First ChurchNEWS
Sunday Worship Schedule & Monthly Calendar
March Calendar
Pastor's Ponderings
Letter from our Student Seminarian
Congregational Conversation Staffing Report
Upcoming Dinners, Events and Announcements
Order Your Easter Flowers
Monthly Good Reads
Thank You FCCR
Altar Flowers & Prayers
March and Early April Worship Schedule
SUNDAY MARCH 4
Worship w. Communion - Third Sunday of Lent
Rev Lisa & Music by Chancel Choir & Jill
Nursery Care; Learning Program for Children (Begins in Class in Room 13)
Coffee & Fellowship in the Chapel
After Church: Orchestra Rehearsal, CWF Cookie Walk, Renee's Bible 101
 
SUNDAY MARCH 11
RILAS Worship - Fourth Sunday of Lent
Rev Lisa & Music by Chancel Choir & Jill
Nursery Care; RILAS Worship for Children & Families
Coffee & Fellowship in the Chapel
After Church: Orchestra Rehearsal, Renee’s Bible 101, Transgender 101 at 5pm.
 
SUNDAY MARCH 18 
Worship on the Fifth Sunday of Lent – Lenten Lessons and Music
Reading & Reflections: Many Voices & Music: Handbells & Jill
Nursery Care Learning Program for Children after Sharing in Worship
Coffee & Fellowship with Card Ministry
After Church: Renee’s Bible 101 
SUNDAY MARCH 25
Palm Sunday Worship
Seminarian Renee Manning & Music by Orchestra, Choir & Jill
Nursery Care; Learning Program for Children after Palm Parade
Coffee & Fellowship in the Chapel

THURSDAY MARCH 29
Maundy Thursday Supper & Worship
Soup Supper for All from 6:00 – 7:00 pm
Worship with Communion at 7:15 (begins in chapel & moves to sanctuary)

FRIDAY MARCH 30
Joint Good Friday Evening Worship Service with Old South UMC – 7:00 pm at Old South
 
SUNDAY APRIL 1
Easter Worship Celebration with Communion
Rev. Lisa & Music by Orchestra, Choir & Jill
Nursery Care  NO Learning Program for Children – In Seat Activities
Coffee & Fellowship in the Chapel
After Church: Children’s Easter Egg Hunt
March Calendar (click on the image to enlarge)
Pastor's Ponderings
Dear Friends,
This month I want to take this space to extend an invitation to you. (That’s right – YOU !!! If you are reading this, please take it personally!)
As you may know from reading last month’s newsletter or talking with an FCCR friend, we are in the midst of something we are calling “The Lent of Why.” This is an exploration of why our church exists and the ways it is important to both our members and the broader community. As I hope you know, this includes YOU. (That’s right – YOU !!! If you are reading this, please take it personally!)
One of the things I do as the pastor of FCCR is to pray for and about our church and its members. I do this in several ways and one of them is using my prayer lists . I have lists like those we share on Sunday morning – folks who are included in prayer because they have something happening in their lives. I have lists of people and needs that have been mentioned to me in recent days, weeks and months. But among my favorite prayer lists are the following: the church directory and the enews & newsletter lists. At least once a week, I’ll simply open one of these on my computer and spend some time reading some names. And then I pray. Well actually, I read an individual’s name or a family’s names, and then I pray. Some weeks, I start with the beginning of the alphabet, some weeks, the back, and still others, the middle.
I like to spend at least an hour whenever I do this. I’ll read a name and think about what I know of your life. Sometimes, you’ve posted on Facebook about a recent trip or experience. Sometimes, you’ve told me about your job hunt or your friend’s illness or your child’s life. Other times, another church member has mentioned seeing you in the grocery store. Or I may just think about when I last saw or spoke with you, and wonder how you might be doing… Any and all of these are the kinds of things I include in my prayer for you. (Yes, please DO take this personally!!) And then, when I’ve spent some time with you, I’ll move on to the next name on the list, to spend some time with that person.
So, when I write that I want to invite you to something, I really do mean YOU, personally. The you that I’ve prayed for/about in the last few weeks.
My invitation is this: You are cordially invited to come and express your opinion, share your hopes and fears, your joys or thanksgivings for/about your journey in life and faith and this your church. We are having a discussion about what’s important for our church. I/we want to know your thoughts! (Yes, YOURS!...) So, won’t you please come for chili and conversation on Friday, March 16th and/or for brunch and congregational reflection after worship on Sunday, April 8th?
And while I’m at it, please also know that you are always invited to call/text/email/speak to me whenever you feel like sharing. Whenever I see you, I’m glad! And regardless, you are in my prayers.
Blessings,
Rev. Lisa
Dear FCCR Members,
Another month has passed and I am still excited at I continue to learn and minister at this wonderful church. I receive so much from the worship services. I enjoy every conversation and critique I receive from you. Thank you for sharing in my walk and student ministry here.
We have some exciting offerings in the month of March.

