First Church News
December 2021 Newsletter

  • December News
  • Covid Update
  • December Worship
  • Advent Events
  • December Missions Collection
  • Collector's Notes
  • Community News
  • Gratitude
  • Ministry Reports
  • Dates to Remember
From the Minister's Desk
Dear Church, 

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.” (Psalm 126)

What does it look like to live as those who dream? The prophets, the psalmists, John the Baptist, Mary, Elizabeth, Joseph, Simeon, Anna, the shepherds and the Magi—they were all dreamers. They received, discovered, and responded to God’s dreams for the world. In Advent, we step into the mystery and awe of God’s dreams and pray they shape our reality.

Our 2021 Advent theme is “Those Who Dream.” This theme is for the dreamers in all of us—those who dream of a deeper connection with God and those who dream of a better world. It’s for those who dream of comfort and for those who have given up on their dreams. It’s for those whose dreams have been crushed and for those who show us that dreams take time. Join us this Advent as we dream alongside prophets and angels, Mary and the Magi. Join us as we seek and sow God’s dreams for our world and our church. 

Read more below about all the ways we’re dreaming and turning our dreams into realities. 

Peace and Advent Blessings, 
Rev Emelia
December News
Face Mask 1
COVID-19 Updates 

As cases continue, the COVID Team has been following the recommendations of the CDC and staying sensitive to the needs of our own community. Since July, the CDC’s tracking of the rate of transmission in Middlesex County has stayed between “High” (color coded red) and “Substantial” (color coded orange). The CDC recommends that masks be worn while in indoor public spaces when in these ranges. Until we see this decrease to “Moderate” (color coded yellow), we will continue to practice the following:

Masks should be worn at all times while inside the church regardless of vaccination status. 
As cold and flu season approaches, we want to remind everyone that if you have cold or flu like symptoms, please join us for worship online and stay home. We have been working hard to provide a vibrant online worship experience, and want to remind you that no matter how you worship -- in person or online -- your presence is just as valid and important!
Contact Tracing for rental groups, church groups, and worship will continue. 

Singing: The recommendation that we have been following comes from the Boston University Medical Office, and comes at the recommendation of Rev. Chad Kidd. There are two recommended ways to sing in worship to keep everyone safe: 1) People can be spaced 6-10 feet apart and sing with masks on, or 2) without spacing, it’s recommended that singing be limited with masks on. We have decided to take the second option so there is more freedom in where people want to sit. The former option may limit our attendance on Sundays, and we do not want to have to turn anyone away. While we know how much everyone misses singing, we hope that the musical offerings integrating instrumentalists, handbells, and choir allow for a full experience of our worship service, even if we are singing fewer hymns.

Fellowship Hour: We are grateful for the volunteers who provided refreshments outdoors this Fall. Between the cold weather and review of the COVID Team, we’ve decided it will be easier for all if we refrain from offering food and refreshments after worship. Instead, we’d like to invite members to mingle in the sanctuary for fellowship after worship. Additionally, each month there is the hope to offer activities after worship, including talks, discussion groups, or mission opportunities. 

Air Ventilation: We have been opening up all the doors and windows in the sanctuary throughout the Fall with the hopes that this will help ventilate our indoor space. However, as the temperature drops, we are currently researching other ways to help ventilate the air, particularly in the sanctuary during worship. 

The COVID Team continues to evaluate (and re-evaluate!) as the pandemic continues. We will continue to keep the church informed about how we aim to keep our church and visitors to our building safe. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to the COVID Team, which includes: Barbara Philbrick, Betsy Schneider, Mark Johnson, Anastasia Kidd, and Rev. Emelia Attridge.
December Sunday Worship 
All worship services are in-person and online. You can participate online by signing on to Zoom or Facebook Live using the link sent out on Sunday mornings. Please wear a mask while attending worship in-person.
November 28th at 10AM - First Sunday of Advent
“Those Who Dream … keep awake”; Advent Workshop following worship in place of fellowship hour at 11AM.

December 5th at 10 AM - Second Sunday of Advent 
“Those Who Dream … prepare the way” Communion Sunday

December 12th at 10 AM - Third Sunday of Advent
“Those Who Dream … sow joy”; Handbell Ensemble plays

December 19th at 10 AM - Fourth Sunday of Advent
“Those Who Dream … are not alone”; Pick-Up Pageant (no matter how old you are, and no rehearsal required! Arrive early to worship to get a part and your costume)

Friday, December 24 at 5:30 PM - Christmas Eve Worship with Handbell Ensemble; Caroling on the Woburn Street steps from 4:45-5:30 PM -- all are welcome to come early and carol before worship!

