December 2021 Vol. 30, No. 4
JOIN US FOR SUNDAY WORSHIP AT 10:30 AM!
Happy December and Advent greetings!
Merry Christmas! This is the 2,021st. The 169th for Central. The second, tenth, or 20th for some of our younger friends. Never mind what it is for some of the rest of us!
We all remember different Christmases. The one where as a kid you received a bike – which was just what you were hoping for. And the ones where your grandmother sent along new socks. The one where there was someone missing, and the ones where everyone who needed to be home was indeed home. The ones where you were just blissfully content, realizing everything you needed or wanted was already right there in the faces of those you loved. The ones where that tree just would not stand up straight in its stand, and the ones that perhaps had no tree but just a branch.
I remember the ones when we had to wait until my brothers finished their Christmas jobs delivering poinsettias for Peck’s Flower Shop throughout what seemed like most of western Connecticut. The waiting seemed forever. And the ones where it was my turn to trudge through the snow to be sure the animals’ water hadn’t frozen. The ones where we helped neighbors, and the ones where we brought in strangers to share.
Christmastime and the whole of Advent help us remember and anticipate. Not just in church, not just in families, but everywhere … worldwide.
Sure, we gripe and groan about the commercialism, which seems to get more intense every year … About carols that have nothing to do with Jesus being born in a stable and bringing hope and peace and joy and love – and that have everything to do with reindeer and presents and shopping … About just how much there is to do, prepare, organize. Yes to all of these. So why do we complain about commercialism and secular songs and the busy-ness of the season? I’m not sure. Maybe it is the camaraderie of kvetching!
But I am sure of this. More than all of these, Christmas comes to each of us in a million different ways. Each of us is touched each year in some new mystery of understanding, some new revelation of love and joy and peace and hope. Maybe it is because that singularity of Christmas to our hearts is how – somehow in ways I don’t quite fully understand – Christmas belongs out there to the world. Because out there are the reasons for Christ’s birth in the first place, and, come to think of it, in the last place.
This year, we are recovering from many months of isolation and fear, loss and pain. Terrorism has cropped up its ugly head in more and more places. Democracies seem more fragile than ever, with divisions galore.
But may we, as Christians, be determined and clear. Nothing and no one can steal the scene from the manger in Bethlehem. Nothing you could tune in on the radio, no matter how cheesy, could steal the angels’ song. No amount of tawdry excess can steal the miracle of that baby born to poor parents by the grace of God.
Whatever signs you may see this month: a slight smile perhaps that suddenly replaces a sadness; a tree dripping with soft snow; a child’s eyes lighting up at some wonderful scene; a handshake between enemies; a cross word replaced by a gentle listening; a stony faced stranger who finds himself amazed at his own gestures of kindness; arguments transformed into delicate and fragile agreement … These are signs of a beginning of God’s answers to our prayers for peace. Peace within ourselves and peace in this old world we share. Peace on earth. In your heart and mine and everyone’s. -Merry Christmas to all!
Yours in Christ – Rebecca
Advent Sunday Worship
As we prepare for Jesus’ birth, we’ll celebrate with the lighting of the Advent candles: hope, peace, joy, and love. Sundays, Dec. 5, 12, and 19, 10:30 am
Our gifts help create a Merry Christmas for children in DCYF care. Please deliver your gift by Monday, Dec. 13, 3:30 pm
Christmas Cookie Swap
Bake up your favorite cookies and take home an entire platter of homemade treats! Wednesday, Dec. 15, 6 pm, in the Fireplace Room
Children’s Christmas Pageant
Our first through sixth graders reenact the Christmas Story as only children can. Sunday, Dec. 19, at 10:30 am
This uplifting candlelight service tells the Christmas story in words and music. Sunday, Dec. 19, 4 pm
Family Worship Service
CCC Youth plan and conduct this Christmas Eve service tailored for families with children. Friday, Dec. 24, 5 pm
Christmas Eve Service
This service, with music provided by our choir, is peaceful and contemplative. Friday, Dec. 24, 11 pm
Christmas Worship Service
Few churches offer a Christmas day service. Ours is an intimate celebration of the birth of Christ. Communion is served. Saturday, Dec. 25, 10:30 am
The Deacon’s Bench
“Every life is lived in service to something. Whatever that something is, is your God.”
Until I searched for it on Google just now (without success), I always ascribed that quotation to Martin Luther. Whatever its provenance, I think it’s something that Christians (and indeed adherents of other faiths) should bear in mind.
The world presents us all with myriad false gods and rewards us for acting as though they comprise good guides for living. When we come to church and participate in Christian community, we have a chance to tune out those messages and to contemplate how best to redirect our energies. That’s not the only place to do so, of course. But for us, anyway, it’s likely well ahead of whatever is the runner-up. – Marshall Hoyler
Welcome Our New Members!