Starting on March 4th and the following two Sundays at 11:30 to 12:45 is (basic) Bible 101. We will explore all aspects of the bible. We will have fun and hopefully learn a lot about this tremendous book that goes by many names – the Holy Book, the Word of God, The Good News. Join us for one or all three classes. No knowledge of the bible is required.

On March 11th at 5:00 pm FCCR is hosting Transgender 101 for the community of Reading. This is a very important outreach. With a little knowledge we can dispel a lot of fear. It may even have the potential of saving a life. Please come and support this effort. Your support will clearly be seen by those in attendance. Being an ally is more important to acceptance of the GLBT community than you will ever know.

Stay tuned for events coming in April and May!
Blessings and Peace,
Renee – student seminarian
Congregational Conversation about Staffing – February 11
The Staffing Team presented their recommendations in a congregational conversation on Sunday, February 11.  The group had been tasked by the congregation at last year’s annual meeting to seriously look at staffing for the next year’s budget. The group members, Bev Erickson, Craig Vickery, Everett Blodgett, Julie Redard, Jack Austin, Lesley Kerr, Linda Ananian, took a serious look.
The charts above were part of the 2017 Annual Meeting presentation and clearly stated why we need to look at salary costs. Staffing costs represent 77% of our budget.
When we look at a comparison of the church 20 years ago and today, we find membership is down by more than half (646 versus 244). And while revenues are $100K less, expenses are at the same level (1997 numbers are adjusted to 2017 rates).
We ran multiple budget scenarios, reviewed job descriptions, researched Conference salary guidelines, researched alternate staffing models, met with Finance Team, and met with MAUCC Associate Conference Minister Rev. Wendy Vander Hart. There is no obvious solution to our financial situation. While many other churches are finding themselves in the same position, each church is addressing it individually. The conference suggests that churches in transition are more successful when they have a clear mission, the “Why”.

We focused on four scenarios – ranging from continuing to operate with a significant deficit as we are now to staffing to a balanced budget. Using a 7% draft on the endowment (and assuming a 7% growth of the stock market), we found without a balanced budget, the endowment was depleted from 5 – 10 years (2023-2028).

Option A – Continue as is
•   Maintain current staffing
•   The endowment will be depleted in 5 years - 2023

Option B –Belt-tightening
•   Reduce office staff, reduce sexton hours, eliminate Director of Children and Family position; no salary increases
•   The endowment will be depleted in 7 years - 2025

Option C – Staff for Program year – September to May
•   Eliminate paid bells director, paid nursery staff, Director of Children and Family position; reduce office and property staff to minimum; combine Music roles and reduce Pastor’s hours
•   The endowment will be depleted in 10 years – 2028

Option D – Staff to a Balanced Budget
•   Develop new strategy and staff to that strategy within current income. 
•   The endowment will not be depleted, except for urgent needs

The recommendation of the group is that if we are to exist as a financially healthy church beyond 10 years, then we need to follow a balanced budget. It would be best for the church if we used congregational feedback to modify the budget to determine what is most important to the congregation. The Coordinating Ministry, Rev. Lisa and the Lent of Why will survey and listen, and begin to develop the framework of the FCCR Church of the Future. The conversations 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 regroup at the April 8 meeting and hope that consensus will emerge that will inform our planning for the annual meeting, and our plans for programming, staffing and budget. 

If the church has not identified the modifications by January, a balanced budget should be instituted which reduces pastoral hours, and eliminates, combines or reduces staff positions. A balanced budget will require significant changes to all expense areas of the church. We will need to prepare for the transition, set strategy, and let staff know what the changes will be. For example, each staff member must be formally asked if they are willing to modify their hours or job duties. We recommend that we begin the 2018-2019 program year with a full year budget, the second half which is balanced. 

