Nov. 2017 Newsletter

CentralNEWS/November 2017


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

From Rebecca

Dear Friends,

So much has been happening here at Central Church, as we have bid farewell to Deb Nigrelli as she relocates to Florida, as well as saying good bye and hello again to Marilyn Brown as she returns to help us out temporarily and to Peg Fletcher as she enters retirement and officially joins Central Church as a member! Elsewhere in the newsletter, you will see news about Sherri Byrand who will be joining us as our new Communications Coordinator on Jan. 2 and Cory McLean who will be the Church Administrator beginning Nov. 13. Do stop by the office to say hello and introduce yourself as Sherri and Cory look forward to meeting you!

In other thoughts, it seems to me that so many people have mentioned recently how BUSY they are… whether it is after school activities and sports and homework, or a toddler needing constant attention or more errands to run than can be fit into an hour, or volunteer commitments or older parents needing care and attention or extra work that needs to be done… the list goes on and on… and the truth is there is never enough time.

But I’ve been thinking that maybe we are looking at this business a little wrong… What if instead of thinking how busy we are, we contemplate how full and abundant our days have become.

What a privilege it is to be able to decide whether to take care of this issue now or after we finish a project. How lucky we are that we have spare time to donate to community organizations, to volunteer with a Scout troop or help out at Amos House. How fortunate we are that we have ways to be useful -- to others as well as to ourselves… that we can offer a ride to someone who no longer drives, that we can choose to go to this or that grocery store, that a friend relies on us, that a hungry person needs our help at the Food Pantry.

I don’t know about you, but for me, looking at life this way makes a lot more sense… and it works! I actually feel better about all the tasks I still want to accomplish when I take a moment to reflect. Then, instead of complaining and worrying about how I will fit everything in, I think, aren’t I blessed to be able to have this time to do what I can to make this world just a little better… And I’ll take that time to chat with a small child, or pet the neighbor’s dog, or thank the mail carrier… and maybe even cross a task off a long list!

Thank you, God, for giving us tasks to do, minds and spirits ready to work, hearts open and willing to help others, and gifts and abilities to make a difference.



Interfaith Thanksgiving Service

Tuesday, November 21  7:00 pm

Temple Beth-El Orchard Avenue

Our prayers & sympathy are with…

Jake Kling and his family.  Jane Kling died on October 21

A service of thanksgiving and remembrance be held at Central Congregational Church on December 9 at 10 am


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.

Thanksgiving Festival Service of Thanksgiving & Prayer

Sunday, November 19th at 10:30 AM

On Sunday, November 19, we celebrate our faith in our traditional Thanksgiving Festival Worship.  You are encouraged to reach out with an invitation to friends and neighbors to join you on Thanksgiving Sunday when we give thanks to God for the abundance with which we have been blessed. Come hear inspiring preaching and fine music, and share this Thanksgiving tradition with your friends, family, and neighbors.

Preludes begin at 10:10 a.m. and feature Central’s Adult & Children’s Choirs. We look ahead to this jubilant service with special music of Vaughn Williams with organ, timpani and trumpets.  

This is also “Bring a Friend” Sunday, so please reach out to your family, friends, and neighbors to join us in worship on this exciting Sunday.

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 Avenue

From Claudia

In this season of thanksgivings of all kinds I think of the many reasons we all have to give thanks.  Being thankful may come easier for some of us than for others.  However, the Bible is full of admonitions as well as examples of offering thanks. Here is a tiny sampling: “Give thanks to God who is good, whose love endures forever.” (1 Chronicles 16:34) “O God, I will give thanks to you forever!”  (Psalm 30:12) “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”  (Philippians 4:6)

Giving thanks is sometimes so easy, but not always.  Listening to our little grandson belly laugh as he splashes stones into our river is something to be thankful for as he grows and learns more about the delights of God’s creation.  For instance, stones sink into the water and disappear.  After the first throw, he realized that those little rocks were gone, but there’s a whole beach full of such delights and his momentary worry was replaced by the joy of the delight of rock slinging!  Giving thanks for his toddlerhood is easy as he learns new things every day.

