Bible 101 with the Rev. Dr. Russ Miller

Thursday evenings, May 11th and May 18th
Deacons' Room, 7-8 pm.
(Come for just one if you cannot do two!)

Bible 101Join fellow member, the Rev. Dr. Russ Miller, as he helps us engage with the Bible itself -- what it is and how it came to be in the form we know today.  Issues of authorship, how changes worked their way into the texts, difficulties posed by the original languages and their translations, the different versions of the Bible....these and other intriguing questions will be shared....

This may be a review for you, or a first and fresh look.

Do join with fellow members to learn more about this foundational document of our Christian faith.

All are welcome...

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165th Annual Meeting

Members of Central Congregational Church are cordially invited to attend the 165th Annual Meeting at 11:45 a.m. on Sunday, June 4th, 2017.

Luncheon to follow in Chapel Hall  12:30 p.m.

Please make luncheon reservations by downloading and returning this form  along with your check payable to Central Congregational Church by Tuesday, May 30.

Tickets are $10 per person

If you are unable to mail in your reservation and payment, please call the church office at 331-1960

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May 2017 Newsletter

CentralNEWS/May 2017

VOLUME 25 NUMBER 5
296 Angell Street Providence, RI 02906
401-331-1960

From Rebecca

Dear Friends,

In 1928, Central Church published a little booklet, titled “A LIVING CHURCH”. Its first chapter was called “A Source of Power”. The first sentences were these:

“On one of the highest points in Providence, four blocks from Brown University, stands an ivy clad Renaissance building of yellow brick, whose twin square towers and dome of weathered copper look down in dignity upon the homes of a great residential section. No symbol of tremendous energy greets the onlooker, as does the gigantic, sky piercing chimney of a modern power plant pouring forth billowing clouds of smoke from morning till night. Yet this IS a great power plant - whose dynamic force is felt everywhere in the community. This is the plant of Central Congregational Church.”

Certainly some things have changed. The ivy is pretty much gone. Our members come from just about every town and village in the state, rather than only the East Side. And power plants no longer pour forth billowing clouds of smoke.

But our Church is still a source of power. Think about it. From this church people volunteer for Amos House breakfasts and Camp Street Ministries’ food baskets and Crossroads sandwiches. From this church, refugee families have been welcomed and set down roots, and families across the world have been helped by our partnerships with Heifer Project. From this church, people have been inspired to help others, to live in compassion, to forgive as we have been forgiven, to work in government, or business or non-profit agencies for the common good. From this church, individuals and families have given sacrificially to serve others. From this church, individuals have been baptized into Christian faith, confirmed in that Christian faith, married and commended to God’s eternal home. From this church, important questions about ethics and justice and peace have been raised, and the issues of ethics, justice and peace have progressed to better the lives of all God’s children. From this church, hope has become real in the lives of thousands.

From this church, the news has been proclaimed, year after year, decade after decade, “Christ is Risen. Alleluia!” In this glad proclamation lies our hope -- for ourselves and for God’s world. May we follow in Jesus’ footsteps and do what we can in our lives to further His mission of love and grace and healing for all. Psalm 46 reminds us, “God is our refuge and our strength.” And, as Martin Luther wrote 500 years ago, “God’s truth abideth still, God’s kingdom is forever.”

I’m glad we share this power plant of Central Congregational Church. What part of God’s strength and truth will you use for good today?

Yours, in the living Christ,

Rebecca

Baptism

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:

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.  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*
Tuesday, October 24

Faith Exploration*
Wednesday, November 1

New Member Sunday
November 5

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

MISSIONARY LUNCH

Due to health issues, the Campbell Nelsons are unable to visit in Rhode Island on May 21.  John has been diagnosed with malignant melanoma and needs to stay in Iowa for treatment.  So, our luncheon on May 21 is cancelled, and we ask for your prayers to be with the Campbell Nelson missionary family."

