Judy Albright and Abby Gleason - Design and Publishing

Elizabeth Davis - Editor

December 2023

Rev. Andy Nagy-Benson

Dear Church,


On the four Sunday mornings in ADVENT (a word that means “arrival”), we tell time by the number of candles lit. The week-to-week, candle-to-candle rhythm of this season offers us something that the digital, countdown clocks to Christmas cannot. Time to stop. Time to reflect on faithful essentials—hope, peace, joy, love. Time to step out of the whirlwind and sit in the calm of candlelight.


Four Sundays, four candles. And on Christmas Eve, we light these four, then we light one more. This one is the Christ candle: the candle at the center of the wreath, in honor of the One at the center of our life together.


If you love Advent and its wreath of candles as much as I, then we have a German Lutheran pastor, Johann Hinrich Wichern, to thank. Rev. Wichern (1808–1881) ministered to his poorest neighbors in Hamburg, and he founded and led a school there for the city’s most destitute children. As you might imagine, each December these children would ask (and ask, and ask) when Christmas would come. So, in 1839, Rev. Wichern bedazzled an old cartwheel with 24 small red candles and four large white ones. The red candles were lit, one day at a time, every weekday and Saturday in Advent. The white candles were for Sundays.


The tradition of those four Advent Sunday candles caught on, if slowly. Advent wreathes started populating American churches in the 1930s. And I’m glad they did. At a time of the year when days and evenings can be hard-packed with too much to do, I am grateful for Advent’s gift of spiritual aeration, its spaciousness of time to hold in mind what the arrival of Jesus—God with us—means to us.


Which is to say, I love walking this Advent path with you and watching the light grow as we go.


Hope? Peace? Joy? Love? Yes, please.


Let it shine,

Rev. Andy Nagy-Benson



Church Council reviewed the previous month's Board meetings and a written report from Pastor Andy. We reviewed and approved the job description for the Chef for the Community Suppers and approved hiring the person recommended by Dottie Neuberger. We were pleased to hear about a $200,000 anonymous gift to the Community Suppers.

Church Council authorized Leanna to sign a letter supporting a grant request for the community media center. We approved the bylaws changes requested by the Board of Membership and Communications. These will be voted on at our next Annual Meeting. We heard a report from the Budget and Stewardship Committee.

We spent the remainder of the meeting in Executive Session reviewing the annual employee evaluations for all employees except our Pastors, which we did last month. When we came out of Executive Session, we passed a motion thanking our staff for their excellent work and recommending an increase in their compensation.

Respectfully submitted,

Nancy Foster, Clerk

  • Between annual meetings, the Church Council meets once a month to fulfill its responsibility to coordinate the church's programs and business. Council has the powers generally ascribed to a corporation's board of directors.

    The Church Council is composed of the following Church members:  Moderator, Clerk, Treasurer, Senior Pastor, Associate Pastor, and the chairpersons of the six church boards. Also, there are three at-large members. One is elected every year and serves a 3 year term.

  • The basic life and work of the church is under the direction and supervision of church boards, which meet monthly at the All Boards Meeting and report to the Church Council. Members of these boards are elected from the membership of the church. 

Caroling on the steps

Bundle up and join us on the front steps of the church for caroling at 10:00 a.m. on December 2nd! All are welcome!

The 2023 Holiday Bazaar UPDATE

Thank you to everyone who contributed in a variety of ways to support the Holiday Bazaar!


Once again, the weather was kind on the first Saturday of November, and shoppers were joyful as our doors opened for the 99th time for the Holiday Bazaar. We believe this fundraiser has always been a highly anticipated event, having been supported by many generations of church members over the years. It’s become a tradition that so many in our community seem happy to generously support.


To date, this year’s Bazaar has raised over $18,000! This financial success was achieved by over 50 volunteers working throughout Bazaar week and because of the many generous donations made in the days before the event. A breakdown of the sales totals will be shared when the counting is complete and will also appear in the church’s 2023 Annual Report.


Thank you all so much for making the Holiday Bazaar a special and joy-filled church event!


Ruth Penfield and Judy Jessup, 2023 Holiday Bazaar co-chairs

Bible study

Pastor Andy will lead an Advent Bible study for four Tuesdays beginning on November 28th. We will explore the birth narrative in the Gospel of Matthew and Luke, the only two books of the New Testament that include such stories. Classes will be held in person and on Zoom. All are welcome!


