First Church
NEWS 2018
Pastor's Ponderings
Holy Week
April Worship & Monthly Calendar
FCCR April Calendar
April 8th: Congregational Conversation
Bucket Brigade
UCC Dues
From Your Seminarian
Upcoming Events
A Relevant Reflection
In our Prayers
Thank you FCCR
Altar Flowers
Pastor's Ponderings
Dear FCCR Members and Friends,
This year, Easter falls on the first day of April. Yes, that’s right – Easter and April Fools’ Day are one and the same this year! As you might imagine, every pastor in Christendom is looking for the best way to make a joke about this. I know I am!!
But the truth is; the joke is on us. Because the story of the first Easter and the truth of every Easter are far more mind-bending and reality-warping than any April Fools gag or joke a mere person could ever invent. The truth of Easter is the Good News that death is not The End. (Or should I say, death does not have the last laugh.)
In Jesus, God demonstrated both the promise of resurrection and the hope of new life. This is not to deny mortality, rather it is to say that as Christians, we believe there is something more than the life of our bodies. Our bodies most assuredly reach a limit beyond which they are unable to sustain life. But our faith teaches us that our God-given Spirits or souls live eternally with God.
When Jesus rose from the dead and appeared again to his followers, this message was delivered in dramatic fashion. The story of life and and death is not complete without birth and new life, growth and decline, for life is a cycle and not a small line with a terminus at each end.
And the cycle of life is driven by a power greater than all our imagining - the power of love. Love was the reason God created the worlds to begin with, and love is the reason God continues to create ways to be and stay in relationship with each and every person, including you and me. Like life, the cycle of love means that even in the face of betrayal, denial and utter failure, there is forgiveness, new hope and eternal life.
This is the Good News we celebrate on Easter and that we seek to practice day by day and week by week at First Congregational Church of Reading, United Church of Christ. It is my prayer that you understand that this Good News is for you and that you will join us in celebrating on April 1 st and practicing year-round.
With joy,
Rev. Lisa
Soup Supper on Maundy Thursday, March 29th. We will begin at 6:00 in the Chapel, followed by Worship with Communion and the Chancel Choir at 7:15. This is one of the most meaningful services in our faith tradition, moving from the Last Supper in the Upper Room to the Garden and onward through Jesus’ arrest and trial. We move with the story as we begin at table in the Chapel and move to the Sanctuary as the service continues. Come for supper, the service or both!
Our Good Friday observance this year will be in partnership with Old South Methodist Church, as FCCR worships in a joint service at 7:00 PM on March 30 th , at Old South.
Our Easter celebration at FCCR includes Worship with Communion. Rev Lisa will preach, and music will be provided by our Orchestra, Brass, and Chancel Choir. There will be a Special Easter message for children, and activity sheets for their use in the pews. The Nursery will be open for use by parents and children as needed, but will not be staffed. Following the service, there will be an Easter Egg Hunt for children.
February Worship Schedule
April Worship at FCCR
April 1– Easter Sunday Worship Celebration with Communion
Preacher: Rev Lisa; Music: FCCR Orchestra, Brass, Chancel Choir & Jill
Nursery Open (unstaffed)
Activities for Children in Worship Seats (NO Learning Program)
Coffee & Fellowship in the Chapel
Easter Egg Hunt for Children (5 th grade and younger)
April 8 – Worship on the First Sunday of Easter
Preaching: Rev. Lisa; Music: Chancel Choir & Jill
Nursery Care
Learning Program for Children (starts in worship then moves to Rm 13)
After Church: Brunch and Congregational Conversation in the Chapel
April 15 – Worship on the Second Sunday of Easter (screen-free)
Preaching: Rev. Lisa; Music: Chancel Choir & Jill
Nursery Care
NO Learning Program for Children (School vacation week)
Coffee & Fellowship in the Chapel
April 22 – Worship on Earth Sunday with Pledge Celebration
Preaching: Rev. Lisa
Music: Handbell Ensemble & Jill
Nursery Care & Activities in the Sanctuary for Children
Coffee & Fellowship in the Chapel
April 29 – Worship on the Fourth Sunday of Easter with One Great Hour of Sharing
Preaching: Rev. Lisa; Music: Chancel Choir & Jill
Nursery Care & Learning Program for Children (Heifer prep!! Children start in worship then move to Rm 13)
Coffee & Fellowship in the Chapel
May 6– Worship on Heifer & Children’s Sunday with Communion
An Activity Sunday with Heifer Reflections
Music: Chancel Choir & Jill
Nursery Care                                        
Coffee & Fellowship in the Chapel
FCCR April  Calendar
April 8 – Congregational Conversation with Pancake Brunch
All FCCR Members and Friends are invited and encouraged to enjoy a fabulous Pancake Brunch in Chapel Hall following worship on Sunday, April 8th. As we eat, we will also explore what we are discerning about our mission & vision and resulting programming and staffing. How does FCCR: Feeding Spirit, Mind and Body inspire you as you consider FCCR's future? How might this vision inform our plan for program and staffing in 2019 and beyond? Please join us for this important phase of our continuing conversation!

