Dec. 2017 Newsletter

CentralNEWS/December 2017


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


Dear Friends,

The years, I find, and knowing you, deepen Christmas.  This is so true.

Of course, ministers are a lucky lot in this.  We don't have too many casual acquaintances; everybody we know we meet around the things that matter.  Family stuff mostly, good times and hard times, but also events and situations that affect us all.  The times of laughter and joy and celebration and the times of tears and despair and darkness too.

I am in some ways a Calvinist, of course, original sin and all that, so I am always surprised and delighted that most people really are a lot better than our theology prepares us to expect.  Being in community teaches us of all different sorts...whether it is family or work place, volunteer places or neighborhoods, church or school.

Take children for example.  These are such difficult times for raising children, and they do have to contend with violence we older ones did not see daily when we were their ages.  Sometimes it seems as though civilization itself is disintegrating around us.  But innocence and spirit light up their eyes with no dimmed radiance.

The little kids I know come toddling around all confidence, curiosity, beguiling charm -- holding their creative posters of their saints, or practicing for the pageant or singing with Patrick in the choir… And these little ones don't seem the least bit disappointed in what they are finding, and I doubt they ever go to bed feeling the day short changed them.  At least I hope not and I'll do all in my power to be sure not.

So I say, here we are in Advent… and let us wait together for a new day. A day of hope triumphing over despair, of peace reigning over chaos, of compassion winning over prejudice and anger.   I read this hopeful waiting for peace and compassion in the children's eyes and smiles and optimism.  And that, as I read the Holy Book, is precisely where we are supposed to find the message.

To those of you who have fresh wounds to heal, or old to remember, know that in this old church God loves you and we do too.

On behalf of all of us at church,

Yours in the Christ child who lives among us,


Prayers & Sympathies

Our prayers & sympathies are with Maureen Whittemore, her brother, Kevin, died in November


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:

Sunday after Epiphany  January 7, 2018
Easter Vigil                     March 31, 2018
Sunday after Easter      April 8, 2018

A meeting to prepare parents for Baptism will be held in our Fireplace Room at 9 am on the preceding Saturdays.  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.

New Members

New Member Inquiry*
Wednesday, January 24

Faith Exploration*
Tuesday, January 30

New Member Sunday
February 4

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

Christmas Potluck


Whether you volunteer in the church office, help with the bazaar, the all-church work day, or just want to join in some holiday cheer, please come to our Christmas potluck luncheon on Wednesday, December 6 at 12 noon in the Fireplace Room. Please bring a $5 gift for the Yankee Swap! RSVP to or call the church office at 331-1960.


December 2017

As we prepare the way in our hearts and lives for the coming of the Christ Child this year I think of all the ways that our hearts cry out for peace in a world without peace.  I think of all the ways our spirits cry out for justice in a world that is anything but just.  I think of all the ways that we can be disheartened and discouraged.  And yet, the Child comes.  And, the season of Advent reminds us that peace and justice were in short supply leading up to Jesus’ birth.  And I think of the vast hope of a people waiting…just like us.

My preaching professor is now the president of Christian Theological Seminary and a founder of the Salt Project, an Emmy award winning “production powerhouse” of theological film.  Their prayer for this season reminds us of our call as followers of Christ:

Loving God,
For you animals prepared a bed
For you the heavens shone brightly and the stars clapped their hands
For you angels sang to help calm your crying
For you shepherds stood watch and marveled at how small you were
For you wise ones came running from the east, and when they saw you,
They fell down on their knees
Because you were Almighty God and yet you were so vulnerable
You were God and yet you had a soft spot on your head
God with Mary’s milk on your breath, wrapped up in swaddling clothes
God, creator of everything, now born of flesh and blood to be with us
Emmanuel, God with us
Hope is ours
Peace is on the way
Sorrow has lost its grip
Love has flooded every heart
Emmanuel, God with us
Light has come back into the world
And the darkness of despair, and war, and hurt, and hate shall not overcome it
Tonight you are with us
And we will never be the same
We will be more tender
We will protect the vulnerable
We will stand watch
We will come running to soothe the pain, to befriend the lonely, to lift up the lowly
To live as your people, to walk with you in love
We pray all of this in the name of Emmanuel, God with us
In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

By God’s grace may all this be so in each of us, not only in this season, but in every season of our lives.