To address the question as to why we are not satisfied with waiting until 2020 to institute a new vision (aka Vision 2020), the group felt that progress has stalled. The financial trends are continuing downward – there are fewer pledging units, reduced pledges, and uncertainty may be affecting financial commitment. Vision 2020 activities have slowed down; the mini-building plan will not help with finances in the short-term. There is nothing in place to improve our financial position.
As a group, we considered delaying action until the church decided what it wanted to be in the future. We cannot support another budget year with excessive dependence on the endowment without a plan in place. The goal is to have a budget that supports the FCCR of the Future and does not rely on diminishing endowment. Regardless, we believe a balanced budget is required for the church.

If you have any questions or would like to comment on this recommendation , simply click here or please feel free to contact any of the members of the group.
Chili Cook-Off and Conversation: Friday March 16, 2018 at 6:30 pm

Whether you cook the best chili in town or just like to eat it, the Friday Night "Chili Cook-off and Conversation" is for you. Everyone can play a part in this friendly "competition", even if you don't cook. Please follow this link to sign up - choices range from bringing a pot of chili to baking corn muffins or dessert or simply sampling and voting for your favorite bowl.  http://www.slyreply.com/app/sheets/806y6ydjpcr5/. Questions or concerns, please contact Jeannie Peirce at peirce29@aol.com
Maundy Thursday Soup Supper: Thursday, March 29th

Join us as we prepare for Good Friday and Easter on March 29th with a Maundy Thursday soup supper starting at 6:00 in the Chapel, followed by worship at 7:15 in the Chapel and moving into the Sanctuary.

Come for one or both! If you wish to contribute to the supper, sign up here: http://www.slyreply.com/app/sheets/v8264iv2uzm5/? or with Joann Sanford, 781-710-6195
Can You Help us be Hospitable on March 11th for Transgender 101?
Renee has worked hard on planning this event and many people are pitching in to publicize it widely. We may have 50 people in attendance and we may have in excess of 100 people. Because it is our habit to be hospitable, we want to offer small bottles of water, as well as crackers (both regular and gluten free) and cheese at this event. They seem like appropriate snacks for a 5 pm event, yes? If you can offer to donate something for our table of abundance please contact Gay Williams (ggwill@aol.com or 781-944-5140), or sign up on the sheet outside the office, That way we'll know whether or not we have adequate supplies. Thanks in advance!
WATCHA - We Are the CHurch in Action. If you have access to a computer, we encourage you to check out the new WATCHA web page. It is a valuable source of information about important issues of our day, and as well, has a list of upcoming dates for ways in which to take action. You can find the site here:  https://watcha01867.weebly.com . (For non computer folks we'll see if we can print the pages and post in the church.)
THE BUCKETS ARE COMING!!!!!  That is Church World Services Emergency Clean-Up Buckets. The Mission and Social Justice Ministry is once again sponsoring a collection of supplies to put in the buckets that are distributed when disasters strike our county. The collection will take place during the month of April. Details will follow in the April Newsletter. Since a lot of churches do not sponsor this particular collection, we would like to fill as many buckets as possible.
EASTER FLOWERS!
It's time to order Memorial Easter Plants. We will again have Tete-a-tete Daffodils, Easter Lily Plants and Tulip Plants. Orders are due by March 15th! Click here to view and print the order form. Forms are also available in the FCCR office. Please make checks payable to FCCR, marked "Easter Plants."
Super Saturday!!
Join UCC Folks from MA, CT & RI - Saturday, March 17th for a full-day of worship, workshops and networking.

Registration includes, morning worship, 2 workshops, an optional lunch activity, continental breakfast, buffet lunch, marketplace & closing worship.
 
See full information, including registration and workshop descriptions Here

If you are interested in attending with others from FCCR, please email the church office office1@churchofreading.comcastbiz.net  using the topic “Super Saturday”.
Save the Date - April 8
The next step in FCCR's process of discernment regarding focus, programing, staff and budget is a full Congregational Conversation on Sunday, April 8th, following worship. Thanks to Mark Johnson, we will share Brunch as we meet! Please mark your calendar and plan to attend.
FCCR Hospitality & Our Unitarian Neighbors
Late last summer The Unitarian Universalist Church of Reading welcomed its new pastor, Rev. Hank Peirce. This March, they will celebrate his installation. Because of the size of the service and the expected attendance, FCCR has offered to host the worship portion of the installation. (Their sanctuary is too small to accommodate all the participants and attendees.) So please hold our UU friends and neighbors in your prayers, as they install their pastor and we share our space. All are welcome to attend, as well. Sunday, March 18 at 3:00 pm. Questions? Please see Rev. Lisa
Monthly Good Reads from Rev. Lisa
Every month, as part of my work as your pastor and teacher, I receive 100’s of articles and/or links to articles about what’s happening in the fields of religion, theology and church ‘arts and sciences’. Some of all of these articles end up in what I call my monthly “Good Reads” collection. On occasion, I share and/or use some of these with different ministries, task forces and study groups, but I am also aware that there might be more general interest in some of the topics.
So, each month I present a few of my good reads, along with a link to the full article. I’m also be happy to provide print-outs of any particular article upon request, if you prefer to read from hard copy - just let me know!
Five Common Barriers to Becoming a Simple Church
Yes, many of our churches are too complex.
You’ve heard my advocacy of the simple church on more than one occasion. Too many congregations are wasting precious time, money, and energy doing too much.
Simply stated, many of our churches are complex churches. In fact, the churches are so complex that they have ceased to do ministry effectively.
Too many programs. Too many meetings. Too many events. Too many ministries.
You get the picture.
Now the question is: Why?

