First Church
NEWS 2018
Pastor's Ponderings
May 4th: Dinner and Meeting/Discussion
April Worship & Monthly Calendar
FCCR May Calendar
May 20th: Annual Meeting
Stewardship Update
One Great Hour of Sharing
Reading Cares
From Your Seminarian
Bucket Brigade & Mail Carrier Collection
The Endowment Report
An Invitation
Good Reads
In our Prayers
Altar Flowers
Pastor's Ponderings
Dear FCCR Members and Friends,
This month you who are FCCR will have several opportunities to discuss and ultimately make significant decisions about our future trajectory. Our decisions will determine not only what the church looks like next year, but in many years to come. No one yet knows what we will decide together. But I have some particular hopes that I want to share – not for the outcome but for the decision-making process. 
I hope that…
    … all who care about FCCR will read, talk, participate, attend, question, discuss, and vote. If you are reading this, that includes you!
   … even in the midst of challenging and emotional discussions, we will treat one another
with deep respect and Christian love. (Ephesians 4:25-32)
  … we will listen to one another, without judgement or interruption. And that we allow
each other opportunities to speak.
  … we can speak for ourselves, using “I statements” and avoid speaking for others or putting words in other’s mouths. As we offer our thoughts and opinions, we do so in a way that does not denigrate those who think and see differently. In fact, we understand that while it may be uncomfortable, disagreement and conflict are normal, and that we can agree to disagree.
   … we assume and believe that others are doing/being their best, and that we give one another the benefit of the doubt.
   … we keep our focus on what is best for our church as a whole rather than on what may be best for ourselves or our small group.
 … each of us will pray for God’s guidance and grace for our church and for each other.
Friends, please join me and other members of our beloved community on Friday, May 4 th for dinner and discussion at 6:30pm and at Annual Meeting on Sunday, May 20 th following worship.
Thank you and blessings,
May 4th: Important Informational Meeting
Doors open at 6:00 PM, Dinner Served at 6:30 PM
All members are urged to take part in deciding FCCR’s future by attending this meeting in preparation for the Annual Meeting on Sunday, May 20th.

We are drawing from the endowment at an unsustainable rate.  Balancing the budget is necessary to extend its life beyond the next few years.  This will require significant staffing cuts and/or other options.  Is this the best answer for the future of the church? What do you envision for the church going forward? Your input and questions are valued and needed!
We encourage you to join us on the 20 th as well!
May and Early June Worship Schedule
May 6– Worship on Heifer & Children’s Sunday with Communion
An Activity Sunday with Heifer Reflections & Marketplace                                
Nursery Care, Music: Chancel Choir & Jill
Coffee & Fellowship in the Chapel
May 13 – Worship on Mother’s Day and Women’s Sunday
A Sunday Celebrating Women, including CWF and Mothers
Reflections: Attendees of the April Women’s Gathering in Portland &
Rev. Lisa , Music: FCCR Orchestra, Chancel Choir & Jill ,Nursery Care and Activities in the Sanctuary for Children
Coffee & Fellowship in the Chapel
May 20 – Worship on Pentecost and Annual Meeting Sunday
Preaching:Rev.Lisa.Music: Chancel Choir & Jill Nursery Care and Activities in the Sanctuary for Children
Coffee & Fellowship in the Chapel

May 27 – Worship on Memorial Day Weekend & Trinity Sunday
Preaching: Rev. Lisa, Music: Chancel Choir & Jill, NO Nursery Care or Activities for Children
Coffee & Fellowship in the Chapel
June 3 – Worship on Second Sunday after Pentecost with Communion
Reflection: Rev Lisa, Music: Chancel Choir (final Sunday for program year) & Jill
Nursery Care and Activities in the Sanctuary for Children
Coffee & Fellowship in the Chapel
June 10 – Worship on Fourth Sunday after Pentecost with Renee’s Final Sunday  
Preaching: Seminarian Renee Manning Music: Handbell Ensemble (final Sunday for program year) & Jill, Nursery Care and Activities in the Sanctuary for Children
Rocket Launch with End of Year Picnic and Celebration of Renee