New Member Luncheon:  May 7

The Membership Committee invites you to join the New Member Potluck Luncheon right after the service on Sunday, May 7.  As the whole congregation turns out to welcome new members, the committee provides main dishes and others are encouraged to bring a favorite side dish, casserole, salad or dessert.  The kitchen crew will be available before church to receive your (fully or pre- cooked) food offering and warming or cooling instructions

Once again, we invite you to wear your name tag in the worship service and at the luncheon that day.  (This is another way we can make new members and visitors feel welcome.) Tables will be set up with blank tags for the convenience of those who need a temporary name tag.

Want to volunteer?  The New Member Potluck Luncheon is a great way to help out!   Whether you are a regular member of the congregation or a friend, stop at the Welcome Table in Chapel Hall during Coffee Hour before May 7 and see how easy it is to be some arms and legs (and a smile) where they are most needed in this fun church community effort

From Claudia

Although we will be back by the time you read this, it is early April as I am writing this.  Three days after Easter Janice Libby, Judy Jamieson, John Peters, Frances Munro and I will begin our pilgrimage to Germany where we will “walk” in the footsteps of Martin Luther and contemplate the 500th anniversary of the explosion of the Reformation and all that meant for the Church.

While the rumblings of reform had started over 150 years or so before Luther, most historians date the Reformation to October 31, 1517 when Luther nailed his 95 theses (or academic points for discussion) to the door of the Wittenberg church.  That set off a firestorm across Europe.  It was in some ways the “perfect storm.”  Luther’s ideas were able to be widely distributed due to the use of moveable type.  In essence, his writings went viral using what amounted to the Internet of his day.

We hope you will join your Central pilgrims at 9:00 AM in the Fireplace Room on May 7 when we will talk about our experiences in Germany.  We will be touring Mainz, Worms, Erfurt, Eisenach, Eisleben, Dresden, Leipzig, Wittenberg and Berlin.  Not only will we follow in Luther’s footsteps, but we will also pay tribute to J. S. Bach and see many other sights along the way.

As Martin Luther once said, “Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime.”  As we travel throughout Germany this spring we take the good news of Easter with us sharing it with our fellow travelers and those we meet along the way.  Ein gesegnetes Osterfest!

Blessings for this Easter season…

Claudia

ANGELLIC KNITTERS

Sunday, May 21
11:30 AM Chapel Hall

The Angellic Knitters will be sharing a special table with knitters and others at the Mission Lunch on May 21 as we hear about the Campbell Nelsons’ work in Timor through the UCC Global Ministries.  Please plan to join us! Questions?  Call Janice Libby or Claudia.

Celebrate! Commemorate!

Your lifelong connections to Central with an engraved brick in the West Lawn Terrace.

Personalize your brick as you wish: with a name(s) of your choice or “In honor of a special person, family or event in your life. . . from yesterday, today, or tomorrow”.

Bricks with a three-line (18 characters per line) inscription are $200. Please contact the church office if interested.

CCC Adult Sunday School

Martin Luther Germany Trip Presentation May 7
Hildegard von Bingen May 21 & 28 (NO CLASS on 5/14)      

Fireplace Room, 9:00-10:00 AM

Hildegard von Bingen was truly a woman ahead of her time.  A visionary in every sense of the word, this famed 12th-century Benedictine nun was a Christian mystic, composer, philosopher, playwright, poet, naturalist, scientist, physician, herbalist and ecological activist.”  Come hear her story and discuss the implications of the life of a woman who influenced not only her world, but also who continues to influence

It’s Back!!!

Full Moon Labyrinth Walk
Tuesday, May 9 from 7:00-7:30 PM

Come and enjoy our brand new outdoor labyrinth (located just outside the kitchen door) under the Full Flower Moon.  Drop in between 7:00 PM and 7:30 PM on Tuesday, May 9 weather permitting to walk the labyrinth and enjoy the company of Central friends under a full moon.  Questions? Ask Claudia.

Gallery Committee

For our May exhibit, we welcome Irene Lawrence. Irene is an accomplished abstract painter who builds texture with varying thicknesses and uses richly pigmented paints to create different rhythms in her art. Ms. Lawrence grew up on Long Island and attended RISD; she now works and lives in Providence. She has exhibited widely in Rhode Island, New York, and Massachusetts; her work is also included in private, public, and corporate collections.

