Knitting needles, yarn and Love Grows Here sign

Prayer Shawl Ministry

Do you enjoy knitting? Lindsey Huddleston and Carol Hagglund are hosting a Prayer Shawl Ministry group where knitters will gather in people’s homes once a month to socialize, share knitting information and knit prayer shawls. These shawls will be available to anyone for both happy and sad occasions. The Lay Visitation Group will be one of the ways the shawls are given to shut-ins, church members and members of the broader community on behalf of our congregation.

Contact Lindsey Huddleston for further details

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Knitting needles, yarn and Love Grows Here sign
5 book covers

The Wayless Way ~ Your Life as a Curriculum

NEW offering for 2024 ~

As we begin a New Year, we will launch twice monthly conversations centering around a book with Pastor Wes weaving insights from scripture and inspiration.  You do not need to attend all the sessions, but there will be a thread that will run from sessions to session.

In January, we will focus on Build the Life You Want by Arthur C. Brooks and Oprah Winfrey (January 8 and 29).  In February, Hope Leans Forward by Valerie Brown (February 12 and 26).  In March, The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen (March 11 and 25).  In April, No Cure for Being Human by Kate Bowler (April 8 and 22).  The Seventh Story by Brian McLaren (May 13).

On each of the Mondays above, we will gather at 4 pm and finish by 5:15 pm.  For more information, specific reading plan, and to register for the conversation, please contact Pastor Wes.  The event will be hybrid (in the Oasis and Zoom).

Please know we do not want to have buying 5 books be a barrier or burden.  We will have a few to loan out and scholarships are available.  I hope you will sign up with me.

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5 book covers

Join Us for Worship

We want you to feel warmly welcome at First Congregational United Church of Christ. We prayerfully seek to worship in ways that are meaningful and believe that worshiping with us will help you grow your faith through music, scripture and a meaningful message at the center of each service.  Please join us every Sunday as we raise our prayer and praise to God in person in the sanctuary and via livestream.

See the worship page for information on the current week’s services.

LGBTQIA+ Grief Support Group

A safe place to find strength and hope through the sharing and support of other grieving LGBTQIA+ individuals.

Not a therapy group, but an open discussion with others suffering the loss of someone close to them, whether a spouse, partner, friend, or family member.

A twice monthly meeting to share, and to listen, and to find your voice.

Meetings will be at First Congregational UCC

Contact Cas for more information:

morning coffee on the beach with two palm trees

Morning Meditation

Morning Meditations ~~ 

Wake up each morning with a meditation from Pastor Wes on our home page, our worship page, or our  Facebook page during the week.

You can also view past Morning Meditations on Pastor Wes’ blog.

Hands holding glass globe

Creation Justice

Seeking the Right Relationship with All living beings ~~  As a Creation Justice Church, we offer ongoing opportunities and events for education, participation, spiritual engagement and advocacy. Details for current activities can be found in the Newsletter, Mid-Week Message and on the Events Page. Examples of past options can be found at this link: creation justice past activities. Information about the UCC Creation Justice Designation is available at this link: UCC Creation Justice Church in Six Steps.
Womens Fellowship Photo

Women’s Fellowship

Syster Hall, First Tuesday of the Month, October through May, 11:30am ~~

First UCC Women has been in existence since 1954. All women and men of the church are welcome and encouraged to join us on the first Tuesday of each month, October through May, in Syster Hall for fellowship, lunch and program. Programs are on varied topics. We select various non profits to come and share with us what they are about. Last year we had Project 180, Family Promise and coming in April a speaker on the Sarasota Bay Estuary. Pastor Wes led off the year giving an overview of his recently published book – 52 Week Devotional for Husbands. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers were scheduled in November, but when they were unable to attend, we had a wonderful discussion on the book “Tomatoland” that many church members had read. In February seven Artists and Musician who are church members performed and/or exhibited their works plus told their story of how they came to do what they do. An annual favorite is the December meeting where we fill and wrap shoeboxes for seniors. This year we had over 60 boxes that were taken to Meals on Wheels for distribution. We concluded our year in May with a “Memory Roadshow”. Each attendee was asked to bring an item that is special to them and to share with us by telling their story about it.

We hope you can join us and make some new friends.

Stack of books

Ready Readers

Second Thursday of the Month at 12pm ~ Oasis Center and Zoom ~~ 

Ready Readers is a book discussion group that meets on the second Thursday of every month at noon in the Oasis Center. The books we read are chosen from a yearly list provided by the Florida UCC Women and selected by the chair of the organization’s Reading for Renewal. Our group reads the list and descriptions of approximately 30 books and votes on the ones we would like to read for the following year. Current lists of possible selections are available in the Syster Hall library as are several present and previously selected books.