December 26th at 10 AM - Worship at Old South United Methodist Church (in person or online) -- they will join us the next week on January 2!
Can’t make it? Worship will be live streamed and posted online by 12 PM on Sundays!
Caroling on Christmas Eve 
Friday, December 24 at 4:45 PM 
Christmas Eve Service begins at 5:30 PM 

Our Christmas Eve worship service is moving to a new time. Join us from 4:45-5:30 for caroling on the front steps on Woburn Street. Greet folks as they arrive for Christmas worship and get a chance to sing all your favorite carols. The worship service will begin at 5:30 pm with scripture lessons, music, and candlelight.
Pick-Up Pageant
Sunday, Dec. 19 at 10 AM 

You don’t have to be theatrical, in fact, there’s no age limit and no rehearsal at all for this Christmas pageant!

Come a little early to worship to get a speaking role (or just wear a costume in the congregation!).
Intergenerational Advent Workshop
Sunday, Nov. 28 at 11 AM 

This workshop after church includes activities all throughout the church including hanging the greens, crafts, and making your own Advent Wreath. Help kick-off Advent with festivity, creativity, and fellowship. 
Advent in a Bag

Bags will be available to pick up on Sunday, November 28th during the Advent Workshop after worship. If you’d like a bag, but know you won’t be in-person on that day, email Rev. Emelia at emelia.attridge@churchofreading.org to set one aside for you to pick-up or to arrange a delivery.
Annual Mission Ministry Advent Collection

This wonderful season of Advent begins at the end of this month, on Sunday November 28. Once again, the Mission Ministry is planning for its usual four collections: gifts for the City Mission Society’s Christmas Shops; toiletries for Emmaus House, Inc.; items for the Reading Food Pantry; and coats for the Anton’s Coats for Kids & Families project. Happily, in-person worship has resumed, so we can have our usual collection boxes inside the church. The main box will sit outside the doorway to the Music Room. The box for coats will be outside the Chapel.
 
Our collection schedule is as follows: 
 
November 28 through December 5 – NEW gifts for the CMS Christmas Shop
November 28 through January 8 – gently used coats for Anton’s
December 12 –toiletries for Emmaus Inc.
December 19 – items for the Reading Food Pantry
 
Clothing is always appreciated by the City Mission Society, for children, teens,* and adults, including professional/work attire.* Also needed are hats, mittens/gloves, scarves, and underwear for all ages/sizes.*
 
Toys/Games/Books are great for children and teens, including dolls of diverse ethnicities* and books featuring people of color.* Also suggested are sports equipment, art supplies, backpacks, purses, and wallets.

All Christmas Shop items need to be in the collection box by December 5, because Shirley Holden and Carol Patterson will deliver them that day.
 
*high-need item 
 
The Mission Ministry thanks you in advance for your generosity!
Pressing Pause - Longest Night & Blue Christmas 
A space for quiet, prayer, and meditation
Third Tuesdays of the month from 7 to 7:30 PM

Our third Tuesday of the month meditation service, Pressing Pause, will fall on the longest night of the year. Traditionally, many churches observe “Blue Christmas” on this night. This is a short service for anyone who is looking for a more quiet kind of Christmas or perhaps for those who aren’t particularly jolly this year (whether it’s grief, depression, anxiety, stress, or other reasons). 

This new weeknight worship service is designed to provide a moment of calm in our busy lives. Each month may offer a different way to pause, such as sitting and listening in the silence, guided meditation, reading poetry, or walking the labyrinth. Please note that this service will not be live-streamed.
 
If you’d like to arrive early, from 6:30 to 7 PM the sanctuary will be filled with soft lighting, candles, and quiet meditation music. Arrive early for a moment of peace to meditate, light a candle, and just be.
 
Upcoming dates include:
December 21
January 18 
Book Group
Tuesday December 8th at 7:30PM

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
Tuesday January 4th at 7:30PM

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Altar Flower Donations 

Consider donating flowers for our altar any Sunday in 2022 beginning in January. You can request your Sunday, include a dedication, and even donate all online by clicking the button below.
Women ‘n Stitches (Quilting) 

Contact Joann Sanford if you are interested in making quilts for charity. All materials and instruction provided. Dates and times will be determined based on interest from the group.
January Newsletter Deadline

Send articles to office@churchofreading.org by Monday, December 20.
Collector's Notes
End of Year Tax Opportunity

Congress extended and expanded the universal charitable tax deduction that became law as part of the CARES Act. This deduction now allows individual taxpayers to deduct up to $300 and couples filing jointly and married to deduct up to $600 in...

