Judy Albright - Designer and Publisher
Elizabeth Davis - Editor
Judy Albright - Designer and Publisher
Elizabeth Davis - Editor
Happy February, church!
Over the next few months here at church, we’ll be naming and discussing things that we don’t talk about enough in church. If you could take a guess, what would they be? While there is definitely a long list of things (money? sex? aging? racism? reproductive loss? the list goes on), we will highlight two: Mental Illness and Gender/Sexuality.
Starting on January 24, I am leading an adult study on the book All Who Are Weary: Easing the Burden on the Walk with Mental Illness, by Rev. Emmy Kegler. The book explores the intersection of mental illness and our faith. This time will allow folks to share their own experiences of mental health and faith, if helpful, but even more than that, it will be a time to find out how this church can be more welcoming to people with a variety of mental health struggles. Many of us carry with us a diagnosis such as anxiety or depression; many of us have family members with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. All of us have been touched by mental illness in some way; what does our faith, what does our church, have to say about it? Where is God in the midst of a panic attack? How does prayer affect a clinically diagnosed disease? Historically, the Christian church has done a poor job of being compassionate to those who suffer from mental illness, spewing out harmful theology like “pray harder” or inflicting guilt unnecessarily. In my opinion, we need to find a better theology of mental health, and Rev. Emmy Kegler will help us do that with her book. Join us! We meet on Tuesday evenings in Unity Hall at 7:15 p.m. (1/24, 1/31, 2/7, and 2/21).
Our church became Open and Affirming in the mid-nineties. Since then, our understanding of gender and sexuality has changed a lot! The LGBTQ+ community has taught the world and the Christian church how to be more affirming of different identities. Back in the nineties, we didn’t have the word “non-binary.” There wasn’t the option to use pronouns other than “he/him” or “she/her.” Back in nineties , there was little emphasis on how gender identity affects our youth.
While I believe our church is a place of extravagant welcome, we can do more to welcome and affirm LGBTQ+ people into the life and leadership of our congregation. On the Sundays of March 26 and April 23 at 11:30 a.m. in Unity Hall, we will have two training sessions, led by Sarah Mell (they/them) on how we can be a safer place for people of all genders and sexualities. Sarah has served as a diversity, equity, and inclusion trainer and consultant for the past 6 years, and have spent their career integrating concepts of identity, sexuality, and empowerment into higher education spaces. Sarah will be joining our community to help guide conversations and connections around the ways gender and sexuality show up in our congregation, who feels seen and supported and who might not, and the ways we might all talk about these ever-evolving realities.
In the meantime, as food for thought, I give you this self-evaluation tool for Open and Affirming Churches. Stay tuned for more information!
God bless you all in this collective ministry.
We have crossed into a new year and it seems like a good time to check in with everyone!
Beginning this month we will be launching a project to update everyone's information for our directory and church records. Soon you will receive an email from the office asking you to review your contact information and other details. We will also be sending out a survey to learn of your interests, so that we can better connect you to church activities and programs.
We will also be offering a Photo Booth opportunity during Fellowship Hour for families and individuals to get an up-to-date photo for the directory. This will help us get to know our members and friends even better!
Church Council met on January 11, 2023, and heard reports from Pastors Andy and Elizabeth, as well as from the chairs of all the Boards. A few highlights of these reports are:
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.
In 2016, our church was able to move forward with one of the most substantial building projects in our church’s 232-year history. One of the reasons we were able to undertake this work was the generosity of over a dozen church members who loaned our church $275,000. These loans met a gap to pay for a project that also included a $1 million loan from the National Bank of Middlebury. At that time, we expected to fully repay all debts by the end of 2026. It is with great joy and thanksgiving that we announce that within the next several weeks our church will fully pay off all debts for the building of our church addition.
Thanks to the arrival of many of the pledges to the Retire the Debt Campaign in 2022, pledges from the 2016 campaign which continue to be received, and several additional gifts, we were able to pay off the loan to the National Bank of Middlebury in October 2022. Rather than extending the repayment plan for the remaining loans until 2026 as originally planned, the church members who loaned us money will be paid back in full including accrued interest by February 14, 2023, almost four years earlier than scheduled.
We are so grateful for the generosity of this congregation! To the members of our community who loaned money to the church to pay for the addition, THANK YOU. We could not have completed the work without you. To the members of our community who have paid and continue to pay their pledges to both campaigns, THANK YOU. We could not meet our obligations without you.
