First Church
NEWS 2018
January Worship & Monthly Calendar
The Future of FCCR
Pastor's Ponderings
Lenten Soup Suppers
Your Lenten Discipline
Psalms for Lent
From Your Seminarian
CWF News
FCCR Shares
Emmaus House Collection
ReadingPOWR Request
Poor People's Campaign
The State of the FCCR Endowment
In our Prayers
Thank you FCCR
Altar Flowers
February Worship Schedule
February 4 – Sunday Worship with Communion
Preacher: Rev Lisa        
Music: Chancel Choir & Jill
Nursery Care & Learning Program for Children (Begin in Class in Room 13)
February 11 – Transfiguration Sunday Worship
Preacher: Rev. Lisa       
Music: Chancel Choir & Jill
Nursery Care & Learning Program for Children (moves to Room 13)
Note: The sanctuary will be in the circular configuration this week.
Wednesday, February 14 – Ash Wednesday Soup & Service
Soup at 6:00 pm and Service at 7:15.
 February 18 – Worship on 1st Sunday of Lent
Preacher: Rev. Lisa             
Music: Chancel Choir & Jill
Nursery Care
NO Learning Program for Children (School vacation week)
February 25 – Worship on 2nd Sunday of Lent
(A Screen-free Worship Service)
Preacher: Seminarian Renee Manning   
Music: Handbell Enemble & Jill
Nursery Care & Learning Program for Children (Group Session, Room 13)

Coffee Hour in the Chapel follows Worship each Sunday.
FCCR February  Calendar
The Future of FCCR – Feb 11th Report-out from the Staffing Team

At last Annual Meeting, we realized that at least 70% of our operating budget went to payroll and related costs. A team was subsequently formed and charged with examining our staffing levels vs. needs.  Come and hear the Staffing Team present their  process and  findings after worship on Sunday, Feb 11, in the Sanctuary. 
 
This team (Linda Ananian, Jack Austin, Everett Blodgett, Bev Erickson, Lesley Kerr, Julie Redard and Craig Vickery) has worked very hard to learn as much as possible and to make the best recommendations they can for our church. There will be a time for questions, so you may fully understand their work. This meeting will lead us forward in an on-going process (see Rev. Lisa's Ponderings in this newsletter) to determine the future of our church. Please plan to attend!
Pastor's Ponderings
Dear Friends,
Over and over, and over again, in recent months (and years) we have been encouraged to discern how our church’s core vision, mission and purpose might be expressed. We have tried varied approaches and methods, we have explored and discussed; we have reflected and prayed; we have caucused and retreated… We have been proactive, practiced active listening, and pondered all manner of possibilities. And while we have learned much, we have yet to come to a conclusion or consensus that will guide us forward.
 
As part of our on-going 2020 vision work, this year we had a report on the mini building master plan and we empowered a group to explore changes in staffing. On Sunday, Feb. 11 th  following worship, we’ll hear from the staffing group. I hope you will be there. The group has worked diligently and prayerfully, and we all need to hear about what they have learned.
 
Then, as a follow up step to the staffing group’s work and as part of our continuing efforts to discern and articulate why our church exists and is unique and wonderful, the Deacons, Coordinating Ministry, worship staff and I have put together what we are calling “The Lent of Why.” 
 
During the season of Lent, from Sunday, February 18 th  to Sunday, March 25 th , FCCR will focus on the questions of why, what and how we carry out the ministries and missions that are important to us as a Christian community. We will do this in several ways – in the context of worship using scripture as a guide, in many of our regularly scheduled meetings, and in several conversations over dinner, the first of which has now been scheduled for Friday evening, Feb. 23 rd  at 6pm.  In order for this process to be a success and set us up to make important decisions going forward, we need as many FCCR folks as possible to participate. This includes each of you who are reading this article and many others. We will be sending personal invitation to folks and are asking that you extend encouragement to each other as well. Two additional dinner dates will soon be announced for March.
 
At the end of March, as we honor Jesus’ ministry and remember the end of his life, we hope you will be part of our annual Maundy Thursday supper and service, and then join in celebrating the hope of the resurrection on Easter Sunday. (April 1 st )
 
On Sunday, April 8 th , following worship, we will reconvene in congregational conversation and share what we have heard from each other and from God about the future of our church. It is our hope that consensus will emerge from this gathering which will then inform our planning for the annual meeting in May, and ultimately, our plans for programming, staffing and budget in 2018-2019 and beyond.
 
This may sound like a complicated process. However, I want to assure you that each and every one of our church members and leaders involved in the planning have done their utmost to create an opportunity for positive interaction and progress for our beloved church. We are now offered a chance to share in creating a future for FCCR. This future will be created by those who participate. Please mark your calendars with these dates and come be a part of the process. 
 
Thank you, and may God bless you and our church.
Faithfully,
Rev. Lisa
 
PS – The dates: Sunday, Feb. 11 th  after worship, Friday, Feb. 23 rd  for dinner at 6pm, any or all Sunday morning worship services from Feb. 11 th  to April 8 th , with additional dinner dates tba in March.
Lenten Soup Suppers – Feb 14 (Ash Wed), Feb 23 (Fri), Mar 29 (Maundy Thursday) and others TBA
This year the Deacons are planning to host Soup Suppers at the beginning and end of Lent - on Ash Wed on Feb 14 and Maundy Thursday on Mar 29. On each of these occasions, the supper will be followed by a service of worship.
 