The spread of poinsettias across the front of the church make a big colorful Christmas splash for the Christmas Eve services.  These are provided by you!  When you order a poinsettia (red, white, or pink) they will be placed in front, providing a bank of red (mostly) for everyone's enjoyment.  Then you take it home, if you wish, after the service for your own Christmas pleasure...or you donate it so it can cheer someone else up.  

Each plant is $26, and the very last day to order is December 15th, but the sooner you order it the better your chances of getting what you want. Order after church in Fellowship Hall or email Polly Birdsall (pmb210@gmail.com)

Holiday gifts for the children!

Dear Church Community,

Red Clover Children's Center is making great strides towards opening! We are eager and excited to have our youngest learners here and enjoying our beautiful classrooms! In light of the giving season, we wanted to share our wish list of educational materials to add to our classrooms! If you feel called to purchase a gift for our program, we would be so grateful! 

Thank you all for your continued support and encouragement!


RCCC Staff & Board

wish List for RCCC

Endless Pastabilities

Endless Pastabilities Friends, as the year draws to an end, your Board of Mission and Social Concerns has declared December to be "Endless Pastabilities" month. It's the final month of our year-long effort to collect food for the HOPE food shelf. This time we're asking you to donate all things pasta — it could be dry pasta, boxed macaroni and cheese, canned spaghetti, chicken noodle soup, ramen, or any other nonperishable form of pasta. Yes, the pastabilities are truly endless! Of course, non-pasta items are also welcome at the food shelf. You can bring your pasta donations to any upcoming Sunday service and we'll deliver them to HOPE.

Shop the Habitat for Humanity

Alternative gift fair and Christmas Card Sale!

December 10th Habitat for Humanity of Addison County will hold an Alternative Gift Fair on December 10th during the coffee hour after church. Habitat offers two ways you can give your family and friends ameaningful gift that will help Habitat continue to offer decent, affordable and energy efficient housing in Addison County. 

You can purchase a Christmas card for $10.00 or our Alternative Card gives you the opportunity to purchase materials for our next house. Come shop at the Alternative Gift Fair!

Men's and Ladies Lunch

Men’s Lunch Bunch at Rosie’s The Men's Lunch Bunch will be held at Rosie’s Restaurant on December 21st at noon. If you plan to attend the lunch or have questions, please contact Mal Chase at patandmalchase@gmail.com.

The next ladies lunch will be held on January 18th. We are skipping lunch in December.

Are you aware...

of the land holdings of our church?

Part 2

 Have all the real estate transactions been in Vermont? The answer may surprise you…


The Congregational Church of Middlebury (UCC) has been involved in several land and fiscal transactions. This article highlights the potential value to the church of each of seven transactions (four parcels in Part 1, and three parcels in Part 2).


The parcels being examined are The Henshaw House, The Monroe House, The Hayward Block, Lazarus Property, Charter House, Cobble House, and The Battell Memorial Chapel.


Refreshing the four transactions in Part 1:

Two parsonages were purchased as homes for the pastors; each was sold after a few years. This additional land was part of the church’s property for only a short period of time. The Hayward Block on College Street was bequeathed to the church by Mrs. Alice Hayward Woodcock in 1966. It was not useful for church purposes, so after negotiation, it was sold to Middlebury College for $25,000. There was no land transferred to the church. The Cobble House provided a permanent long-term parcel to the church. The land from the Cobble House purchase provided ample space for additional church offices, classrooms, and meeting rooms for a new north wing to the church.


Part 2 of this article examines three more real estate transactions: Charter House, Lazarus property, and the Battell Memorial Chapel.


Charter House — 27 North Pleasant Street; owned from 1970 to current. A Warranty Deed was signed on 23 Nov 1970, Book 67 /483. Grantor, The Alumni Corporation of Beta Nu Chapter of Theta Chi; Grantee, The Congregational Church of Middlebury, Inc. The cost of the purchase was $45,000. Charter House was bought with the clear purpose and intent that it would have a multi-fold use. It would serve the needs of space for worship, church offices, church group meetings, education of the youth, as well as the needs of the community.


