December Belfry Newsletter

December Pastor’s Message – A Letter from God regarding his Gift of Love

Dear Children,

It’s the season of birthing and the bringing of light to the landscape. I have an affinity for light, you know – and for the small joys that become visible in it. I have been busy preparing. I have readied a maiden and her betrothed as my light bearers.  I have taught the trees how to clap their hands. I have rehearsed the mountains so they bow down and their tops become my steppingstones that I may walk among you. And so, too, this letter……

Some of you, I know, see this day of my coming as a day for standing in my presence and expecting me to notice the physical sacrifices you have made and then rewarding you with a big gift – after all, that happens in the marketplace with your Christmas bonuses. Others of you have been going through the motions of decorating your homes, with a keen eye on what your neighbor’s front lawn looks like. Are you trying to impress or compete?  Still others are  entangled in menus, baking rituals and flavor-testings. These are meant to hold the family together and acting civil, at least long enough to get through the main meal. Does it ever feel as if Christmas involves turning your soul inside out like another pocketbook or putting on a set of behaviors that are exhausting and ultimately unsatisfying?

Well, I never imagined that my gift of light and joy would slide so far into the realm of anxiety-inducement as seems to be the case. I only wanted to answer your call for help with the words, “Here I am.” I only wanted you to wake up as I do each morning and say, “Today is a day for opening my cupboards and sharing with my children; a day for putting my hand through the unbearably thin veil between heaven and earth and reaching out with tenderness to fill your hungry stomachs, throw a coat around your shoulders; open the gate in the wall you’ve built around your life; to dress your soul with kindness so you can see yourselves as I see you.”

“I only wanted, as your Loving Shepherd, to turn the light on inside you until it rises as brightly as the sun. I only wanted to call out the depression, the loneliness that is hidden within you, and let it walk openly – like a child, innocent and free. I want to be behind you and before you. I want to be the water for your parched places and the strength for your bones, the fruitful garden for you palate, the mountain spring of refreshment, the restorer of your broken dreams and the architect of your rebirth into joy.

I know it’s a lot to absorb – this enormous love I want to share with you. I know it may feel easier to break it into little pieces and tie bows around each piece and push it under the tree.  But don’t lose sight of the bigger picture. Look at the child I am sending you.  See in him yourselves – naked vulnerable, with a complete dependence on my love for survival. This love cannot be broken or splintered. I would not withhold it whether you are aware of it or never come to know me. I love you when I am dissatisfied with you and when I am pleased, when you are loving me perfectly and when you are hurting even your closest earthly friends.  I cannot not love you, you see.

So, Christmas Day will come and go as all days do. The pie will disappear into crumbs, the gifts linger, piled in their tissue wraps, and your Christmas light strings will go dark by the seventh day of January.  But, my love will not waver. So hold out your hands. Grasp the plain white envelope of my love that has your name on it. It is my dream for your life that you hold in your hands. Do you see the envelope start to shine? Peel back the flap – it should open easily. Now take out the card from inside and run you fingers over the one word that appears, BELOVED.

If you need, open this envelope every morning of every day for the rest of your life. But don’t tuck the word back inside, box it up or carry it to the attic. Every earthly gift wears out or breaks; it goes out of style or tarnishes. But, the love that first maiden and her betrothed brought into the world, is the same love inside this envelope. It will free you to live the gift of your belovedness beyond cost and calculation. Your belovedness can be to others like the rare resin, frankincense which calms anxiety and offers peace. It can shine like gold, brightning the dark corners of other’s lives. As my beloved, when you wear the myrrh oil of your annointing, its fragrance will  be that which people remember when you are long gone from their presence. I have been preparing this gift of belovedness for a long time, my child. This year, won’t you take it, bless it, tear it open and share it? I have to say, that it is a very joy-filled moment when lover and beloved turn to one another openly and unafraid. I know you await my coming. So, too, do I await yours!  And be prepared – when love invites the mountains to bow down and the trees to clap their hands it is, indeed, a sight to behold!  Blessings my child!   Love

Lectionary Readings and Sermons for December 2018

Dec 2 Sacrament of Communion – First Sunday in Advent

1 Thess 3:9-13 and Luke 21:25-36, “Praying for Strength”

Dec. 9 – Second Sunday in Advent

Philippians 1:3-11 and Luke 3:1-6, “Make Ready”

Dec 16 – Third Sunday in Advent – Christmas Pageant

Zephania 3:17 and Philippians 4:4-7, “The Ancient Story ever New”

Dec 23 – Fourth Sunday in Advent

Micah 5:2-5a and Luke 1:46-55, “Mary’s Song”

Dec 30 Guest Preacher/ No Sunday School

The Rev. Gordon Rankin will share worship and a pot-luck question and answer about himself as the new Conference Minister and about Church with a big or little “C”.



