Newsletter March 2017

CentralNEWS/March 2017


296 Angell Street Providence  RI 02906   401-331-1960

From Rebecca

Dear Friends,

Ash Wednesday is right around the corner as I write this note. . . Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the days and weeks of Lent, the beginning of this penitential season. . .It is the days and weeks of Lent where we as Christians take the time to acknowledge that we have done that which we should not have done and we have not done that which we should have done.

On Ash Wednesday evening, here at Central at 7:30 pm, we will together confess we have made a mess of things, small and large, and we will pray together to our God of eternal love. We will listen for the comforting and strengthening and hope filled words of grace from our God which give us comfort and strength, hope and guidance for the days ahead.

Each year, our archivist, John Chaney, retrieves the old palm branches from last year’s Palm Sunday procession which we have saved, burns them and mixes them with oil to make the ashes we will place this year on our foreheads in the sign of the cross as a symbol of our acknowledgment of our sins. You remember last year’s Palm Sunday, don’t you?? The children passed out palms and as we followed the humble beast of burden around Diman Place leading into the sanctuary, we were a happy crowd, waving the palms, holding banners, shouting Hosanna, singing with the choirs. I think it was a bright sunny crisp morning last Palm Sunday, and we were indeed filled with hope as we entered the sanctuary.

But of course, we are not in Palm Sunday processional mode now. . .we are far from the drama of Holy Week and the joy of Easter. We are entering Lent… and in particular Ash Wednesday when those ashes from last year’s palms are imprinted on our foreheads and we recognize once again the power of Jesus’ cross, the sign of God’s love for all of us, our hope of being healed as persons and using our faith to begin again the task of mending this broken world.

God’s love enacted in the Ash Wednesday ritual, and the rituals we share during Lent, learning of other members’ journeys in faith, taking time to ponder our sins and to ask for forgiveness, these are what will enable us to start again, to acknowledge our flaws and failures and to begin anew on our Christian journeys, as individuals and families in this community we call Central.

My prayer for each and all of us is that we may experience God’s power of love sent directly to us through Jesus. May that power of love offer its healing and hope for us and for our world, God’s beloved creatures and all creation.


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

Prayers and Concerns

Our thoughts & prayers are with the family and friends of Joyce Fairchild who died on February 2, 2017. A Memorial Service will be held on April 22 at Central Congregational Church.

David Moss: His mother, Florence, died in February.


Ash Wednesday, March 1

Worship Service    7:30 pm

Sundays during Lent 12:00 – 12:45 pm

March 5, 12, 19, 26, & April 4, 9 “The Cross and the Lynching Tree”

Wednesday Meditation   5:30 - 6:00 pm

March 8            William Templeton
March 15          Tom Viall
March 22          Temi Sonubi
March 29          May Grant
April 5              Bill Connors

Lenten Supper Series 6:00 – 7:00 pm           

March 8            Non-Violence Institute
March 15          Mt. Hope Learning Center
March 22          Foster Forward
March 29          The Blessing Way
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.

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

Ash Wednesday begins this month and in the calendar of the church it is an invitation to turn from our trespasses against God and one another and to begin again.  There’s a lot of that in Christianity, that “beginning again.”  We offer our prayers of confession to God individually and corporately every Sunday.  What hope we are offered in our faith—the hope and the assurance that God loves us and forgives us.  As Paul put it in Romans 8:38-39, “I am sure that nothing can separate us from God’s love—not life or death, not angels or spirits, not the present or the future, and not powers above or powers below. Nothing in all creation can separate us from God’s love for us in Christ Jesus our Lord!” (Contemporary English Version)

We Christians come from a long line of people who have used ashes as symbols for grief and repentance.  There are many stories of people and nations in the Hebrew Testament placing ashes on their heads or sitting in sackcloth (very rough cloth) with ashes.

And so this month we “sit” with ashes on our heads.  And in so doing we begin over turning to God in faith knowing that we are forgiven and set free to try again.  How heartening that is.  There is tremendous power and comfort in such grace.  On Ash Wednesday as we participate in the ancient ritual of receiving ashes in the shape of a cross on our foreheads we are invited to contemplate on the repentance that is part of our human condition.  We are invited to remember Jesus’ sacrifice for us.  We are invited to realize that although we are “dust” and to that condition we return, we are loved with a wild, passionate, everlasting love by the Creator of all things and that nothing separates us from God’s love.