Advent and Christmas blessings,


Christmas at Central

Sunday, December 3 - 11:30 am – 1:30 pm

Please join in the festivities!


Save the date for this year’s annual Carol Service on Sunday, December  17th, at 4 pm.

Once again, we tell the story of the birth of Christ in scripture and song beginning with the creation story in Genesis all the way to the birth of Christ.  Readers from our church bring us seven lessons, each echoed by a congregational carol or anthem sung by the choir.

Annual favorites include familiar hymns such as “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” and “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” as well as new and traditional anthems sung by our choirs, accompanied by organ, harp, and cello.   The service ends quietly and peacefully with “Silent Night” and “The Sleep of the Infant Jesus” instrumental postlude with a candlelit tableau.

A Silver Tea sponsored by the Social Committee follows in Chapel Hall. Come out to share in the gift of music to our community, and invite your family and friends!

Spirited Poetry Spectacular

Thanks to all who participated in our Poetry celebration on Sunday, October 22.  Two special treats are available for follow up: First, please visit our Poets Webpage for copies of these original poems:

Poets Page

Second, an audio CD is available in Central’s library, next to the Fireplace Room.  You may sign out a copy briefly, and return for others to enjoy.  The CD can also be downloaded onto your own computer.

Have ideas for other poetry fun?  You are encouraged to create your own new poetry project!

In honor of Central’s own Poet Laureate, Ilse Kramer, this was indeed a festival of poetry for all ages. Special thanks to both Rhode Island State Poet Laureate Tina Cane, and Central’s Director of Religious Education, Cathy Clasper-Torch.


"This is the irrational season, when love blooms bright and wild.  Had Mary been filled with reason, there'd have been no room for the Child." (Madeleine L'Engle)

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 26 – First Pageant Rehearsal for grades 2nd - 5th in the Gathering Space; Dream-Makers meet in Fireplace Room with Tracy Baran;

Angel Tree is put up in Chapel Hall with names of children from DCYF for gift-giving

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 3 – 1st Sunday in Advent; Pageant Rehearsal for grades K - 5th  in the Gathering Space; CHRISTMAS AT CENTRAL bazaar 11:30 - 1:30 p.m.

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 10 – 2nd Sunday in Advent; last Sunday Pageant Rehearsal, Pre-school - 5th grades in the Gathering Space; Christmas Caroling after worship to at-home Church members

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 16 – Pageant Dress Rehearsal (in full costume) --10:30 - 12 noon!!! 

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 17 – PAGEANT PERFORMANCE DURING WORSHIP; ARRIVE IN COSTUME/final run-through by 9:15 a.m. in the Sanctuary

Winter Unit Church School begins on: SUNDAY, JANUARY 7th, 2018

With love & deep peace,

Cathy ; )


In these times when self-selecting social/cultural groups seem to be on the increase, I would like to think that our Central community rejects this trend and, in fact, enjoys the opposite, wishing to expand, not contract our communication with others.

To that end, as past president of the Sandra Bornstein Holocaust Education Center, and on behalf of the Jewish Alliance, the Holocaust Center, and the Jewish Community Center, I offer my services as a guide on several Sundays in January and February, with possible trips further into the church year. Think about joining me after church and coffee hour, in a carpool, to visit a beautifully renovated building and learn about its history and the organization’s many offerings – my personal favorite the re-located and astonishing new Holocaust Center.

Take an extra hour after church and find us just around the corner at Elmgrove and Sessions, i.e., across from Brown Stadium and Nathan Bishop Middle School.