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www.sneucc.org
New Ways to Financially Support our Church

As part of our Sustainability process, we are continuing to educate ourselves about ways to support our church with financial donations.

We have recently created an option in our United Church Funds investment account to accept stock donations. Stock donations can be attractive to donors because they are deductible at their full market value, without having to pay capital gains taxes.

If you are interested in receiving the detailed instructions regarding donating stocks, feel free to contact any member of our Finance Team: Jim Maitland, Jane McCord, Daniel Swallom, David Zeek.

Another option is to contribute directly from a traditional IRA to a qualified charity up to $100,000 without it being considered a taxable distribution, for those age 70½ or older. 

For questions about the potential tax advantages of donating appreciated securities or from your IRA, please consult your accountant or tax advisor.
Submitted by Linda Ananian, Sustainability
Online pledge payment now available!

Go to the FCCR website, churchofreading.org, and on the Welcome page, click the Donate link. When contributing to your pledge online, select “Pledge 2021-2022”. There is a service fee charged: Bank Transfer (ACH) takes out 1% and Credit Card is 2.9% of the total + 3 cents per transaction. If you would like to cover these fees, which would otherwise be paid by the church, there is a button you can click. Whether or not you cover the fees, your basic donation amount will be credited against your pledge. Contact Christine Georgilas at collector@churchofreading.org with any questions.
Looking for the Collector's Mailbox?

Dropping off a check to the Church Office? The new collector's box can be found to the right of the mailboxes onthe counter.
Passing the Offering Plate: Online!

Give a gift online either as a debit/credit transaction or bank transfer on our online giving page on the church website at: www.churchofreading.org/donate.

These gifts will count as "Plate Offerings" which means that 85% of any gift made in this method goes to the general fund of the church and 15% goes towards benevolence. Don't worry: you can still send a check if that's preferred.

You can now give to the offering plate via text message!
Send a text message to 781-355-1110, and enter the amount you'd like to give:

Example: Text “$25” or "give $25" to 781-355-1110

Community News and Gratitude
Betsy Schneider is Our Hero

Reading Rotary is pleased to announce that Betsy Schneider of ReadingCares will be honored as Hero for her service to our community. Ms. Schneider will be honored as part of Rotary District 7930's A Celebration of our Heroes on November 11 at...

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www.readingmarotary.org
Thank You 

  • to the admin team that brought us both Ezra and Samantha (and organized the office prior to)

  • to the property group that oversaw the boiler work and now coping with the recent water problem upstairs.

  • to members of the sustainability team - for their willingness to serve and their forward thinking

  • to those who stepped forward to evaluate and then make recommendation regarding our pastoral position

  • to our talented pool of singers, ringers, and instrumentalists,

  • to those who are frequently found in the building, clearing out and sorting - one area after another

  • and of course to you, the reader, carer, supporter.

~ from a grateful church member
Ministry Reports
Property Update

On 10/23 a large water leak was discovered in the 1959 addition to the building affecting the hallway by the bathrooms, and all connecting entryways. Water also leaked down into Pilgrim Hall. Fortunately the water was discovered The Property Ministry and other helpers immediately got to work to dry the affected area. Our insurance company was alerted and a remediation company, ServiceMaster was called in to help dry the affected spaces. Part of their work identified mold had formed in the drywall. This week ServiceMaster removed baseboards and drywall in the hallway (and some of the adjacent rooms), which also allowed us to be able to examine the pipes to try to identify where the water came from. The bathrooms are unusable until the drywall is replaced. Drywall has been removed in places in the kitchenette, the men’s and lady’s room, the hallways, and the Creative Arts art room. Ceiling tiles and drywall in Pilgrim Hall were also removed.

During this time it may be alarming to see the changes to our building. Reconstruction including repairing the drywall, installing new ceiling tile, and baseboards will be happening in the coming weeks and we will keep the congregation informed throughout the progress.
Deacon Meeting

Attendees - Larry Piper, Jeannie Peirce, Julie Redard, Diane Wilson, Rev. Emelia Attridge, Bev Erickson, Meg Bond, Mark Johnson, Mary Ann Higgins, Chris Kerr