Thanks be to God!


Ash Wednesday

March 1 at 7:30 pm

Ash Wednesday begins the Season of Lent with the imposition of ashes. During the moving ancient ceremony, the ashes were placed on the foreheads of the faithful with the words from Genesis: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” There is evidence that this service originated in Gaul in the sixth century and was at first “confined to public penitents doing penance for grave and notorious sin, whom the clergy tried to comfort and encourage by submitting themselves to the same public humiliation.”

CCC Adult Sunday School

The Reformation
March 5, 12, 19 & 26
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.


All are invited to join us in weekly Wednesday Lenten Meditation services.  These services, held in Wilson Chapel each Wednesday in Lent, last for 1 half hour, from 5:30 -6:00.  Led by one of your fellow Centralites, these meditations offer the opportunity mid-week to pause and ponder your faith journey in Lent.  Leaders share their own explorations in faith, offering all of us the chance to select on our own faith and experiences and to come to know another individual's reflections.  Do plan to join us.

Wednesday Meditation services are followed by a soup and bread dinner at 6pm in the Fireplace Room offered by the Mission and Action committee, with a speaker each week offering perspectives on one of our partner agencies in mission.


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.  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

Please join us in welcoming our new members who united with us in membership on Sunday, February 5.

George Bayliss - Providence

George is a physician with University Medicine and Svea is a journalist with Thomson Reuters. Their interests include reading, cooking and hiking. Friends suggested they come to Central and they are interested in helping with coffee hour, sandwich brigade and visiting the elderly.

Amy Joy Glidden -  Providence

Amy is a substitute teacher who enjoys baking, reading, writing, and meeting new people. She was looking for a church with a social justice focus. She hopes to become involved with acts of service and social justice issues. Her son, Gabriel Rego, is in 5th grade.

Marie Schenk - Providence

Marie is studying for her PhD in Political Science at Brown. She is a volunteer tutor and mentor for homeless children. She was baptized in a UCC church and knows several of our members. She hopes to become involved in social justice issues and mission outreach.

Susanna Yim - Cranston

Susanna is working towards her Bachelor of Science degree in psychology/biology. Her plans include researching mental health intervention effects with children and adolescents. She enjoys learning new cultures, eating her way through neighborhoods, watching old sitcoms and yoga meditation and is excited to get to know church members.



-Cole, age 9

"Rolling pins" was the 'word of the night', expressing such unbridled JOY,  as Cole helped me find kitchen utensils for the play-dough table,  followed by screams of "ice-cream sandwiches!!" as a close second at the end of the evening, as we enjoyed our annual GAME NIGHT at Central amid a weekend of snow storms.   Chapel Hall became the communal 'family room', with crafts, coloring, play-dough, and all kinds of favorite games, played with great enthusiasm, concentration and laughter.   Game Night is a night to simply BE together as family, "unplugged" for a few hours, and delight in each other's children and company.   Thank you to the RE committee and to all the families and friends who came and warmed and brightened a chilly winter night!!

The month of March brings us into the church 'season' of Lent, starting off with a "Shrove Tuesday/Fat Tuesday" church supper, followed the next night by our Ash Wednesday evening service.  Lent is a special time of inward and prayerful focus on how we live, move, act as people of faith.    Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness fasting and praying before his final journey to Jerusalem, strengthening his relationship with God, in preparation for the difficult days to come.  The 40 days of Lent gives each of us the opportunity to strengthen and renew our faith and understanding, and to dig deeper into our relationship with God and with one another.   In the words of the old Spiritual, "Come Out the Wilderness": "How did you feel when you came out the wilderness?   My soul was so happy when I come out the wilderness, leaning on the Lord!"  

There are still opportunities to teach Church School in the Easter season (Sunday following Easter), in pre-school - 3rd grades.  Please get in touch with Cathy C-T!

