April 2017 Newsletter

CentralNEWS/April 2017

296 Angell Street Providence, RI 02906  401-331-1960

From Rebecca

Dear Friends,

While no one knows what forever looks like, we do sometimes get glimpses. . .That certain smile on someone’s face. . .a poignant greeting, a tender farewell. . .A crocus bravely pushing through snow.

A victory, large or small, over prejudice, hatred, meanness. . .A sadness slowly transforming into a larger understanding of real joy. . .And I would add, EASTER.

Easter is what forever looks like from earth.

A new morning and Jesus Christ crucified and resurrected! And we need this. God knows, we need it. Resurrection. He is risen. Allelulia. And we need to hear it from each other. . .unashamed. Jesus lives.

The One who could not save himself, in whom all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell. The One we crucified. Mary’s son. The friend of sinners. The teacher. The man filled with compassion. He lives.

And Central Church, brick and mortar and slate, organ and choirs and preacher, transepts and

front and back pews, stained glass with the Day of Creation and the Heavenly City, and the mission and action committee and the membership committee (just to name two), and all the workers, giving for others, the youth group helping a family with much needed yard maintenance, confirmands asking questions, Bible studiers and men’s group, and students and at home members and graphic designers and writers and painters and lawyers and nurses and

moms and dads, refugees and grandparents and little kids, baby sitters, school teachers and church school helpers, those who feel broken and those feeling a bit mended. . .people with worries and concerns, people with confident hope and trust, everybody, young and old, alone, yet gathered together in this community of love. . . Easter breaks in among us all. . .and on April

16 we are going to say so. To each other and to the world.

Easter is what forever looks like from earth. A new morning and Jesus Christ risen.

Yours in Him,



The Sacrament of Baptism is an important part of our worship life together. In an effort to uplift our celebration of Baptisms in our community of faith, we will be offering Baptisms on the following days:

Easter Vigil                                                  April 15, 2017
Sunday after Easter                                  April 23, 2017
Children’s Sabbath                                    October 8, 2017

A meeting to prepare parents for Baptism will be held in our Fireplace Room at 9 am Saturday of the preceding week. The meeting for the April 23 Baptism will be help on Saturday, April 15.  Please speak with the Rev. Rebecca Spencer if you would like to be included in this very important part of life at Central—The Sacrament of Baptism.

Thoughts and Prayers

Our thoughts & prayers are with Mark McLaughlin & family. His father died in March.
Stephanie Mott & family. Her mother died in March.
Cheryl Rigby & family. Her mother, Gail Barlow, died in March.


Sundays during Lent 12:00 – 12:45 pm
April 2 & 9 - “The Cross and the Lynching Tree”

Wednesday Meditation   5:30 - 6:00 pm
April 5                        Bill Connors

Lenten Supper Series 6:00 – 7:00 pm
April 5                        The Chaplaincy Center

Palm Sunday, April 9
Worship Service   10:30 am
Preceded by the outdoor procession with Shiloh (the colt), palms, choir, & children at 10:10

Maundy Thursday, April 13   7:30pm

Service of Tenebrae and Communion. Preceding worship, our Deacons invite you to a potluck supper in Chapel Hall.

Tenebrae, Latin for Shadows, is a service of lessons and is accompanied by the gradual extinguishing of light. The readings, preceded by Communion, commemorate the events of Holy Week: Jesus’ betrayal & arrest, His passion, trial & death on the cross. This is a moving & important service that allows us to walk with Jesus in those last days & hours of His life. It prepares us to celebrate the glory & the light of the Resurrection on Easter.

Good Friday, April 14  12 noon

Our adult choir presents St John Passion by Bob Chilcott

Easter Vigil, April 15 

Worship Service 7:30 pm

The Easter Vigil dates to the beginnings of Christianity.  This candlelight service keeps the intent of such vigils—hearing the readings, remembering our baptisms and sharing Holy Communion together—but it is about an hour long! 

Easter, April 16

Ecumenical Sunrise Service 6:00 am at Swan Point Cemetery
Easter Breakfast 9:00 am
Children’s Egg Hunt   9:45 am
Festival Service of Worship 10:30 am with, organ, brass and timpani - Preludes begin at 10:10 am

From Claudia

I love it when Easter is in April.  Somehow the joy of Easter morning is magnified in the new life all around us and everywhere is the promise of resurrection hope and of the joy of new life.   Martin Luther said that, “God has written the promise of the resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in spring-time.”

At this time of year, I remember being in Jerusalem shortly after Easter and walking down the steep, ancient road of the Mount of Olives.  I think of sitting quietly in the Cenacle, the traditional site of the “upper room” of the Last Supper.  One of our group passed imaginary bread to her neighbor simply whispering, “I remember.” As each person touched hands with the person next to them in silence we remembered Jesus.