ADVENT IS HERE!  Are you ready to make room for God in your holiday?  In a season of holiday haste and hustle, Advent calls us to slow down and prepare. In a world of darkness and violence, the church proclaims a message of light and hope. In a world of division and fear, the coming of the Christ child reminds us of the healing power of love.  This year we invite everyone to join together in our daily Advent devotions as we anticipate the birth of our Savior.  Our special Advent devotionals, Come, Lord Jesus, are available in the Narthex and in Fellowship Hall for each family.  Please take one and join in this daily church-wide time of preparation.  In addition, our Monday evening and Wednesday noon study groups will offer Advent Reflections during December and all are invited!  We will pause for one hour in our hurriedness, light the advent candles, listen to the songs of the season and discover many reasons for hope.  In our rush to get to the joy of Christmas, we forget what Advent is all about–watching and waiting for the coming of a promised king.  It is not about shopping, partying, gift wrapping, and vacationing. It is about resting, trusting, praying, and seeking.  Advent begins Sunday, December 2.  Advent Reflection session schedule:  Mondays, (December 3, 10, 17) 7:00 – 8:00 p.m. or Wednesdays, (December 5, 12, 19) Noon – 1:00 p.m.

*****************************************************************************Do you knit, crochet or want to learn or refresh your skills? Join us on Mondays – 2:00 to 4pm in the Chapel.  The group will meet thru December 3rd and then take a break, resuming meetings on Monday, January 7th from 2pm – 4pm.

Do you have knitting needles, crochet hooks or accessories no longer in use? If so, please donate them as we are always looking for special sizes. For more information, call 603-926-2837.
BOOK CLUBSMen & Women clubs meet the 3rd Tuesday of the month at 7pm.  No meeting in December – will resume in January.
YOGA CLASSES – Yoga by donation classes continue on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 9:30 am in the Chapel.  Everyone is welcome.

HAT, MITTEN, SCARF TREE – There is a Christmas tree in the Narthex just waiting to be decorated with scarves, hats and mittens.  Contributions of new and gently used items are appreciated, and every one is delivered to area school nurses for distribution during the winter to children in need.  Thank you!

SALVATION ARMY STARS are in the Narthex with a signup sheet.  Please purchase the gift you find written on your star.  Gift wrap and return it to the church by Sunday, December 9th WITH STAR ATTACHED.

FCC MUSICIANS:  Chancel choir rehearsals are at 8:30 am before church. All welcome!  Once again we will feature our own FCC musical family on Christmas Eve between 4:30 and 5:00. Just see Jennifer if you want to perform a Christmas or church type song for the congregation as it gathers before our Christmas Eve service.  Any and all music is welcome!

DECEMBER CONCERT – First Congregational Church will be hosting Great Bay Sailor as part of our community concert series on Saturday, December 15th at 7:00 p.m.  The amazing group plays Celtic and maritime music from New England, Great Britain and beyond.  It’s a feel-good night and very family friendly.  Free admission – donations for the artists’ welcome.

*****************************************************************************Online giving is here! 40% of our FCC pledgers are already giving online! And, the number is growing every week.  Have you signed up?  Electronic giving is a convenient, easy option for making your regular or occasional contributions. Give anytime, anywhere using your computer, tablet or mobile device.  Make regular church offerings without writing a check or preparing envelopes.  Schedule recurring contributions so they arrive even when you can’t attend services.  FCC has partnered with Vanco Payment Services, the most highly recommended electronic giving company for churches, to offer secure e-Giving.  Giving options are available through the church website,, or by downloading the free app for your mobile device.  Online givers are welcome to use the “Giving Cards” to place in the offering plates.  Cards are always available in the Narthex and on the Info Bulletin Boards downstairs.

****************************************************************************                               Notes from the CE committee:

The CE committee would like to thank everyone who helped support this year’s OCC mission. This year we were able to send 42 boxes! We also purchased a tracking service APP which allows all of the Sunday School Children to track each box and see where it will go and who receives it.

