The early church bishop, St. Irenaeus of Lyon (130-202 CE) once famously said, “The glory of God is the human person fully alive.” The first time I ever read that, its truth went through me like lightning. And I have never quite been the same. So much of religion is popularly defined by what we can’t or shouldn’t do. It’s faith through the lens of the negative. But I am energized by a faith in Jesus Christ that encourages full human flourishing. The theory of Original Sin does not have the same potential to transform individuals as the notion of Original Blessing – that before anything else we might be, we are reflections of the very image of God. My ministry at First Congregational Church is guided by this promise of Jesus: “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10 b) That kind of abundance means a rich, full, equitable, and generous life for all: young and old, male and female, rich and poor, black and white. No matter who you love or how you love, no matter your gender expression, or your physical ability – each and all already reflect the divine image. What might church be like if all God’s people were truly celebrated and given the tools to discover their potential? We’re still working on it, but by the grace of God, you might just find it here at First Congregational Church!
The Reverend Alison McCaffrey
“Connection” is one dimension of parish ministry that I highly value and seek to nurture in all that I do; connection with God, with one another, and with one’s own being. It’s important to me to know names and remember stories. I love connecting members and friends with similar interests, helping you to discover your gifts and then encouraging you to find ways to share them for the blessing of others. It blesses me to provide opportunities where each one can experience the sacred in our midst, whether that is through a walk on our Holy Week labyrinth or while on the week-long Adult Mission Trip. Bringing God’s beloved ones together that they might know and be known brings me deep joy. I have had the joy of serving as Associate Minister since January 6, 2002, the day the church celebrates Epiphany, the arrival of the Magi at the manger. My journey to this church and to ordained ministry was one long trip. In 1984 while being mom to my three children, I began working in different churches and going to school. I worked as Sexton, Secretary, Youth Minister and Director of Christian Education while attending and graduating from Housatonic Community College, Southern Connecticut State University and Andover Newton Theological School. These experiences have given me a deep appreciation for the reality that our busy lives can often have us feeling fragmented and disconnected. I hope that through being a part of First Church, you will have an experience of God’s welcoming, transforming, and all-embracing love.
Director of Music Ministry
The great composer and father of sacred music, Johann Sebastian Bach, said that “it is the special province of music to move the heart.” Music can move our hearts to experience a heightened sense of comfort and exaltation while guiding us into a realm that transcends the ordinariness of our daily lives. Since becoming Music Director in 2003, I continue to witness the transformative power of music in our congregation as it moves hearts, stimulates our intelligence, and inspires our souls each and every week. Our historic sanctuary provides an intimate setting for music of all periods and styles to be presented, and our congregation appreciates music with texts and harmonies that resonate and resound throughout the centuries, including music that is composed in our time for us.
As a music director, conductor, pianist, organist, and music educator, I experience great joy and fulfillment in broadening our musical community by welcoming and educating those who sing or play an instrument so that they can share their talents. With degrees in music from The Hartt School and Universities of Hartford and Connecticut, and as Artistic Director of GMChorale for more than two decades, I value and cherish the many opportunities I have had while living a life in music, and am passionate about encouraging others to discover and develop their musical gifts and talents so as to enrich themselves and the spiritual lives of those in our congregation.
Acting Director for Christian Education
Dawn joined the First Church staff in November, 2018 as the Acting Director of Christian Education. She oversees the Church School and Children’s programs at the First Congregational Church. She is an established member of the church, and has been actively involved in church leadership. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Providence College, and a Master’s in Social Work from the University of Connecticut, School of Social Work. She has worked in the Cheshire Public Schools for 2 years, and has experience working with youth groups. Prior to pursuing Social Work, she was an executive in the wealth management field. She is dedicated to creating a rich and welcoming experience for every child who participates in one of our church programs. Dawn is married, and has lived in Cheshire since 2011. She has one son, who attends Cheshire Public School, and three adult step-children, and four wonderful grandchildren.
Director of Youth Ministry
I deeply believe in Jesus' commandment to love thy neighbor. Service is a foundational piece of the youth ministry program here at the First Congregational Church. Our middle school youth meet monthly to make meals for the hungry and homeless in New Haven. The high school students have regularly scheduled service opportunities as well as a week-long summer mission trip where they repair homes of low-income families. I have had the honor to serve as the Director of Youth Ministry here at my home church since 2009. As a youth growing up in our church I was deeply impacted by the youth ministry program, church mentors, and its leaders. I feel blessed to serve at the very church I grew up in. When I'm not at church I enjoy spending time with my wife and son. I'm an avid Red Sox fan.
Christine is the Church Administrator at the First Congregational Church. Prior to joining the church in December 2013, she worked at Choate Rosemary Hall in Admissions and assisting with the Icahn Scholars Program and then at Cheshire Academy as the Assistant to the Dean of Faculty. At the church, she is responsible for the day to day operations and has built great relationships with other staff, church and community members. “Providing a welcoming community to all, reminding us that God loves us just as we are is a great message and makes me proud to be part of this church”. Christine grew up in Rhode Island, so is naturally a fan of every Boston team. Having moved to Cheshire in 1988, she and her husband Scott have 2 adult children.
Music Assistant/Section Leader
Melissa Clark is a music educator with a passion for fostering lifelong enjoyment of music through the development of musical skills and artful expression. Her teaching draws on the methods of John Feierabend and American folk music traditions. She holds a Bachelor of Music Education from Keene State College and a Master of Music Education from The Hartt School. She has taught general music, choir, beginning instrument lessons, and elementary strings for nine years in Waterbury and Enfield school districts. In addition to teaching, she is a regular performer and soloist with The Greater Middletown Chorale, and Alchemy Vocal Chamber Ensemble. Melissa is the music assistant at First Congregational Church of Cheshire, CT.