Through our worship here at Central as we move through the events of Holy Week we are able to relive the story of Jesus’ thrillingly triumphant ride down the Mount of Olives into Jerusalem.  We hear the readings on Maundy Thursday before and after we share communion and on Friday the music brings us to the foot of the cross.  On Saturday, we remember our own baptisms and light the new fire before sharing communion together.   And, Easter!  The joy of Easter at Central is not to be missed.

If you think about it, in the span of one short week the world of the disciples moved from triumph to fear to devastation to immense joy. Though we have to travel through the events of Holy Week the Risen Christ greets us Easter morning.  Because of what we have experienced by immersing ourselves in the entire story our joy is therefore more complete.

Alleluia!  Christ is risen indeed!



Soup & Bread Supper
Sunday, April 2 - 5:30-7:30 PM in the Fireplace Room

One person can indeed change the world! Come watch Rick Steves’ 500th anniversary year documentary about the story of Martin Luther who kicked off the Reformation five hundred years ago.  We will enjoy a simple soup and bread supper as we learn more about Luther and consider his role in the politics of the 16th century with a discussion after the film.  Please RSVP to Claudia.

“Save the Date”

On Sunday April 30 at 9:00 a.m. there will be an opportunity here at Central Church to learn about our regional denominational body, the Rhode Island Conference, UCC, of which Central is a member, and its future.  Our Conference is moving toward a decision to combine and/or unite in some form with the Conferences of Massachusetts and Connecticut.  Delegates from the three Conferences will vote on this important matter at the combined annual meetings of the three Conferences in June, 2017.  Central Church has eleven elected Rhode Island Conference delegates.

The information meeting on April 30 will be an opportunity to learn about how and why this matter has come about, and what it may mean for the future of the United Church of Christ in Southern New England.  All are invited to attend to learn and to share your opinions with the delegates who will be representing you and Central.   Watch for more information in the coming weeks.

April in Providence XXVII

On Maundy Thursday our church is darkened
We ask the Lord to give us faith and hope

The paper our Providence Journal says
That there are wars in our world

The yellow chicks and sun-kissed daffodils
However speak of peace

Now days and nights are of equal length
I dream by day and moan at night

I am a child again and wonder
Does the Easter bunny really lay the chocolate eggs

Your hand O Lord
Will always be my nest

By now the Lord has been in office
For many many years

Under the grimy dust of ages
There flows the river of the resurrection

Now let us ring the Easter bells

-Ilse Kramer, Poet Laureate


The Cross and the Lynching Tree
by James H. Cone - April 2 & 9 12:00-12:45 PM in the Fireplace Room

All across RI and our nation churches will be reading this book during Lent.  Named one of the Top 11 Religion Books of the Year by the Huffington Post this multi-award winning book by liberation theologian James H. Cone “demonstrates why he is indispensable as an interpreter of faith, race, and the American experience.” (Bill Moyers)  Books are available for $14 each.  Please see Claudia to purchase your copy.


Thursday, April 6 - 7:00-8:30 PM in the Fireplace Room at Central

Join us for a lively discussion of this month’s book—Secrets She Kept by Cathy Gohlke!

Looking ahead:

May 11Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson

June 8Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly

CCC Adult Sunday School

The Reformation
April 2 & 9, NO CLASS on 4/16, 4/23 and 4/30
Fireplace Room, 9:00-10:00 AM

2017 is the 500th anniversary year of when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Wittenberg church. In true academic fashion, he hoped for a discussion on these and other points for reform within the Church in Rome.  Things did not turn out quite as Luther had hoped as his and others’ efforts at reform took hold in surprising ways.  For the next few months we will be looking at the efforts of Luther and other reformers and how they changed history.

From Aidan


On the first Sunday of the month, Aidan will be leading a casual, “pop in” Bible study following worship in the Deacons’ Room.  Each study will be a stand-alone exploration of a biblical text that aims to bring us into its context while discerning together where we find God’s Word speaking to us today.  No prior study or attendance will be necessary and it is open to everyone in our community.  We will use various biblical translations and different methods to dive into our sacred and living library.


On Saturday, April 8th from 8 to 10:30 AM, we will gather at Central to lend a hand at the All-Church Clean Up to prepare our space for Holy Week.  Bring along a rake and some yard work gloves.


Beginning on Sunday, April 9th, Aidan will be offering a time of fellowship and conversation for our Confirmation and high school youth following worship on the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Sundays of the month.  We will meet in the Deacons’ Room right after worship and gather until 12:15 or 12:30.  These will be informal times of conversation around a relevant topic or theme that will give us a chance to be together as well as continue and build on our Confirmation journeys.


