December 2019 Newsletter

Central News

December 2019
Vol 28 No 3

Download the PDF version of this Newsletter

From Rebecca

Dear Friends,  Christmas and all that … trees and tinsel and not enough time … Bah, you know! …  and yet ….

“For you shall go out in joy and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands” (Isaiah 55:12).

You and I have all heard the criticisms of Christmas … too much materialism, way over-the-top sentimentality and kitsch that I think actually lead to moods of depression and sadness, since none of us could ever measure up to the expectations. And when you have had a loss, it is hard, really hard, to find joy in the usual places.

So some try to find a cure, a solution for the Christmas blues. Good idea.  But think about this as a better idea: Let us look toward Easter! That incredible mystery can only happen because of the miracle we embrace at Christmastime. A baby in swaddling clothes has a mission to fulfill. And in that mission of love is our hope that drives away any despair and conquers any current darkness.

You know, December mornings are miracles. At some mysterious point, the stars retire, the night reclines, a few birds come from nowhere, and there is first light. And then, the sun rises, the birds are noisy, and it is a new day. The Sanskrit poem, “Salutation to the Dawn,” reminds us to look to this day. And Advent’s dawns offer us a chance to pause, to reflect, to find hope and love.

I like to think of the trees of the field clapping their hands, reflecting joy and peace. It is just a great image, isn’t it? And so may it be for us at Central. Rejoicing in the new life that God promises in the form of a tiny child. Rejoicing in the mystery of Easter even as we embrace the waiting darkness of Advent before Christmas … and the mighty organ pealing out magnificent chords of beloved carols, as well as the soft sounds of a bleak midwinter’s night. I look forward to the children’s pageant, to caroling with our at-home members and friends, to the new and old faces at the Carol Service, to the expectant families and thoughtful ones at the early and late Christmas Eve services. So, dear friends, do not let the commercialism bother you. Remember. We too shall go out in joy and be led back in peace. The very trees are clapping their hands. We at Central will rejoice in the miracle of God coming to us, us human beings. And it is wonderful, all wonderful.

Yours, in Christmas anticipation,


Thanks From One Gun Gone

In November, artist Scott Lapham, founder of One Gun Gone (OGG) and two high school members of the group stopped by Central to personally thank our senior minister, Rebecca Spencer, for the congregation’s donation of $537, which was added to OGG’s gun buy-back fund. They presented Rebecca with an OGG poster signed by members, now on the kiosk in Chapel Hall, and toured our sanctuary.

Lapham founded OGG after losing four students to gun violence, instituting – with the Providence Police Department – the city’s first gun buy-back program. After taking guns off the street, OGG brings them into the studio where students transform them into works of art … which are then sold to buy back more guns. OGG also hosts workshops in R.I. schools, where students create art about gun violence, and mounts gallery shows each year.

Central is proud to support – and continues to be involved with – this important effort to combat gun violence.

The Deacon’s Bench

Meeting difficult people this holiday season? I invite Central Congregational Church members to imagine our family’s Christmas newsletter below – and to pray for your own extended family.

Dear Extended Family,

All of us – cousins, brothers or sisters – are looking forward to a long-delayed reunion next year. Even if you can’t travel that far, we’ll hang your name and date on our wall-size family tree.

But what will we say? Some of us haven’t seen one another since high school, or we wonder about the kids’ hair length. Some might question evolutionary theory, and others aren’t even sure about a God. Some family members haven’t spoken in a while, and some might owe each other money. And, politics today? Fuhgeddaboudit!

But when you locate your name tag, it won’t say “conservative” or “liberal.” It won’t display your faith, or even your gender. It will simply identify a different color of the rainbow for each original family.

We have so much more in common. We’ll tell stories about our 19th century ancestors: immigrants who fought against the South or North – and then coped with drought, insects, and terrible farm accidents. We’ll exchange recipes from favorite aunts (and uncles). We’ll remember our most charming uncle, president of the town’s school board, who nearly missed his own high school graduation.

