News and Notes

Thursday, March 30
Breakfast and networking at 8:00 AM • Program from 9:00 AM–4:00 PM

Bethel Lutheran Church, 312 Wisconsin Ave., Madison

ESTHER invites you to join over 800 WISDOM members and friends from across the state at the Wisconsin State Capitol to advocate and to educate legislators and departments about issues in the proposed state budget, including criminal justice reform, environmental justice, community health, education and public transit!

Cost: $25, which includes lunch, materials and bus transportation. Scholarships are available. There will be buses to/from Fox Cities locations the day of the event.

Register at esther-foxvalley.org (scroll down past the calendar). Questions: call 920-843-8083 or email office@esther-foxvalley.org.

Wednesday, April 5 • 5:30 PM

Our next Membership Exploration class is fast approaching. If you are interested in attending, please contact the church office at (920) 733-7393 or sign up on the sheet in the Narthex. If you need child care, please inform the church office by noon, March 31. If advance requests are not made, child care will not be available on the day of the class.

The Membership Exploration Class is designed for people who are considering membership with First Congregational United Church of Christ. This class, led by our staff and accompanied by contributions from the lay leadership of the church, explores the history and polity of the United Church of Christ, the history and programs of First Congregational UCC, the faith and theology of the church, discernment of spiritual gifts for serving God, and the meaning of church membership and opportunities to serve the church.

One Great Hour of Sharing enables the United Church of Christ to reach people and communities affected by disaster, displacement and poverty. Your donations provide assistance to families and communities around the world, helping them become stronger, healthier and better equipped to address hardships and catastrophes. 

Every gift you give brings you into another person’s life. You are providing education and tools for a young man in Sri Lanka to become employed and provide for his family. You are providing a boat and nets for fishermen in Haiti who lost theirs in recent storms—they can once again provide food for their families and send their children to school. You are providing mobile clinics to families in East Timor, reducing malnutrition, anemia and intestinal worms among children there.

Thank you for giving generously to our One Great Hour of Sharing offering. Your generosity will change lives and make a difference!

Kudos to First Congregational member Doug Gilbert, who was recently named Volunteer of the Year by the Greater Fox Cities Area Habitat for Humanity.

Doug has been lending a hand to Fox Cities Habitat for more than 20 years. He was recognized as Volunteer of the Year at Habitat’s recent annual appreciation dinner.

Tuesday, March 28 • 6:30–8:00 PM
Home of Barb Uehling

Join us for a glass of wine or a nonalcoholic beverage and lively conversation as we discuss Luis Alberto Urrea’s 2009 book, Into the Beautiful North.

Nineteen-year-old Nayeli works at a taco shop in her Mexican village and dreams about her father, who journeyed to the US when she was young. Recently, it has dawned on her that he isn't the only man who has left town. In fact, there are almost no men in the village—they’ve all gone north.

While watching The Magnificent Seven, Nayeli decides to go north herself and recruit seven men—her own “Siete Magníficos”—to repopulate her hometown and protect it from the bandidos who plan on taking it over. 

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. 

Palm Sunday, April 9 • 9:45–10:30 AM
Fellowship Hall

Join us between services on Palm Sunday for fun, fellowship and delicious food. The menu features French toast strata, gluten-free potato pancakes, bacon and juice.

A free-will offering will be received.

Adult Ed Movie Screening

Friday, April 7 • 7:00 PM

Join us as we watch this 2012 profile of Tania Head, former president of the World Trade Center Survivors’ Network.  What began as a documentary on Head’s work with the network became an exposé on her fabrications surrounding her experience on 9/11.

Viewers have used this film as a springboard for discussions of trauma, survival, morality and the media.

This movie is rated TV-PG and has a runtime of 90 minutes.

Tuesday, March 28 • 1:30–7:30 PM
Fox Cities Performing Arts Center, 400 W College Ave, Appleton

Have you ever wondered how you can make a difference in the lives of our veterans?

Check out Connect to Courage, a free event designed to raise awareness of the plight and challenges of our veterans. The free event’s Resource Fair will feature 50 booths manned by local support organizations that offer resources and educational tools to assist veterans, their families and our community.

The Connect to Courage event also will offer showings of the Project 22 documentary at 2:30 and 7:00 PM, and Question, Persuade & Refer (QPR) training from 5:00 to 6:30 PM.