Sunday, Apr. 2nd
9 AM: Confirmation Class w/ Deacon Mentors (Makepeace)
11:30 AM : Pop In Bible Study (Deacons’ Room)

Saturday, Apr. 8th
8 AM – 10:30 AM: April Micah Ministries Project: All Church  Clean Up @ Central

Sunday, Apr. 9th
9 AM: Confirmation Class
11:30 AM: Conversations with Aidan (Deacons’ Room)

Saturday, Apr. 15th
10 AM - Noon: Easter Breakfast Set-Up/Prep (Chapel Hall)

Sunday, Apr. 16th
6 AM: Sunrise Service, Swan Point Cemetery
9 AM: Easter Breakfast (Confirmation/WORD)

Sunday, Apr. 23rd
11:30 AM: Conversations with Aidan (Deacons’ Room)

Sunday, Apr. 30th
9 AM: Confirmation Class
11:30 AM: Young Adult Book Group Lunch:  “Traveling Mercies” by Anne Lamott


Sunday, April 2
11:45 AM Deacon’s Room

Come join the fun: whether you knit, aspire to knit, or just want to experience fellowship and participate in the blessing of the prayer shawls that are lovingly made for others!  As an added bonus, if you’ve always wanted to learn how to knit we’ll teach you!  Questions?  Call Janice Libby or Claudia.


April is a month of very full and special Sundays! Please mark your calendar!

Sunday, April 9th:  PALM SUNDAY -- we welcome "Shiloh" the colt, who will help lead our Palm Sunday Procession!  Children are welcome to come at 9:50 to greet and pet Shiloh before the Palm Sunday Procession (with children, choirs, and the entire congregation) begins at 10:10 a.m.   We give thanks to Alice Schlemmer of Foster, who has brought us a donkey or colt for Palm Sunday for over 25 years!

Sunday, April 16th: EASTER!! -- we begin Easter morning with a Sunrise Service at Swan Point, and then a fabulous  Easter breakfast, at 9:00 a.m. , hosted by Word Fellowship Youth Group -- followed by the Easter EGG HUNT for children in nursery through 5th grade -- please meet at 9:45 in the Fireplace Room before the Egg Hunt begins!   Our beautiful Easter worship begins at 10:15 -- there is no Church School Easter morning, but THERE IS CHILDCARE, in both the nursery and pre-school rooms downstairs, during Easter worship.

Sunday, April 23rd -- Lessons and Carols of Easter/Communion -- Junior High (Dream-Maker) class remains in worship to partake in service and Communion. Church School classes resume for all other grades.

Sunday, April 30th -- Heritage Sunday -- We honor the 50-year members in our congregation, and present the 4th Graders with gift of their own Bibles!  

We celebrate the joy of Easter -- that after death comes resurrection, and that God is with us always in new and transforming ways that we can hardly begin to imagine! -- forever!

Christ has risen!  Christ has risen indeed!

Love & Easter Joy,
Cathy C-T

One Great Hour of Sharing

One Great Hour of Sharing enables the UCC to reach people and communities affected by disaster, displacement or poverty. Through this giving, we provide assistance to families and communities around the world, helping them become stronger, healthier, and better equipped to address hardships and catastrophes. The 2017 theme for OGHS is “You are here” which could easily be the response to a question provoked by tragedy, fear, or suffering.

You are here shows us uniting to respond to the many critical needs present in our world. Central will receive this offering on Palm Sunday, April 9.


The Stewardship Committee is so thankful for the wonderful participation of so many church members who have helped to make the Pony Express a success! We are especially grateful to all of the Shepherds and Guides. We are currently still awaiting pledges, but the initial numbers are looking good. We have 28 new pledging units who did not pledge last year, about a third of those are new members. We have fifty increased pledges over last year.

Our total pledges so far amount to $435,528. If everyone who pledged last year who has not pledged yet this year pledges at the same amount or higher, we will reach our goal. Please keep those pledges coming!


Good Friday Service of Music

On Good Friday at Noon our Adult Choir presents “The Passion of St. John” by British composer Bob Chilcott.

The passion story from the Gospel of John narrates the story of Jesus’ last hours.  Since the 5th Century, the church has traditionally read the St. John Passion on Good Friday, and composers have written hundreds of musical settings of the text.

The setting we use comes from a contemporary composer who retells the story through the Evangelist (Doug Morgan, Tenor), and the words of Jesus (Matthew Quinn, Bass), and other characters, with full choir joining in on bits of the story and in movements that enrich its telling.

