if you give a sip of water to 100 people dying of thirst, you will run out of water and they'll actually all die anyway. That is why we focus our contributions and usually choose about 20 projects to support. We do our homework.
If money is to actually go to those in need, we need to know how much it
costs a charity to raise money. So a group like Save the Children that spends
$10 to raise $100 is much more attractive to us than Feed the Children which
spends $55 to raise $100. Then International Rescue Committee that spends
90% of its funds to help people is more attractive to us than World Emergency
Relief that spends 26% of its funds for actual relief. We are concerned with
the amount of money spent on salaries so we note that the compensation package
for the director of the American Cancer Society was $2.4 million in 2010 while
the head of the Susan G. Komen organization received less than 25% as much.
We check reserve funds and are unlikely to support the Hole in the Wall (Paul Newman's organization). They do fine and important work but have enough money in reserve to carry on their programs for the next 5 years if they receive no money during that time. They don't need our money, we'll buy his salsa. Many organizations have built in sources of revenue. For example, Shriners Hospital receives dues from all Shriners; many have federal/state/town government support; the list of criteria goes on. You can be assured that funds provided to your Outreach Committee will usually go to the neediest and most efficient organizations and will be used to address current pressing needs. Careful, extensive research increases the likelihood that your money will be used wisely. If we can be of assistance to any of you regarding your personal benevolence, please fell free to approach us for information.
Welcoming the Stranger
For several years we've maintained a relationship with the Refugee Immigration Ministry. This interfaith group of 5 churches meets about 8 times a year and works to settle individuals and families (mostly refugees) who have been approved by the U.S. government for resettlement in our area. Many of us have been involved and we've provided, time, material aid, friendship, and financial assistance. Because the members of our committee are stretched thin, we're looking for someone who would represent us at the meetings and be the liaison for us. We'd provide assistance and accompany the individual or couple to the first meetings to make the transition go smoothly. It's an important ministry and one we don't want to drop. See Bob Miner or call him at 978-667-2961 to learn more.
Recent Thank You's From:
Americares for a $200 contribution. This Danbury CT. headquarter based organization receives donated surplus medical supplies from pharmaceutical companies and is often first on the ground with disaster relief.
The Outreach Committee has been receiving an average of about $150/wk. from the congregation. In our continuing effort to combat hunger and poverty, we search diligently for the most effective, targeted ways to maximize the effectiveness of our contributions. On March 13, we voted a contribution of $150 to Feeding America that supports food banks across the U.S. We were able to take advantage of corporate matches for donations given during a specific time period and maximize our contribution 30 times. So our gift of $150 actually provided $4,500 worth of food. F.C.C.B. continues to do a lot with a little.
Did You Know
Americans spent 12 billion dollars on pet food in 2010 and 16 billion on veterinarian bills.
Car crashes are the leading cause of death among teenagers and texting while
driving increases that likelihood by a factor of 23 times.
- Bob Miner
Lent began on Sunday, March 13th and will continue to Sunday, April 17th. This year, the Sunday school children are donating hygiene supplies to the Lowell Homeless Shelter for their Lenten project. Information was given to the children in Sunday school. Anyone from the Congregation who is interested in donating items is welcome. Donation boxes are available in the High school/PF room, at the front of the church and by the mailboxes. Following this article is a list of products being donated to the shelter. The supplies will be delivered to the Lowell Homeless Shelter the week of April 17th.
SAVE THE DATES
Children's Sunday has been changed to June 6th and Confirmation Sunday will be on June 12th. The last day of Sunday school class will be on May 22nd. There will be no Sunday school on May 29th in observation of Memorial Day. Look for further information regarding these events in the bulletin and upcoming Lanterns.
This year's Confirmation class will include 13 confirmands.
Once again, we will be asking the congregation to help us coordinate a collation
for the confirmands and their families by donating food. This is a large
group and we will be in need of a vast amount of assistance from our talented
cooks!! Please keep this date in mind and look for further information in
the upcoming Lanterns.
March 20 RE meeting 11:30a Lenten Project 2011
The High School Sunday School class is asking for
help from all Sunday School children and church parishioners. We
will be donating personal articles to homeless people at the Lowell
Homeless Shelter this year.
Thank you for all your help and love in making
this a successful project.
SR HIGH SUNDAY SCHOOL CLASS
Parents and current PF members are invited to a meeting to be held on Sunday, April 3 after church at 11:30 AM. Any 5th graders interested in joining P.F. are invited to come to this meeting!
|Fri/Sat Apr 8 & 9||6am Fri-9am Sat||Lock in/Sleepover|
|Sun Apr 17||11:30-1:30||Meeting|
|Sat Apr 23||6:00 PM||Rehearsal for Flowering of the Cross|
|Sun Apr 24||Arrive 6:00 PM for 7:00 am service||Flowering of the Cross|
|Sun May 1||11:30 am-1:30 PM||PF|
Sun May 8
Arrive 6 am for 7-9 am breakfast
- Debbie MacEachern
Meetings: Third Thursdays except January
Next Meeting:The next meeting
of Aim-Hi will be Thursday, April 21 at noon. We always welcome new
members to join us for lunch. Aim-Hi has been sending our love, prayers,
and Thank You packages to those serving overseas.
