Jan. 2018 Newsletter

Central NEWS

CENTRAL CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH
JANUARY 2018 - VOLUME 24 NUMBER 11

FROM REBECCA

Dear Friends,

So, there I was at the grocery store, not one of my favorite tasks. But I reminded myself how lucky all of us there were, to be able to choose between Gala apples and Fuji. I kept on filling up the cart, splurging on a pomegranate, getting some great bargains on day old fruit. I daydreamed a little, thinking about the others sharing the aisles with me…the old lady who looked tired even before she started. The young couple asking each other about types of meat to grill. A frazzled mother with a child tugging at her and another with a few kids tagging along. A couple of firefighters with a loaded cart joking with one another. There we all were…buying things to nourish our bodies and those of the ones we love…

And then I came to the dairy section…decided which type of yogurt to buy, took advantage of some sales on butter…and I realized I needed more eggs…And I remembered what one of you shared with me in the coat room just before Sunday’s worship…After we spoke of some vicissitudes of life, you said, “well, you know, Rebecca, I think life is a little like an egg shell.”

Intrigued, I asked, “What do you mean?”

“This is it,” you said. “Life can be as fragile as an egg shell…and as sturdy and strong as an egg shell.”

Your fellow member, dear friends, was precisely right. Our lives here are both fragile and sturdy and strong. God’s love surrounds us through all the crises of our lives as well as in the triumphant celebrations…and God’s love is eternal…

So here is my revelation from the refrigerated section of Stop and Shop…as I remind you occasionally at the end of worship… “Life is short, And we do not have much time to gladden the hearts of those who travel the journey with us. So…be swift to love, andmake haste to be kind.the blessing of God, who made us, who loves us, and who travels with us, be with you now and forever.”

Now I’m off to make some scrambled eggs for Tom and Ezra.

Happy New Year one and all,

Rebecca

CHURCH SCHOOL

Thoughts & News

“We write, we make music, we draw pictures, because we are listening for meaning, feeling for healing. And during the writing of the story, or the painting, or playing, we are returned to that open creativity which was ours when we were children.”

—Madeleine L’Engle

When I read this quote of Madeleine L’Engle’s (in her book, “Walking on Water; Reflections on Faith and Art”) it struck me that although she was writing to adults/other artists, that this is essentially what we do in Church School, and why we adults love working with children. Their open minds and hearts, and responsiveness to stories of faith and compassion, renew our own faith and understanding, and give us hope for the world. No wonder Jesus said, “unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 18:3)

We begin our new Church School winter unit on Sunday, January 7, 2018! We thank our new and

continuing teachers, and youth helpers!!

Head teachers will be:
Gabriel’s Gang/Shepherds/Prophets (Pre-K & 1st grade):

Diana Dansereau & Emily Welt
Stargazer/Disciples (2nd & 3rd grade):

Jaime LaVoie
Peacemakers (4th & 5th grade):

Amy Frazer
Dream-Makers (6th & 7th grade):

Cathy Clasper-Torch
Dream-Makers (8th grade):

Aidan Kelley
In our faith-full journey,

with love,

Cathy C-T

FROM AIDAN

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, January 7th.

WORD MISSION TRIP

This summer our youth will travel to the UCC Eastern Regional Youth Event (ERYE) held at California University of Pennsylvania from July 18—22. The ERYE is a gathering of over 350 UCC youth from Maryland to Maine featuring dynamic worship and uplifting music, service work in the community, workshops on social justice issues, opportunities to network and grow in leadership skills, and time for recreation and fellowship on a beautiful college campus. We will travel by charter bus with other youth from the RI, MA, and CT Conferences and stay in dorms. A $100 deposit will be due January 15th. More info coming soon!

FROM CLAUDIA

January 2018

Around the beginning of this month the tinsel is about to be removed from our trees, the eggnog is depleted, and the ornaments are being stowed away in preparation for another year. And yet, the twelve days of Christmas continue into Epiphany on January 6, the remembrance of the Magi’s visit to the Christ Child. To paraphrase Yogi Berra, “It’s not over till it’s over.” And, for Christians it is just beginning.

Frederich Buechner poignantly says, “For outlandish creatures like us, on our way to a heart, a brain, and courage, Bethlehem is not the end of our journey, but only the beginning—not home but the place through which we must pass if ever we are to reach home at last.”

In the wisdom of those who created the liturgical cycle of the Church, this is the beginning. We must pass through Bethlehem on our way to the gift of Easter. But it doesn’t end there. We continue through Eastertide into Ordinary time and eventually find ourselves at Christmastide again. What a wonder that is, when we give ourselves over to this cycle.