These vibrant paintings will be displayed from May 3 until the end of the month. There will not be a formal

FOOD FOR THOUGHT BOOK GROUP

Thursday, May 11
7:00-8:30 pm in the Fireplace Room at Central

Join us for a lively discussion of this month’s book—Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson.

Looking Ahead:

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

From Aidan

FIRST SUNDAY OF THE MONTH - POP IN BIBLE STUDY

On the first Sunday of the 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.

CONVERSATIONS WITH AIDAN

Aidan is 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

MAY YOUTH & YOUNG ADULT MINISTRY EVENTS

Sunday, May 7th

9:00 am: Confirmation Class w/ Deacon Mentors (Makepeace Room)
10:30 am: New Member Sunday
11:30 am: Pop In Bible Study (Deacons’ Room)
11:45 am: New Member Lunch (Chapel Hall)

Sunday, May 14th                  

9:00 am: Confirmation Class (Dream-makers Room)
10:30 am: Worship

Friday, May 19th                    

4:30 am: Confirmation Worship Rehearsal (Sanctuary)
6 am: Confirmation Recognition Dinner (Chapel Hall)

Sunday, May 21st                   

9:15 am: Confirmation Deacons’ Breakfast (Fireplace)
10:30 am: Confirmation Sunday Worship
11:30 am: Coffee Fellowship/Mission Lunch

Sunday, May 28th                  

10:30 am: Worship
11:30 am: Conversations with Aidan (Deacons’)
Noon: Young Adults Lunch

SUMMER READING?

Looking for good reads for the backyard or the beach?  Search no more.  Take advantage of spring cleaning at Central's library!  Here's how:

Watch for the library cart at coffee after worship.  Take some intriguing titles home with you -- no payment, no return required, share with a friend.

But remember:  Please No More Donations to the Library!

Deacon’s Bench

Spring is upon us and is one of my favorite times of the year. It is a rebirth of nature.  As I look out my window and see the once dull and brittle grass becoming green and plush, I get excited with anticipation of starting my lawn mower and being outside in the warmth of the sun, saying hello to neighbors who I have not seen much of during the cold winter months.

As I see leaves and flower beds begin to bloom, it reminds me that spring is a time to reflect on our journey thus far and imagine the steps that we will take in the new year.  Hope is reborn.   It is hope that invites us to take a deeper walk with God on our journey, living in faith, facing each day and embracing its beauty. It is hope and our faith that allow us to feel God’s love within us through both joyous and difficult times.

It is with such reflection that I think of the passage “Go in Love” written by Nancy Price and Don Besig.  It was sung during the Benediction of my last church service at the Barrington Congregational Church.

“Go in love, have no fear, God will guide you, God is always near.
Go in love, take God’s hand, God will hear you and will understand.
May God’s light forever shine upon you, may full peace be always in your heart.
Go in love, face each day, God will lead you and will show the way.
Go in love and live in faith.”

Have a safe and meaningful Memorial Day.

-Bob Kaloostian

Important UCC Conference Meeting

Three Southern New England UCC Conferences to Hold Historic Joint Annual Meetings in June

For the first time in more than 210 years, the Rhode Island Conference of the United Church of Christ will join the UCC Conferences of Connecticut and Massachusetts in holding a joint annual meeting.  Scheduled for Friday, June 16 and Saturday, June 17, 2017 in Hartford, Connecticut, members of Congregational Churches in all three states are invited to gather for a shared time of learning, worshiping and decision making.

All are encouraged to attend this historic occasion.  The meeting promises to be spiritually inspiring, with powerful worship experiences.  The General Minister of the UCC, Rev. John Dorhauer, will be a speaker.  It will be an occasion to meet UCC members from the other states, make new friends, exchange ideas and insights.  Everyone will be able to participate in a discussion of the proposed merger of the three Conferences and learn how and why this decision came about.