Love & unbridled joy,

Cathy (Clasper-Torch)


New Lenten Hymns

On Good Friday our Adult Choir will present the "St. John Passion" by Bob Chilcott.  You can learn more about this work in the April Newsletter, but the oratorio contains five congregational hymns as part of the work with familiar words set to new tunes by the composer.

To appreciate these hymns more fully and become acquainted with the tunes before Good Friday, we will sing one new tune for each of the Sundays in Lent, beginning on March 5.

We hope you will find them uplifting, and that you lift up your voice in song on Good Friday with the choir when we sing them together as part of the Passion.

From Aidan


The WORD Mission Trip this summer will travel to New York City where we will partner with the Youth Service Opportunities Project (YSOP).  We went to the Washington, DC site of YSOP in in 2013 and had an incredible experience and expect the same for our trip to NYC this summer.  YSOP engages youth and adults in meaningful service opportunities through an orientation to the issues, hands-on volunteer work, and reflection.


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 standalone 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, March 25th, we will head to the beach in March to volunteer at Save the Bay’s clean up at Oakland Beach in Warwick from 1-3 PM.  Save the Bay’s vision is to ensure a swimmable, fishable, healthy Narragansett Bay accessible to everyone.  Let’s help them achieve this wonderful vision!  A sign up email will go out in early to mid March with additional information.


Sunday, March 5th
9 AM: Confirmation Class w/ Deacon Mentors (Makepeace)
11:30 AM : Pop In Bible Study (Deacons’ Room)

Sunday, March 12th
9 AM: Confirmation Class
11:30 AM : Youth Groups @ the Movies

Thursday, March 23rd
8 PM: Young Adult Trivia Night (Chelo’s of Rumford)

Saturday, March 25th
1-3 PM: March Micah Ministries Project: Save the Bay Clean Up @ Oakland Beach, Warwick

Sunday, March 26th
9 AM: Confirmation Class­­­­­­­­

Shrove Tuesday Pancake Dinner

Tuesday, February 28
6:00-7:30 PM : Chapel Hall

Shrove Tuesday is the last day before Ash Wednesday, the first day of the penitential season of Lent. The tradition of a pancake supper connects us to the customs of a time when flour, eggs, butter, milk, and other rich foods were eaten before beginning the ritual fasting and self-restraint that was observed during Lent. We are continuing this tradition at Central on Tuesday the 28th with a decadent pancake supper of our own. Please join us as the youth and young adults of Central offer you "breakfast for dinner"...featuring a "choose your adventure" pancake buffet!

Proceeds of the event will benefit the WORD Fellowship mission trip to NYC this summer.  All are invited to this "fun-raiser" family event for ALL ages!!  We will share a pancake supper and hold the ever popular Pancake Relay Races...bring your racing shoes! Tickets: $5 Individuals, $15 Families

From the Deacon's Bench

In my early work with children with disabilities, I learned that the deepest desire children with disabilities have is to BELONG – to fit in – to be part of a school, a classroom, and group of friends.

BELONGING is really what most of us desire all through our lives. It was what I desired when I joined this church. How does belonging happen in this community of faith? How can you feel a deep part of community in a building that is architecturally awe-inspiring and so vast, with members who were born here, married here, and whose lineage is written on the walls, with people who have been Congregationalists since the founding of Providence? These questions and feelings about belonging have been with me since I joined Central over 12 years ago. While I knew I belonged to God, I was never quite sure that I belonged to this community. However, over time, I have learned a lot about belonging at Central.

BELONGING happens in the smallest ways – in the greeting at the door, in the member who sponsors you and orients you as you join, in the name tags that help you identify people at community hour, in the smiles from ushers who help you find your way, in ministers who want to know your name, in the music that speaks to your heart, in sermons that touch your soul, in the progressive dinners, musical performances, auctions, book group discussions, luncheons that raise your spirits.