We’ll tip hats for our eldest aunt, who lost an election not long after women won the vote a century ago. We’ll honor our World War II veteran, beloved mayor of our single-stoplight town – and sons of our youngest aunt, who were in state and federal public service). Perhaps we’ll end with another wise aunt’s mantra, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

Some of our children have married descendants of enemy families, after distant wars – and we love them all. I believe Jesus assured us best, “Where two or three are gathered, there am I.”

– Cousin May Grant

Christmas At Central Needs You!

Many Items Are Needed

  •    Baked goods of all kinds
  •    Gift baskets of all kinds (with approximate value)
  •    Soups, mac ’n cheese, cider, and breads for the luncheon
  •    Gently used books and attic treasures
  •    (Please deliver to designated spots at the rear of the stage.)

Many Hands Are Needed

  •    Set-up on Saturday, Dec. 7, 8:30 to 11:30 am
  •    Help with lunch, books, bake table, Grandma’s Attic during the bazaar on Sunday, Dec. 8
  •    Clean-up on Sunday, Dec. 8, starting at 1 pm

Many Smiles Are Needed

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

Welcome New Members!

Welcome to Gilbert Onu, who joined Central on Nov. 3. Gilbert is a student at Brown University and has attended Central for several years.  He is a native of New York City, a long-distance bicyclist, and enjoys working with CCC Youth and confirmands.

Pam and Lenny Martin also joined Central on Nov. 3 – Pam as an associate member coming from a Roman Catholic background and Lenny in absentia. Lenny is president of Leonard Martin & Associates, a wealth preservation and retirement planning firm in Warwick. He and Pam have enjoyed worshipping at Central and hope to find ways to participate in and contribute to our community.

Re-imagining Chapel Hall Continues!

It’s no secret that Chapel Hall, our primary meeting space and center for community events, is in need of an update. Many of you participated in brainstorming sessions, contributed ideas, and shared your perspectives as part of the “Growing Central for Tomorrow” process, which was invaluable. Now, we are investigating renovation possibilities – priorities, architectural proposals, financial considerations, and mission component – so Chapel Hall can truly represent and serve our thriving congregation. We will present a proposal for architectural renovation on Jan. 26, at our Tentative Budget Approval Meeting following Sunday Worship. Questions? Contact the planning team: Barry Bayon, Bill Claflin, Caroline Considine, Steve Eustis, Elizabeth Roberts, Tom Viall, and ex officio, Rebecca Spencer.

And, be sure to check out plans for work that will begin in January: renovated restrooms and handicap accessible bathroom. The display, by Barbara Thornton’s firm Brewster Thornton Architects, is in Chapel Hall near the windows.

2020/21 Budget

Attention, committee chairs! It’s time to prepare next year’s budget. We need 100 percent participation for proper financial planning. Please arrange to present your committee’s budget to the Finance Committee on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 7:30 pm, in the Fireplace Room. Questions? Contact Donna Chase-Larson.

In Memoriam

Our prayers and sympathy are with the family of Geoff O’Hara, who died November 22. A memorial service will be held December 6, 3:30 pm, at Central.  Requiescat in pace.

Seeking a Church Home?

If you’re looking for a church – or know someone who is – we’d love to talk with you about it at our Inquirers’ Meeting. It’s very informal. You’ll meet with our senior minister, Rebecca Spencer, and others like you who think Central may be the right church home.  No commitment necessary. To join us, fill out a pew card during Sunday Worship or phone the office at 401-331-1960 and Rebecca will get in touch.

Inquirers’ Meeting:  Wednesday, January 22, 7 pm
Faith Exploration:  Tuesday, January 28, 7 pm
New Member Sunday: February 2

Thanks, Kwaku!

