News and Notes

Are you graduating from high school, college, technical school, or another type of professional or educational program? We want to honor your achievements!

We’ll be celebrating grads from our congregation on May 14. We’ll recognize you in our 8:45 AM service and enjoy a cake reception between services in the Narthex.

If you have recently graduated or will graduate soon, please RSVP by April 30 to Jennifer DeWitt, our CYF Coordinator, at 920-733-7393, ext. 235.

Do you like rocking babies to sleep or playing peekaboo with toddlers? We have the job for you! Our nursery/toddler room is looking for a loving, competent, spirit-led staff presence to care for our youngest members every Sunday. Qualified candidates must be at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma (or equivalency) and education in and/or experience caring for infants and toddlers. This person will be expected to work every Sunday (including holiday weekends, Easter and all Christmas Eve services) and additional times as needed.

Program year (September through May) hours are 8:00 AM–12:00 PM; summer hours are 9:00–11:00 AM. Salary is very competitive.

If interested, please submit a cover letter and resume with at least three nonrelated references to Kristin Underwood.

Sunday, April 23

Did you know that April is Mental Health Awareness Month? Did you also know that our First Congregational Church in 1970 founded what was then known as the Appleton Pastoral Counseling Center, which evolved years later into the Samaritan Counseling Center? As stated on their website, they “…specialize in integrating spirituality and faith in psychotherapy.” 

First Congo’s commitment to dealing with mental health issues is deep and ongoing, both within the church in various support groups and in the community through the Samaritan Counseling Center. It has been a local mission partner of our church for nearly 50 years.

During April, the Joyful Noise program is providing an opportunity for our Church School children to develop awareness of another of our nearby mission partners and to learn compassion for this challenging family and community health issue. In a modest but important fashion, they will learn how their Joyful Noise collection can help others who are struggling with mental health problems in their day-to-day lives. We ask that you provide your generous, noisy and joyful support during this month’s collection.

Please remember this initiative is not intended to replace or undermine our regular church offering or our annual Stewardship campaign.  We feel this offering is primarily a learning opportunity for our children, with the added benefit of providing some modest financial support for various outreach efforts.

Let’s make this fun and educational for everyone involved.  Thank you.

Peace, love and joy,
Your Stewardship Team

Wednesday, April 5, police escorted 70 Pokot women to Liter Centre in Kerio Valley, Kenya, reported Mildred Chepkonga. These women shared the same hope: that they might negotiate an end to recent tribal fighting between the Pokot and Marakwet people.

Many of the Pokot women had lived in grass-thatched houses, rather than permanent, iron-sheet homes. Fearing that their temporary shelters might be set on fire as a result of the recent violence, they opted to instead sleep in caves, despite the threat of snakes, Mildred explained.

The effect of the tribal fighting in the area goes beyond violence: a number of the women’s children and older relatives have died in recent weeks as families avoid traveling to Liter Dispensary and other health centers in Marakwet land.

Famine also has taken the lives of children and the elderly as fear of violence keeps families from farming. As a result, Mildred said, these families do not have enough food to eat.

Our Mission and Service team is sending $2,500 for maize, which will be distributed to starving families by our partner churches in Kenya. The Mission and Service team is accepting donations for maize and asks that you hold our Kenyan friends in your daily prayers.

Sundays, April 23–May 7

Stock Sales to support the 2017 Youth Mission Trip to Marvell, Arkansas are taking place this week! Make an investment in the life of a young person and in the lives of those we are serving in the community of Marvell.

Each year we raise almost $5,000 to offset the cost of our trip—help us reach our goal! More information is available at the Stock Sale tables in the Narthex. Thanks for your support!

April 22 • 9:00 AM–2:00 PM
First Congregational Church, 220 Ransom St., Ripon

June 9–11
Green Lake Conference Center

If you’ve ever been interested in representing First Congo, we have two great opportunities for you.

Join the Northeast Association of the Wisconsin Conference of the United Church of Christ on April 22 for a day of worship, fellowship and education with other area UCC members. The Northeast Association’s annual meeting will highlight the idea of the local church and the variety of ministries we find there.

Registration is at 8:30 AM and the day begins at 9:00 AM. Refreshments and lunch will be provided. Childcare will be available for infants through sixth grade. 
The cost is $12 per person at the door.

Register for the event at

The Wisconsin Conference’s annual meeting also offers the opportunity to be a delegate or volunteer. The theme of the June 9–11 conference is “SHIFT: Our Unfolding Story.”