On Sunday, Nov. 7, Central received ten new members. Please join us in welcoming them into our church family.
Nancy and Preston Callison come to us from Portland, Ore., and are living in Pawtucket. They have two adult children, Preston and Jessie. Nancy enjoys volunteering, hiking, dogs, traveling, and playing with her two grandsons, while Preston can be found cycling and making most anything! Both are avid readers.
Jessie Callison made the trek from Oregon to Rhode Island along with her parents. She is interested in dogs, knitting, puzzles, reading, and movies.
Nancy-Laurie and Wayne Gage are lifetime residents of Rhode Island and currently live in Rumford. They belonged to another local church for many years, but have found a new home here at Central. Nancy loves her work as a speech-language pathologist. Wayne is a retired educator and avid baseball fan who enjoys reading, drawing, painting, and photography. They have two children. Lauren lives in Las Vegas with her husband Joe and son James. Christopher lives in Philadelphia and is music minister at Overbrook Presbyterian Church. Nancy and Wayne are interested in Central’s many groups and Bible studies. Nancy has already joined Women Gather! And here’s a fun fact: Nancy’s parents were married at Central in June 1951!
Jill Jones comes to us from the suburbs of Philadelphia and has lived in Providence for nine months. She has two children, Brooke and Evan, and enjoys reading and walking her dogs. Jill is looking forward to exploring the opportunities that are available here at Central.
On July 10, Judy Grooters and Harold Kolenbrander had a commitment ceremony, which was held here at Central and officiated by our senior minister, Rebecca Spencer! Between the two of them, they have three grown children and eight grandchildren. Both retired, Judy and Harold have lived in Pawtucket for several years and enjoy reading and writing.
And last, but certainly not least, are Amy and Nick Vidnovic – and their three beautiful children: Annie, Jane, and Nico – who live in Providence. Amy joined in absentia. So, we look forward to welcoming the entire family soon!
Decorate Our Tree
You may have noticed that only two-thirds of our Christmas tree is decorated. That’s because the Campaign to Reimagine Chapel Hall has reached only two-thirds of its goal. Each of the 94 ornaments on the tree represents an individual or family who has pledged to the Campaign.
Central must meet its $1.25 million goal by Dec. 31. So we need every Central member and friend to pledge or donate what they can. We want every one to have an ornament on the tree! And, when Chapel Hall is fully reimagined – and the tree is fully decorated – each one of you will have played an important role in making it happen.
Seeking a Church Home?
If you are looking for a church – or know someone who is – we would 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 call the Church Office at 401-331-1960, and Rebecca will get in touch.
- Inquirers’ Meeting: Wednesday, January 26, 7 pm
- Faith Exploration: Tuesday, February 1, 7 pm
- New Member Sunday: Sunday, February 6, 10:30 am
Our prayers and sympathy are with Charley Rardin and family on the death of his father, the Reverend Jared J. Rardin, known to all as Jerry. Requiescat in pace
Stories. I’ve been thinking about stories and how much I love them. Yes, there are stories that are harder to hear, but it is the encouraging ones that I find myself clinging to and repeating to myself and to others as well. Stories teach us about ourselves and the world around us. They tell us much about the past and help push us into the future.
Sometimes they are mundane. Sometimes they are funny. Sometimes they are poignant. Sometimes profound. Always they have much to teach us about how we do or do not want to live our lives. About how we interact with each other and with the world around us. We simply need to absorb their many lessons and then listen to our own innermost stories, trying to determine how we are to live.
At this time of year, we hear the scriptural stories before, during, and after the birth of Jesus. We call the before stories the Advent of his coming, moving into the Christmas season with his birth and on into Epiphany, the coming of the light of Christ to us all, but also the opening of the story of Christ’s engagement with humanity.
Poet Muriel Rukeyser said, “The Universe is made of stories, not of atoms.” She may be right because there is a way that stories sweep through the atoms around us and in us. In “Making a Home for Faith,” Elizabeth Caldwell wrote, “the church is perhaps the only institution in our culture where people across the life span come together to remember their story and tell new stories of faith.”
During this wonderful season of storytelling may we all remember the stories about Jesus, the babe and the man, and think about where we fit in that sweeping story of faith. May we come together to tell the story and also to ask ourselves and others what perspective that story gives us in the wider arc of our lives and where we fit into God’s plan for humanity. As we do, may we reflect on the Light that is coming again this year and why all these millennia later the coming of that Light gives our existence purpose and meaning.
O come, O come Emmanuel…. Let us rejoice as once again we hear the ancient story.