If you’ve noticed that the black and red wrought-iron rails and fencing at the Church School entrance are no longer badly rusted and in need of repair, it’s because Kwaku Annan of Care of the Interior Committee took on the project. He disassembled the rails and fencing, sanded, repainted, welded, and reinstalled them!

Christmas Bulbs

The Flower Committee will sell beautiful red and white Amaryllis and Paperwhites at Christmas at Central. Your purchases not only defray the cost of the flowers that grace our sanctuary every Sunday, they make thoughtful, affordable, and lasting gifts – as well as stunning Christmas home décor.

New Hymnal Selected

The Hymnal Selection Committee has recommended “Hymns of Truth and Light,” published by First Congregational Church of Houston. The hymnal will have a custom cover design and a 32-page supplement of additional hymns selected by Central. The committee will make a full presentation at the Budget Meeting on Jan. 26. You can help fund the new hymnals by purchasing Christmas ornaments … sold by the Music Committee at Christmas at Central and Tree Trimming.

Get Involved

The Nominating Committee hopes you will consider joining one of the meaningful – also interesting and fun – committees that run things here at Central. We need your talents and energy! Terms begin June 2020. If you are interested in a committee or have questions, contact Barry Bayon, Marilyn Edwards, Rob Edwards, or Judith Jamieson.

From Claudia

I spent a lovely Sunday afternoon last month with some of you at the Museum of Russian Icons in Clinton, Mass. What a gem that place is! I encourage you to experience it for yourselves. The icons are arranged by subject matter: Christ, saints, and Mary. To be specific, Mary and the infant Jesus – what most of us who are not Orthodox Christians call Madonna and Child.

However, in the Orthodox Christian Church these icons are referred to as “Theotokos” – translated as “Mother of God” or “God Bearer.” I’ve been thinking about this. The Bearer of God. Incredible. The Bearer of God was a teenage girl. Amazing.

As we enter the season of Advent, God calls us to once again contemplate the mystery of the Incarnation in a tiny infant. One of the best things I do in my ministry is hold infants. One of you reminded me recently that I was the first person outside of the family to hold your baby. This was many years ago, and that baby is growing into a fine young person. Waiting for the birth is a distant memory, but still so profound in its message to the child’s parents.

Just like Mary, we wait during Advent. We wait for what will come next. We wait and try not to rush to the end of the story, but to savor the beginning. The time when the world held its collective breath along with an expectant mother. The time when God put the salvation of the world into a tiny baby’s hands. We wait because just as Mary changed in those weeks before Christ’s birth, so we are changed in the waiting as well.

We pray and sing and worship while we wait. In doing so, we prepare the cradle of our hearts. At the end of all the waiting, we receive that baby into our midst, and we give thanks to the young woman who said yes and became the Theotokos.

Thanks be to God!  May you and yours experience myriads of blessings during the Advent and Christmas seasons.

In Advent and Christmas hope, peace, love and joy,


Tree Trimming

We need a lot of elves to decorate Central’s two-story Christmas tree. So please stay after Worship – not just for Tree Trimming – but also for lunch, punch, Christmas crafts, and … our New Hymnal Fundraiser. We’ll be selling ornaments – beautiful origami stars, handmade by the Music Committee – for $1 to $100 beginning Sunday, Dec. 8, after Worship. All proceeds will go toward the purchase of our new hymnals!  Sunday, Dec. 15, 11:30 am in Chapel Hall. Come for the fun and help us deck the halls!

Christmas Caroling

After Tree Trimming, stay with family and friends to enjoy our annual Christmas Caroling outing. There’s very little that’s as rewarding as spreading Christmas cheer to those who are unable to get to church. You don’t have to be a singer, just someone who wants to share the joy of the season. It’s a beautiful thing to see faces light up as we sing favorite Christmas hymns and carols. We’re usually done by 2:30 pm. Questions? Contact Maureen Whittemore. Sunday, Dec. 15, 12:30 pm in the Fireplace Room.