FCCR May  Calendar
May 20th – Annual Meeting (Following Worship)
That's the question we will face together at this year's annual meeting following worship on Sunday, May 20th. We hope you have participated in one or more of the dinner meetings that have been offered, or the pancake brunch, all of which have been designed to help us focus on consideration of our future as a faith community. This meeting will be an important one for everyone, so we hope you will be there. Watch upcoming enews issues for more details ... and please hold all these things in prayer.
Stewardship Update

Pledge Sunday – as well as Earth Day – have both come and gone, but that does not suggest that their “time” is over. We still have work to do both as a church and as residents of planet earth. We had a very good response to our pledge drive on April 22nd with a good number of dove pledge cards turned in. It may be that yours was not among them. Please give thought to sending yours in, or dropping it off in the church office, or placing it in the offering plate. Whether there is a decision at annual meeting to continue to draw down on the endowment, or move to a balanced budget, or something somewhere in between, your gifts will be – are – needed. 

Your intention to support the church by way of a pledge allows us to make realistic projections about what is possible in the coming year. Will it be church as usual? Probably not; there is no longer a “usual.” The world and all that’s in it is in flux – think of technological advances, climate change and its impact on the environment, and more. However, our commitment to God and God’s work should be constant.  “Great is your faithfulness! …all I have needed your hand has provided…”  Thank you for giving this prayerful thought. Contact Gay Williams, 781.944.5140 or, with any questions.
One Great Hour of Sharing
Our support provides clean water, food, medicines, shelter, healthcare, education and so much more. On average, of every dollar given to OGHS, 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. Donations are welcomed anytime between April 15 th and May 10 th . Please note OGHS on your check made payable to FCCR. Thank you!
Reading Cares
ReadingCares has several fun and friendly opportunities coming up. Are you interested in finding out more about ReadingCares? Would you like to create contacts to the larger community? In case you don’t know, ReadingCares supports volunteerism and community service in our town. It was started by, and continues to be sponsored by, the First Congregational Church of Reading. It is in its 11th year! We organize community events as well as match people or groups with service opportunities. Please join in!

Bike Event - Saturday 5/5 8:30-12:30 - need plenty of volunteers, even for an hour or two, to help accept, clean up and check donated bikes
RPL Teen Volunteer/Job Fair - 5/17 5-7 - staff ReadingCares table and talk about our org and events
Friends and Family Day - 6/16 10:30-3 - staff ReadingCares table, need activity ideas here.
From your Seminarian Renee Manning
We are rapidly approaching the end of our journey together. I have the honor of preaching on June 10th, my last day with you. After five years, I graduate on May 19th.

I can’t begin to express my gratitude for the prayers, support and guidance over the last two years. I hope our time together has been as fruitful for you as it has been for me.

We have laughed together, and we have cried together. This is what happens when you become part of a family. I have made some mistakes. You overlooked them (in most cases lol) as a part of my learning process.

I owe a lot of my “growing up” experience to my mentor…Rev. Lisa. She has taught me, and she has challenged me. We have spent countless hours going around and around with respect to the meaning of scripture and my theology. It has been fun to come to those places where we agree, and it has been insightful when we disagree. Sometimes, these were our greatest moments. I will miss those discussions when we looked at the clock and wondered how hours had passed so quickly.
My teaching Parish Team, both years, were second to none. A student needs an honest critique. They provided that for me. I would take their advice and try to make the necessary adjustments, albeit not always successfully.

I loved my time with the young people. It has been my great pleasure to provide them with an informative and a once-in-a-while entertaining message. My office has become full of “props” as a reminder of our times together.

As for the congregation…you are an amazing, loving people. Recently, you gave me the strength and courage to present an unprepared, unscripted sermon, filling in for when Rev. Lisa when was under the weather that day. It will be a day that I will always treasure. It proved to me what is possible, when you reach out for prayer. It was not a flawless worship service, but my heart was full of joy when we came to that final “Amen.”

If everything goes as planned, I hope to leave you with an exciting memory. After church, on June 3rd, we will spend an hour together building model rockets. We can build them individually or as a family. After church, on June 10th, we will meet (at a field in Reading, not yet determined) for a picnic, and we will launch our model rockets. They will soar Heavenly and gently parachute back to us. I leave you with my love and passion for science. I also leave you with my love and passion for my faith in our glorious creator. I hope the sharing of my faith has been paramount in our two years together.
I have three more years at Raytheon before God and I map out my ministry. Chances are, it will be an on-the-road ministry working for and with marginalized communities. My emphasis at four the near future will be the LGB and transgender communities. There is a lot to be done working for acceptance. May God use me, guide me and send me where I can do the most good.