Learn more at the Connect to Courage Facebook page.

This week, our Middle School group spent time reflecting on God’s unconditional love and how we can share that by being kind to others. We found that sometimes we just need some positivity during our day, maybe a little hope, or perhaps some understanding.

We made “Take What You Need” signs and have hung them around the church, for YOU to take what you need for the day or week. We hope that you can grab what you need and spread God’s unconditional love!

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 www.facebook.com/1stCongo 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. 

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.

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.

Congratulations to two of our church members who recently received significant honors.

Paris Wicker, a faithful member of our choir and Associate Dean of Students for Campus Programs at Lawrence University, was honored with the Fox Cities Future 15 Young Professionals Award. This award recognizes young business and community leaders for their efforts in work, civic and charitable causes. Future 15 recipients are chosen based on their dedication, strong sense of vision for the Fox Cities and understanding of the importance of volunteering and giving back.

Annette Grunseth, also a member of our choir, is having her first book of poetry published this summer.  Her collection of poems, Becoming Trans-Parent, One Family’s Journey of Gender Transition, is being published by Finishing Line Press. You can order a copy of the book by going to www.finishinglinepress.com

​Easter Sunday, April 16 • 9:45–10:30 AM
Upper level of the CYF Center

Easter is coming! Be sure you set aside time between services on April 16 to attend our massive Easter egg hunt! All First Congo children ages 2 through grade 6 are invited to join the hunt. We will hide approximately 2,000 eggs, which will be filled with new, individually wrapped candies.

Children should be sure to bring an Easter basket to carry their eggs.

Are you one of our wonderful helpers who volunteered to fill Easter eggs? Please remember to return filled eggs by Palm Sunday, April 9. Thank you!

Do you feel like something is missing in the Sanctuary but you’re not sure what it is?

It’s the back row of chairs that used to be near the usher station. We removed them to allow for better accessibility.

Please let us know if you have any concerns!

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!

Our partner Re-Member is an independent, nonprofit organization that serves the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, seeking to improve the quality of reservation life. Every August since 2012, a small group from First Congo has made the trip out to Pine Ridge to work on a number of outreach projects across the Reservation. First Congregational members also donate to Re-Member through the Alternative Christmas Market, the Bunk Bed Program and other means.

We recently received a heartfelt thank you for our congregation’s support and a First Congo member’s recent generous donation. You can read this letter on the Mission and Service bulletin board in the Narthex or below:

Friends,

On behalf of the Re-Member Board, our volunteers, and the Oglala Lakota people, Thank You for your generous support of our winter utilities and Bunk Bed Program.

Our 19th season has just begun, and your support will ensure many busy hands, warm homes, and smiles in the weeks ahead.

With our unending gratitude,

Cory True, R-M.

Saturday, April 1 • 7:00 PM
Sanctuary

Mark your calendar for an evening that promises to be entertaining and inspiring! This is a compelling one-woman show about the co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement. After her death in 1980, the New York Times eulogized Dorothy as a “nonviolent social radical of luminous personality.”

This event is a benefit for ESTHER, made possible by sponsorship of St. Thomas More Community, Appleton; St. Bernard Parish, Appleton; and Casa Esther, Omro.

Seating is limited. Reserve your place now at www.esther-foxvalley.org (scroll down to find reservation area).

Sunday, April 9 • 2:00–5:00 PM
OuterEdge Stage, 303 N. Oneida St., Appleton

Come out in support of the Fox Valley Warming Shelter and enjoy music from talented local performers. Light refreshments will be served.

The cost is $10 at the door or $25 for VIP seating. If you’re interested in VIP seating, please contact Scott Peeples at 920-422-2365.

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 savethefood.com.

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.

  • Mother of five children is in need of two twin beds and dressers.
  • Mother with a 9-year-old is in need of a queen-size sheet and comforter as well as a twin-size sheet set and comforter.
  • Mother of an 11-year-old is in need of a vacuum and a twin mattress.
  • Mother of three teenagers is in need of two twin mattresses.
  • Family with two children and one on the way is in need of towels of all kinds, pots/pans, toaster, cookie sheets, cooking utensils and silverware.

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 firstcongoappleton.org!

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 www.firstcongoappleton.org. 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 www.firstcongoappleton.org/read-it-here.

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.