Carol Service and Silver Tea

There isn’t a better way to start Christmas week than with our inspiring and music-filled Carol Service. Seven scripture readings tell the Christmas story – each echoed by hymns and carols sung by Central’s choirs, accompanied by organ, harp, and cello. The service concludes with a peaceful, candlelit tableau as the entire congregation sings “Silent Night.” Afterwards, please stay and enjoy refreshments at our traditional Silver Tea in Chapel Hall. Sunday, Dec. 22, 4 pm

Silver Tea Refreshments

We need volunteers to make finger sandwiches and cookies for the Silver Tea that follows Central’s beautiful Carol Service. If you can help, contact Caroline Inlow or Carolyn Kolesar.

Free Celtic Advent Calendars

This colorful calendar provides ideas for practicing grace every day through the Twelve Days of Christmas. Pick up free copies Nov. 15 to Jan. 6 at the Welcome Table in Chapel Hall and share your faith with family and friends Questions? Ask Claudia.

Adult Sunday School

This month we conclude our study of Orthodox Christianity. It’s not too late to join in the learning and conversation! Questions? Ask Claudia. Dec. 1, 15 and 22, at 9 am, in the Fireplace Room

Lunch at Gourmet House

Let’s continue our Thanksgiving celebration with good conversation and a delicious lunch after Worship. Check out the menu – Thai, Cambodian, Vietnamese, and Chinese – and prices online at RSVP to Claudia. Sunday, Dec. 1, at 12:30 pm, at Gourmet House, 787 Hope Street, Providence

Rebecca’s Book Group

We’ll discuss “In the Hurricane’s Eye: The Genius of George Washington and the Victory at Yorktown” by Nathaniel Philbrick. Thursday, Dec. 5, 12:30 pm, in Rebecca’s study

Spiritual Companionship Group

Where is God in your life? Discover how the ancient tradition of spiritual companionship with others will help you attain inner wisdom and find new possibilities in your life. RSVP to Claudia. Thursday, Dec. 5, 6 pm, in the Deacons Room

Cookie Swap

If you don’t have time to make tons of Christmas cookies, no one will ever know. Bring six dozen of your favorite cookies (no bar cookies, please) and take home a platter of delectable treats … just like Grandma used to make. Don’t forget a platter for transport home! Questions? Call Claudia. Wednesday, Dec. 18, 6 pm, in the Fireplace Room

Food For Thought Book Group

Join our annual Christmas potluck and book swap!  We will gather for good food, conversation, and swap gently read books. Call Claudia for information. Thursday, Dec. 19, 6 pm, in the Fireplace Room

Coming up … Jan. 9: “Becoming” by Michelle Obama. Feb. 3: “Tenemental: Adventures of a Reluctant Landlady” by Vikki Warner. Mar. 12: “Mozart’s Starling” by Lyanda Lynn Haupt.

Unique Gift Idea

Here’s something for the special women in your life: the opportunity to reflect, relax, renew – and enjoy good fellowship – at Central’s Annual Women’s Retreat in beautiful Pascoag. $175 includes lodging, meals, and materials. Interested? Call Claudia. Mar. 27 to 29, 2020.

Save The Date

Sunday, Jan. 26, 11:30 am

Tentative Budget Approval Meeting and presentation of the proposed renovation of Chapel Hall and a look at the new hymnal!

Church School News

Star-Child, earth-Child, go-between of God,
love-Child, Christ Child, heaven’s lightning rod
Street child, beat child, no place left to go,
hurt child, used child no one wants to know

Spared child, spoiled child, having, wanting more,
Wise child, faith child, knowing joy in store
Hope-for-peace Child, God’s stupendous sign,
down-to-earth Child, Star of stars that shine

These are the verses of one of our Christmas Pageant carols, a contemporary piece with words by Shirley Murray and music by Carlton Young, that will be sung so beautifully once again by Thomas Lynch, a member of Central’s Children’s Choir.