Learn more about the WCUCC’s annual meeting at


Thank you to all from First Congo who volunteered with Back Bay Mission this year. To celebrate, we’ve posted photos from the trip to our Facebook page. You can find them at

Back Bay Mission also sent a note of thanks for our church’s monetary and volunteer support:

Members of First Congregational Church,

Thank you for supporting Back Bay Mission! Every day, people in need walk through our doors looking for help. Thanks to you, we can make sure they get what they need. From Mississippi’s only client-choice food pantry to the best housing rehabilitation ministry on the Gulf Coast, we’re transforming lives because you’re behind us. As a member of the Board of Directors, I wanted to let you know how much your support means to me personally and to the people we serve.

Thank you!

Grace and peace,
Carol Merriman

You can see this thank you note in person on the Mission and Service bulletin board in the Narthex.

Sunday, April 30 • 8:45 and 10:30 AM services

This spring, you needn’t leave the Fox Valley to enjoy a classic masterpiece. Please join us Sunday, April 30, for what some argue to be Joseph Haydn’s “greatest single composition,” Lord Nelson Mass. This performance, part of First Congregational’s Masterworks in Worship series, will feature the First Congregational UCC Sanctuary Choir; soloists from our Lawrence University Scholars Program; and a chamber orchestra of strings, trumpets, organ, and timpani, with Janet Sutter as concertmaster.

A free-will offering will be received.

First Congo will once again participate in a project to allow members to prepare food in their own home for Homeless Connections. Empty pans will be distributed to willing churchgoers. The pans will contain the recipe and shopping list to prepare and fill the empty pan with lasagna or a comparable dish.

It’s simple:

  1. Pick up an empty pan on Sunday, April 30.
  2. Follow the simple grocery list and purchase the ingredients to make the dish (approximately $13).
  3. During the week, prepare the simple recipe and fill the pan (it’s so simple—no cooking noodles required).
  4. Place the prepared pan in your freezer if possible (the refrigerator is OK too).
  5. Bring the prepared pan to church on Sunday, May 7.
  6. Enjoy the great feeling of using your gifts to nourish others!

Note: If you’re unable to bring the pan back on May 7, please try to bring it the week before. It can be placed in the lower-level kitchen freezer. This makes transport and storage more convenient.

Sunday, April 30 • 10:30–11:00 AM
Common Grounds
Wednesday, May 3 • 6:00 PM
Fellowship Hall

This year, we will be leading a “healing service” for our church. This service is a powerful experience and a great way to have our young people ministering to the entire church. We encourage you to be involved!

Any middle or high school youth interested in participating in our Healing Service put on by children and youth on May 7 should join us from 10:30 to 11:00 AM Sunday, April 30 in Common Grounds to share ideas, practice their parts and get involved!

On Wednesday, May 3, starting at 6:00 PM, we will have a MANDATORY dinner and rehearsal for all children and youth participating in the Healing Service on May 7.  Come for a night of food, fun and preparation as we learn our roles and prepare to lead worship. 

Questions? Call Pastor Nick or Joel Morien at 920-733-7393.


Sunday, April 30 • 11:45 AM
Fellowship Hall

Please join us for the Annual Kenya Student Sponsor Luncheon!  Several members of the Kenya Partnership Team were in Kenya this past January. We will be sharing updates on our Kenyan Partners and many of our sponsored students.

Lunch will consist of a traditional Kenyan meal (hot dogs and buns will be available as an alternative for children). Drinks will include water, milk and chai. Dessert will be oranges and bananas.

After lunch there will be a short presentation.

Please RSVP to Matt Wiskerchen or sign up in the Narthex on or before April 16. We hope to see you soon!

Soon Habitat for Humanity's Rock the Block will be in Kaukauna. They are looking for volunteers to work on Saturday, May 6. If you have ever wanted to be involved in a Habitat project, here is your opportunity to change a community.  

Rock the Block headquarters will be at the Saint Katherine Drexel Catholic Church, where registration, meetings, work assignments and meals for the volunteers will take place.

You can either sign up for Rock the Block at Habitat's Volunteer Hub,, or sign up in the Narthex.

Need to get to church on Saturday morning, May 13? This year’s 35th annual American Cancer Society Sole Burner 5K walk/run could affect your plans.

East South River Street will be closed to traffic from approximately 9:00–10:00 AM due to the event.

Six thousand people are expected to participate in Sole Burner with the goal of raising $280,000 to fight cancer. The public is invited to cheer on the runners.