I’ll remind you in the Sunday Bulletin and from the lectern on the days we have selected. And find me, in church, by phone, or email, if you have any questions or thoughts.  –Judith Jamieson


Pop-In Bible Study

Each month, Aidan leads 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. Please join us following worship on Sunday, December 10th.

WORD Christmas Wreath Fundraiser

WORD Senior High Youth Group members will gather on Saturday, December 2nd from 10:30 am – 12 noon to decorate our Christmas wreaths which we will sell at Christmas at Central for our Mission Trip Fundraiser. We’ll listen to holiday tunes, decorate some wreaths, and have a pizza lunch.

WORD Breakfast & Christmas Tree Trip

Over the past few years, it has become a new tradition for a group of committed Central youth to go out to breakfast together before heading out to Foster, Rhode Island to pick out and transport our grand Central Christmas tree to church. This year’s trip will be Saturday, December 9th at 9 am. Please contact Aidan if you’d like to be a part of this fun tradition!

Order Your Christmas Wreaths by WORD

Don’t miss out on your chance to take home one (or more!) of the beautiful wreaths decorated by youth from Central’s WORD Fellowship. We will be selling high quality 12” wreaths for $25 and 16” wreaths for $35. Our wreaths make great gifts and excellent ornaments for your doors. Proceeds from our sale benefit our summer youth mission trip. Email Aidan ( to pre-order your wreaths or look for us in Chapel Hall in the weeks leading up to Christmas at Central!

Christmas Eve Family Service Rehearsal

Our Confirmation and WORD Youth will gather in the Fireplace Room after worship on Sunday, December 17th for our Christmas Eve Family Service rehearsal.


PLEASE VOLUNTEER to make cookies or sandwiches for the SILVER TEA on Sunday, December 17, 2017. Assistance with set-up, serving and clean-up is also requested. Please fill out the flyer you will find on the piano in Chapel Hall during Coffee Fellowship.

New Members

Please join us in welcoming our newest members who united with us in membership on November 5, 2017:

Catherine (Cat) Hill - Providence

Cat moved to Rhode Island from her hometown of Charlotte, Vermont in September of 2016. She is studying for her Master’s Degree and works in the Human Resources Department at URI. Her avocations include reading, sailing, and cooking. She is interested in becoming involved with the Mission and Action Committee.

Terry Kim - Providence

New member Terry Kim recently relocated from Los Angeles to begin a new job. She was drawn to Central by its inclusive atmosphere and vision for communities. She’s always ready for fun, and enjoys painting and calligraphy. She’s looking forward to participating in Central events.

Elyn MacInnis - Providence

The Rev. Elyn MacInnes is an ordained priest in the Episcopal Church in the United States. She went to China in 1988 with her husband and two young daughters, and served there until recently. In 2004 she received Harvard University Divinity School Alumni Association’s “Rabbi Martin Katzenstein Award” for her “passionate and helpful interest in the lives of other people, an informed and realistic faithfulness, an embodiment of the idea that love is not so much a way of feeling as a way of acting, and a reliable sense of humor.” She is married to new member Peter MacInnis.

William & Jackline Scott - Cumberland

We welcome Jackie & William Scott to Central. Jackie works at Stanley Black & Decker, and William works for UPS. Their interests include reading, running, and cooking. They see Central as a family-friendly church, and they hope to become involved in volunteerism.


On December 10th at 11:30 am, in the Deacon’s Room, Ted Staples and Ted Radway will present a brief overview of planned giving. The “Ted Talks” will focus on both testamentary bequests and inter-vivos (during lifetime) gifts to Central Congregational Church. The income from our endowment’s invested funds is critical to our beloved Central’s future.  These funds in the Endowment were made possible by members of Central just like you in past years.

Please join in this brief “Ted Talk” overview to see how you might be able to help ensure our Church’s mission into the coming generations and also learn more about your own potential financial planning.