The passion also includes five hymns to be sung by the congregation as well, and we learned one of these hymns each week in the season of Lent in Sunday worship.

Accompanied by viola, cello, organ, and timpani, the music conveys the depth of emotion dramatically in plaintive recitatives and lush choral motets that bring the centuries-old story of our salvation to life today.  It ranges in spirit from tender to tragic, all the while uplifting and inspiring.

The service lasts just under an hour.  Come to this important part of our Holy Week services this year, and invite family friends to share in this rich musical worship.

Palm Sunday Hymn Sing

Following worship on Palm Sunday we will hold a brief 15-minute hymn sing during which we will go through a few verses of each of the five hymns we learned in Lent that comprise part of the St. John’s Passion we hear on Good Friday.

The hymns become much more meaningful and moving when the whole congregation sings heartily, so we want as many as possible to be familiar with them!

Come review the tunes, and learn any that you may have missed so you will come well-prepared to sing and pray on Good Friday.

New Members

New Member Inquiry*
Wednesday, April 26

Faith Exploration*
Tuesday, May 2

New Member Sunday
May 7

*These meetings are held at the home of the Rev. Rebecca Spencer 15 Taber Ave at 7 pm

Heritage Sunday

Please join us on Sunday, April 30 as we observe Heritage Sunday which marks the first-time services were held in the Benefit Street church. On this day, we honor the founders and faithful of Central Congregational Church through the years. Hymn and prayers with historical meaning are woven into this service of thanks and remembrance.

We at Central gratefully honor our members who have enriched this community of faith for over fifty years. Their witness to Christ has touched many lives.

Deacon’s Bench

“I dropped out and found God”

This summer I sold my big 5-bedroom house on the Eastside (buh-bye Blackstone Blvd property taxes—hello flood insurance). I sold the Mercedes and up and went. With just my suitcase. Then just like Dorothy’s house crash landing in Munchkin Land— I landed in a small beach house by the sea.  Actually, on the sea. My living room has the illusion of being an infinity pool with seaweed and seagulls.

I don’t even live on a road—and I am not sure I am even in a zip code.  I don’t work—I would rather be poor than go through another mid-year performance review.

I gratefully decided to keep coming to Central services and being a part of the huge volunteer group–roughly 200 fantastic beautiful people who are vital to my spiritual well-being and help me experience the joyful validation of being a Christian.

Every time I am at one of our services I am in awe.  The church’s soaring dramatic architecture combined with lofty music reinforces the awe of God—of what we are singing, praying, reading and learning.  Importantly the words I hear and say create a deeper awe.

Awe, which many people experience in nature (for example), is, according to one study recently quoted in the NY Times, associated with increased generosity toward other people.

When I drive home from a service I find I do not put on music—I don’t make calls.  I just bask in the awe of having been with God for that hour.  Till next time.

Then it happened on the patch of my new life: maybe it was seeing at least several hundred ducks fly over my beach or at night looking up and seeing Mars, Venus, and Jupiter…or the roundest yellowest moon flood lighting the entire ocean…awe.  Big time. Maybe what I get out of this awe of nature is a sense of connection to God.  Felt like being in church. Felt like praying…finding God.

-Wendy Drumm


Please join us in the kitchen at 9:30 on Sundays for sandwich making and fellowship! Sandwiches go to Crossroads to feed the hungry when most other soup kitchen are closed.

Easter Breakfast at 9am

As the sun climbs in the morning sky and we celebrate that Christ is Risen, start your Easter off right with a well-balanced and delicious breakfast. Feat on homemade egg casseroles, bagels, assorted pastries, cereals, and fresh fruit. Seats are $5 for children, $10 for adults, and $25 for families. All proceeds from the Easter Breakfast benefit this summer’s youth mission trip to New York City.

News from the Harkeys

While our first Letter from India concerned a month’s volunteering in Purulia, this, our second and final letter, is more of a travelogue. Once free of obligations in West Bengal, we flew south to Bangalore for a brief visit with our friends, the Bhate family, known since their years at Brown Univ.

Then returning to West Bengal, we explored Kolkata (Calcutta) over several days by foot and taxi, touring the civic remains, rather well-worn, from the era of the British “Raj.” We dropped in on the institutions it founded — the Horticultural Institute (specimen library), the Asiatic Society (preservation lab), the Indian Museum (gallery of Hindu sculpture), the Victoria Memorial, a white marble colossus sheltering under its dome the white Queen of India — and a number of damp churches whose wall plaques memorialize Europeans’ sacrifice to the colonial endeavor. Within the old city’s administrative center, banyon tree roots reclaim sidewalks and buildings, and on Sunday life in full is lived on the streets.