Want to participate in the 5K? Use discount code SOLEBURN17 to get $5 off the event registration fee at

Saturday, May 6 • 3:00 PM
First Congregational UCC Theater

Movies with THE Mouse and God is an opportunity for families to enjoy a Disney/Pixar movie in our very own state-of-the-art theater, followed by a brief discussion and craft that speaks to the message delivered by the movie.

This activity is planned with families in mind to get a conversation rolling surrounding teachings of the Bible, to build upon family connection and to simply enjoy an evening of fun together!

Our May 6 movie feature will be Finding Nemo and our discussion and craft will center around friendship and support.

Family is however you define it; everyone is welcome. However, children must be under the supervision of an adult. Please RSVP to Kristin Underwood to assure we have enough supplies on hand. A light snack will be served. 


Please join us between services May 7 to discuss First Congregational’s PrayGround. Before our congregational conversation, be sure to fill out the survey found in the pews Sunday, April 23 or April 30.

It’s been said Wisconsin has only two seasons: winter and construction season. Now that winter is winding down, you might be seeing more and more orange barrels around town. This is especially true if you regularly travel on Oneida Street south of the Fox River.

The city of Appleton has already begun the lengthy project of redoing the busy street. Sections of the street and Olde Oneida Street are currently closed to through traffic, which can make it difficult to get to First Congregational if you live in the area.

To help you find an alternate route that works for you, we’ve attached an image of the timeline of the project and the city’s suggested detour. You can find it below.

We’re happy to report that our Palm Sunday French toast strata was a hit! If you’re craving this sweet treat, we’re happy to share the recipe with you:

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 45 minutes


        2 tubes refrigerated cinnamon rolls with icing

        4 Tbsp. butter, melted

        6 eggs

        ½ cup milk

        2 tsp cinnamon

        2 tsp vanilla

        1 cup maple syrup


  1. Pour the butter on the bottom of a 9x13 glass baking dish.
  2. Cut each cinnamon roll into 8 pieces and spread evenly over the butter.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, cinnamon and vanilla and pour over the cinnamon rolls.
  4. Pour 1 cup of maple syrup over the mixture.
  5. Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes.
  6. Top with the icing from the cinnamon rolls.



Due to popular demand, we have ordered another batch of the three-language, neighbor-welcoming yard signs. If you or someone you know would like a sign, you can find them in the Narthex today. Monday through Thursday, 9:00 AM–3:00 PM, you can find the signs in the Church Office.

The suggested donation is $8.

Thank you for making our community a more welcoming place!

We’re happy to announce that First Congregational has upgraded its WiFi network. This means you don’t have to wait to share that cute photo of your child’s baptism, you can upload church group documents on the fly, and you can download our bulletin to your smartphone—all without using data.

Our revamped network is named FCUCC-Guest and the network password is UCCWireless. Happy surfing!

Does it bother you when you throw away your apple cores, carrot trimmings or potato peels?

Sustainability means that everything responsible for our well-being comes from our environment. If millions of people throw away materials that can be used again in another form, it is as unsatisfactory as leaving on a faucet or light bulb indefinitely. It is wasteful.

Gardeners love compost because it completes the natural cycle of renewal.  Living things grow, reproduce, die.  Nature reclaims these materials and repurposes them to allow new growth and reproduction. Composting is completely free—part of our environment’s bevy of free services. 

You could spend $400 to get a fancy composter, but there’s no need to splurge—a bin can be as simple as a ring of chicken wire held by zip ties. Another great way to begin composting with little to no investment is to check out our display today in the Narthex. Learn how the composting process works and add your name to our new composting bin giveaway.

Congratulations to Rev. Charles Rota on turning 100 on April 17!

Charles served United Methodist churches before becoming pastor of Lake Edge UCC in Madison, Wisconsin. After that, he served churches in Illinois, Minnesota, Texas and New London, Wisconsin. He continues to enjoy good health, a sharp mind and waking without assistance devices.

Saturday, May 20 • 8:00 AM–12:00 PM

Save the date! The Environmental Justice Team of First Congregational and ESTHER are co-sponsoring an electronics recycling event and fundraiser on May 20, rain or shine, in the parking lot of First Congo.

All materials to be recycled will be kept in the U.S. Bring anything with a cord. All hard drives will be shredded/destroyed.

Most materials will be free to recycle, but there will be a fee to recycle monitors and TVs.

The church has mice! But they are cute and friendly!