You have all made me a better person and hopefully the minister God has called me to be. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Your seminarian,
The buckets have left the building!  The Mission and Social Justice Ministry sends a BIG THANK YOU to everyone who donated supplies and money to fill the Emergency Cleanup Buckets for Church World Service. This year we were able to fill 8 thanks to your generosity. Five were donated by the congregation, 2 by CWF Circle 5 and 1 by Circle 10. At the collection depot, it again appeared that our church was the only one in the North Shore and Metro West area that had delivered buckets.                                                                          
When the families in Texas, Florida & the Caribbean were able to return to their homes this past year following the devastating hurricanes, Church World Service immediately provided 1800 buckets to help them begin the task of trying to get back on their feet. As a result, there is always an urgent need to restock the warehouses. We thank you again for your support of this program which can enable so many people to manage the overwhelming job of cleaning up after any kind of natural disaster.
Reading Food Pantry
Mail Carriers Collection Saturday, May 12, 2018
The annual collection of groceries by the Reading Mail Carriers will take place Saturday, May 12, and many volunteers are needed to sort and store the thousands of items that are received.
The major numbers of volunteers will be needed in the afternoon and early evening. We are suggesting arriving to help between 2 and 6 PM.
We will stay at least to 8 PM. Whether you can give a couple of hours or several hours we will gladly welcome you.
A few of us will be there earlier in the day, and if you want to help and the only time you have is late morning please join us!
Thank you,
Charlotte Harlan - Phyllis and Bruce Maxwell 
Food Pantry phone: 781 944 8486
Endowment Report
This is a report from the Finance Team on the church’s endowment funds covering the results for the first quarter of 2018. At the end of March 2018, the endowment stood at $1,286,887 which is down $28,363.40 (-2.2%) from the December 2017 balance of $1,315,251. Endowment investments lost $7,963 (-0.6%) in the first quarter. In addition, we withdrew $20,401.

The withdrawal of $20,401 from the endowment was for the 7% draw that was voted by the congregation at the June 2017 annual meeting. This withdrawal was made from the unrestricted portion of the endowment. A similar draw will be made in the second quarter. In addition, a supplemental draw will likely be required in the second quarter to cover the operating budget deficit for our fiscal year which ends in June 2018.

The restricted funds in the endowment are held in a separate investment fund. This allows for easier tracking of the performance and status of the restricted funds and keeps them segregated from the annual draw and any supplemental draws. As of March 2018, the restricted portion of the endowment was $183,428 which is 14% of the total endowment.

In summary, the first quarter of this year was not good for equities, and the outlook for the remainder of the year is unclear. We have been fortunate over the last two years that excellent market performance and additional gifts have covered our costs, but our increasingly high level of withdrawals coupled with poor financial market performance in the first quarter of 2018 is significantly depleting our endowment funds.
Finance Team
David Zeek, Daniel Swallom, Doug Rogers, Jane McCord
A Celebration of Life
Sharon Ofenstein is graciously extending this invitation to friends and members of FCCR.

Casual dress & walking shoes. Come prepared to share your stories! Refreshments and conversation afterwards.
Please contact Sharon at 978-433-3120 if you plan to attend.
June 3, 3pm, Beaver Brook Association's Maple Hill Farm Garden, 17 Ridge Road, Hollis, NH 03049
Good Reads for May - Excerpts and Links
By David Briggs, The Association of Religion Data Archives (ARDA)
Are baby boomers, part of the first generation to lead the contemporary exodus from organized religion, returning to their religious roots?
The ninth wave of a multigenerational study that began in 1971 finds a little more than one in five boomers became more religious in the transition from their 50s to their 60s.

How Do We Best Serve Our Neighbors?
by Sarai Rice on April 23, 2018
As a strategic planner, I encourage congregations to look for places where their gifts and skills can meet the particular needs of their neighbors. As a human service provider, I watch my clients trudge all over town, piecing together services they need. I worry that despite our good intentions, sometimes congregations make life harder for our neighbors than we should.

When Americans Say They Believe in God, What Do They Mean?
Nine-in-ten Americans believe in a higher power, but only a slim majority believe in God as described in the Bible