Monthly selections are posted in the newsletter and the midweek message. We welcome and encourage the participation and input of new members even if you are not able to attend every meeting.

Contact Sandy Smith for further details

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Stack of Books with blurred background
Red Rose for the Art of Grief Workshop

Grief Group

Are you finding yourself still grieving the loss of a loved one or friends/family months or even years after the loss?

We periodically host a grief group typically meeting weekly for 6 weeks. This is an opportunity to share together, support one another, and offer God’s love.  This group is open to all whose hearts are heavy because grief takes many forms and faces.  

Please check the Midweek Message and Newsletter for future series and sign up by calling the church office.

Colored pencils on a reflective surface

Artful Prayer

Second Thursdays @ 2pm ~~ Oasis Center

Looking for ways to renew your prayer practice in fun creative ways? Artful Prayer may be for you! No art experience required.

A variety of fun one-hour sessions may include poetry, drawing, movement, or music centered around a prayer theme such as gratitude, praise, healing, or exploring your spiritual direction.

Sessions are in person and on Zoom. Supplies are provided when attending in person. Watch the newsletter and weekly messages for specific session information and supply list.

Mark your calendar now for upcoming fall sessions:
October 12th ~ Rev. Donna Papenhausen
November 9th ~ Lindsey Huddleston
December 14th ~ Dawn Swain

Who?  Anyone looking for creative spiritual renewal

When?  Second Thursday of the month at 2 PM

How?  Sign up through the church office or contact Pastor Wes.

Click here for a video of one of our sessions.

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Box of Crayola Crayons for the Artful Prayer Oasis Offering

LGBTQ, pride, rainbow flag as a symbol of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer pride and LGBTQ social movements


Second and Fourth Tuesdays @ 11:00am – Zoom ~~ 

Second Sundays @ noon – Luncheon ~~ 

Collage (Coalition of Laity for Lesbian and Gay Equality) is an adult LGBTQIA+ social group that welcomes supporters no matter their sexual orientation.  The group seeks to be a safe and supportive place of friendship and extravagant welcome.  This is a wonderful chance for support, fellowship, and advocacy information.  All are welcome.  Currently meeting on Zoom and Sunday Luncheon meetings, please see the calendar or contact the church office for more information:

Contact the church office for further details

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LGBTQ, pride, rainbow flag as a symbol of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer pride and LGBTQ social movements

drumming hands

Drumming as a Spiritual Practice

Oasis Center, 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of the month @ 3pm ~~ 

We gather for a time of prayer INSIDE (due to the humidity) the Chapel.  Join us as we drum together, letting the movement of our hands and hearts be a prayer to God.  All levels of experience welcome for this opportunity.  Greg will provide instruction and together we will make a joyful noise to God.  If you have questions, please contact Pastor Wes:

Contact Pastor Wes for further details

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drumming hands

Sacred Conversations on Race - Shaking Hands

Sacred Conversations on Race

Wednesdays at 3 pm on Zoom ~~

Each week we gather for a holy dialogue on issues related to the realities of racism in our country, community and church.  We are blessed as a congregation with members (White, African-American, men, women, all sexual orientations) who are committed to the on-going work for justice.  During our weekly gatherings, we raise awareness around issues, build trusting relationships, and commit to loving action.  There is always space at the table for you to join us for this sacred conversation.

Please also refer to the resources compiled by our racial justice team.

Contact Pastor Wes for more information and for the Zoom link:

Contact Pastor Wes for further details

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Sacred Conversations on Race - Shaking Hands

Hands moving over Bible pages as the person studies the Bible

Bible Study

Tuesdays @ 6:30pm – ZOOM ~~ 

Wednesdays @ 11am – Oasis Center and ZOOM ~~ 

Two opportunities weekly for you to join us for Bible Study.  There is always room at the Bible Study table for you.

For more information and to join in the conversation, please contact Pastor Wes:

Contact Pastor Wes for further details

Spirit-filled worship picturing the Holy Bible New Revised Standard Version

Silhouette of a person helping another up a steep rock side against the backdrop of a purple sunset

Spiritual Direction

By Appointment ~~ 

Spiritual direction is an ancient and contemporary spiritual practice offered through the Oasis Center.  It is a spiritual practice in which the individual and a spiritual director journey together in a spirit of prayerfulness enabling the individual to explore her/his relationship with God.    This journey can help cultivate the individuals’s ability to discern the Sacred in everyday life as well as in the critical moments of life.  Believing that our spirituality is not a distinct aspect of life, but a dimension of all of life, any aspect of life can be explored in spiritual direction/companioning: relationships, health issues, grief and death, major life moments and decisions.