The children of choir parents have been meeting during choir rehearsals since January and we are having a blast! This ministry was started to provide a safe space with some intentional fellowship for the children of  our choir members who were without childcare. We have enjoyed various craft projects, movies, and follow up Church School lessons. Our evening usually begins with 30 minutes of homework time and piano practicing followed by fun.

If the only thing preventing you from joining our amazing choir has been childcare, no more excuses. The Church Mice Youth group is open for students age 4 through grade 6. Students should bring homework or a quiet project for the first 30 minutes of our time together and  parents should be members of the choir to take advantage of this awesome opportunity.

First Congregational’s Facebook page is close to breaking 1,000 likes! To achieve our goal, we need your help.

Our Facebook page is a great place to keep tabs on upcoming events — both at First Congregational and in the community — as well as current mission, service, music and worship news.

If you haven’t yet done so, visit our page at and click “Like.” Consider recommending the page to your friends, family and others who you think might be interested in our church and all we do to celebrate God. 

Camp AweSum is not a “church camp” in the way that most people picture. It is a nonprofit group that organizes camping experiences for kids on the Autism Spectrum and their families, and it is held at one of our UCC camps, Moon Beach Camp in St. Germain, Wisconsin. At Camp AweSum, kids and teens develop new friendships through tried and true camping experiences like arts and crafts, nature walks, and music. 

The staff of Camp AweSum consists of autism specialists, other professionals, students in autism education, and volunteers who attend a two-hour training session in preparation for the experience. Our Director for Children’s Ministries, Kristin Underwood, has been involved with Camp AweSum for many years, taking groups of teen volunteers every summer. She is currently recruiting volunteers (eighth grade and older) for this excellent outreach opportunity. 

The youth volunteers often sum up their experience in three words: life-changing experience. 

We know that life can be hectic for parents—especially when kids are involved in a number of activities. That’s why we’ve designed calendars specially for parents of children and youth in Church School, Middle School Ministry, High School Ministry and Confirmation. Calendars can be found at the bottom of these pages. Print off the relevant calendar and never miss a CYF event!

Whether you’re looking to cut back on how much paper you use, want to see colorful photos or simply prefer to read on your smartphone, our downloadable bulletin is just what you’re looking for.

Simply scan the code with your phone’s QR scanner to download a PDF of our Sunday bulletin/The Open Door. On Sunday, grab the music handout from our ushers and you’re all set for service!

Dear First Congregational,

Thank you for showing that people of all different faiths are united in one cause—to make the world a better place.

Your gift of $2,500 will support the Interfaith Builds of 2017. Your gift will mean that the workers will have the tools and supplies they need.

This is the fifth year of the Interfaith Builds. By the end of 2017, over 70 people will sleep in the 9 homes the faith communities of the Fox Valley have built together. Every nail, every action has contributed to this good—and the goodwill built across our communities. You can see it every day at the build sites. The world can be better. And because of people like you, it IS becoming better.

We do not claim to know what the Almighty wills for us. We only know that good people acting in faith will show that there is a reason to have faith.

Thank you for helping people of faith do God’s work. Thank you for being such an amazing partner in our ministry!

John Weyenberg,
President/Executive Director
Greater Fox Cities Area Habitat for Humanity

Note: You can see this thank you note in person on the Mission and Service bulletin board in the Narthex.

We have a small group of individuals at First Congo who have been working on efforts to impact the care of creation. We are going to be sharing tips on “green living” in the bulletin and through occasional displays in the Narthex. If you would like to find out more about these efforts or to share your own tips, please contact Chris Brittnacher.

Tip: Rethink your use of bottled water

Producing bottles for bottled water uses enough oil to fuel 1.3 million cars for a year. Other costs to the environment include the oil used for transportation and the low recycling rate for plastic.

Using one water pitcher filter and a reusable bottle can replace 300 16-ounce bottles of water — good for your wallet and the planet!

Tip: Eat local

Choosing local food when possible has many benefits to the environment, our local economy and our health.

  • It reduces the pollution and energy use associated with transporting, storing, and refrigerating the food.
  • It supports smaller growers whose scale and diversity allows them to use less pesticides and fertilizers than large monoculture farms.
  • Local foods taste better and are more nutritious since they are picked at their peak and haven’t been sitting in a warehouse.

Tip: Choose organic in the grocery store

Buy organic food because you will be eating food without synthetic pesticides, synthetic herbicides and hormones. You are also supporting an industry that doesn’t use petroleum-based fertilizers, which damage the environment.