Evolve by Rev. Quinn G. Caldwell
"In the first book…I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles…" - Acts 1:1-5
At some point, Disciples turn into Apostles.
In today's passage, Jesus evolves the Disciples into Apostles, readying them to be sent out with a message (see that word "post" in "apostle"? Just like the mail!). I for one am glad they let it happen; if they had chosen not to change, Christianity would have died when they did.
What stage of Christian evolution are you in?...
To read more, please go to: http://www.ucc.org/daily_devotional_evolve
Your thoughtful gift of scholarship support for two of our students at BU School of Theology is very much appreciated. Our mission remains vibrant as we pursue knowledge of God, cultivate leaders for communities of faith, and seek peace with justice in a diverse and interconnected world. With this gift, you are actively involved in the school's ongoing development and growth. Emilia Attridge writes (in part) "I am so very thankful for your gift to the School of Theology, and I will use if to fund the textbooks and resources for my final semester. " Kaio Thompson writes (in part) "I extend to you our support for your ministry and the church community of Reading. Our prayers are with you constantly as God uses the community to demonstrate God's love in the world through the Gospel." - BU School of Theology
 
Dear Rev Stedman and Friends , thank you for your donation of 2 1/2 boxes of toiletries and lines via the Mission Ministry for our programs given in December. In-kind gifts of goods and services are essential to our mission. We appreciate your thoughtfulness and concern for those who are homeless." - Emmaus House
In Our Prayers at FCCR - February

Health
Nora Lafferty – healing leg
Sue Viegas – recovering from fall
Merle, continuing care
Jenn’s friend with shoulder injury
Julie Redard’s father’s friend George who was hospitalized
Carol Johnson’s friend’s daughter
Christine Georgillas’ husband Peter
Elaine Bachelder – healing after fall and leg broken in 3 places
Diane Wilson’s father, Charlie Peacock, facing surgery in mid-March
Surgery Recovering
Lynne Vargas’ mother
Bob Copeland from heart surgery
Rev. Emily Geoghegan from surgery for a detached retina
Cancer
Jim, starting chemo for stage four pancreatic cancer;
Peggy – Shirley Osborne’s sister;
Joanne B, David Carr, Susan, Sherry, Julie, Kristin, Bob, Bruce, Carol, Charlie, Clara, Lillian and Helen
General Support
Bob Leister, family friend of Meg Bond
Grief
Family of Judge James W. Killam III
The family and friends of the students shot in Florida
Rev. Marian Williams, pastor of North Woburn UCC, in death of sister while skiing
Other
A friend’s son who is serving in Afghanistan and all who serve everywhere
Discernment for our church
Police and all involved in the fatal Reading shooting during an apprehension & arrest
World
Peace
Bridges to peace, good sports-personship, fun, safety at the Olympics
Individuals and families struggling with addiction
All injured or lost in train crash in South Carolina
The victims and survivors and families of the Parkland Florida school shooting
Joys
Peter Johnston approved for ordination pending a call
Hallelujah for Dot Corey’s 90th birthday

Thanks
Serena Manning is back at work, recovered from her knee surgery;
Thank you to FCCR from David, Gayle & Travis, Judge Jim Killam’s children
Joy of music
Altar Flowers
February 5   In Loving Memory of Carl and Eva Hakanson by their family grandchildren and great grandchildren
February 11  In Loving Memory of loved ones by Jennifer Souza
February 18  In Loving Memory of David by his sister Maryann Higgins
February 25 In Loving Memory of Our Mothers by John and Shirley Fairchild