It’s not so easy to give thanks when things aren’t going so well—when we hear someone has cancer, or has lost their job, or is worrying about a beloved family member.  These are the times that are so hard.  Are we really to give thanks at times like these?

The answer is that we are.  It is then that we realize the blessings of community who will support us and pray for us and be Christ’s body in this world.  For we at Central and the Church throughout the world are here to intercede and to uphold one another—through good times and difficult ones.  For the love and care of God and for our love and care of one another here in this faith community I offer my thanksgiving to God.

And in the words of Paul’s letter to Philemon, “I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers.”

With gratitude and thanksgiving,



Thursdays from 6:00-7:00 PM
11/2 & 12/7

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 other participants often find new possibilities in their spiritual life and practices.  Participants are asked to commit to all three sessions.

Please RSVP to Claudia.


What is Belief?
Fireplace Room, 9:00-10:00 AM
11/5, 11/12, 11/19 & 11/26

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.


Thursday, November 9
7:00-8:30 PM in the Fireplace Room

Join us for a lively discussion of this month’s book—Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance

Looking ahead:

December 14—Christmas Potluck and Book Swap at Janet Jagger’s home
January 11—A Gentleman in Moscow (Amor Towles)


Sunday, November 12
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.


345 South Water St, Providence
Sunday, November 26 at 12:30 PM

What better way is there to continue giving thanks than to do so with friends from Central around the table at brunch?  Let’s continue to celebrate the holiday together with good conversation and a fabulously delicious brunch after worship!  Please RSVP to Claudia.

A Reading by Author John Harkey

November 19 from 12:00 – 1:00 pm
Fireplace Room

John Harkey invites you to participate in an author’s reading of the book Sacred Errand in Aboriginal Australia, Sunday, November 19 in the Fireplace Room following the Thanksgiving Festival Service of Worship.

Readers of Sacred Errand join author John Harkey as he jets over the Pacific Ocean en route to Australia. At his feet is one of the Aboriginal “holy of holies,” a tirunga stone inherited from his oilman father.

John’s intention was to fulfill the wish of his father that “the stone should go home.” But, after a forty-year absence from traditional ownership, what home and to whom cold this sacred object be taken?

John soon found himself caught in the turbulence of two cultures in conflict, the Aboriginal and the whitefella Australian. His quest takes us from museum to Lutheran mission, from the Aboriginal settlements to the natural shrine (and tourist destination) of Uluru. Historically deep reaching, the book is peopled with real-life explorers and pioneer poets, along with Aboriginal mystics and myth tellers, outback townies and bushies, fathers and sons, lovers and despoilers.

Harkey’s Sacred Errand asks questions about the durability of faith both western and indigenous, about concepts of home, and the strain between a father’s cultural heritage and a son’s view of his inheritance.

Purchase the book in the office of Central Church or on as a paperback or Kindle edition. All proceeds benefit Central’s Youth Mission Trip fund. A reader’s study guide is also available in the office.



On Sunday, November 12, we will have a “super” choir of adults, youth, and children singing in the morning service!

We invite all high school age and higher singers to join us.   If you would like to join the choir for this special Sunday, come Thursday, November 9, for the first part of our choir rehearsal, and we will all go through Sunday’s music together.   We also have an additional special rehearsal after church on Sunday, November 5, 11:30-12:15 for high school students to learn notes.   Both rehearsals take place in the choir loft.

Come join lend your voice!


Here are some key reminders for each November Sunday:

Sunday, Nov 5th10:10 line up for ALL SAINTS DAY PROCESSION at the start of worship – Regular Sunday

Sunday, Nov 12thPlease bring back your ‘Saints bags’ filled with dry goods/food for Camp Street Ministries Thanksgiving collection!

Sunday, Nov 19thFestival Thanksgiving Sunday – Dream-Makers 96th – 8th grade) remain in worship; 4th -5th graders meet with Cathy during Church School to discuss Pageant/Parts read through script. Church School for Pre-school – 3rd grade as usual.