Paying off our loans more quickly than we anticipated will save our congregation a great deal of money. (For perspective, our 2022 Annual Report shows that around $196,000 in interest has been paid over the years of the Capital Campaign Projects.) The surplus funds raised from this most recent campaign are being added to the Care and Maintenance of the Church Building Account of the church’s endowment. Our Board of Trustees has been working with our Building Manager on numerous building maintenance and improvement projects, including plans to upgrade the windows (hopefully in the next year or two) and replace the roof (in the next three to five years). The surplus funds from this campaign will assist us in addressing these and other urgent projects.
Every gift matters! Outstanding pledges that are fulfilled will continue to support our buildings by helping to fund these much-needed upcoming building projects. Our gratitude for the abundant generosity within this congregation overflows!
Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Leanna Maglienti, Moderator
Last month, we started our personal journeys to see what God is revealing to us through the Epiphany Star Words. Huge thanks to the middle schoolers who helped me distribute the stars during the children’s message. In the past few weeks, I have heard many people asking each other what star word they got and wondering what the message behind that word is. My prayer is that the words work as a good reminder of the nature of our Still Speaking God and that they reveal something beautiful for you, as it certainly has done for me. Thanks be to God, and to all of you, for the endless support.
The potluck this month will feature the star words on different tables (thank you, Gail, and the BM&C). If you attend, you can find the table with your star, find your “star buddies,” and share your journey with the people at your table. I’m looking forward to those conversations!
In Sunday school, the teachers and students shared their stars and first reactions to those words. It was fun to see if they had any “star buddies” in their classroom. We are also welcoming Rik Poduschnick to our teaching team! Rik will be supporting us in leading the 3rd–5th-graders. Thank you, Rik!
In Junior youth group, the teens started the year by thinking about their goals and hopes for 2023. They have also been thinking deeply about what “Room at the Table” means and how we can help everyone feel included in our local communities (like our towns and schools) and our country.
I had the good fortune of receiving a book for Christmas, and perhaps some of you did also. Ultimately I got to choose the book since I had received a certificate to our local book shop and had a chance to browse on topics of interest to me before landing on what I thought would be the perfect thing. It was something different for me, by a Vermont author. It was a book that included some difficult situations for a Somali refugee, but ultimately seemed hopeful. I thought I would break free of my cookbook streak and give it a try.
After reading about nine pages of the book, I realized I was not interested. It wasn’t that I was not interested at all, but looking up from my book and gazing out the window at an early January moment of almost absent winter in Vermont, so unnaturally void of snow, skies seeming to hold their breath for days, conditions not quite right for those fluffy white flakes to fall and stay a while, I was drawn to another book, called Wintering, by Katherine May.
I came upon this book in 2021, and it was comforting to return to it now. Perhaps that is because it was written by someone around my age, struggling, trying to learn how to “winter.” In her book, the author describes both literal and figurative winters, harsh and at times relentless. She shares stories of friends’ lives, and her own rather tough and complicated life circumstances, and endeavors to make some sense of it all. Most importantly, perhaps, she learns how to open the door to winter and let it in as a welcome guest. I have so appreciated this sentiment, and the second time reading this book is even more rewarding than the first.
Right now I find myself trying to fully let my personal winter in, to humbly embrace it, learn from it, and to renew in the midst of it and because of it. Yes, music can be a part of that for me. But the sound of the quiet of winter can be, too, so that when the music returns, it is more vibrant than before.
Come join us for a creative exploration of our church’s theme for the year, “Room at the Table”. Over a 6 week period we’ll be using writing and expressive arts to dig deeper into The Invitation (what are you being invited to at this time in your life?), The Table (what is at the table that’s been prepared for you?), and The Gathering (what or who does or doesn’t accompany you on this journey?).
We are all writers and creators, even those of us who say we can’t draw or don’t have time to write. Our gatherings will offer a safe space for personal exploration, laughter and a deepening sense of gratitude for the creative spirit God has given us all.
Join us from 12 to 1:30 pm on Wednesdays - March 1 through April 5 in Unity Hall. To help us make sure we have enough supplies please let co-leaders Judy Albright or Deb Farnham know if you’ll be attending.
Q. How can our contribution to the church continue through generations that follow us?
A. By leaving a portion of our estate as a gift to the permanent endowment. To learn more about the importance and uses of our church’s endowment, please click on this link:
Please join us on Sunday, February 12th for our monthly potluck luncheon after worship. Along with wishes for a Happy Valentine's Day, our theme will revolve around our Epiphany Star Words. If you have a Star Word, find your table "buddies" - if not a Star Word will be available for you!
