Fall Speaker Series: Dr. Marty Nathan

13445629_10154288611543147_7745777084810082661_nThe Adult Education Fall Speaker Series is privileged to feature Dr. Marty Nathan this Sunday, October 30 after worship in Bailey Hall.  This is the second installment of a series of speakers featuring Local Heroes of Social Justice.

Dr. Nathan is a committed lifelong activist regarding issues of social justice including race, environmental justice, homophobia, economic disparity and civil rights.  She graduated from Brown University, and then Duke Medical School in 1977.  In addition to her extensive social justice efforts, Dr. Nathan is currently a Family Medicine specialist based in Western Massachusetts.

Notably, Marty Nathan’s first husband, Dr. Mike Nathan, was killed in The Greensboro Massacre in a confrontation with Ku Klux Klan and American Nazis.   All of the white gunmen were ultimately acquitted.  At the time her husband was slain, Dr. Nathan’s daughter was only six months old.   In 1985, Dr. Marty Nathan prevailed in a major civil rights lawsuit against the City of Greensboro, in which the City settled without apology on behalf of itself the KKK and American Nazis.  Together with other victims, Dr. Nathan founded the Greensboro Justice Fund which helped grassroots organizations fighting against racism, environmental injustice, union-busting, homophobic violence & civil liberties violations in the South.  She also participated in  The Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the early 2000’s, which lasted more than two years.

Many original documents relative to the civil rights lawsuit and the Greensboro Massacre are available for review online as PDFs at the Civil Rights Greensboro website where you can browse by subject and date.  These documents provide a wealth of information on the struggle against the Ku Klux Klan around the Greensboro Massacre, and brings the full impact and tremendous weight of those days front & center in our consciousness.

Dr. Nathan has continued her work in social justice with her current husband, Prof. Elliott Fratkin of Smith College.  Together, they helped found the Cliniquita Fund.  This fund, based in Springfield, brings healthcare to undocumented immigrants.  Four years ago, Dr. Nathan also helped found Climate Action Now, which has formed the Springfield Climate Justice Coalition. She is a columnist and regular contributor on issues of climate justice to the Daily Hampshire Gazette & the Springfield Republican.

This opportunity to hear Dr. Marty Nathan – an extraordinary Local Hero of Social Justice – is not to be missed.  Her wealth of experience and commitment to social justice is inspirational.  If you have questions or would like more information, please contact the church office at 567-6287 or leave a message here.

Lent 2016: Gifts of the Dark Wood

Gifts of the Dark Wood – Wednesdays during Lent 2016 – First Church Longmeadow, 7-8 pm.

A five week worship and study opportunity for Lent.   Books are available for individual study or for reading as part of the Wednesday evening study.   Books are in the office for $13.   Author Eric Elnes is a UCC clergy person serving a church in Omaha, Nebraska.   His premise is that it is in the dark places of our lives –like uncertainly, disappointment, getting lost, feeling empty–that we grow, because God is there.   Are you struggling?  Do you want to grow spiritually during the next several weeks?    The forty days of Lent can be live giving if we journey together into the Dark Wood.


  • February 17: The Gift of Uncertainty
  • February 24: The Gift of Emptiness
  • March 2: The Gift of Being Thunderstruck
  • March 9:  The Gift of Being Lost
  • March 16:  The Gift of Disappearing

Follow along here on the Forum as well as with the in person gatherings… The in-person gatherings are listed above, but each chapter will have a discussion forum here.  Be sure to follow us in social media, or subscribe to the newsletter, in order to receive updates of new posts…

Find Answers in the Ash Wednesday FAQ


Today is Ash Wednesday, but what does that really mean?  There is an Ash Wednesday Service at First Church Longmeadow tonight at 7pm, but what happens there?  Read on for those answers and more:

What is Ash Wednesday?  

This is the first day of the church season of Lent. So called because the church has historically marked this day as one of reflection and introspection and confessing of one’s need for God’s forgiveness.   Ashes are a sign of our acknowledgement of our failures and indicate our human need for God’s love and forgiveness. Lent is the church season that leads up to Holy Week, Jesus’ death and resurrection.


I thought only Catholics celebrated Ash Wednesday?  

Throughout the world most Christians observe Ash Wednesday, although it is fair to say that some Protestant churches do not observe this holy day, and some denominations have only begun to observe this day in the past 50 years.


What happens in the Ash Wednesday service at First Church?

At First Church we will sing and pray, listen to scripture and celebrate holy communion as we consider together the love and grace of God and begin the spiritual journey of Lent.   It is a shorter service that does include imposition of ashes on the forehead (more traditional) or the back of the hand (more recent innovation).  Here is a link to one of the prayers that will be included in this evening’s service, together with an article describing some of the background.


If I attend the service, do I have to have ashes placed on my forehead?

Receiving ashes are an optional part of this service. Increasingly many of our church members are finding receiving ashes to be a deeply meaningful aspect of beginning Lent. But the invitation during the service is optional.


Can anyone join the service, or do I have to be a member?