There will be 2 or 3 additional meals for all FCCR folk during the season. In addition to the great food and fellowship, these will include time for our church members and friends to have directed conversations about our church’s focus and future. Jack and Judy Austin and Deidre Ryan have volunteered to host on our first such meal Fri, Feb 23. 
 
Additional hosts are needed – sign up for the night of your choice during Lent with Joann Sanford, 781-710-6195 or jo2.take@gmail.com . Join us as we engage the Lent of Why.
Let the Food Pantry be your Lenten Discipline
Lent is just around the corner! It begins on Ash Wednesday, to be precise – the same day as Valentine’s Day! Time to consider your spiritual discipline for the Lenten season.

Many Christians see Lent as a special time to grow a little closer to our Lord, to journey with Him and share some time with Him in the wilderness. One way to do this is to practice a regular spiritual discipline. This could involve extra reading from the Bible. It might involve beginning each day reading a Psalm (see elsewhere in this newsletter). It might involve writing a prayer each day. Rather than “giving something up”, it might be “taking something on.”

Taking up extra service activities would provide a nice spiritual discipline. One awesome way to do this would be intentionally to buy something for the Reading Food Pantry every time you go shopping during Lent. Every time you enter the grocery store, ask yourself, “what can I get for the Food Pantry today?” Just one single thing is good. It brings you closer to the one who said, “when you do it unto the least of these, you do it unto me”.

Staples will be great, but the Food Pantry also regularly needs paper towels, tissues, dish detergent, and shampoo. Even things like coffee, tea, cooking oil, flour, and gummy fruit snacks or boxed juice drinks for kids. So let your imagination run wild each time you go to the store; think of something to buy for a Food Pantry client. You’ll be engaging in a worthwhile spiritual discipline for yourself, and your hungry neighbors will be better fed.
Psalms for Lent
Speaking of Spiritual Disciplines, one might think that beginning each day with a Psalm could be a fun and fruitful spiritual discipline. It exposes you to different expressions of people’s understanding of God’s moving among us. If that sounds like fun, you can send an email to psalms@fccr-ace.org with “subscribe for Lent” in the subject line, and you’ll be all set. You’ll be unsubscribed at the end of Lent. If you think you might be interested in a Psalm each day beyond Lent, merely place “subscribe” in the subject line. If, after a few months or years, the psalm ‘o’ day becomes tedious, you can send a second email with “unsubscribe” in the subject line. All psalms will be randomly chosen, the good with the not-so-good, and will show up in your email inbox while you sleep (unless you live in China).
From your Seminarian Renee Manning
I truly enjoy worshiping here at FCCR every Sunday. This congregation has come to hold a very special place in my heart. I enjoy preaching and love engaging the young people in the Children’s message. Please feel free to engage me in conversation if I say anything that sparks a pro or con from your point of view. This is a great way for me to learn from you.

My office hours this semester are from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm on Thursday evenings, except the 1st Thursday when I will be attending the deacon’s meeting. Don’t hesitate to stop in.

Rev. Lisa and I meet on Tuesday evenings. Our goal is that one week we have a review and the next week she challenges my theology.

We have a lot to look forward to in the coming months. The Trans 101 event for the town of Reading has been rescheduled to March 11 th at 5:00pm.

I am excited to meet for Bible 101 on March 4 th , at 11:30 to 12:45 after worship.
Is the bible just a book or a Holy Book? Did you know since being the 1 st book printed by the Gutenberg Press it has sold close to six billion copies? The number one selling book of all time. How many “books” are within it’s cover? Who wrote what and when was what written? Who are the disciples? Who are the prophets?
There are many questions we can ask. We may not have all the answers.
I believe this will be a very fun and informative time as we look at the bible with fresh eyes and minds. 

In April I look forward to facilitating a church get together. After worship, we will build model rockets. The following Saturday, we will have a picnic and launch these rockets. Date and time to be determined. Look in next month’s newsletter for details.
Finally, I would like to rekindle the “green initiative.” We are called by God to be stewards of this planet. Humanity does not have a good recent scorecard on this point. We must do our part if we want a future on this planet we call ours. It starts at home and continues here at FCCR.

Thank you for your wonderful support this first half of my second year. I so look forward to the second half. God bless each and every one of you.

Blessing,
Renee
CWF News: Cookie Walk!
March Forth on MARCH 4th, right down the Red Carpet to take part in our annual Cookie Walk. As you "March Forth" around the tables in the Conference Room, choose your favorite homemade dozen for $4 a plate. Then you can enjoy them as you watch the Academy Awards!!

BAKERS NEEDED: As you know, all women, men and children are encouraged to bake yummy cookies for this event. Drop them off in the kitchen by the chapel.
Save the Date:
Circle Sunday will be on April 29th.

