The congregation unanimously approved the 2013 budget as proposed by the Church Council at the annual budget meeting, January 27. Elinor Redmond, co-chair of the Council and Chair of the Budget Committee, presented the summary: last year, our members approved the 2012 budget with a projected deficit of $26,000 but actually finished the year with a deficit of only $6,000, covered by cash reserves.  Cost containment and additional gifts from our members made this possible. The 2013 budget anticipates no deficit, though recognizing, as Elinor said, this is a year of transition with many unknowns particularly about the progress of the Search Committee and when we’ll again have a settled Senior Minister in place.

Copies of the budget are available in the church office and around the building. Thanks, as always, to Cyndi Alden, our Business Manager, who faithfully guides the budget throughout the year.

Remembering Helen Zigmund

The Rev. Anna Helen Zigmund died December 17 in Portland. Following her graduation from the Hartford Seminary in 1970, she was ordained here in our sanctuary. She later served our congregation as Minister of Christian Education for several years. She served in the Peace Corps and as pastor in several congregations, both UCC and United Methodist, throughout Maine. She retired back to South Portland in 1999. Helen was 84, and is survived by nieces and a nephew. A memorial service will be held at a later date. More information is available here:  http://obituaries.pressherald.com/obituaries/mainetoday-pressherald/obituary.aspx?n=anna-helen-zigmund&pid=161869220


Ongoing prayers:

As we come to this season of light-in-the-darkness and joy-overcoming-despair, we pray for the people of Newtown, Connecticut, for their leaders, educators, first responders and pastors; for all who have suffered loss and dislocation from Hurricane Sandy. Please make a gift to aid the rebuilding, through ucc.orgredcross.org, or another relief agency.


Following Tuesday’s election, we celebrate those who were elected on Tuesday and those who weren’t – all of whom want to help create stronger  communities; As an Open and Affirming congregation of the United Church of Christ, we celebrate the strong affirmation of marriage equality.

Letter to the Editor from our Diversity Committee

Many of you may have seen in the Portland Press Herald the September 4th letter to the editor written by former members of our congregation. The letter was unkind and, in addition, implied an inaccurate picture of the process by which our faith community makes decisions. The Diversity Committee feels strongly that some kind of response should be made and has accordingly drafted a letter which we plan to submit to the paper this week:

Letter to the Editor

Portland Press Herald

September 10, 2012

In a letter to the editor September 4th, former members of our congregation misrepresented the facts and criticized our pastor for acting “arrogantly” and “pushing” for the freedom to marry for same-sex couples when “many of his congregation disagree with him.”

To set the record straight, we are a congregation of people who have agreed to wrestle with ethical issues in light of our Christian faith.  Our strength as a diverse faith family is in our respect and regard for each other while we seek to discern the ways of justice and peace as followers of Christ Jesus.

At First Congregational Church UCC in South Portland, we spent six years studying the Bible, reviewing scientific literature, consulting with scholars, conversing with each other, and praying a lot.  Finally, at a congregational meeting in 2000, we voted overwhelmingly (83%) to become an Open and Affirming congregation, welcoming gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans­gender persons as equal and valued members of our church.  Taking a further step in 2002, we voted (60%) to authorize our pastors “at his or her discretion to offer the blessing of the church to any couple which sincerely desires that blessing in the context of their Christian faith.”

True, not everyone agreed. A very few, uncomfortable with these congregational decisions, have regrettably chosen to leave our church family.  Others, while also not voting with the majority, have stayed, in large part because of the integrity of our pastor and because we prayerfully try to make room for dissent and respectfully learn from our differences. At the same time, numerous individuals and families have chosen to join our congregation, aspiring in faith to live out an invitation we recite together every Sunday morning: “No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.”

<s> Members of the Diversity Committee: Connie Baskett, Dolores Broberg, Joan Carrier, Kathy Cotter, Deborah Dagnan, Marvin Ellison, Mike Kasputes, Carol Scheffler, Karen Verdelli, Karen Westerberg

Homecoming & Picnic are September 9

We start the new program year and return to two services: 8:30 in the chapel and 10 a.m. in the sanctuary.

  • Remember to bring water from a special place to add to the baptism font.
  • Join us for the all church picnic immediately following worship. Pray for sunshine, and dress for fun. There will be a sign-up poster so everyone can help make this a great day. Please look for it in a couple of weeks in the Narthex.

Senior Minister John McCall will retire next June

Dear Friends:

With the celebration of Elsa Peters’ ministry still fresh in our thoughts, we’re all asking what comes next. As our Council and congregation consider leadership for the future, now is the time for me to share my plan to retire as Senior Minister in June, 2013. With deep gratitude and rich memories I will then have reached my 42nd anniversary of ordination – well over half of this with you as the second-longest serving minister in our congregation’s 280-year history.

Why then? Because I can. Andrea will also retire from her nineteen years at the University of Southern Maine as Director of Community Service and Interfaith Chaplain. We’ll remain in our home here in South Portland and turn our attention to more time together sitting still, traveling, volunteering, and to other dreams we’ve deferred because of our commitment to our work.

By the grace of God, you and I have engaged in deep, challenging ministry since you called me in 1989. We’ve also remembered to dance. I pray future generations will see that we’ve been faithful.

I certainly haven’t lost my love of ministry or my affection and concern for you. While worship leadership and the pastoral roles of weddings, baptisms and funerals have been my greatest privileges, they’ve also been my employment, my work. And I’ve worked long enough… enough evening meetings, sitting in church chairs, and being on call.

In the year ahead I’ll work closely with our Council and other leaders to best assure a healthy transition and bright future. I invite you to share your stories, memories, anxieties and hopes as we mark this time together.

Faithfully, Gratefully,