Each year we look forward to telling the story of Jesus’ birth – God’s magnificent manifestation in the most vulnerable and humblest of ways! Please join us for the Christmas Pageant on Sunday, Dec. 15, during Worship at 10:30 am. And bring your friends and neighbors!

In the words of this carol’s chorus/refrain: “This year, this year, let the day arrive when Christmas comes for everyone, everyone alive!”

Love and Joy,

Cathy Clasper-Torch (Director of Christian Education)

From Joshua

As the deep dark of winter approaches, I am reminded of one Children’s Time from November. The scripture that Sunday was about the destruction of the Temple and the exile of the people of Israel from their home. I demonstrated, with some foam blocks and plastic figurines, how the Temple was destroyed and rebuilt throughout history. At the end, I had the children stand up and turn around to see the new Temple, which is the Church, the Body of Christ.

In John 10:22-30, we find Jesus walking in the old Temple on Hanukkah. People ask him who he is, and he tells them in so many words that he is the Messiah and that he is God. We are confronted with a very different image from that November scripture. Now Jesus walks in the Temple, God enters into the broken religious institution of that time.

Sometimes, in preparing for the winter holidays, we lose sight of the truth in the symbols that represent it: buy the presents, decorate the tree, cook the meals, sing the songs. But what John 10 teaches us is that all these things point to a miraculous and hopeful truth….

God enters into our broken world to save it. Yes, we have complicated questions about what this really means, but still we wonder and strive to see the light. When we see it, we become the prophets that God is sending into the world to rebuild the Temple once more.

If you’d like to meet with Joshua, please call 774-274-1987 to set an appointment.

The Gift Tree

Help create a Merry Christmas for children in DCYF care. Choose a tag from our Gift Tree, which will go up in Chapel Hall on Sunday, Dec. 1. Each tag has a child’s age, gender, and sometimes gift ideas. Then, place your wrapped gift under the Gift Tree by Tuesday, Dec. 17. You’ll find it’s a blessing for us all.

Buy a Wreath for CCC Youth!

This year, NEOS and WORD are making – and hope to sell – 100 wreaths to help fund their Mission Trip to Appalachia this summer. Each wreath is 16”, made of natural greens, and sells for $30 (cash or check). Choose Traditional Red or Trendy White. You can also specify a plain wreath or “artist’s choice.” Order now to ensure that your wreath will be ready for pick-up after Sunday Worship on Dec. 8.

Friday Film Fare

Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens) has a problem. It’s 1843 and England’s most celebrated author has had three publishing flops in a row, is up to his Victorian ears in debt, and desperately needs an idea for a story that will sell … fast. Maybe something for Christmas

Whimsical, yet based on fact, The Man Who Invented Christmas (2017) explores the Dickensian creative process that gave us “A Christmas Carol” and those characters so real that they embody themselves around Charlie to help – or sometimes hinder – the story along.

And none is so exasperating as that cantankerous old miser (Christopher Plummer, a fiendishly delightful Scrooge) with his unending sour comments about the author.

[104 minutes; color; Rated PG] Please note the correct date:  Friday, Dec. 13, 7:30 pm in the Fireplace Room

CCC Youth Needed!

Wreath Decorating: Saturday, Dec. 7, 4 to 7 pm, in the Makepeace Room

Wreath Selling to benefit the 2020 Youth Mission Trip: Sunday, Dec. 8, 11:30 am to 2 pm, Christmas at Central in Chapel Hall

Tree Trimming: Enjoy the festivities and help the little kids climb the ladders and reach the upper branches of the tree! Dec. 15, 11:30 am in Chapel Hall

Christmas Pageant Schedule

  • Sunday, Dec. 1: Rehearsal during class
  • Sunday, Dec. 8: Rehearsal during class
  • Saturday Dec. 14, 10:30 am to 12 noon: Dress Rehearsal (mandatory)
  • Sunday, Dec. 15, 9:15 am: Run-through (full dress)
  • Sunday, Dec. 15, 10:30 am: Showtime!