Lazarus property — 4 Seymour Street; owned from 1959 to current. In 1959 it was evident that a need existed for more space, especially for the church school; the Lazarus property was purchased from Harry R. Lazarus for $16,500. A careful consideration led to the final consensus that renovation of the buildings was impractical, and all buildings were razed. The land was cleared, graded, and adapted for use as a church parking lot. A warranty deed states “a parcel of land with buildings thereon situate on the easterly side of Seymour Street in the Village of Middlebury and bounded northerly by lands of Elizabeth Wimett and J. W. Murdock and wife, easterly by lands of the said Murdocks, southerly by said lands of the Religious Congregational Society and westerly by said Seymour Street.”

In 1979, the church responded to the shortage of parking places in town. Town officials proposed to develop our Seymour Street parking lot, to provide at least twelve parking spaces for town use, and to use for fifteen years at one dollar a year, providing all maintenance and snow removal. The lot would be reserved for church folks at worship and other special meetings. The proposal was approved October 14, 1979. The town spent about $6,000 on retaining walls, drainage, and paving.


Battell Memorial Chapel: Bequest of $20,000.

The details of this bequest are based on two paragraphs in the book on the history of the church (1990) by Stephen A. Freeman and the printed minutes of a three-way conversation between Phelps N. Swett, Richard Hubbard, and Stephen A. Freeman in 1972. Much of the following information on the chapel or $20,000 is taken as is from this three way conversation:

Because of the long association (PNS) with the Congregational Church and your financial responsibilities as Fiscal Agent and being very much interested in the church over a period of years, you have a tremendous amount of knowledge that we feel is important and should be recorded and kept on record as a permanent listing of whatever events have occurred in which you have knowledge and very few others, if any, have knowledge. [MWC has only found this particular conversation, no others]

The Religious Society met on July 5, 1902, and was informed by John W. Stewart, that his late wife, Emma Battell Stewart, had left to her trustees, the monies for the erection of a chapel. Phelps N. Swett was asked to relate his knowledge, background, and history of the monies that were left by Philip Battell to the church in 1928. The Stewart bequest had to do with the construction of a chapel which was not ultimately built. It also involved some negotiation between the church and the Swift and the Stewart families in connection with the Community House.

The money came from Mrs. Swift’s mother, Joseph Battell’s sister (died March 19, 1900). The $20,000 was connected with her estate. The church at that time didn’t feel that they cared to accept a gift under the restrictions that guided the use of the bequest and, when I (Phelps) came here, that issue was taken up at the annual meeting and someone got up and asked about the $20,000 and it was hush, hush, we mustn’t bring it up. It was a sore point. I (Phelps) know Professor Wright was one who wanted to soft-pedal it and so that went on over the years. The restrictions were such that this new chapel that was to be built so that the use would be entirely religious and it could not be used for anything having to do with food or meetings that were not 100% religious -–so the church did not accept it.

The fruitless discussion continued over the years, and in 1927 the church and the Stewarts came to an agreement. They said they would turn over to the church $20,000 and no interest since 1924. The church was to accept just $20,000 and in return the church would give up a possible future interest that they might have in what is now called the Community House. So we went ahead on that basis and, as I recall it, the restriction was that Stewart/Battell interests were to be permanent in the Community House but it was to go to the church eventually if there was no one in the Stewart line who was interested in the Community House building. Should there be no one in the Stewart family who cared enough to continue it, it would revert to the church. Now if the church gave up that interest and Mrs. Swift was, of course, interested in that because she wanted to turn the building over to what is now the Community House. That is how the Community House started, and Judge Russell and Mrs. Swift and I worked on that and brought out the Articles of Association or whatever and the house was started. The $20,000 was turned over to the church. John Fletcher was the Treasurer of the church and he was interested, of course, in what we had to invest, and along in the late 1920s, he invested this $20,000 for the church: $8,000–$9,000 in a real estate mortgage in Brooklyn (1417 East 59th Street); $8,500 in a second real estate mortgage in Brooklyn (1311 Union Street); and $2,500 into the savings account at the National Bank.