Sunday, Nov 26thFIRST PAGEANT REHEARSAL for 2nd - 5th graders, during Church School, in the Gathering Space.

Spirited Poetry Spectacular

Thanks to all who participated in our Poetry celebration on Sunday, October 22. In honor of Central’s own Poet Laureate, Ilse Kramer, this was indeed a festival of poetry for all ages. Special thanks to both RI State Poet Lalureate, Tina Cane, and Central’s Director of Religious Education, Cathy Clasper-Torch.

You are encouraged to join in future poetry fun! Watch for more information on our Poetry webpage or contact Barry or Barbara Bayon.

Book Group

Rebecca’s Book Group next meets on Thursday, November 16 at 12:30 to discuss Spare Parts by Josh Lukas. All are invited to join this lively group.


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.  Please join us following worship on Sunday, November 5th!

Save Your Extra Halloween Candy!

If it turned out to be a lean year for trick-or-treaters or you score a particularly big haul on Halloween, please consider bringing extra candy into worship on Sunday, November 5th!  We will pack up your sweet treats and ship them off to our collegiate youth as part of their College Care Packages filled with Central love!

Pre-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!


December 10, 2017 11:30 a.m., 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” s 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.

Friday Film Fare

The correct dates for Central’s Friday Film Fare are listed below. The films are shown at 7:30pm in the Fireplace Room. We apologize for any confusion.

November 17  Of Mice and Men**
December 15  Sleuth**
January 19       Never Let Me Go
February 16     Good Night, and Good Luck
March 16         One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest**
April 12           Hidden Figures**

** Revised dates

Corrected brochures are on the coatroom table.

New Members

Please join us in welcoming our newest members who united with in membership on November 5.

Margaret “Peg” Fletcher – Providence

After 19 years, Peg recently retired from Central Church as its office coordinator. She enjoys painting, being out and about, her cat, Vicky, and spending time with her two daughters, her son, and her two granddaughters, Claire and Jane.

Peter MacInnis -Providence

Peter is retired and recently moved to Rhode Island from Shanghai, China and enjoys woodworking and teaching. He has a Central Church connection and hopes to volunteer for service projects. He and his wife, Elyn, have two grown daughters.

Catherine Orloff - Providence

Catherine is a retired History teacher and real estate appraiser who enjoys singing, gardening, and writing.

She hopes to sing in the choir, offer transportation and helping with food preparation. Her son and daughter live out of state and she has two grandsons.

New Church Staff

We welcome our new office staff members:

Cory Mac Lean:

I will be joining you as church administrator on Monday, November 13. I come to this position well prepared, having spent the last seventeen years at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church on George Street where I wore several hats; as building manager, sexton, secretary, parish administrator, sometime treasurer’s assistant, and music librarian.  I began singing in the Schola Cantorum (aka choir; exhibiting the Episcopal tradition of having elaborate, obscure names for everything) in the mid-eighties, and never left. At that time, my sister Lissa was singing in your choir under Fred McArthur, and I recall filling in as a substitute once or twice. Small world! I’ve also over the last several years (via organist/choirmaster James Busby) become quite fond of Patrick Aiken, who we’ve been privileged to welcome at St. Stephen’s as guest organist on numerous occasions.

I was raised Presbyterian, and came to the Episcopal Church first as a musician. St. Stephen’s continues to be my spiritual home and I am privileged to enter my thirty-third year there as a member of the choir. I presently live in “South” County (following the local tradition of labelling things that don’t technically exist), and I’m married to husband George with whom I have two children; Emily, a junior at URI majoring in theatre, and Kate, completing her senior year at Chariho Regional High School with a planned career in Criminal Justice. And two sweet rescue cats, Tiger and O’Keefe. In addition to my love of singing and music in general, I’m an avid photographer and aspiring author.

I am so looking forward to joining Rebecca and the team of staff and volunteers here at Central Congregational Church. See you in November!