Advent and Christmas blessings – Claudia
Amos House Dinner
December’s dinner for the Mother-Child Reunification Program at Amos House will be delivered Dec. 15. The menu will be Stayabed Stew with bread or rolls, fruit, and dessert. We need two loaves of Italian bread or two dozen rolls, two bunches of seedless grapes cut in serving sizes, and dessert for ten (maybe send an extra few dozen Christmas cookies our way!). Please label food donations “Amos House,” and deliver to the church kitchen on Wednesday, Dec. 15, by 3:30 pm. If you can help or have questions, contact Lynne Seacord at 314-413-3741 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks to November’s volunteers: Tracy Barran, Peter McGinnis, and Ellen Miller.
This year, Central is delighted to present its annual Carol Service – live and in person – on Sunday, Dec. 19, at 4 pm!
Once again, we will hear the story of the birth of Christ unfold in scripture and song, beginning with the story of creation in the Garden of Eden. Our choirs will sing anthems accompanied by harp, cello, and organ. And, the entire congregation will join in for the familiar Carols of Christmas. Church leaders will read the scripture, and our Conference Minister, the Rev. Darrell Goodwin, will read the lesson of the Incarnation. The service concludes with “Silent Night” sung in the candlelit church and the “Sleep of the Infant Jesus” postlude.
While safety precludes serving our traditional Silver Tea, we will host a festive reception in Chapel Hall after the service. Masks and social distancing will be observed. Please note: because we expect attendance to exceed our COVID-19 capacity limit of 400, we will require proof of vaccination from all who attend.
Please spread the word, and invite family, friends, and neighbors to experience this inspirational and musical gift to our congregation and community.
Rebecca’s Book Group
Take part in a lively discussion about “Crossroads,” by Jonathan Franzen, the story of a Midwestern family at a moment of moral crisis. With characteristic humor and complexity, Franzen explores the history of two generations, conjuring a world that resonates with our own. Thursday, Dec. 2, 12:30 pm, via Zoom. Contact Rebecca for an invitation. Coming up – Jan. 27: “Cloud Cuckoo Land,” by Anthony Doerr
Adult Sunday School
How do we worship? How do we grow spiritually in difficult circumstances? How do we build community? The story of the Black church has much to teach us all. We’ll ponder these and other questions against the backdrop of the faith and music of our Black sisters and brothers. Sundays throughout December, 9 am, in the Fireplace Room
Central’s women’s fellowship will share memories of Christmases past while we make some new ones. Bring a wrapped, gently used present for our Yankee Swap. Questions? Contact Claudia. Sunday, Dec. 5, 12 noon, in Chapel Hall
Women’s Retreat Group
The women of Central are invited to gather in solidarity to pray and check in the first Monday of every month. Monday, Dec. 6, 7 pm, via Zoom. Contact Claudia for an invitation.
Food For Thought Book Group
Our annual Christmas gathering has a slightly different plot twist. Please bring a gently used, wrapped book to swap. RSVP to Claudia. Thursday, Dec. 9, 7 pm, in the Fireplace Room. Looking ahead to Jan. 13: “Anxious People,” by Fredrick Backman
Christmas 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. We’ll wear food service gloves (supplied) and masks – and open the windows – as we safely swap. Don’t forget a platter for transport home! Questions? Ask Claudia. Wednesday, Dec. 15, 6 pm, in the Fireplace Room
Central Men’s Group
Open to all ages, Central Men’s Group is a monthly breakfast gathering – held on the third Thursday of each month – for fellowship and spirited conversation on topics ranging from current events and ethics to trends and shared experiences. Questions? Contact Ed Bishop at 401-274-4666. Thursday, Dec. 16, 7:30 am, in the Fireplace Room
Save The Date
Coming up in the New Year: Family Trivia Night and the Community Dinner. Stay tuned for details from the Stewardship Committee!
Church School News
The weeks leading up to Christmas can be both exciting and difficult for children; they’re waiting for a special day, which feels so far away. As they wait for Christmas Day, the time seems dominated by the secular stories of Christmas: Rudolph, the Grinch, Santa Claus, Burgermeister Meisterburger, Frosty the Snowman, and many more. The story of Jesus’ birth can get lost. As more and more schools move away from singing Christmas music with any connection to Jesus and his birth, children are losing familiarity with our Christmas carols, hymns that are core to our common lives as Christians.
It doesn’t have to be this way though. This Advent season, let’s work to create more space for us to feel the Spirit within and among us. Let us recapture the focus of the season. We can remember the true reason for Christmas and share this with our children.
We can begin new Advent/Christmas traditions. Take time each Sunday to light the family Advent wreath and read scripture. Each evening spend time reading the story of Jesus’ birth from the gospels of Matthew and Luke. Make an Advent chain or calendar filled with random acts of kindness. Sing a Christmas carol at the beginning of meals.