Absolutely anyone and everyone is welcome at First Church. Our welcome statement is: “We, the First Church of Christ in Longmeadow, strive to live out our stated mission to seek love and justice in our world. We welcome persons of every age, race, ethnicity, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, mental, physical, emotional, economic and social status, and circumstance of life into the full participation and ministry of our church.” No matter who you are, or where you are on your journey, you are welcome at First Church Longmeadow.


I might want to come to the service, but I would have to bring my children with me. Is that ok?

Absolutely. Children are always welcome at First Church. The service on Wednesday is relatively short in duration, and involves music & singing, so there should be plenty to occupy little ones.


I cannot attend the service this Wednesday, but I would like to know more about activities during Lent at First Church. Where should I look?

There are many activities at First Church during Lent, in addition to the regular Sunday Morning Worship services at 10am. The full calendar of events with descriptions is available on the First Church Website’s Lent Section. There will be family friendly meals on Wednesdays during Lent at 6pm in the Buxton Room at First Church (at the far end of the hall on the first floor). These meals will include elements of worship while we are around the tables, including each week a brief communion liturgy. There also will be a devotional reading group after the meals on Wednesdays discussing the book Gifts of the Dark Wood. Copies are available for purchase in the church office for $13 and online. We also may have copies available on reserve at Storrs Library in Longmeadow. Childcare will be provided. For additional details, please visit the church website.

For several Sundays before church, beginning at 8:30 AM during Lent, our Adult Education Committee will be hosting a series of film presentations and discussions around race relations. We will view half hour installments of the film “Race: The Power of An Illusion” have conversation as we examine a look at what racism is in our country, the systemic institutionalization of racism in our housing, economic systems, education and more: How did it happen? Where are the entry points for change? What might we do to make change and space in all these realms for all people to flourish together moving forward?

Please check out the First Church website and calendar for more details.


If you have a question, please leave it in the comments below. You can also email your question by leaving it in our Contact Form. Thanks for visiting us & please stay tuned for more FAQs and event plans from First Church of Christ Longmeadow.

Women’s Ministry: The Other Couch

The Women’s Ministry Group of First Church is pleased to host a gathering to discuss The Other Couch: Discovering Women’s Wisdom in Therapy, coauthored by Patricia Peters Martin, Ph.D and our own Helene DeMontreux Houston, M.S., APRN. The meeting will occur on Monday, January 25, 2016 at 7:00 pm in the Buxton Room. Helene Houston will join us to present this work & answer questions.


Through the eyes of two wise and experienced therapists, The Other Couch explores the lives of 36 spirited women who struggle and overcome challenges with courage, resilience, and commitment.


The Other Couch is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble in paperback and e-reader formats. Several copies of the book will be available in the church office for $15/each, as well. More information is available here: http://theothercouch.com


Light refreshments will be served. As always, Women’s Ministry invites all to attend, whether or not you are a member of the church, so please bring a friend & come with questions! Contact Kristin Thomas at kristinannthomas@gmail.com for assistance, and to be placed on the Women’s Ministry mailing list.

Women’s Ministries Book Group Reconvenes

The Women’s Ministries Book group of First Church Longmeadow will reconvene Monday, December 7, 2015 at 7pm in the Buxton Room.  We will be discussing Patti Smith’s new memoir M Train.

The website Brain Pickings (which you should consider bookmarking if you havent already) has put together a salient & beautiful review of this book.

Copies of M Train will be available on reserve in the Storrs Library on the “First Church” reserve shelf within the next couple of weeks.  Because this is a brand new book, it may be difficult to reserve many copies for any length of time, but we will try.  The book is also available online at Amazon & in bookstores everywhere (especially independent bookstores – purchase from there if you can, I am sure Patti would approve!)

Last year we had a wonderful time reading our way through a couple of books & sharing our dreams & experiences.  One thing that we were reminded of is that women of our faith community are intellectually powerful.  I chose this book because I am sure the wisdom, poetry & intellectual rigor of this author will challenge us all (in a good way)!

This is an open group – we welcome those both from our church & those who are not – so please bring a friend, I will see you all in December.



Centering Prayer


Wed. at 1:00 pm; Friday at 4:00 pm; Thurs. at 9:30 am (Centering Prayer only)


When we sit in Centering Prayer we need to remind ourselves that we are not doing anything and we are not experiencing anything. We are just sitting, open in pure faith to the Divine Presence and Divine action within us. There is the promise of this Presence within, all through the scriptures and we know it by faith, itself a gift from God. So just sit in silence believing. You have faith that God is with you and for 20 minutes you are not going to do anything which blurs that faith.


20 minutes of silence


Rev. 21:3 I heard a great voice from the throne saying ,” Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them.   


300 Years of Community

300 Years of Community

Three hundred years ago, the Town of Longmeadow was born. It did not begin with the Massachusetts legislature—called then and now the “General Court”—officially recognizing Longmeadow as a town; that would not happen until 1783. Before Longmeadow, or any other place could become a town, the people residing there had to become a community. That community formed with the establishment of the First Church of Christ in Longmeadow.