Tip: Go meat-free on Mondays

Having pasta or a vegetarian soup on Mondays might not seem like a big deal, but adding one meat-free meal per week (for a family of four) has the same impact as driving a hybrid car! Raising livestock produces a large amount of greenhouse gases, so cutting back, even one night per week, makes a big difference.

Tip: Save money and the environment by reducing your food waste

Did you know that 40% of food in America is never eaten?

The average American household is throwing away $120 each month in uneaten food. Nationwide, we waste $165 billion in food. Food is the number one thing in our landfills and is a big contributor to climate pollution.

One in eight Americans struggle to put food on the table, so there are many good reasons to be conscious of food waste. Here are some tips:

  1. Plan your meals in advance and shop with a list. Only purchase what you can consume before it expires.
  2. Use leftovers and ingredients that you have on hand as inspiration for future meals. The internet is full of ideas!
  3. Freeze what you can't use up soon: berries, bananas and greens can be used for future smoothies, while onions, peppers, tomatoes and fresh herbs can be chopped up and frozen for chili, stews, etc. For more ideas, check out

Children bring special gifts to worship and grow in faith through their regular inclusion and participation in worship with the congregation.

To help our church live out this important mission, the Children’s Ministry Team launched an experiment in late May 2016 cleverly named PrayGround.

The PrayGround is intended for children ages 3–10; our nursery/toddler rooms are available for our youngest worshippers.

While the PrayGround is loosely supervised, parents are still expected to maintain the primary caretaker role (bathroom breaks, disciplining etc.)

PrayGround participants are expected to:
·      Use quiet voices at all times.
·      Enjoy the quiet activities provided.
·      Participate in the worship service when appropriate (Children’s message, Lord’s Prayer, unison readings).
·      Stop activity when praying.

Parents/guardians are expected to:
·      Enjoy the service from a spot where you can see your child/children or join them in the PrayGround.
·      Redirect, calm, or remove your child/children if they become disruptive to other children or to the service itself.
·      Pick up children at the close of the Benediction.

Household items are frequent needs for families struggling to improve their quality of life in the Fox Valley. Recently many specific, known needs have come to our attention.

  • A single mom with three kids recently moved into her own apartment and is in need of plates and bowls.
  • A mother of an 8-year-old and baby due this month is low income. She is need of a kitchen table/chairs and dresser.
  • Parents with four children, one a 15-year-old pregnant daughter, are in need of a stroller, bottles and newborn clothes.
  • Parents of two children are in need of a microwave.
  • A mother of two is in need of a kitchen table and chair.
  • Parents with six children recently lost their housing and were staying with relatives. During that time they placed their belongings in a shed, which leaked and ruined the furniture. They now have their own place and are in need of dressers.

Please make arrangements with Pat Hauser before bringing donations to the church. Thank you for sharing with those in need!

Baptisms are scheduled for the following Sundays in early 2017:

  • January 8
  • February 12
  • February 19
  • March 19
  • April 23
  • May 14

If you plan to be baptized or have a child baptized, please fill out a baptism registration form and turn it in to the church office at least a month ahead of time.

Update: You can now download baptism and wedding application forms from!

Deer in the snowy ravine at First Congregational.In cases of severe weather, First Congregational closes its office and cancels events when the Appleton School District is closed. We post closing information on a yellow banner across our home page at Although we have not canceled worship services in the past, you are encouraged to check our website on Sunday mornings to see if cancelations are posted.

Please look after your own safety when deciding whether to travel in severe weather. Church school teachers are asked to contact Kristin Underwood when unable come for class.

As a member of First Congregational, you’re part of our family — our really big family. With that in mind, please remember to wear your name tag during service, so that we may all great each other by name.

Additionally, please remember to sign the pew cards — even if you’re a staff member, usher, choir member or greeter. This helps us keep accurate attendance records, which means we’re able to print the right amount of bulletins each week,  record accurate data in our annual reports and much more.

Thank you for everything you do at First Congregational. We love having you as part of the family!

First Congregational takes the cultivation of a loving and safe environment for all of its members very seriously. Our SafeConduct™ Policy protects the safety of everyone who participates in ministries for children, youth and vulnerable adults. The Code of Conduct section within this policy is required reading for anyone applying to volunteer in these ministries. You may view the policy at

If you are interested in volunteering with children, youth or vulnerable adults, we invite you to apply in advance so that you have the flexibility to jump in whenever an opportunity comes your way. Please contact the church office to get the application process started.