Parents’ Social

Learn what your children are doing in Central’s youth groups and confirmation classes – while enjoying tea and dessert and sharing faith and ideas with other parents. Dec. 2, 7 pm, in Chapel Hall

Holiday Church School Schedule

Sunday, Dec. 22, will be the last Church School class in 2019. We’ll resume on Epiphany, Sunday, Jan. 5.

Christmas Worship

Family Worship: CCC Youth plan ?and conduct this Christmas Eve service tailored for families with children of all ages. Tuesday, Dec. 24, 5 pm

Christmas Eve: This candlelit, music- filled service is peaceful and contemplative. Tuesday, Dec. 24, 11 pm

Christmas Morning: Few churches in R.I. offer a Christmas day service. Ours is an intimate celebration of the birth of Christ. Communion is served. Wednesday, Dec. 25, 10:30 am

Community Dinner

This coming Leap Year, take a leap of faith and join your fellow Central members for a Community Dinner!  There’s no better way to beat the February blues than to share a meal, create meaningful connections, and simply have a great time. We’ll meet in Chapel Hall on Saturday, Feb. 29, at 5 pm for appetizers and refreshments and then move on in smaller groups to various hosts’ homes for the main course. Sign up – to attend or host – during coffee hour Sunday, Jan. 12 through Sunday, Feb. 2. Questions? Contact Alexandra Arnold or Jeff Baran.

December Events

Dec. 1 Adult Sunday School 9 am
Stewardship Committee 9 am
Confirmation Class 9:15 am
Worship / Communion 10:30 am
NEOS 12 pm
Lunch at Gourmet House 12:30 pm
Dec. 2 Children’s Choir 5 pm
Parents’ Social 7 pm
Technology Committee 7 pm
Dec. 3 RI Conference, UCC 7 pm
Dec. 4 Gallery Committee 9:30 am
Dec. 5 Rebecca’s Book Group 12:30 pm
Spiritual Companionship Group 6 pm
Music Committee 6:30 pm
Adult Choir 7:30 pm
Dec. 7 Christmas at Central Set-up 8 am
Wreath Making 4 pm
Dec. 8 Adult Sunday School 9 am
Stewardship Committee 9:30 am
Worship 10:30 am
Christmas at Central 11:30 am
19-39 6 pm
Dec. 9 Children’s Choir 5 pm
Dec. 10 Deacons’ Meeting 5:45 pm
Dec. 11 Christmas Volunteer Luncheon 12 pm
Membership Committee 6:15 pm
Dec. 12 Food for Thought Book Group 6 pm
Adult Choir 7:30 pm
Dec. 13 Friday Film Fare 7:30 pm
Dec. 14 Pageant Dress Rehearsal 10:30 pm
Dec. 15 Adult Sunday School 9 am
Pageant Run-through 9:15 am
Confirmation Class 9:15 am
Worship / Children’s Pageant 10:30 am
Tree Trimming 11:30 am
Christmas Caroling 12:30 pm
Dec. 16 Children’s Choir 5 pm
Dec. 17 Plant & Properties 5:45 pm
Prudential Committee 7 pm
Dec. 18 Cookie Swap 6 pm
Dec. 19 CCC Men’s Group 7:30 am
Food for Thought Book Group 6 pm
Adult Choir 7:30 pm
Dec. 22 Adult Sunday School 9 am
Worship 10:30 am
Carol Service / Silver Tea 4 pm
Dec. 23 Children’s Choir 5 pm
Dec. 24 Family Worship 5 pm
Christmas Eve Worship 11 pm
Dec. 25 Christmas Day Worship 10:30 am

The church office will be closed for Christmas, Wednesday, Dec. 25, through Friday, Dec. 27, 2019.


Posted in 2019 Newsletters.