Traveling onwards from Kolkata, we capitalized on friendships made during our volunteer duties. We were passed from hand to hand toward our ultimate destination, the Himalayan state of Sikkim. Our first stop was in the hill station of Darjeeling. Here we were received by the Rector of St. Paul’s School and his lovely family, where we remained for several days. The Reverend Joy Halder, his wife Sunetra, and their two children made us a part of their family, putting us up in the “Bishop’s room” of their home, the Rectory — the oldest, highest house in the town and once a tea estate’s manor. Each morning their butler brought us our “bed tea,” which we took under covers hoping for a morning glimpse of the Himalaya Mountains. A number of activities around Darjeeling were available to us: antique shopping, a tea tasting, and a visit to a Buddhist monastery.

An exclusive tour was arranged for us of a preserve where India’s Snow Leopard and Red Panda are mated to others from international zoos.

Ginger arranged a walk through The Windamere, one of Darjeeling’s British “heritage hotels.” Framed letters from Nehru and Rabindranath Tagore hang on the walls, and photos of British and tribal grandees pose for posterity. No visit to Darjeeling would be complete without a joy ride on the Toy Train, a UNESCO World Heritage site. This capable steam locomotive is the highest running passenger train in the world.

Then into Sikkim where all roads run either up or down, around hundreds of switchbacks, with unguarded sheer drops of thousands of feet, offering plenty of opportunities for spectacular death.

Our driver, a skilled mountain driver, as all on these roads must be, negotiated it all with aplomb. With hardly any breadth for oncoming passage, the roads are beset by rockslides, fog and monsoon. Road paving is a slow and sporadic rural employment scheme. Rocks are split by sledgehammer, then the shards are lifted by shovel into a backpack basket, the old, common system of cartage. Sikkim runs right through the Eastern Himalayas, hosting hundreds of orchid species, jewel-like birds, 30-foot rhododendron forests, and the world’s third highest mountain, Kangchenjunga.

Our hotel in the capitol, Gangtok, was built by an internationally recognized eco-conservator, once head of the state Forestry Service. Perched on a hillside, the Hidden Forest Retreat is terraced with exocita. Gangtok sponsors a heritage preservation program for traditional arts. The predominant Sikkimese tribal culture is Lepcha, who are now largely Buddhist. Because it borders Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet/China, Sikkim is a corridor for migration into India. Here, the influence of Imperial England fades and Buddhism asserts. Our itinerary in Sikkim was designed to visit several Buddhist monasteries. We seemed to arrive, one monastery after another, at the monk’s prayer time. The chanting and instrumentation, alternately raucous or ethereal, was transporting.

With no one to guide us through the mysteries of Nepalese and Tibetan Buddhism, we were enthralled, but truly strangers in a strange land. With this trip now concluded, and looking back over our years of travel, we realize that we have visited the temples, in their highest and humblest forms, of every major faith: Buddhist; Hindu; Islamic; Jewish, Christian, of course; Jain; those of minor faiths like Zoroastrianism; natural animistic sites and of several religions that have passed into history. Ginger, who is angling for a trip to Japan, reminds me that we have a Shinto temple yet to visit.

Yet, for all that these have had to offer, our fondest memories will always be of the friends we make along the way, both with fellow travelers and the native-born — trail-side encounters like with this Argentine couple on a year’s journey, the twenty-year friendship with the Bhate family, or, as with this child, a dormer at the hostel way back in Purulia, our starting place from two months ago. We will sponsor her schooling for five years. Or this 92-year old gentleman, Shri Sonam Tshering, host of his own tribal museum in Kalimpong, the Lepcha Museum. He rose from a traditional farming life to become a nationally celebrated folk musician, bringing along with him a prized collection of instruments, sacred objects, and weapons. Speaking but a couple of words of English, Tshering took us into his world through music.

-John and Ginger Harkey

Gallery Committee

It’s that time of year again: time for the annual High School Art Show!

This year’s reception and award ceremony will begin at 2 pm on Saturday, April 8, and we are happy to welcome Suzanne Alpert as speaker for the event. Please join us to support our talented young people as they explore painting, drawing, ceramics, photography, and other artistic pursuits. The quality of presentation is always impressive, and this event is an important component of the church’s community outreach! Let’s give these artists a round of applause!

See you on Saturday, April 8.                  

All Church Spring Clean-up Day

Saturday, April 8th -  8 to 10:30 am

We need many hands to work, old and young cleaning, dusting, washing windows, raking, weeding. . .you will surely find an area of interest.  Coffee, donuts, and good company abound!  Call Ed Bishop with questions.

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