In this often-sorry world in which we find ourselves we move through the bitter seasons with the hope that the Light of the world is beside us. Christ the Light is with us and tending to the flicker of light that is in each one of us. Christ tends our lights, the ones that we are called to share with the world.

L. R. Knost encourages us when our burdens and those of the people around us seem too large for us to bear. She says, “Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of this world. All things break. And all things can be mended. Not with time, as they say, but with intention. So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally. The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you.”

Go forth in the darkness. Share your light with one another and know that in all things Christ’s light is there surrounding you and yours.

Epiphany blessings,

Claudia

SPIRITUAL COMPANIONSHIP GROUP

Thursdays from 6—7 pm | 1/4, 2/1, 3/1, 4/5, 5/3, 6/7

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.

CCC ADULT SUNDAY SCHOOL

What is Belief?
9—10 pm in the Fireplace Room | January 7, 14, 21 & 28

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.

ALL ARE WELCOME!

PRAYER TREE POTLUCK
Sunday 14 January | 12 noon in the Fireplace Room

The prayers all of us are so important in this world in which we live. The Prayer Tree has been praying and hoping and praying some more together for many years now – through the world’s, others’ and our own life difficulties and joys. If you are part of Central’s Prayer Tree or if you’ve ever wondered how Central’s Prayer Tree works we invite ALL to join us at noon on January 7 as we start 2018 with a Potluck Prayer Tree Gathering of conversation and support over lunch.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT BOOK GROUP

Thursday 11 January | 7—8:30 pm in the Fireplace Room

Join us for a lively discussion of this month’s book—A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles.

ANGELLIC KNITTERS

Sunday 14 January | 11:45 am in the 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.

CHRISTMAS AT CENTRAL

The Christmas candles and lights may be packed away for another year, but the glow of Christmas at Central has not faded! We made about $3,000, but more importantly, we shared ourselves with the wider community. So many people commented on what a welcoming, warm faith community we are. Many, many thanks to ALL our chairpersons and to everyone who worked so hard to make Christmas at Central a wonderful success!!!

CCC WOMEN’S RETREAT

February 2—4, 2018 | 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, Rhode Island, 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 1700s 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.is due January 15, 2018. To add your name to the women’s retreat list contact Claudia at 331-1960.

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 (with Baptismal Gathering Meeting on Saturday 6 January at 9 am)
  • 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.

BOOK GROUP

Join Rebecca for her book group on Thursday 25 January at 12:30 in Rebecca’s study, to discuss Leonardo by Walter Isaacson. All are invited to join this lively group.

21 JANUARY 2018

We welcome Rabbi Emeritus Leslie Gutterman as guest preacher. He will preach a sermon entitled “Abra ca dabra”

Rabbi Gutterman served Temple Beth-El from 1970 to 2015, becoming the synagogue’s senior rabbi in 1974. A 1964 graduate of the University of Michigan, Rabbi Gutterman has been involved with dozens of civic organizations and has served as a board member of many preeminent institutions including: Butler Hospital, The Rhode Island Telecommunications Commission, The Providence Athenaeum, Hospice Care, Rhode Island Kids Count, Trinity Repertory Theatre, Interfaith Health Care Ministries, Brown University's Board of Religious Overseers, and Bryant University.

Rabbi Gutterman was president of the Rhode Island Board of Rabbis, the Jewish Family Service and the National Rabbinic Alumni Association of Reform Judaism as well as the Rhode Island Committee for the Humanities.has served on the executive board of the Central Conference of American Rabbis and taught at Providence College. For 20 years, Rabbi Gutterman wrote a monthly column for the religion page of The Providence Journal. He received a public service award from the City of Providence on its 350th anniversary and the lifetime achievement award from the Rhode Island Council of Churches and in 2012 he was inducted into the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame. Rabbi Gutterman was awarded a Doctor of Divinity degree from Hebrew Union College and holds honorary degrees from the University of Rhode Island, Roger Williams University, Johnson & Wales University, Providence College, Rhode Island College and Bryant University.

He and his wife Janet are the proud parents of three daughters.

GALLERY COMMITTEE

The committee is very pleased to introduce a new category of artists for our January show: middle schoolers! Students from the San Miguel School, Sophia Academy, and Community Prep will have their creations on our walls in January. The art promises to deliver a new perspective from our other shows, and we hope you will all support the efforts of these budding artists by visiting the Gallery space.

Please join us at an opening for these young artists on Sunday 21 January at 3 pm.