The annual Christmas Pageant this year will be held on Sunday December 16 during church service. We will be having pageant practice during Sunday School on Sunday December 2, and after worship on Sunday December 9 from 11:15am to 12:15pm. If you are not able to make practice on Sunday December 9, you can attend practice on Monday night at 6:15pm on December 10 during First Monday. All children are welcome to participate! If your child has not received a role in the pageant, please contact Donna Makechnie.  To continue the spirit of “giving” at Christmas we kindly ask everyone to bring with them to church an item of food to fill the baskets for our “End 68 Hours of Hunger” year-long mission. We will be blessing this mission during our pageant play on the 16th.
First Monday will be held this month on Monday December 10. All children are welcome to attend and this month we will be practicing the Christmas pageant. The next First Monday meeting will be on January 7 at 6:15pm.
All children are invited to attend a special event that the CE committee is hosting on Sunday December 23. There is no Sunday School that morning, so all children are invited to join us downstairs in Fellowship Hall at the start of church as we celebrate Christmas by watching the movie “The Star” while drinking hot cocoa and enjoying some snacks in our PJs! We hope everyone can make it to this fun event.
Just a reminder, there will be no Sunday School on December 23 or 30. Sunday School will resume again on Sunday January 6 when we will be kicking off our annual Heifer Mission.



Monday thru Thursday 9:00am to Noon    Friday – Office Closed

CHURCH EMAILCONTACTS – Rev. Deb Knowlton – Arlene Radford – Jennifer Ramsay – Donna Makechnie – John Recupero – Deb Eaton, Pastoral Assistant

Anyone who has a computer and would like to be able to  receive emails regarding church events should contact Arlene in the office or Katie Ells at

*****************************************************************************CUSTODIAN’S CORNER


Please take the trash out after your event involving food.  Dining/eating should be done in the designated areas.

Classrooms are dining/eating restricted areas. – “No food or drink”

Thank you,

.John Recupero


TASC Mission

TASC   Transportation Assistance for Seacoast Citizens

Purpose:  to provide transportation for people who can’t drive, predominately elderly and disabled, to medical and other selected appts.

Some Interesting Data:

Started in 2006, TASC averages about 3,500 rides a year to include such things as dialysis, cancer treatments and other regular dr. visits

  • All volunteer drivers; currently 45
  • John Diebert, a member of our church, volunteered for many years and said “It was very gratifying to provide a service that is so critical to their lives. He made many connections with the people that he will always remember.”

Area Covered:

Hampton, Hampton, Hampton Falls, Exeter, Greenland, Kensington, Rye, Seabrook, Stratham

  • Bolded towns biggest users

How Funded:

  • Through social services from 6 of 9 communities
  • UCC of Exeter, Exeter Hospital, Trinity gives free space, Stratham Church and N. Hampton
  • Some Government Funding & Grants as well as Fund raising in June
  • Individual donations

How to Contact:

  • For driver volunteering or discussing needs for rides, you can call 926-9026


YEAR AT A GLANCE 2018-2019


2 First Sunday in Advent/Pageant practice/Conf. Class/Communion

9 Pageant practice

13 Tidings of Comfort service

11-13 Festival of Light Rehearsals

14 Festival of Light/Heronfield

16 Pageant – Christmas Bags

24 Christmas Eve 5PM

25 Office closed

23 Cross Roads Cooking

30 No Sunday School classes


1 New Year’s/Office closed

6 Heifer Project Kickoff/Confirmation Communion/Epiphany Service – 3PM

13 Youth Sunday

20 Cross Roads House Cooking

28 Annual Reports Due

27 New members class/make Beloved Elders bags for Valentine’s day


3 Financial luncheon/Communion

10 Boy Scout Sunday/Annual Meeting of the Church/members join

17 Spirituals Sunday

24 Cross Roads House Cooking


3 Women’s Worship Week/Communion

6 Ash Wednesday service – 7PM

8 Shabbat Across America – visit to the Synagogue

10 First Sunday in Lent

17 HPI Brunch/Talent Show –  11:30AM                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         24 Cross Roads House Cooking


7 Sacrament of Communion Confirmation class

18 Maundy Thursday Service 7PM

19 Good Friday Service noon

21 Easter Sunrise/Festive Service 10AM

22 or 23 Cross Roads Cooking                       


4 Niceties & Rummage Sale

5 Communion & Tool and Blanket Fund

12 Mother’s Day

19 Children’s Day/Cross Roads Cooking

26 Special Memorial Day Service

27 Memorial Day/office closed


2 Communion

6 End of Year luncheon for Guild

9 Pentecost/Confirmation students join

10/12 Adult Study Ends

16 9AM Worship Hour Begins


Worship at 9AM (through 9/1)

July 4 Independence Day/office closed

September 2 Labor Day/office closed