Registration information, meeting schedules and background information related to the proposed merger is available on the Rhode Island Conference website: ricucc.org. The deadline for registration is June 5.  While there are events both Friday and Saturday, the most important day to attend will be Saturday if attendance on both days is not possible. The registration fee is $85.

LIFE ON A STAR

Retreat on Star Island for Women
September 15-17

Members of Caring and Sharing invite the women of Central and their friends to experience “life on a Star”—Star Island, that is.  Part of the Isles of Shoals, Star Island is a very small, picturesque and very historic island 10 miles off the coast of New Hampshire. We will be part of a retreat offered there called Star Women: Rock, Relax, Rejuvenate.  More on that here http://starwomen.weebly.com and here http://starisland.org/program/starwomen/

We will take the 1:55 PM ferry from Portsmouth, NH on Friday and will return to Portsmouth via the 2:15 PM ferry on Sunday.

We plan to car pool to NH and share the cost of gas (and perhaps parking at the ferry) for whoever is willing to drive.  The cost for 2 nights on the island (including your meals, your ferry ticket, and the program fee) is as follows:

$462 for a single room; $363 for a shared room

Because this retreat may fill up quickly please let Claudia know asap that you want to participate and to receive registration information! Each person will need to register themselves individually for the retreat.

If you are opting for the shared room, please find a roommate either from the Caring and Sharing list (ask Martha Nielsen or Cathy Clasper-Torch if you aren’t on that list) or perhaps another woman you know who would love the opportunity to experience "life on a Star…"  This will be a very special retreat.  Questions?  Ask Claudia.

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2017 Lenten Reflection – Bill C

Readings: Hebrews 11: 1-6,   1 Corinthians 13:1-13

So far, I have been given about 28.2 million minutes on this earth (give or take 100,000). Tonight, I’ve been given about 15 minutes to tell you about it. Fortunately for you all, my memory isn’t that good…

My thoughts may seem a bit random or scattered as I share them with you. But, I hope, when I’m done, you’ll see the connection.

I was born in Providence. I’ve always found special meaning in being able to say that. Even when the context of that statement refers to a locality or a zip code, which it almost always does, I say it with an understanding that I truly WAS… born in Providence – born into the loving and benevolent guidance of God – born into God’s loving grace, as were all of you.

I hesitate to speak this next revelation about myself because, probably, there will be some of you who don’t believe this could be true. But here it is:  I truly do not remember a moment in my life when I didn’t believe in the existence of God, AND in the presence of God in my life.  (Well, there may have been a twinge of doubt when I was informed that Santa Clause wasn’t real, but….)

“IS there a God?” has never been a question I struggled with. Of course, all the other questions which arise around that one – well they challenge me as profoundly as they challenge anyone… Questions like WHY, God?!…  questions like What does God WANT?… like Who is Jesus, really, in relation to God?… WHAT is Jesus?… What is my relationship with Jesus?… questions like Is there really a force called evil, or is it actually  just a profound separation from God? …questions like Does God really punish us if we fail to be faithful and loving – or are the bad things that happen just the natural, organic consequences of the free will that God gave us?  These questions, and so many more, I still struggle with every day, and I suppose I always will.

But, because I have questions – because I have doubts – does not mean that I don’t have Faith. I believe God is present in all places, in all souls, at all times. I believe God understands ALL, even though I – even though WE – understand so very very little.

I was offered the honor of sharing my… Faith… Journey… with you all here this evening. As I contemplated what to share, I was inspired to focus on the word Faith. (Remember the journey is, so far, more than 28 million minutes long… Be glad I chose Faith.)

In the reading this past Sunday, in John: chapter 11, we heard about Jesus being told that his dear friend Lazarus was ill, and being asked to come – and how Jesus waited two days to go to Lazarus. We heard how Martha challenged – perhaps even scolded Jesus. “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not be dead.”  AND we also heard about the Faith Martha had in Jesus (and in God), despite her grief and anger, saying “but even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.”  That is Faith.