New Members

New Member Inquiry*
Wednesday, January 24

Faith Exploration*
Tuesday, January 30

New Member Sunday
Sunday, February 4

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

Darrell West Lecture Series on Religion and Politics

NoahFeldman

DIVIDED BY GOD? RELIGION & GOVERNMENT IN AMERICA - Noah Feldman
FRIDAY 26 JANUARY 2018 | 6:30 PM (Sanctuary)

Author, lawyer, speaker, and Ivy League professor Noah Feldman explores how successive generations of Americans have dealt with the deep question of how religion and politics should interact, offering solutions to the conflict between evangelicals and secularists. The talk will be preceded by a private reception for church members and guests at 5:30 in the Fireplace Room. The lecture will be followed by Q & A and book-signing, to which all are invited.

HOLOCAUST MUSEUM TOURS

FIRST TOUR IS JANUARY 17, 2018 (WEATHER PERMITTING)

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

BUDGET MEETINGS

JANUARY 3 & 10 7 PM FIREPLACE ROOM

All committee chairs are invited to attend the first budget meeting on Wednesday 3 January. The second meeting will be held on Wednesday 10 January. Please bring your budget request for the 2018 - 2019 fiscal year.

THE DEACONS BENCH

Just before Christmas, the last Benny’s store In Rhode Island closed. Like most residents of the Ocean State, I was both surprised and dismayed this past summer when I got the text alert on my phone broadcasting the news that the local home and auto chain – a RI staple since 1924 – would cease operations before the dawn of 2018.

What could possibly be the reason behind the closing? What would cause the self-proclaimed, and seldom challenged “Your Favorite Store” to shutter its doors?

According to the owners the reason was simple – they did not have enough customer sales to continue. Rather than take on unnecessary debt, cut staff or compromise their values – they decided to make a graceful exit into an early (and surely comfortable) retirement.

I was one of those mourners weeping at the grave. Benny’s was very much a part of my Rhode Island life. Where else on the planet can you buy brake pads, beach towels, bleach and a bicycle all under one roof? OK, Amazon.com – but that was not the case in the 70’s when I would drool over model car kits while my father picked up a new set of spark plugs for the Pontiac.

When faced with a loss that seems unimaginable, it is human nature to want to unearth every detail as to the cause – a defense mechanism that leads us to believe that a clear explanation can somehow fill our emptiness. It also helps to have someone besides ourselves to blame. Over the next few months, several theories were promoted as the most likely explanation behind the closing: 1) Benny’s failed to keep up with modern retail trends, 2) market share loss from big-box stores and online shopping, 3) a population that no longer maintains their own cars.

In short – it was all the fault of millennials.

I was relieved – as a loyal customer of Benny’s since childhood I was not to blame. After all, I faithfully purchased at least $5 worth of lawn bags from Benny’s every year after forgetting to grab them on the way out of Home Depot.

The Providence Journal published two noteworthy articles in late September regarding millennials and the demise of Benny’s. The second, an op-ed piece written by Aiyah Josiah-Faeduwor, executive director of the group Millennial RI, really caught my attention.

While Aiyah defended the fact that Millennials were not the only factor, he intelligently outlined several key steps that maybe Benny’s might have taken to better appeal to his generation. He concluded:

… we can build on the bond that institutions like Benny’s’ have established with prior generations. Let’s bridge the generational gap by understanding what millennials today are looking for as consumers, and set on a path to subdue the millennial “killing spree.”

In all honesty, the term “killing spree” was a bit disquieting as I have harbored a certain fear of Millennials ever since I fathered one.

It may be blasphemy (and certainly in poor taste) to equate a home and auto store with a place of worship – but I promote that the shuttering of Benny’s is a cautionary tale worth our attention and better understanding.

Mr. Josiah-Faeduwor’s article resonated with me as it is not unlike some of the conversations we have had in our Deacon meetings as we seek to grow our congregation. Central is doing well when compared to other mainstream Protestant churches and exceptionally well when compared to Benny’s. That said, we recognize how vital it is to ensure a constant flow of new members, especially younger members, prepared to donate their time and treasures and make their new families part of the greater Central family.

For that reason, the Deacons are working to up our game on the social media front and taking a reflective look at everything from our music to how we welcome new visitors. It is our goal to find that correct balance between those traditions that make Central central, and those changes that make our church more appealing to a new generation – even if that generation refuses to maintain their own cars.

And while the discussion regarding millennials is important, it should not be the whole conversation. Perhaps the ultimate reason Benny’s closed was a collision between pride and apathy. From the owner’s standpoint everyone loved them – why change? From the customer’s point of view – the same old Benny’s had always been here and would always be here – why go?

Every member of Central is both an owner and a customer. For that reason, we should continually challenge it’s how it’s always been and never take our church for granted because it will always be here. Whether 26 or 86 we need to take personal responsibility for every empty seat on Sunday morning – be it the seat next to you, or your own. Most of all, let’s never be shy about extending an invitation or welcoming a visitor. After all – Central is “your favorite church” …isn’t it?