The Shining Light

It is always a thing of joy and comforting to hear the words “The Lord bless thee and keep thee. The Lord make his face to shine upon thee and be gracious unto thee. The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.”

In the whole world, evil is raging seriously, fighting, killing, destruction, moral decadence, seems to be the order of the day. The people that are supposed to be moral and political leaders have failed woefully. Everyone seems to be concerned about ‘me’, and ‘what is in it for me’ regardless of what happens to the other person. People do not even care about what happens to the downtrodden. And also what their words and actions do to others. Hatred and vilifying seems to be the order of the day. The whole situation seems to be hopeless.

In these hopeless situations, the coming and the messages of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, gives hope to the hopeless, help for the helpless and downtrodden. I have witnessed events that made me realize that people in their own little ways are still trying to be a shining light of Christ to others.

What do you say of a wealthy white individual just talking to some homeless panhandlers in such a compassionate way, that they started talking among themselves about the upliftment that the compassion gave to their spirits? He did not give them money, but his kind words did more than what money can do.

What do you say of total strangers rising up to help others during the natural disasters and calamities that occurred in many cities and countries around the world?

What about people leaving their comfort zones to help the persecuted in some forgotten parts of the world? Doing all these without seeking recognition or monetary gain.

We should give thanks to God for the coming of Christ and his message of peace and love. Also as Christians we should not relent in our effort to fight the good fight of faith, in promoting peace, love, kindness, compassion, and justice everywhere we find ourselves.

I pray that in everything that we all do, people will glorify God in us.

Merry Christmas, peace, joy, love, and happiness to the whole world.

Kazeem Balogun, Deacon


For 116 years, the Christmas Fund for the Veterans of the Cross and the Emergency Fund has been a tangible expression of God’s love and light in the world. In 2016, UCC congregations and members generously contributed $1,562,250 to the Offering. The theme of the 2017 Christmas Fund Offering is Shepherding the Light, and our goal is to raise $1.7 million to help support these ministries of light and love. The recipients of these gifts have faithfully served the church, and now, in their time of need, we can be the church to them. Central will receive the Veterans of the Cross offerings during Christmas Eve services.


Come join Central’s Music Committee for our annual Trim-a-Tree after the worship service on Sunday, December 10

There will be a giant tree for the children to decorate with ornaments they can make then and there. This year proceeds will be given to support a special One Egg Haiti project at a community center in Haiti.

Please contact Liz Viall if you are able to provide a dozen or so sandwiches. (No peanut butter sandwiches, please.)


January 3 & 10 at 7pm | Fireplace Room

All committee chairs are invited to attend the first

budget meeting on Wednesday, January 5. The second meeting will be held on January 11.  Please bring your budget request for the upcoming 2018-19 fiscal year.


Please join us on Sunday afternoon, December 10, for a Central Christmas tradition. We will be caroling to church members who are unable to come to church and members who just enjoy our caroling. After lunch and the trim-a-tree party, we will gather in the Fireplace Room at 12:30. We should finish up before 2:30. Bring your family. Bring a friend. You will be glad you did! For more information, contact Maureen Whittemore.

T r e e   S a l e
Friday   Saturday   Sunday
December 1    December 2   December 3
4 pm-8 pm        10 am-8 pm         10 am-4 pm




The Gift Tree is up in Chapel Hall! This is our chance to brighten a child’s or teen’s holiday by selecting a tag with the child’s name, age, sex and purchasing a gift for him or her. Please wrap the gift in traditional Christmas wrap and indicate the contents on the back of the name tag. Attach the name tag SECURELY on the package and deliver it to the church by Sunday, December 10. These gifts will be distributed by Christmas. Please call Cathy Clasper-Torch with questions.


Join Rebecca for her book group on Thursday 21 December at 12:30 in Rebecca’s study, to discuss News of the World by Paulette Jiles. All are invited to join this lively group.