Blessings, Cory MacLean

Sherri Bayard

I feel so blessed that this next stage of my life is bringing me to Providence to serve Central Congregational Church. Unfortunately, my first day working won’t be until January 2, as I must finish up my fall semester obligations in Wisconsin. I have been teaching English writing for the past 17 years at the University of Wisconsin-Sheboygan, where my husband, Karl, also served as a professor and chair of the Geography and Geology Department until his brain injury four years ago. With Lake Michigan right at the end of our short street, we loved raising our son, Kade, in Sheboygan. There, we have been long-time members of the First Congregational Church, U.C.C., where I’m finishing my second term as a deacon.

I was raised in the Ohio River valley, in western Pennsylvania. I earned a B.A in both psychology and theater arts from Point Park College in Pittsburgh and later earned a master’s in magazine journalism from Syracuse University. My next move was to Montana, where it was my husband’s turn to earn his Master’s. There, I managed the Bozeman climbing gym as well as taught writing. Then it was on to Washington, D.C., where we lived on Capitol Hill. I ghostwrote for prominent scientists at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, wrote the “AAAS News & Notes” column for Science, and copyedited for that journal. Later, for the Children's Defense Fund, I served as the editor for CDF Reports and ghostwrote for CDF President Marian Wright Edelman. I left to raise my son, enjoying the flexibility that teaching provided. As a freelance writer, I have articles and essays published in more than 250 magazines and newspapers, including The Washington Post and National Parks. I also edited five books for George F. Thompson Publishing, including four books on national parks.

In addition, I worked as a wilderness instructor and played for perhaps 100 days in Yellowstone National Park while my husband did research. My adventures include being kissed by a black bear, a white wolf, and a walrus, as well as nudged by a curious whale shark.  I truly look forward to using my time and skills to the benefit of Central, its staff, its members, and its mission.

Sherri Byrand

Sunday Afternoon Music Series

The Magnolia Cajun Band Performs for The Hamilton House

4:00-5:30 pm In Central’s Chapel Hall

  • General admission $15
  • Seniors $12
  • Family admission $25 S
  • Students $10

Price includes a tasting of jambalaya and refreshments.

The Deacon’s Bench

How do you listen to music?  I’m old enough that my first car had only an AM radio, and one of my priorities for my next car was FM radio, because the music on FM was so much better.  While FM radio is still very much in use (think NPR), since that time we’ve listened to music on cassette tapes, CD’s, and now streaming through our phones.  (Don’t tell anyone, but we still play our vinyl records occasionally at our house.)

Change occurs in all areas of life, sometime slowly, sometimes at a breathtaking pace.

Medicine is an example of a field that has changed rapidly in recent decades.  Right now, I am reading a book about the end of President Franklin Roosevelt’s life, and it is clear that he is dying from the effects of extremely high blood pressure.  At the time (1944), it was not universally accepted practice that high blood pressure was harmful.  Furthermore, there were no medications to treat high blood pressure available at the time, so there was little that the doctors could have done anyhow.

We have all seen significant cultural changes in America over the recent decades.  It is no longer acceptable to smoke in public buildings, but heterosexual orientation is no longer expected.  Church attendance used to be socially expected, but now it is a matter of personal belief.

Churches need to embrace change as well, to stay relevant to their communities.  The central Christian message of hope and resurrection is eternal, but the way that churches communicate with people and the programs offered need to keep pace with the world outside our doors.  We want to welcome people as they are, where they are, young and old, from all walks of life to our church.

- Jacqueline Briant

Neighbors in Need

In a Just World, Clean Water is Life

Because climate justice matters, last Fall UCC members and many others joined our combined voices to Rise Up against big business interests. Together, we stood in solidarity with our Native American sisters and brothers who are rightfully protesting to keep their water protected.

Indigenous people understand water is life!

So, we rallied and marched to keep it clean and safe for drinking, bathing, fishing, and for the animals therein against having the Dakota Access pipeline built across their sacred lands.

The former administration halted plans for having the pipeline built, but currently an easement for the pipeline to cross a reservoir near the Standing Rock Sioux Nation is being authorized.