—Tom Viall

FROM THE CHURCH ADMINISTRATOR

I want to thank all the folks here for making me feel so incredibly welcome! From parishioners calling up to introduce themselves, to stopping in at my desk, I already feel such a part of the Central Family. If there’s anything you need, or any way I can help, feel free to call. Thank you! —Cory

SAVE THESE DATES

Sunday 7
11:45 am - Central Celebrates 125 years
A brief talk on the building’s history by church member Nancy Austin, Ph.D.

Thursday 11
7 pm - Food For Thought Book Group
A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles

Thursday 18
7:30 am - CCC Men’s Group

Friday 19
7:30 pm - Film Fare – “Never Let Me Go”

Sunday 21
3 pm - Middle School Art Gallery Opening & Reception

Thursday 25
12:30 pm- Rebecca’s Book Group Leonardo, by Walter Isaacson

Friday 26
6:30 pm - Darrell West Lecture Series featuring Noah Feldman (followed by Q & A and Book-signing)

Sunday 28
2 pm - Singing the Dream! Open Sing (Register at www.eventbrite.com)

CENTRAL’S SANCTUARY AT 125 years (1893 - 2018)

CentralB&WHow do you visualize prayer? Join Nancy Austin after church on January 7 for a 15-minute talk on Central’s stained glass window cycle as first envisioned in 1904 by Wellesley Professor Adelaide Locke. Hear about Locke's (feminist) vision of prayer and learn more about the collaboration that brought about the Prayer Window we cherish today in the sanctuary’s Wilson Chapel at 11:45 am.

SINGING THE DREAM!

Singing The DreamOn Sunday, January 28, at 2 pm Central will once again host the annual “Singing the Dream - Open Sing!” a community-based event to honor Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., through music.

No rehearsals, no concert—just singers from all around Rhode Island getting together for an afternoon of song, community and fellowship honoring the life and legacy of Dr. King!

This year we welcome special guest conductor, Rev. Lisa Clayton, from the University of Connecticut, who will direct music of her own composition, and others with text and music by Langston Hughes, Rollo Dilworth, and other traditional spirituals beloved of Dr. King.

“Singing the Dream” will provide music for all, as well as refreshments.  You may register for a $5 fee at www.eventbrite.com.

CLAIM YOUR KITCHENWARE

There are several kitchen items, e.g. Tupperware, left behind by helpful church volunteers. Please check the kitchen counters to see if you’ve left anything behind.

JANUARY 2018 CALENDAR

Wednesday 3
9 am Gallery
7 pm Budget

Thursday 4
8 am    Personnel & Salary
6:30 pm Music

Tuesday 9
5:30 pm Deacons

Wednesday 10
7 pm Finance

Tuesday 16
5:45 pm Plant & Properties
7 pm Prudential

Wednesday 17
7 pm Mission & Action

Wednesday 24
4 pm Trustee/Investmen

A Message from Peg...

“Thank you”
“Thank you”
“Thank you”
“Thank you”
“Thank you”
(How many ‘Thankyous’ can you fit in this column?)

How many times can I say “Thank you”?

Not enough!

I do want you all to know how pleased and surprised I was to receive your generous retirement gift! My plans for 2018 and retirement? I want to accomplish two things:

  • join the church
  • become a more prolific watercolorist (One down, the second will take the rest of my retirement)

I miss you all already…

“See you in Church!”

STEWARDSHIP UPDATE

Stewardship is getting ready for our 2018-2019 campaign and we need your help to make it successful!

Pony ExpressJust over half of the church budget depends on our membership either pledging or giving in the plate. While giving in the plate is wonderful, we really need your pledge so that we can create a realistic budget.

We’ll be continuing with our Pony Express, but we’ll be doing it a little bit differently this year. We will have plenty of time between when the pledge requests go out and when the pony express bags go out. We would love for you to make our job easier by mailing in your pledge before the bags go out.

We will still need plenty of Shepherds to get the bag to its location. If you can help out with this task, please contact Jeff Baran or Beth Newberry. Bags will each only go to one house this year, rather than to a string of different houses to be moved along a route, so we’ll ask each Shepherd to drop about 3 individual bags to different homes in their area.

Important dates:

  • Church budget approval meeting: January 28 immediately following the service
    (Pledge letters will go out following this meeting)
  • Dedication Sunday, February 18- please send your pledge in prior to this or bring it to church on Dedication Sunday

Saddle Up Sunday, February 25- anyone who hasn’t sent in their pledge will get a pony express bag.

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