Journeying together best describes the relationship between the individual and the spiritual director.  Through monthly conversations and prayer, the spiritual director brings the gifts of compassionate, deep listening, and reflection to the conversation and the individual brings the focus for the one-on-one conversation. The individual might bring issues of faith, family, loss and grief, and death or any other areas of concern for prayerful exploration.   Whereas counseling seeks to solve problems, spiritual direction seeks to help the individual find a deeper, guiding relationship with God that brings a deeper meaning to life and life issues.  This spiritual practice is undergirded by the prayerful support of the spiritual director.  For further information contact Rev. Craig Collemer.  Craig was trained at the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation in Washington DC.

Contact Rev. Craig Collemer for further details

The Labyrinth

Open During Daylight Hours ~~

Whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever you seek on life’s journey, you are always welcome on the labyrinth.

What is a Labyrinth?  The labyrinth is an enclosed path having only one route that winds into the center.  There are no dead ends or “wrong turns”.   The path of the labyrinth can be seen as the journey of life, with many twists and turns.  The labyrinth is a sacred oasis designed to encourage moving meditation, reflection, releasing, receiving, listening, insight, healing, stress reduction, and creative thought.  It can facilitate calm and stillness in a hectic world and find faithful clarity amidst life’s challenges and opportunities.  Walking the labyrinth is a personal pilgrimage to spiritual wholeness.

Walking the Labyrinth:  Allow yourself to experience the labyrinth.  There is no right or wrong way to walk a labyrinth.  Here are some ideas you can try.

Making a journey Inward, To the Center, and Outward: 

  1. Inward – Before beginning the walk, stop at the entrance of the labyrinth, take a few deep breaths, quiet your mind, say a silent prayer.  If there’s a specific event or situation troubling you, bring it to mind and form a healing question if possible.  Then enter the labyrinth and walk with open heart and mind.  Walk at your own natural pace.
  2. Center – Follow the pathway into the center, pause and stay in the center as long as you wish. Open yourself to your higher power.
  3. Outward – When you’re ready, retrace your steps along the pathway back to the entrance. Experience the sense of well-being, healing, excitement, calm, or peace.  After completing your walk, find a quiet place to reflect on your experience.

Making a three stage “Trinity” walk:

  1. Entering the Path/ Shedding Cares– walking towards the center release cares, emotions, concerns to God.
  2. The Center/ Illumination – pray and meditate within the middle of the labyrinth, asking Christ to provide guidance or clarity. Receive what is there for you to receive.
  3. Returning/Union – as you walk the path back out of the labyrinth, allow the Holy Spirit to fill you with insight, strength, comfort, or peace.

Making a 5 R Journey

  1. Remember – before walking the labyrinth, take time to be thankful, bless the people in your life, or remember an event or situation that is troubling you.
  2. Release – walk into the labyrinth, quiet your mind and release troubles. Become aware of your breathing and take slow deep breaths perhaps at each turn.  Relax and move at your own pace.
  3. Receive – stay in the center for a time of reflection. Open your mind to a higher power.  Listen to that small inner voice.  Have a heart-to-heart talk with yourself.
  4. Return – when ready, walk out of the labyrinth along the same path you entered. Experience the sense of well-being, healing, peace.  Perhaps say prayers of praise as you exit.
  5. Reflect – find a quiet place to reflect on your walk and think more about how you might use any insights that came to you during the walk.

Labyrinth Courtesy:    If there are others on the labyrinth, be respectful along the journey.  If they enter before you, allow them to make 2 or 3 turns before you enter.  Allow walkers coming towards you to pass. If walkers stop on the path in front of you, quietly walk around them to continue your own walk.

Labyrinth Design and Installation:  The First Congregational United Church of Christ labyrinth design was chosen to be compatible with the mid-century look of the church campus.  It is styled on the medieval pattern labyrinth in Amiens Cathedral in France.  The surface of the full eleven circuit labyrinth is rubber.  The Labyrinth Team, who was responsible for the project, was formed in 2016.  Over 60 church members donated to the labyrinth project which was completed with a labyrinth blessing in the Fall of 2019.  It served as an outdoor worship space and a safe outdoor place of reflection and prayer for many as the Covid-19 Pandemic hit our community in 2020.