The tables will be set and all you need to do is bring a dish to share. Food that needs to be refrigerated or kept warm can be dropped off in the Fellowship Hall kitchen before church and the Kitchen Crew will follow your instructions. Looking forward to seeing everyone for a great meal and some fun activities.
The Rev. Joan Newton O’Gorman served our church as Interim Pastor from Jan 2002 to Oct 2004. She came to Middlebury from a pastorate at the Federated Church in East Arlington, VT. In 2004, she became the transitional pastor at the Congregational Church in Cornwall VT.
Rev. O’Gorman graduated from Franklin K. Lane High School in Brooklyn, NY in 1967, received her A.A. from Hunter College, New York City in 1972, a B.A. in Psychology and Religion from University of Maine, and an M.Div. from Bangor Theological Seminary in 1985. Joan was ordained in the Maine Conference in 1985 and has served the following churches: Forest Avenue Congregational Church, UCC, Bangor, Maine from 1980–1982 (Student Pastor); Solon Federated Church (UCC and UMC) Solon, Maine from 1982–1985; East Arlington Federated Church VT (UCC and UMC) from 1985–2002; Middlebury Congregational Church (Interim Pastor) 2002–2004; First Congregational Church of Cornwall 2004–2007; Williston Federated Church 2007–2105. She served as President of the Vermont Conference, a member of the Board of Directors of the VT Conference, moderator of the Southwest Association, and certified Supervisor for student pastors/pastoral interns who were enrolled at Andover Newton Theological School, Newton, MA. Joan served as a Hospice Chaplain with Bayada Hospice from 2012–2015. She has been a Hospice Chaplain with the University of Vermont Home Health and Hospice since 2016.
Joan Newton and John Coyle were married in 1970 (divorced in 1980). Joan and Gary O’Gorman were married at the Forest Avenue Congregational Church in Bangor, Maine on 14 Aug 1982, where Joan was serving as Student Pastor, and they were graced to have Rev. Ansley Throckmorton officiate at their wedding. Rev. Throckmorton was the first woman president of Bangor Theological Seminary and was an academic and spiritual advisor to Joan.
Gary O’Gorman served as Interim Pastor at the Shrewsbury Congregational Church, Shoreham Congregational Church, and the Congregational Church of St Albans. He continues to serve as supply pastor in several churches in Vermont.
In 2003, guest preachers filled the pulpit for the first eight Sundays of the calendar year; Joan’s first Sunday was 2 Mar 2004; her last Sunday was 17 Oct 2004 – a day in which she presided over morning worship (including Holy Communion), shared a pot luck luncheon with the congregation and was given a farewell thank you.
During Joan’s tenure as pastor of the Middlebury Congregational Church, she kept her residence in East Arlington. Frequently she stayed in Middlebury overnight at the residence of a parishioner on River Road.
The parents of Joan are John Franklin Newton and Anna Irene Tarrant; the parents of Gary are John J. O’Gorman and Evelyn Brent. Joan and Gary are the parents of four offspring.
Joan Newton born 15 May 1948 Queens MA
Joan arrived at the Middlebury Congregational Church with a shepherds crook. A member of the East Arlington Federated Church, John Davies (a wood worker), created the staff from local maple trees for the congregation to give it to Joan as a gift upon her departure. They said it was for Joan to understand pastoral ministry – not as the sheep, not as the shepherd, but as the sheep dog nipping at the heals (of the congregation).
Next month, the Rev Marthinus J. Rickert family will be highlighted
Malcolm W. Chase, Historian
Bob DeLaney February 1
Su Reid-St. John February 1
Dorie Bechtel February 2
Tricia John February 2
Patrick Marshall February 2
James Wright February 2
Teagan Glen February 4
John McLeod February 4
Jenny Orten February 4
Natasha Causton February 7
Ginger Fiskio February 8
Erin Quinn February 8
Carole Cummings February 9
Bob Gleason February 9
Polly Birdsall February 10
Peg Lawrence February 10
Alan Marshall February 11
Helen McFerran February 11
Zaria Smith February 11
Peter Munteanu February 12
Luke Nuceder February 14
Mitzi Poduschnick February 15
Kirsten Hendy February 16
Julian Roy February 17
Jackie Leach February 18
Diana Cotter February 19
Bas Phair February 19
Bill Miller, Jr. February 21
Gavin Krahn February 24
Mary Nagy-Benson February 24
Samuel Stinson February 25
Hunter Munteanu February 28
Priscilla Tully February 28
Tiffany Nourse Sargent & Bill Sargent February 1
Frank Van Gansbeke & Annie Magri February 16
Jon Andrews & Lisa Rader February 24
Matthew & Robyn Stattel February 29