Before a place can begin the process of becoming a town, the people of that place must decide, at some level, to join their fortunes and fates together. This is not automatic; broad swathes of the state of Maine still consist of unorganized townships. From the arrival of settlers in the 1630s until 1713, “longmeddowe” was part of Springfield.

By 1713, a group of people in longmeddowe was determined to worship together. They found the trek into First Church in Springfield too long and too dangerous (there had been an Indian attack against traveling parishioners). This group of people, not yet numbering 40 families, petitioned the colonial General Court for a fourth time to allow them to establish their own church. They were granted permission, but it was conditioned upon the solemn promise that the petitioners would support their minister.

This involvement of a political body in the establishment of a church reflected how much church and state were intertwined in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The British King ruled by divine right, voting for some decades was restricted in Massachusetts to those men with full membership in the Congregational church, and the town’s meeting house hosted church services and the annual town meeting. With the creation of a separate religious community, Longmeadow became a distinct political community, that is, a precinct of Springfield.

It was in 1716 that the meeting house in Longmeadow was completed and the church had its first pastor, Stephen Williams, who would go on to serve for 66 years. One year after his death, the United States gained its independence, and Longmeadow became its own town. In 2015, the institutions of First Church and a democratic town government continue to be cornerstones of the Longmeadow community.

The idea of Longmeadow as a distinct community has persisted long after the establishment of that meeting house in 1716. The living memory of that event died two centuries ago, but the idea is very much alive. Much like the U.S.S. Constitution docking in Charlestown harbor with every board, nail, and sail having been replaced but still existing as the same ship, all of the components of that original community have been replaced, many times over. Despite these changes, there is an unbroken thread that connects the people of 1716 to the Longmeadow residents of 2015.

But none of this was inevitable. In 1716, the first meeting house was constructed sufficiently to allow for its use, but it would take 13 years for the walls to be plastered, and in over 50 years of meetings of all sorts, it never had a stove. Longmeadow was nothing more than an experiment. The challenge of fewer than 40 families supporting a pastor and erecting that meeting house must have seemed daunting. One wonders whether 40 families today could manage such a feat.

Town government and the idea of democracy were mere seedlings in 1716. Town meetings and the election of “select” men to provide executive leadership became practices almost immediately after the colony was chartered, but the governor answered to the King and not the people. Overseas in England, there was a Parliament which prevented the King from exercising absolute power, but it was considered altogether fitting and proper that mere colonists should have no representation. Taxation without representation was the law of the land.

In time, direct democracy in the form of the Town Meeting would become sacred and British interference in Massachusetts local government would figure in the words of the Declaration of Independence. The example of ordinary people deciding questions of local import in meeting houses like the one that resided on the Longmeadow Green would serve as a blueprint for democracy on a national scale. The idea of government by and for the people has swept across every continent, and it continues to gather force.

On October 3, 2015 at 11 am, First Church, members of the Longmeadow Select Board, state representative Brian Ashe, state senator Eric Lesser, and the Longmeadow community will honor Longmeadow history in the kickoff to a year-long celebration of the 300th anniversary of the First Church of Christ in Longmeadow. The fledging religious and political community of Longmeadow has grown from a seedling into a towering oak tree. That living tree, depending on daily nourishment to survive, is still an experiment, but it is stronger than ever.

Alex J. Grant is a member of First Church and the Longmeadow Select Board. His email address is agrant@longmeadow.org.

Celebrating 300 Years

The 300th Anniversary events & celebration are underway at First Church!   Where have we come from…  where are we headed?  This is an exuberant time – filled with possibility & hopes for the future.

Recently, MassLive published an article detailing plans around this momentous event:  MassLive Article on the 300th Anniversary


In this, our 300th year, we are not only celebrating this great milestone but we are also looking toward our future.  We will be using the wisdom of perspectives from our history to do some visioning about the future of the church. – Deb Garrity, Director of Communications

This weekend marks a Kickoff Event on the steps of the church & green.  Town & local officials will join in this festive entryway to celebrating 300th Celebrations.


The entire anniversary year is expected to be filled with a range of wonderful activities & spirit.


Have you had a chance to check out the interactive historical timeline on the First Church website?  There is so much history – so many stories – all of which are not only important to the history of First Church, but for our entire community.


Remember to mark your calendars – this Saturday October 3 @ 11am



Hope to see you at the kickoff celebration!

The 5 Women Who Birthed Moses


September 20, 2015

The Five Women Who Birthed Moses


Scripture:  Exodus 1:8-2:10

The final installment of Dr. Jay/Pastor Marisa’s sermon series Women of the Bible concludes with Pastor Marisa preaching about five women who conspired to bring one baby boy to adulthood, a boy who would go on to become the greatest prophet of the Hebrew scriptures: Moses.  In their stories, we encounter challenging issues such as abortion, genocide, mixed-race adoption, political enemies working together, and God’s power made perfect in the powerless.