May 4 th – Informational Meeting with Supper (in preparation for Annual Meeting)

May 20 th – Annual Meeting following Worship
The “ Bucket Brigade ” is back. April 1 st will be the kick-off for our project to assemble 5-gallon Emergency Clean-up Buckets for Church World Service. This is one way you can help provide assistance to families and communities that have been affected by hurricanes, floods and other natural disasters. When families in Texas, Florida and the Caribbean were able to return to their homes this past year, 1800 clean-up buckets were immediately distributed by Church World Service volunteers to help them begin the task of trying to get back on their feet.
Our goal is to fill 7 buckets this year. The collection time has been shortened by a week so please note the deadline is April 25 th .
Please note there is a change this year in regard to the dishwashing gloves. To assemble each bucket we will need:
·        Four scouring pads
·        Seven sponges, including one large
·        One scrub brush
·        Eighteen reusable, lightweight dry cleaning towels (e.g. Handi wipes)
·        One 50 oz. or 25 oz. bottle(s) liquid laundry detergent
·        One 16-28 oz. bottle of liquid disinfectant dish soap
·        One 12-16 oz. bottle household cleaner to be mixed with water (no spray bottles)
·        One package of 48 – 50 clothespins
·        Clothesline, two 50 ft. or one 100 ft.
·        Five dust masks
·        Two pairs of heavy-duty, waterproof dishwashing gloves (latex- free, non – surgical)
·        One pair of work gloves (cotton with leather palm or all leather)
·        One 6 – 9 oz. bottle of non-aerosol insect repellent
All cleaning items must be new and all liquid items must be capped/securely tightened.
If you don’t wish to purchase any of the above items, money contributions are needed and appreciated for items that have not been donated. We also need to send $3 per bucket for shipping charges
A collection box will be located outside the choir room.
You will be able to sign up for any of these items in three different ways.
1.     There will be a sheet outside the church office.
2.     You can either call or email Shirley Holden (781-581-7758): )
3.     You can sign up on line by going to:
By now, if you are a member of the church (i.e. joined or were confirmed here), you have received the letter requesting payment of your portion of the UCC’s dues. The amount is $25 – same as last year. The mailing went to more than 100 households, for a total of 205 members. As of Sunday, March 18 th, we had responses from 66 members.  Thank you to those who have already delivered or mailed your payment.  If you have not yet done so, please help us out by returning your share. Be sure to note “dues” in the check memo, or specify otherwise. No need for a standalone check – just be certain the memo field is clear. Thank you very much. (And if you have any questions about the members in your family, contact Kristin in the office!)
From your Seminarian Renee Manning
What a very busy, but terrific month, March was. I would like to start by thanking everyone who participated in basic Bible 101. This course was divided into three parts. First; the structure of the bible. Second; the great stories and backstories of the bible, and third; the holiness or divinity of the bible. I had a great time exploring all three themes. I enjoyed the rich conversations we had.

Our “reach out” to the community of Reading with Transgender 101 was very successful. Fifty-seven people attended. As excited as I was for the turn-out from the community, I was equally pleased and humbled by the support of those from FCCR who attended. Looking at familiar faces in the audience gave me strength and joy. THANK-YOU!

I want to thank Rev. Lisa for our series during Lent. Feeding Spirit, Body & Mind was an amazing theme. It made this year’s season of Lent very special for me and I am sure many of you too.
I now look forward to Easter season. There is so much to pause and reflect on as we think of Jesus’ triumphant ride into Jerusalem, and within such a short time, his death and resurrection. I praise Jesus for Easter morning!

Finally, I have been asked and accepted an extension to my student ministry. I will continue my education with you until June 10 th . There is still more for me to learn and do before I leave you. That being said, I am planning a family event. Although these dates are not firm, I would like to build model rockets with families after church and include a picnic and launch event. Be on the look-out for more information on this fun activity and firm dates.