Through most of my life, a particular number keeps appearing. Quite often, it seems to me that God uses this number as a sort of tap on the shoulder – reminding me that he is present, challenging me to pay attention. There have been a few times when the coincidental appearance of this number was directly connected to a very powerful moment in my life. Now, scientists would say that this is not evidence that God speaks to us in such ways. I say – YES, it is. Faith is what keeps me alert when this number appears; faith is what makes me stop and listen for what God is trying to say. By the way, that number is 1732.

God was definitely present when I was 12 years old, and watched as cancer turned my father from a giant – a hero – my idol… into a frail, sickly, weeping person… and then took his life.

God was most certainly present at the births of my wonderful children and grandchildren, all healthy – all amazing.

God’s presence was never in doubt as I searched for a church – for a faith community – where I and my family could feel a true sense of belonging. And each time I realized that a particular church or community was “not the one” – because we were from the north, because I was divorced, because my partner and I had an infant child and weren’t married, because I refused to condemn people for their sexual orientation… the existence and presence of God was still known to me, even in all those moments when the term “Christian” became more and more difficult for me to align myself with.

God was surely present that day in 1989 when, very suddenly, the horrific reality of my oath of military enlistment was put to the test – and God has been present the thousands of times I’ve relived that moment; and I believe God will be present in all the memories and nightmares I have yet to live through.

In 2010, at a very dark and low point in my life, I asked God for two things. I did NOT ask for a quick and easy road back to financial security – after 18 months of unemployment had devastated me financially. And I did NOT ask for a fast and complete cure for the cancer I had just been told I was afflicted with. Somehow, I already felt that God had those issues under control; I just knew God had a plan.

The two things I did ask for were these:

Firstly, I asked God to grant me a relationship with a true partner, a best friend, and – as cliché as it may be – a soulmate. I asked for a partner who could engage in the relationship and give as much as she asked for – a partner who could share love and faith and sorrow and joy – a partner who – FINALLY, Finally – I could truly trust.

Secondly, I asked God to show me a path toward a community of people, gathered in Faith and Love, who would welcome and accept me for who I am. I asked for a faith community in which I would be appreciated for being an individual. I asked for a community that could find value in the fact that my faith – my relationship with God – is as unique as my DNA, and as unique as their faith and relationship with God. I asked to be – FINALLY, Finally – a real MEMBER of a church.

Now, in asking God for these things, I was very afraid. It wasn’t so much that I feared that God’s answer would be “No”, because that would mean that God had other plans for me. Rather, I was afraid that I would not see or hear the answer at all. I feared that I would be left to wonder, to struggle, to fear and to wait. I feared that I didn’t have the strength for there to be no answer at all.

But, God DID answer those prayers. The answer to the first prayer is named Sandi – and she IS my partner, my best friend, my soulmate. And, the answer to the second prayer is called Central Congregational Church.

I can’t know where I would be today had those answers not been given to me by God. But I have a deep, strong feeling that I would not be in a very good place. I think, in answering those prayers as beautifully and gracefully as God did, I was truly saved.

Of course, scientists would insist that these are not answers to prayers from a Deity. They would say that these happenstances in my life are – in no way – proof of the existence and presence of God. But, I say – YES, they most certainly are.

The specific things that I believe about God and about Jesus, and the things I don’t believe, and the things I struggle to understand – I suspect each of you would agree with me in some of these things and disagree with me in others. I suspect some of my beliefs and disbeliefs may even upset you. But what’s really important is that this is a faith community, a spiritual family, in which we value and respect each other – in which we try to meet people where they are. What’s important is that this wonderful group of souls is a powerful source of positive and loving energy for this very troubled world.

About Faith, in his novel Angels and Demons, Dan Brown wrote this: (I’ve made minor edits to make this non-gender-specific) “Whether or not you believe in God, you must believe this: when we as a species abandon our trust in a power greater than us, we abandon our sense of accountability. Faiths… all faiths… are admonitions that there is something we cannot understand, something to which we are accountable. With faith we are accountable to each other, to ourselves, and to a higher truth. Religion is flawed, but only because humans are flawed. The church consists of imperfect, simple souls wanting only to be a voice of compassion in a world spinning out of control.”