We encourage the congregation to use the addresses below and send a short note or greeting card to these young people while they are away from home. It means so much to them and their families.
If anyone in the congregation knows of other
young people who are serving our country overseas, please provide us with
their address. The information can be given to June Orne at 603-883-6721
(firstname.lastname@example.org) or Donna
Ricarte at 978-663-4043 (email@example.com)
or call the church office at 978-773-8433.
Lent-final music rehearsal set for March 25th at 7 PM
Easter- rehearsals April 1st April 7th April 15th at 7 PM
Final Easter rehearsal set for April 20th at 7 PM
The choir will be practicing and getting ready to sing on Easter - Consider joining the choir even just for the Easter Holiday… it is fun and it will help fill your spirit…all you have to do is like to sing.
Easter Sunday Music
- Cynthia Tomlin
If you are homebound or feel that you would like phone calls or visits by any of our shepherds,please contact one of our members.
Our shepherds who are available are: Betty & Dennis Blanchette, Ruth Boutilier, Andrew Jennings, Pat Hefler, Glenda Lovegrove, Wanda Lordan, & Audrey Schwartz.
Audrey Schwartz 978 663-3239 or Glenda Lovegrove 978 667-3596
To "nurture local church vitality to be alive in Christ
and the covenant connections between us" is the aim of the Massachusetts
UCC conference. As part of this our church is the host for the spring meeting
of the Andover Association of the United Church of Christ.
On April 3 from 2-5 PM Clergy and delegates from our association churches will gather here to "cultivate joy". You are all invited to attend, also. There will be inspiring worship, a program on cultivating joy , and chances to meet others in our nearby churches.
We will also need people who are willing to greet, to help with parking, set up and clean up, and refreshments. Rev. Katherine is on the planning group. See her for more detail or to volunteer.
-Phyllis Jennings, MACUCC delegate
us for our
Please bring an appetizer or dessert to share and your own beverage and your favorite game if desired
Sign up in Dale Hall entrance or call
Maryanne Durand 978-667-4239/Lynne Hildreth 978-663-4727
Let us know if you would like a ride.
The above information was taken from our most recent Residential Recycling and Trash Collection Guide.
BOTTLED WATER BOTTLES
"After millions of barrels of oil are used to produce and ship plastic water bottles, nearly 90 % of them land in the garbage instead of the recycle bin. These bottles will sit in landfills for centuries, their chemicals seeping into the environment."
This info. comes from - www.foodand waterwatch.org/water.
BINS & BASKETS
Your Go Green Task Force wishes to thank you the Trustees and Kevin Button for providing all of the new blue recycle baskets & containers. They certainly add a very nice touch instead of our previous cardboard boxes. We hope all clean paper will now be recycled.
Linda Miner on behalf of you "Go Green Task Force
March 6 - Given in loving memory of John F. Rankin, Jr, from
Jane and Paul Johansen and Heater and Joe Cross.
On the Lectern, flowers are given with thanks to the church for its continuous support for the Girl Scouts of Billerica.
April 3 - Open
April 10 - Given in loving memory of my husband, Lester, and members of the Lacey and Chandler families by Pat Hefler.
April 17- Palm Sunday - Deacons provide an arrangement of palms.
April 24 - Easter - Given in loving memory of Leonard J. and
J. Leonard Brown from Barbara Brown.
On the piano flowers are given in loving memory of my grandmother, Lillian Lewis, by Diana Saunders.
On the lectern, flowers are given to Mom with love, Di, Bud, Nicole, Laura and Jessica.
If you would like to donate flowers on any Sunday, please contact Jeannette
No new entries in March
We are looking for a few good men and women who might like to help with one-time or occasional tasks. We know that some people are unable to commit to a committee, but that they understand the need for many hands. See if you have some time to offer for one or another of the tasks below.
Please help. Alas, there is no monetary reward, but you will have our heartfelt appreciation and, of course, many stars in your crown.
Thank you to Audrey Schwartz and Barbara Reinecker for their help in the delivery of the March issue of The Lantern!
The Lantern is on the web each month in its entirety and Joe Bowker has also volunteered to email the newsletter to anyone who requests it. To reduce our mailing costs, if you would like to read it on line at http://www.firstcongo.org or have it emailed to you, please let me know.
As of September you could also read the Lantern on Facebook. For information
on accessing it there, please go to
First Congregational Facebook Page.
If you are willing to read or receive your Lantern on line, would you please send Alison or Lynne Hildreth an e-mail or you could mark your okay on the pewpads.
The newsletter written and mailed the week of April 24 will include
the news for the entire month of April.