BELONGING deepens in big ways – when you take part in a writing workshop that explores your spiritual journey with other members who share their struggles, joys, and memories; when you are trained in the Call to Care program with other members who are willing to extend their support and caring to others; when you serve as a Deacon mentor to several confirmands who are exploring their faith journey; when you find yourself with other members serving breakfast at AMOS House on a Tuesday morning; when you attend a Women's Retreat and find laughter, tears, and deep connections of faith; when you take part in clean-up day at the Church scrubbing and cleaning and learning that the beautiful building needs all hands on deck; when you join the Mission and Action Committee and learn about the greater community needs that Central supports; and when you attend a picnic, gospel sing, and dinner with members from Olney Street Baptist church and realize you BELONG to a community that extends itself beyond the confines of its own walls.

So, what I have learned about belonging at Central is that it happens through active engagement.  It is an ongoing process of actively taking part in both big and small ways with other members to build a community of faith. Central offers so many opportunities to build belonging. You just have to find what builds that belonging for you.   As I reflect on what it means to be a church member, I am going to continue thinking about what it takes to help all this BELONGING happen --- for I am deeply grateful that I found my way to this community of faith.

-Mary-Beth Fafard


Sunday, March 12
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.

Gallery Committee

For our March exhibit, the Gallery Committee is proud to welcome Cemal Ekin and his beautiful photography. Many of you may remember his earlier show here: Mr. Ekin was granted access to the Hagia Sophia while it was undergoing restoration, and the resulting pictures were stunning.  In his new show, "Trees of the Aegean, II", Mr. Ekin brings his talented perspective to olive trees, capturing the spirits of these long-lived trees in individual portraits. The artist admires the twisted trunks, the play of light on leaves of green and silver, and the strength of their aged dignity. This is a beautiful show!

Please join us for the artists’ opening on Friday, March 3, from 5 to 8:30 pm, for what will be a lively celebration of Mr. Ekin's work. The exhibit will hang until April 3, 2017; prints will be available for sale.


Thursday, March 9
7:00-8:30 PM in the Fireplace Room at Central

Join us for a lively discussion of this month’s book (postponed from February due to snow)—Dead Wake:The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson!

Looking ahead:

April 6—Secrets She Kept by Cathy Gohlke 7:00-8:30 PM@Central)

May 11—Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson (7:00-8:30 PM@TBA)


The Cross and the Lynching Tree by James H. Cone
3/5, 3/12, 3/19, 3/26, 4/2, 4/9
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.

Public Lecture in Kingston

Prof. John Dominic Crossan at Kingston Congregational Church, UCC
2610 Kingstown Road, Kingston, RI
Public Lecture at 3:00 pm

Renowned biblical scholar and expert on the historical Jesus, Prof. Crossan will speak on the theme of “Jesus and Violence in the Bible,” the topic of his recent book, How to Read the Bible and Still Be a Christian.

Prof. Crossan is the author of twenty-eight books on the historical Jesus, early Christianity, and the historical Paul. He is past President of the Society of Biblical Literature, Co-Chair of the Jesus Seminar and Chair of the Parables Seminar. He is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Religions Studies of DePaul University in Chicago.

He will preach in worship at 9:30 on Sunday, March 12 with Q&A to follow. There will be a public lecture at 3pm.

Annual High School Art Show

In preparation for the April 2017 high school art show, the Gallery Committee would like to share our policy with regard to art submissions. It is as follows:

When selecting artwork for the annual High School Art Show, the Gallery Committee currently accepts art from students attending East Providence High School, Hope High School, the Lincoln School, Moses Brown School, Providence Country Day School, St. Mary’s Bay View, School One, and the Wheeler School. If a child of a member of Central Congregational Church does not attend one of these schools, that child is still eligible to submit art for consideration at the annual high school art show. Such submissions should be made by directly via email to The submission must include a digital image of the art work, the name, school, and grade of the student artist and the media of the art piece. The submission deadline for the April 2017 show is Thursday, March 9, 2017. Like with all other submitted art work from the participating schools, there is no guarantee that submitted art will be included in the show.

Please feel free to reach out to the chair of the Gallery Committee with any questions.

Book Group

Rebecca’s Book Group next meets on Thursday, March 30 at 12:30 to discuss Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. All are welcome to join this lively group.