And author Madeleine L’Engle put it much more simply when she said “Some things have to be believed to be seen.”

I was born in Providence. I believe we all were. I don’t believe that means we expect to live in bliss. I think it means that, God brings us to some beautiful experiences, and brings us through them – just as God brings us to some painful experiences – and brings us through them.

I am proud and honored to be called a member of this family. I thank God for showing me the path that brought me here, and I thank you all so much for welcoming and accepting me – and for meeting me where I am. To quote a country song by Rascal Flatts (and any of you who know me are aware that quoting a COUNTRY song is way outside my comfort zone): “Bless the broken road that led me to you.”

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2017 Lenten Reflection – May

Hello, fellow members on this journey! During this year, two experiences have changed my life. First, this simple act of describing my own spiritual journey.  And second, traveling on a month-long series of airline journeys.  To illustrate, I will ask for the help of 3 ghosts, imitating Dicken's Christmas Carol.

For the Ghost of Journeys PAST, I’ll point first to my family: Many parents can tell you how their children created a new connection with the world. In turn, my husband Jack & I celebrate our 40th anniversary this year.  It‘s been a fascinating 40 years – Thanks, Jack!

For the last 20 of those years we have been owned by a small business, which designs & imports cloth toys from The Philippines.

Another person from the past (and still a friend) is my college freshman roommate, who I’ll call Sarah for her privacy.  Sarah lives with her husband on a dairy farm in the Midwest, with their nine children’s families nearby.  More about Sarah in a few minutes.

On to the PRESENT:  In January Jack & I flew to Asia.  We first spent a week in Hong Kong during the annual International Toy Fair. There we struck up a lunch-break conversation (in English) with two arabic-speaking men from Lebanon, comparing notes on small business.  Of their four toy stores, the Damascus branch in Syria had been forced to close.  Then one man smiled and said, “We are waiting to see what happens with your new President. The President of the United States is really the President of the world!”  That conversation illustrates our very small world!

After touring Hong Kong, we flew to Manila, capital of The Philippines, for a visit to the company’s branch.  Its purchases help support almost a hundred craft sewing families.  For another week we met with the company’s manager.  Like many Filipinos she is well-educated, but others may have little opportunity.  Filipinos recently elected a President who promised to end the country’s serious drug trafficking problem – with vigilante violence.  The Ghost of Journeys PRESENT shows us that even in a strongly Christian-Catholic country like The Philippines, frustration may cause voters to elect & defend what seemed previously unacceptable.

Finally, on January 20 Jack flew home while I traveled another two weeks visiting family.

On arrival in Los Angeles from The Philippines, I missed marching with thousands against the Inauguration.  What were an estimated 60 million people worldwide protesting?

Well, at first it was planned as a Women’s March.  Why?  Please allow me to illustrate, as a representative of Journeys PAST.  After college, during an unhappy first marriage I was the beneficiary of something unavailable since Adam & Eve:  The Pill, the first dependable method of birth control.  For fifty years, this fruit of science has helped to improve the lives of every woman, yes every man, and every child in the world. It also helped our denomination, the United Church of Christ, to change over those 50 years.  But The Pill is now in danger of becoming available only to the rich.  As a result, women of lesser means may be cynically criticized for resorting to abortion as a means of birth control.

But the chilling prospect of losing women’s Choice was only one concern.  The women’s march grew into worldwide protests against Donald Trump’s policies of exclusion.  For example, while in the Los Angeles area, I took a side trip to San Francisco to visit our two sons, Gordon & Justin (both baptized at Central Church).  Sunday morning we attended nearby St. Johns Church and met the minister, Rev. Merida Wilson, who was acquainted with recent RI Conference UCC discussions.  At coffee, another woman bemoaned that most of the city’s young people have difficulty organizing because they missed the experience of belonging to a church.  Perhaps as a result, we saw no crowd there for a Children’s Sermon, like Central Church’s.  Thanks to Aidan and to our Christian Education Director Cathy!

So where were all the young parents that Sunday?  At the airport, protesting President Trump’s initial travel ban for primarily-Muslim countries.  The sound of 24-hour marching songs greeted me.  Signs waggled:  "Deport Trump!" "You are welcome here" and "Refugees built America."