There are so many ways to make time and space for faith in our children’s lives – and in our own. To help, I have made packets with activity and craft ideas, with instructions and some supplies. I’ve also included devotions for family Advent candle lighting and prayers for other occasions throughout the season. You can pick up your packet in the church school on Sundays and church office during the week.
Blessings – Judy
The confirmation class continues to move ahead. It is wonderful to hear the teen express their thoughts. They are dealing with serious topics head on while in a deep and reflective manner. On Sunday, Dec. 5, the deacon mentors are invited to meet with their confirmands and join in the confirmation class. The topic for the session is “prayer.” Then, on Sunday, Dec. 19, the topic will be “sin, forgiveness, and punishment.”
NEOS and WORD
NEOS and WORD have been mini-golfing, learning more about one another, and generally having a great time. While we sometimes deal with weighty issues, we always take a few moments in our meetings for smiles and laughter. On Sunday, Dec. 12, at 12 noon, NEOS and WORD will meet together for a mission project. Then, on Sunday, Dec. 26, at 11:30 am: WORD will enjoy a Boxing Day celebration. Our summer mission trip, scheduled for Saturday, July 16, will take us to Appalachia! We’ll have more details for you as the date approaches.
Help create a Merry Christmas for children in DCYF care. Our Angel Tree is up in the coatroom, full of names of children and teens who are in need this Christmas. Choose a tag from the tree. Each bears a child’s name, age, and gender. Choose a thoughtful, age-appropriate gift. (Remember, older children and teens always appreciate gift cards from VISA or Target.) Wrap your gift, write the contents on back of the original tag, and attach it. Then, deliver your gift back to the Angel Tree no later than Monday, Dec. 13, 3:30 pm. We thank you for helping share God’s love!
Friday Film Fare
Little Women: A familiar classic can seem a pretty moldy chestnut in the umpteenth remake. So, when the classic emerges as something so vital and original as to feel like a brand-new story, someone vital and original is behind it. Writer-director Greta Gerwig has drawn on Louisa May Alcott’s beloved novel and Alcott’s other writings to fashion a 21st century take on the tale of the four March sisters, each determined to live on her own terms. A uniformly brilliant cast shows familiar characters in new and unfamiliar guise as a timeless classic becomes a sometimes startling modern classic. [135 minutes, color, rated PG, 2019] Friday, Dec. 17, 7:30 pm, in the Fireplace Room
If you would like to donate a Christmas poinsettia in memory of a loved one, please contact Antonia Greco at email@example.com or 401-331-1960. A donation of $40 is requested. Names received by Sunday, Dec. 12, will appear in the Dec. 19, Carol Service, and Christmas Eve service orders of worship. Sunday, Dec. 12, 12 noon
Children’s Christmas Pageant
Calling all angels and shepherds! This year, our Christmas pageant will be back, live during Sunday Worship. (Last year, we put together a wonderful video with the children filming in their own homes.) There are many parts to fill, so we need your help! It would be wonderful to have every family participate. If you or your children are interested, please contact Judy. Sunday, Dec. 19, at 10:30 am, during Worship
New Play Group
We’re forming a play group here at Central for toddlers, preschoolers, and pre-kindergarten-age children. We’ll play, do some art, have snacks, and sing songs together. This will also be a great opportunity for parents to get to know one another. If you would like more information, please speak with Judy. Our first play date is Tuesday, Jan. 18, 10 am, in the Church School Wing, second floor.
Central’s young adult ministry will get started again in the new year. It’s not just for Central members; it’s for anyone between the ages of 19 and 35 – high school graduates, college students, singles, and couples – who want to connect with like-minded people, build relationships, and explore how they can live their spirituality in the 21st century. Tell your friends and the young adults in your life. And, stay tuned; details are coming!
In the Gallery
Don’t forget to check out Central’s new online Gallery, featuring Torin Richards Jewelry. The abstract, rainbow-hued collection is Torin’s joyous response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Look under “This Week” on the Central website.
Thank you for surrounding me with warmth, good wishes and love celebrating 15 years together! What a blessing you all are to me, my beloved congregation. In true Central fashion, you recognized our journey together. I treasure your words and your gifts and am humbled by them. Most of all, I treasure each and every one of you. I am blessed indeed!
– Much love – Claudia
|Memorial Service: Delight Immonen
|Rebecca’s Book Group
|Adult Sunday School
|Women’s Retreat Group
|Food for Thought Book Group
|Adult Sunday School
|NEOS and WORD
|Angel Tree Gifts Due
|Board of Deacons
|Christmas Cookie Swap
|Central Men’s Group
|January Newsletter Deadline
|Friday Film Fare
|Adult Sunday School
|Plant & Properties
|Family Worship Service
|Christmas Eve Service
|Adult Sunday School
The Church Office will be closed Dec. 24 and 31 for Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, respectively