Our work is not over. We, as people of faith, join together to stand alongside our most vulnerable neighbors in their struggle for the sanctity of water whether they reside in Standing Rock, Flint, MI, the West Bank or Gaza whenever they are in need.

Central Church will receive the Neighbors in Need collection during our Thanksgiving Festival Service of Worship on Sunday, November 19.


Each year Central’s congregation donates turkeys and Thanksgiving food to Camp Street Food Pantry. The pantry hands out 400 boxes with Thanksgiving food each year. This year they need even more than usual. Here’s how you can help.

Here’s how can you help?

  1. Buy a frozen turkey (12-16 lbs.) and bring it to Central Church’s refrigerator between Friday, Nov.17 through Monday, Nov. 21.
  2. Bring Thanksgiving food to church on any Sunday and fill the baskets: Brownie Mix, Stuffing Mix, Cranberry Sauce and Gravy are most needed.
  3. Write a check payable to Central Congregational Church with Camp Street Community Ministries–in the memo line and place it in the collection plate.
  4. Turn in Eastside Marketplace Receipts for our participation in their Friendship Fund. Deadline: Monday, November 13.

As always non-perishable food is always welcome, but the emphasis for November includes STUFFING MIX, BROWNIE MIX, CRANBERRY SAUCE & TURKEY GRAVY. Your continued help is appreciated.


Saturday, November 18

Come one, come all—young and not so young to help clean the church building and grounds on Saturday, November 18 from 9am to noon. We need expert or not so expert help cleaning, dusting, washing windows, raking, weeding… jobs for everyone!! Coffee, doughnuts, and good company abound. Please call Ed Bishop with questions.

Sandwich Brigade

In November, the Sandwich Brigade returns to Central! We’ll be in the kitchen at 9:30 AM next Sunday for sandwich making and fellowship. All of the sandwiches go to Crossroads to feed the hungry when most other soup kitchens are closed Sundays.

The Prudential and Plant & Properties Committees will not meet in November. Both committees will next meet on Tuesday, December 5.

“Christmas at Central”

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

Plans are well and happily underway for our annual “Christmas at Central” FUNraising event!  Please bring yourselves, your family and friends to enjoy a yummy lunch and an incomparable shopping experience.

Not only do we need your presence, we need your help!! 

Donations are needed for the starred booths.  Please call or email the chairperson to volunteer your goods and/or your help with setting up (Dec 2) at 8:30 am and selling (Dec 3).  Wherever your talents lie, this is an opportunity for you to use them for our beloved Central Church.

Artists and Vendors— if you would like your own table for your arts/craft, please call Cathy Clasper-Torch (272-3942)

If you have any ideas for, or questions about, this event, please contact one of our general coordinators.

We are in need of co-chairs for the Gift Baskets and Lunch Room, booth helpers during the bazaar, as well as helpers on Saturday, December.  Please contact Martha Nielsen if you are able to lend a hand!

Donations may be brought on or after November 14th. Please be sure to place items in the designated spot behind the stage curtain.

Claudia in the office, 331-1960 or
Cathy Clasper-Torch
Martha Nielsen

The Lunch Room

Enjoy a delectable lunch while shopping!

*Grandma’s Attic

Sharing items from our collections
Co-Chairs: Amy Hebb & Sandy Delany
*Ye Old Bookcellar

New/gently read books
Chair: Joan Leland, Margaret & Jim Gardner

*Toy Treasure Box

New and loved toys/used sporting goods
Co-Chairs: Debra Moorhead; Jenn Cooke

*Sweet Shoppe

Treats from our kitchens
Chair: Amy Punchak

*Gift Baskets

 Themed with wide appeal

Craft Workshop

Various venders selling handmade crafts
Chair: Cathy Clasper-Torch

The Gallery 

Multi media art
Chair: Jim Scott

Bursting Pomegranate

Third world crafts
Chair: Donna Chace Larson & Janet Jagger

Wreaths by WORD

Lovely hand-crafted wreaths
Chair: Aidan Kelley


Chair: Liz Viall


Ellen Miller

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