Also in San Francisco I spent the weekend with our two sons – one who felt sad about ending a long-term relationship with his girlfriend, and another who introduced me to his significant other.  She turned out to be an accomplished young woman who might not have been accepted by previous generations of my Great Plains family.  Rebecca had counseled me, “You must meet her yourself.”  In California we hit it off as simply human beings.  Thanks Rebecca!

Flying back to my extended family in southern California, their incredulous reaction to the election bordered on panic.  What to do?  Write a divided Congress?  Find a march to join?  Again, non-churchgoers lack an organized way to express strong opinions.

Then it was off to Tucson, Arizona, where my sister and brother-in-law had joined thousands for their city’s protest march. Like others, they were also looking for answers in areas such as the education field, and as suburban home owners who have worked with immigrants.  Their dilemma?  How does one disagree politely with neighbors who favor a huge new border wall?

Back home in New England, let’s call on the Ghost of Journeys FUTURE:  What leadership can Central Church provide?

I suggest that we follow an unlikely example:  Remember my freshman college roommate, Sarah?  Last fall Sarah visited our home, where she was also a guest at Claudia’s book discussion group, and where we shared a mutual love of books.  Thanks Claudia!

Later, as Jack & I drove with Sarah and her husband to look at fall foliage, we compared notes about small business--from dairy farms to importing cloth toys. Their trip left us with wonderful memories and friends.

At the same time, Sarah asked me direct, searching questions, such as:

  • How is your denomination organized?
  • Are women allowed to serve in your church?
  • What do you believe about The Creation?
  • What Presidential candidate will you vote for?

As you can imagine, we are also on opposite sides regarding the national Planned Parenthood organization.  But despite our differences I was able to thank Sarah for her early political activism, which in turn had inspired my own.

What does the Ghost of Journeys FUTURE advise us?  Sarah and I claim the same God.  I believe that if Sarah and I can continue our long friendship despite profound disagreement, Central Church members can also follow that Way.

At the same time I believe we must walk the walk, and not only talk the talk.  For example:

We can hold a letter-writing lunch to our state and federal officials.  Surely this is as necessary as writing letters for church needs.  At the same time, we can utilize our strong bonds with many other local and state churches and organizations.

In turn, we can support those elected officials.  If you have pets, or even small children, you know that criticism must be balanced with praise:  Not only “Bad Dog!” but “Good Dog!” too.

Central Church has a strong collection of voices on national issues, such as RI Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, former Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts, Darrell West of the Brookings Institution, and others on both sides of the political aisle.

Our UCC denomination’s advocacy demands a great deal of such leaders, and I believe we should be giving OUR supporters more support. For example, the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer always mentions political leaders by name. Shouldn’t Central consider adding them to our own Prayer Tree?

Finally, friends, remember Roger Williams’ shouted greeting in 1636, “What Cheer!” even as he must have concealed his fear of those Native Americans who met him in Rhode Island.  We must not allow ourselves to be panicked by unwelcome government communications & tweets – which may even have been designed to create upset.

We should instead identify policies which are clearly unChristian.  Are these not just as much a subject for discussion as, say, the proposed merger of our UCC governing conferences for RI, MA & CT?  Should not Central Church be prepared to answer searching questions, like those my friend Sarah asked?  And to ask them too?

In closing, thank you for sharing my questions and my journeys, which will be available on my blog. Besides those I have named, thanks to:

Our Poet Laureate, who guided me on an unexpected new path, and shared poems with other church members.  Also thanks to Frances for her encouragement of my first Christmas poem.

Thanks go weekly to our Organist & Choir Director, Patrick; along with our Properties committee leader Ed, who reminds us what a treasure we have in this inspiring sanctuary.

Finally, thanks to my stepson Greg and his family – as the Ghost of Journeys FUTURE helps us continue to grow & learn together!

Posted in 2017 Lenten Reflections, Lenten Reflections | Comments Off on 2017 Lenten Reflection – May