You are Invited

Perennial Planters invites Church Members and Friends to:


Tuesday, March 7 at 7 pm in the Fireplace Room

The Metro Program “will provide multiple economic, environmental, & social benefits for Providence as well as surrounding urban communities” by working with partners “to address storm water, nutrient pollution in urban rivers & upper Narragansett Bay, restore degraded fish & wildlife habitats, reduce heat island effects & improve air quality through urban forestry”.  The Metro Program “will engage the communities of Providence, Pawtucket, and Central Falls, as well as parts of East Providence and Cranston.” Sheila will describe the program in greater detail and provide a progress report on this new focus in Providence and other U.S. cities.   [Quotes taken from The Nature Conservancy Rhode Island website.]

Refreshments will be served.

Greetings from the Harkeys in India

Ginger and I are well-occupied, content, and healthy up country in West Bengal, India. We are here as short-term volunteers through our church’s relationship with the UCC’s Global Ministries program. It is our second tour in India with G.M. as English enrichment teachers. Each morning we leave our hostel and arrive at school by private car, weaving through the small, congested town of Purulia at rush hour.

St. Peter’s School is run by a progressive female principal who is supportive of us and encouraging to her teachers. Pre-nursery through eighth grades on 3 floors, mixed ages and average 40 to the class, we interact with them all doing art, science and civics exercises. Ginger is entirely in her element here, despite the constant clamor from the bus station below the classrooms’ windows. Not having been a teacher, I do what I can. The teachers are well-trained in the rote system. They are so pleased to have us take over a class, and confident that we’ll upgrade or at least diversify their lessons. Then it’s back to our hostel for lunch, a nap, and an afternoon of singing or doing art projects and games with the kids who live with us — a couple dozen children rescued from trafficking or discriminated

against because their parents suffered leprosy. They’re lovely kids, preschool to adolescent, all Bengali-speaking, a few with a smattering of English. At each day, it’s “Good morning, Mam.” And “Good morning, Sir.”

There is a six-inch lizard, and occasionally a frog, that visit our quarters, keeping to the shadows. Even the mosquitos seem timid. The staff prepares delicious meals just for us. I adore the hostel’s tranquil neighborhood — small groupings of mud or brick houses, passed by a tranquil road, and surrounded by an ocean of terraced rice fields, now stubble in the dry season. The residents who have no interior plumbing bathe at the community well or take buckets home (we have running hot water). Goats meander about and bullocks graze the rice paddies, leaving their patties to be collected for home cooking fuel (our kitchen uses gas). In our neighborhood, there is an important 150-bed leprosy hospital established by a Lutheran missionary in 1888. Leprosy is curable, but treatment may include physiotherapy and an artificial limb made on the premises.

Our main man in West Bengal is Probal Dutta, Bishop of the Durgapur Diocese of the Church of North India. He has spent many years establishing institutions like the ones in which we live and teach. In Purulia, our school’s village, the sun rises and descends through a cool, pink haze, although the sun in Durgapur must negotiate its way through a blanket of smog, from apparently unregulated sources. 70% of the Diocese’s 22,000 confirmed members are “tribals,” a marginalized and historically brutalized population. Dutta hosts a Tribal Awards Festival that annually recognizes two tribal persons, one for literary output, and for social service. 2000 attended this festival in Durgapur, some traveling all night from across the state.

We’re not the only foreigners passing through. There has been a 10-person medical team from So. Carolina, led by a charismatic general surgeon who returns here year after year. He runs an outpatient clinic and does minor surgery, all mixed with a faith healing component. Also passing through was a corps of Anglican Curates from Derbyshire, England who are doing their overseas exposure component. Another couple from London, representing an NGO, spent several days in Durgapur organizing tribal leaders to combat human trafficking in their border communities.

Ginger and I are described by Global Ministries as its “mission partners,” which we happily accept although I think of myself as a secular volunteer, no different in motive from our friends and family doing good works back home. Just the same, we recognize the special privilege Global Ministries has afforded us for this work in India and with these outstanding people within the Church of North India. John and I feel blessed to be able to be of service here with such kind, welcoming people. We are experiencing another way of being in the world and are grateful for the opportunity for growth.

-John & Ginger Harkey

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