Please keep me in prayer as I enter my finals. If all goes as planned, after 5 ½ years, I should graduate from Andover Newton on Saturday, May 19 th .
Thank you for all you love, support and prayers.
Rummage Sale To Benefit the Reading Food Pantry -
April 6 & 7   (Friday 5-9pm Saturday 9-12) put on by Cindy Branga & friends, in Pilgrim Hall at FCCR (parking available in town hall lot on Salem St) For more information please call Cindy at  781-632-0670 . Any donations can be left after church in the area designated in Pilgrim Hall. Thank you!
One Great Hour of Sharing – Sunday April 29
Through One Great Hour of Sharing, lives are literally changed daily. Your support provides clean water, food, medicines, shelter, healthcare, education and so much more.  In 2017, the OGHS offering was over $2 million. An additional $3 million was given to the United Church of Christ Disaster Ministries in support of specific disaster relief efforts.
OGHS is the special mission offering of the United Church of Christ that carries God’s message of love and hope to people in crisis. The UCC works with international partners to provide sources of clean water, food, education and health care, small business micro-credit, advocacy and resettlement for refugees and displaced persons, and emergency relief and rehabilitation. OGHS also supports domestic and international ministries for disaster preparedness and response. 
On average, of every dollar given to One Great Hour of Sharing, 95 cents is used directly for mission programming; and 5 cents for interpretation materials. The associated administrative costs are paid by gifts to Our Church's Wider Mission National Basic Support.
FCCR will observe OGHS Sunday on April 29 th . Donations are welcomed anytime between April 15 th & May 10 th . Please note “OGHS” on your check, made out to FCCR. Thank you!

Heifer Marketplace
T his year our marketplace is open to groups of all ages, sorts and sizes!! Does your family love Heifer? You could pick an animal and ‘do a booth’! What about your book group, Circle, committee or team?? Join us on May 6 th ! Sign up with Rev. Lisa or Jenn Souza, by April 22 nd .
Women ‘n’ Stitches will start meeting again in the conference room on Thursdays at 7:00pm starting in late April. Join us if you are interested in creating small quilts for infants in the hospital and lap quilts for the elderly in nursing homes. Even if you have never created a quilt we can teach you and can always use extra hands. AND, we laugh and enjoy the time together as we create. Email Lisa Engelbrecht if you are interested or have questions:  
Metropolitan Boston Association of the UCC
Spring Meeting - Ministry with Our Neighbors
Saturday April 28, 2018     8:30am - 11:30am
Congregational Church of Needham
To do ministry with our neighbors we need to actually meet our neighbors. This program section of the Spring Meeting will provide specific skills for lay groups of your congregation to get into your community, and to listen for what are their strengths and needs.
Rev. Joan Murray, founder of Chaplains on the Way- a ministry with those experiencing homelessness in the city of Waltham, and Katie Omberg, Director of Community Engagement for City Mission Boston, will lead us in some key practices for engaging and accompanying our neighbors. With building relationships as a foundation, you will leave with some relational practices to take back to your churches to deepen ministry in your community.
If you are interested in attending and representing FCCR, please speak to Rev. Lisa.
A Relevant Reflection by Anthony Robinson
(a reading from the Lenten Service on March 18 th )

"When it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, 'This is a deserted place, and the hour is now very late; send them away so that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy something to eat.' But he answered them, 'You give them something to eat.'" - Matthew 14: 15 - 16
"We can't do this…we don't have the money." But at least sometimes it isn't a resource issue. It is a faith issue. There were 5,000 hungry people in a desolate place, a long ways from even a "7 - 11" much less a "Safeway." Jesus said to the disciples, "You give them something to eat." They took inventory. And you know what they found. Five loaves and two fish. Enough for a family picnic, not enough for a hungry crowd of 5,000.

I am absolutely certain that if I had been among the disciples at that moment I would have complained that this was ridiculous and that Jesus needed to get real. But I have been there, and you have too. Maybe you're there now? "There" is where there's a huge gap, a yawning chasm, between the need before you and the resources at hand. By a factor of, oh say, 1,000. "This is ridiculous — Jesus will you please get real."

I don't know how everyone got fed that day. But I do know this: when the disciples gave what they had to Jesus, he took it, he blessed it, he used it — and there was enough. It's not always a resource issue. Sometimes it's a faith issue. When we offer what we have and who we are to Jesus a new — unexpected — reality comes into being. "And all ate and were filled," (Matthew 14: 20).