 
Thank you! CWF would like to thank everyone who helped with our soup fundraiser - all who helped put them together, who sold and who bought our soup. We are pleased to report we raised $188.
FCCR Shares with Two Local Organizations
Sunday, January 25th, FCCR welcomed both RCASA and Reading POWR as they spoke about their work during worship. Afterward, FCCR presented checks from the benevolence portion of our Fall 2017 Faire.
RCASA


 


Erica McNamara, representing the Reading Coalition Against Substance Abuse graciously receives FCCR's gift at worship
ReadingPOWR





Ron D'Addario was pleased to receive a gift to support the work with Reading's refugee family from Ethiopia
EMMAUS HOUSE LINEN COLLECTION - Crib Linens Especially
Mission Ministry is collecting gently used towels and bed linens (crib and twin only) and NEW pillows for families served by Emmaus House. There is a special need for crib sheets and blankets at this time! They are stocked for twin sheets so if you’re buying new for this collection, please donate crib linens. Place donations in the box outside the Music Room by Feb 25 th .
A Note and Request from Reading POWR
Thanks to Gudeta, Desta and Bedaso’s fortitude and determination, and with the tremendous support of you, our wonderful Reading POWR volunteers, Gudeta, Desta and Bedaso have now been settled in Reading for over a month! They will complete job preparedness training at Jewish Vocational Services soon, and are now anxious to start working.
This is where we could use your help ... one … more  …time.
Several of us will be helping them apply to entry level full time jobs, preparing them for interviews and taking them to interviews and job fairs. However, as we all know, the best job opportunities are frequently the ones you hear from your friends. So, if you know of any full time entry level opportunities, local job fairs, or compassionate employers seeking hard working, young and ambitious employees, would you please email or call POWR volunteer, Michael Carpenter at michael.carpenter@comcast.net or 781 944-2697 with this information. Job opportunities close to Reading or on public transportation are preferable. Thank you for your consideration.
The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival
Join the many churches, organizations and people of faith who are part of a new and exciting movement led by Rev. William Barber and others, including national UCC leaders!
The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival is uniting tens of thousands of people across the country to challenge the evils of systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, ecological devastation and the nation’s distorted morality. We need you to step up and join our efforts.
King and the other leaders of the original Poor People’s Campaign in the 1960’s asked fundamental questions about the contradictions of their day. Today, many of the groups interested in re-igniting the Poor People’s Campaign are asking similar questions about the problems of inequality, power and class.
Learn more about this new movement at the website: https://poorpeoplescampaign.org
And/or by viewing the official launch video at https://www.youtube.com/watch
The State of the Endowment at the End of 2017
This is a report from the Finance Team on the church’s Endowment Funds. For the calendar year 2017, the total endowment, unrestricted and restricted, is up 2.2% due to a great year in the stock market. At the end of 2017, the total endowment balance was $1,315,251 which was up $28,648 from the balance of $1,286,603 at the end of 2016. We received no additional donations to the Endowment Funds in 2017. The unrestricted portion of the Endowment Funds – the portion that we can use for general purposes – is effectively unchanged year to year because the gains were needed to cover operating expenses.
In accordance with our endowment policy and with congregational approval, funds from the unrestricted portion of the Endowment Funds may be withdrawn to pay operating expenses. In 2017, investment gains of $171,029 (+15.2%) were offset by withdrawals of $170,141. Withdrawals included $83,162.13 for the 7% draw which was voted by the congregation at the June 2016 and June 2017 annual meetings. The remaining $86,979.36 withdrawal was voted by the congregation at a special meeting held May 7, 2017, to cover the church operating deficit for the fiscal year 2016-2017. At the end of 2017, the unrestricted endowment balance was $1,127,479 which was up $887 from the balance of $1,126,591 at the end of 2016. 
At our June 2014 meeting the congregation voted to exclude restricted funds in the endowment from the calculation of the draw and to only take the draw from the unrestricted funds. At the end of 2017, the restricted portion of the endowment was $187,772 (14.3% of the total endowment) which was up from $160,012 at the end of 2016.
Earnings from a portion of the restricted funds in the endowment are available for expenditure by the church for their particular, restricted purposes as stipulated by the donors. In 2017, the overall gain in the restricted portion of the endowment was $27,760 (+17.3%). Of that, $9,879.51 may be withdrawn and used by the church in 2018.
The same analysis for 2017 had determined that $8,791.29 could have been withdrawn from restricted funds and used by the church last year. However, no such funds were withdrawn or used. So, in accordance with our Endowment Policy, that amount may now be transferred from the restricted portion of the Endowment Funds to the unrestricted portion.
In summary, 2017 was another excellent year for equity investments with endowment gains exceeding 15%. That followed investment gains in 2016 of over 10%. However, our rate of withdrawal to cover our operating expenses has used almost all of those gains. If we suffer worse investment returns in the future or need to withdraw even more funds from the unrestricted endowment for, say, building repairs or other unexpected expenses, then we will not be able to sustain the value of the endowment. For now, we still have a healthy amount in the endowment, but we continue to spend it at an unsustainable rate.
David Zeek, Daniel Swallom, Doug Rogers, Jane McCord