  • We discussed the timing for Christmas Eve services. After much discussion we decided to have the service at 5:30pm, with outdoor singing of carols at 5pm.
  • We discussed possible bus service for folks who may not prefer to drive to church Christmas Eve.
  • Emelia gave her Minister's Report.
  • We discussed singing in general and particularly for Christmas Eve. We decided to not make changes currently.
  • Livestream Update - Emelia indicated big improvements coming for both audio and visual. In particular, we will soon not need a separate laptop for projecting on screen, and audio equipment to fix the FB vs Zoom issues.
  • Emelia reported all bulletins complete till Christmas Eve.
  • We decided to have the back/2nd deacon give the prayer of confession for Advent.
  • Advent Workshop is Nov 28; Pageant is Dec 19.
  • Deacon recruits - we discussed further deacon recruiting for next year; we will reach out to the individuals we identified.
  • Cornucopia - Bev and Mary Ann will coordinate/assemble.
  • Bev will bring new hooks for the Christmas wreaths.
  • Fellowship Hour - we decided no food/drink till Jan 2022, then re-evaluate.
  • Altar flowers - we're all set for the near future.
  • We discussed flower delivery after worship; we decided that deacons will deliver flowers upon consulting Emelia, others about who to deliver to.
  • Bev will organize candles for Christmas Eve.
Mission Ministry

Trunk or Treat – Donations Were Amazing!

We are all very pleased with the success of the recent “Trunk or Treat” event held by FCCR on Halloween. Members of the congregation provided six cars/trucks with Halloween decorations, each with a theme. Each vehicle had treats for attendees who in turn gave donations for the non-profit organization designated to each car. The collection was held from 2:00-3:00 PM in the Town Hall parking lot. The extremely generous support within that one hour, from both our church and many others in the community, was amazing. It was wonderful to see so many children participate in this opportunity to help others. Here are the final results of the collection:

Emmaus House
  • 4 large boxes of diapers, 9 packages of diapers, 7 heavy bags of toiletries, 1 bag of art supplies, a grocery bag's worth of candy, and $37 cash/checks

Habitat for Humanity
  • $190.68 cash/checks

PAWS Wakefield (Protection of Animals in Wakefield Society, Inc.) 
  • 42 cans of cat food, 12 bags of cat food, and $16 cash/checks

POWIR (Collection for family from Afghanistan)
  • $775 cash/checks, $155 in Stop & Shop gift cards, 1 Target gift card

Reading Food Pantry
  •  25 bags full of groceries and $25 cash/checks
  • White Sock Collection for the Unhoused
  • 132 pairs of socks (includes the socks later purchased with the cash donations)

Many, many thanks to all of you for your creativity, attendance, generosity, and enthusiasm! And thanks to all who helped behind the scenes at various stages of this event. All efforts certainly led to a productive and fun experience.

Cindy Crampe
The Mission and Social Action Ministry
Dates to Remember for December
Wednesday December 1st
7PM - Bells Rehearsal (Sanctuary)

Sunday December 5th
8:30AM - Choir Rehearsal (Sanctuary)
10AM - Sunday Worship (Sanctuary)
11AM - Fellowship Hour (Zoom & Sanctuary)

Monday December 6th
7PM - Coordinating Ministry

Tuesday December 7th
7:30PM - Book Group

Wednesday December 8th
2PM - Adopt A Family (Library)
6PM - Care Ministry (Zoom)
7PM - Bells Rehearsal (Sanctuary)

Sunday December 12th
8:45AM - Bells Rehearsal (Sanctuary)
10AM - Sunday Worship (Sanctuary)
11AM - Fellowship Hour (Zoom & Sanctuary)

Monday December 13th
7PM - Sustainability Building Team (Zoom)

Wednesday December 15th
2PM - Adopt A Family (Library)
7PM - Bells Rehearsal (Sanctuary)

Thursday December 16th
1PM - Circle 10 (Guild)
Sunday December 19th
8:30AM - Choir Rehearsal (Sanctuary)
10AM - Sunday Worship with Pick-up Pageant (Sanctuary)
11AM - Fellowship Hour (Zoom & Sanctuary)
11AM - Card Ministry

Monday December 20th
6:45PM - Deacons Ministry
7PM - Finance Team (Zoom)
Newsletter Deadline

Tuesday December 21st
6:30PM - Pressing Pause Music Meditation (Sanctuary)
7PM - Longest Night/Blue Christmas Meditation (Sanctuary)

Wednesday December 22nd
7PM - Bells Rehearsal (Sanctuary)

Friday December 24th
4:45PM - Caroling on the Steps on Woburn Street
5:30PM - Christmas Eve Service with the Handbell Choir (Sanctuary)

Saturday December 25th
Christmas Day

Sunday December 26th
10AM - Sunday Worship at Old South United Methodist Church (In-Person & Online)

January Newsletter Deadline

The deadline to submit articles is December 20th to the office.
First Congregational Church of Reading, UCC