Many ITEMS are needed:

  • baked goods of all kinds
  • gift baskets of all kinds (wrapped in cellophane with approximate value)
  • soups, mac ’n cheese, cider and breads for the luncheon
  • gently used toys, books, and attic treasures

(please leave to the rear of the stage in the designated spots)

Many HANDS are needed:

  • help with set up on Saturday, 12/2 from 8:30-11:30 AM
  • help with lunch, toys, books, bake table, Grandma’s Attic on Sunday, 12/3
  • help with clean-up starting at 1:00 PM on Sunday

Many SMILES are needed!!

  • Help us welcome the wider community to our wonderful faith community!


Starting on November 15 and continuing through Advent and the 12 Days of Christmas this colorful calendar reminds us to practice grace in our lives with ideas every day from November 15 – January 6.  Calendars are available at the front doors and the coatroom door into the sanctuary as well as at the Welcome Table.

Please feel free to take copies for yourself and others.  It’s a great way to share your faith!  Questions?  Ask Claudia.


Thursday 12/7 from 6 pm – 7 pm

Where is God in our lives?  Spiritual companionship is a very ancient tradition.  It is a way to offer ourselves a holy spaciousness by listening for God in our lives .  We encounter our own inner wisdom as we seek where God is found in our daily living.  Through the companionship of others participants often find new possibilities in their spiritual life and practices. Please RSVP to Claudia.


What is Belief?
Fireplace Room, 9 am – 10 am | 12/10 & 12/17 NO CLASS ON 12/3 OR 12/24

What do I believe?  Humans have always searched for ways to connect with something greater than ourselves.  This series features some of the fascinating ways that people connect with the divine through religious and spiritual journeys as seen through the eyes of believers in all the corners of the world. Join us for thought-provoking ideas and conversation.

Questions?  Ask Claudia.


Sunday, December 10| 11:45 am Deacon’s Room

Come join the fun: whether you knit, aspire to knit, or who 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.


Wednesday, December 13| 6 pm in the Fireplace Room

Come and enjoy a fun way to cut down on the amount of baking you need to do and to socialize with your friends at Central at the same time!  Simply bake 6 dozen of one kind of cookie (no brownies or bar cookies, please) and bring the cookies to Chapel Hall.  We’ll swap cookies so that everyone goes home with a delicious variety of treats!  Don’t forget to bring a platter or container to bring your swapped treats home!  Questions?  Call Claudia.


Thursday, December 14| 6 pm – 8 pm at Janet Jagger’s home

December 14th will be our annual Christmas Book Swap and Potluck Supper at Janet Jagger’s home from 6:00-8:30 p.m.  Please bring a dish to share and one or more books individually wrapped in Christmas paper for the book swap.  Questions?  Call Claudia.

Looking ahead:

January 11—A Gentleman in Moscow (Amor Towles)


February 2 - 4, 2017| Episcopal Conference Center Pascoag, Rhode Island 

It’s time to start thinking about our yearly time away for relaxation and renewal!!

Our annual retreat will take place February 2 through 4, 2017 at the spectacular Episcopal Conference Center in nearby Pascoag, RI, which is about 30 minutes from Providence and only a few minutes away from the village of Chepachet.  The property encompasses 180 wooded acres of hiking trails bordering on Echo Lake.  The original farmhouse from the 1700’s has a large addition with bedrooms, meeting spaces, a dining room, etc.  And, the caretakers raise llamas on part of the property!

Imagine!  No cooking, planning, appointments, or deadlines for an entire weekend! Just come, and find nourishment for your body, mind and soul.

The cost is $175 for five meals, your lodging and all materials.

Payment is due January 15, 2018. To add your name to the women’s retreat list contact Claudia at 331-1960.

CentralNEWS is published monthly (excluding August) through the church office. Contributors: Rev. Rebecca Spencer, Senior Minister; Rev. Claudia Demick, Associate Minister, Rev. Aidan Kelley, Associate Minister of Youth & Young Adults, Mr. Patrick Aiken, Organist & Choirmaster, and others.


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