These mortgages were insured. At that time, the insurance companies were strong and you could take 6% on a land mortgage and keep it all, or you could accept 5½%, and that ½% would guarantee the loan. But the Depression in 1930 came on, and so the church got very little income. The bottom dropped out, the insurance companies went broke, and the mortgages were not paying their interest. With James Gifford (New Haven) in charge of the trust account – his firm had a real estate man on their board – he took over and the church foreclosed and got the two properties by foreclosures; the cost of the foreclosure took practically all of the $2,500 we had in the National Bank at that time. We ended up with two properties in Brooklyn. He, through his firm, did all the necessary handling of the interest of the church with these properties. The names of the tenants were completely unfamiliar to the church. We couldn’t sell the properties because it was the early 1930s, so he would send a report at the end of the year and the church would get their share. I was very anxious that the funds be built back. We had an appraisal of the properties which was $10,000. If you could get it, $20,000 would be the total but you couldn’t get it. There was no sale of properties at that time. As the money came in, I turned part of it over.

I became Fiscal Agent around 1951 in January and we were getting reports from Mr. Gifford’s firm, and I would turn over a certain percentage to build the fund back again. We kept trying to sell the properties and finally l did sell one property at bargain prices. We got cash and I put that money into F Bonds. The reasons I bought was because there was no interest coming in on them. You could buy them for $740 per $1,000 and they built up and I was anxious to build them up so we would have a fund of $20,000 real dollars so people in the future wouldn’t say, “There was a fund of $20,000 – where is it?” I was anxious that it be built up to assure people in the future that any funds they left would be carefully guarded and if there were losses somebody would in some way or another get those back.

In summary, the seven transactions can be briefly stated as follows:


Henshaw House – Lot to serve as manse for pastors, and then sold

Monroe House – Lot to serve as manse for pastors, and then sold

Charter House – Lot bought and kept for church use

Cobble House – Lot bought and used as land for new building

Battell Memorial Chapel – Chapel not erected, monies unrestricted funds to church

Hayward Block – Lot bequeathed to church, then sold to the college

Lazarus Property – Lot bought for church uses, converted to parking lot


Malcolm W. Chase


did you know?

Please note if you are donating to our church:

• from your IRA via a Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD)

• through a Donor Advised Fund (DAF)

• via a gift of stock

Please notify the treasurers of the incoming donation and ask your broker to include your name on the donation. This will greatly decrease the chance of confusion or error and increase the treasurers’ ability to credit you promptly and properly. If there is a year-end donation made, please be sure the funds reach the church by mid-December.

Many thanks!


The Planned Giving Committee – John Emerson, Sally Holland (chair), and Tana Scott

Walking Group

Walking Group will be taking a hiatus for the month of December.  Lois & Holly will be away, hopefully soaking up some sunshine until 11 Dec.  Let's plan on resuming our walks January 1, 2024


The Nominating Committee meets each Fall to recommend church members for open positions on the six church Boards. Each year, a third of the members on each board rotate off the board and are replaced by new members. This is specified in the Church's by-laws, and this practice encourages more participation as well as new ideas and energy on each board. The term of service is normally three years, and it begins each February. 

If you are interested in serving on a board, please contact Michele Brown at 802-349-9843 or michelelbrown59@gmail.com.

  • December Birthdays

    • to view birthdays for any month of the year SIGN IN to our online directory.
    • Click on Calendar in the upper left of the screen.

    Eryn Diehl                                 December 1

    Stacie Baldwin                          December 2

    Bob Granner                              December 2

    Deb Evans                                December 5

    Julia Morrissey                          December 5

    Laine Baldwin                            December 6

    Penny Stattel                            December 6

    Ed Williams                               December 8

    Chas Lyons                              December 9

    Kendra Tatkon-Kent                   December 12

    David Deering                           December 13

    Charles Swift                            December 13

    Bill Fifield                                  December 15

    Eva Phair                                  December 15

    Oliver Poduschnick                   December 15

    Ellie Hendy                               December 18

    Doreen Whitney                         December 18

    Carol Campbell                         December 21

    Steve Hoffman                          December 24

    Rebecca Orten                          December 26

    Willow Tatkon-Kent Dora           December 26

    Pat Durfee                                December 27

    Emma Morrissey                       December 27

    Jim Donnelly                             December 28

    Donna Carpenter                       December 30

    Julie Tatkon                              December 30



  • December Anniversaries

    Allison Stanger & Michael Kraus             December 9

    Michael & Chris Giorgio                         December 12

    Bill & Gail Miller                                     December 12

    Jeff Buettner & Jessica Allen                  December 15

    Polly & Dale Birdsall                              December 20

    John McLeod & Blair Kloman                 December 22