December 2022 Newsletter

Central News

December 2022 Vol. 31, No. 4

Download the PDF version of the December Newsletter

Join Us For Sunday Worship at 10:30 am!

From Rebecca

The path to heaven doesn’t lie down in flat miles.
It’s in the imagination with which you perceive this world,
and the gestures with which you honor it.

So writes poet Mary Oliver.

Advent’s theme, of course, is all about waiting with patience and, certainly, with imagination. Just imagine if we could see “the other” without our usual frames. Imagine if we could put ourselves in the shoes, or rather sandals, of a frightened and pregnant peasant girl. Imagine what we might see if we could see the light sometimes hidden in the dark.

When we wait with patience and imagination in Advent, we will come closer to God’s mysteries. Those mysteries that seem impenetrable to us right now. Like peace in war-torn Ukraine, or our own country coming together and overcoming divisions, or enough food for a hungry child … across the ocean or right here in Rhode Island.

I pray that all our thoughts and gestures and words and actions may honor our world and all God’s children who share this blue spinning orb – and so lead us all to that humble stable long ago … where God’s light shone in a splendid new way, illuminating this world with joy-filled love and light.

Yours, in Advent imagination and hope – Rebecca

Krista Tippett on “Remaking the World

“On Being” founder / host, journalist, National Humanities Medalist, and best-selling author Krista Tippett will be the featured speaker at Central’s 2022 Darrell West Lecture Series on Religion and Politics. The event will take place on Saturday, Dec. 3, at 6:30 pm – with a reception and book-signing afterward. The lecture is open to the public.

In her speech – “Remaking the World” – Tippett acknowledges that today “Our political life together tells a story of fracture.” But she insists that this is not the whole story of our time or of our humanity. Most of us, she believes, want to meet what is hard and hurting, and rise to what is beautiful and life-giving. “We want to do that where we live. We want to do it walking alongside others.” Tippett will offer ways of seeing what is before us and stepping into our deepest values and aspirations, inspired by the wise and graceful lives she’s brought into conversation across 20 years of “On Being.”

Tippett’s lecture will follow a welcome by series sponsor Darrell M. West, senior vice president of the Brookings Institution, former Brown University professor, and Central member. The evening will conclude with a question-and-answer forum. A reception and book signing will follow.

Krista Tippett is a Peabody Award-winning broadcaster, National Humanities Medalist, New York Times bestselling author, and Brown University graduate who has created a singular space for reflection and conversation in American and global public life. She leads the On Being Project – a ground-breaking media and public life initiative pursuing “deep thinking and moral imagination, social courage and joy to renew inner life, outer life, and life together.” Tippett also is the author of three highly regarded books at the intersection of spiritual inquiry, social healing, science, and the arts.

The Deacon’s Bench

The theme of the first week of Advent is hope or promise, as it is said in Isaiah 9:2, 6-7: “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light, on those living in the land of deep darkness, a light has dawned.” This hope of Jesus’ impending birth is tied to this year and the hope that we see all around us.  The hope of coming together in ways we have not been able to do in quite some time: the Carol Service and Silver Tea, Christmas at Central, large celebrations with family and friends, office parties, as well as Central’s Adult Sunday School, book clubs, and the like.

There is also the hope of our community coming together in service. The many volunteers who are dedicated each week to Amos House, who purchase gifts for the Angel Giving Tree, who donate snacks to Crossroads, and who give their time and their talent to the Central Congregational Church community in so many ways – whether it be their voices, their committee service, their baking and cooking talents, their donations. So many people serve Central and its missions in so many ways.

As we move into the following weeks of Advent and the weeks of preparation, I hope all of you feel the hope tied to this season and prepare for the upcoming joy, peace, and love that Christmas brings … and be still with the wonder that surrounds us all at Central.  – Tracy Baran

Countdown to $1.25 Million

We want to thank all donors to the Campaign to Reimagine Chapel Hall for their generous contributions! To date, we have raised $1,030,000. It’s a great achievement, but we still have $220,000 to go. So we invite you once again to become part of this major investment in Central’s future.

Pledges can be paid over a period of three years. So your pledge made in December 2022 has until year-end 2025 to be fulfilled! And, don’t forget, if you are 70½ years of age or older, you can rollover all or part of your Required Minimum Distribution (RMD), up to $100,000, to a charitable organization – a tax benefit since your gift will not be counted as income.

A pledge form is available on the church website ( Just click on the “This Week” tab and go to Reimagining Chapel Hall.

All gifts will be acknowledged in our print publications, including the final brochure printed once the Campaign is completed. And eventually, we will hang an “honor board” in Chapel Hall, listing donors – in alphabetical order – who have made gifts of $1,000 or more.

Thank you for taking this vital step in making our vision for the future of our historic, mission-minded church a reality.

Planned Giving

There is no better way to support Central’s future growth than with a planned gift … of any size. Planned gifts sustain church pro-grams and facilities, add capacity, establish endowments, and launch new initiatives. Plus, they offer an excellent return for relatively little cost or upfront investment.

Types of planned giving include bequest in a will or trust, charitable gift annuity, charitable lead or remainder trusts, and gifts of life insurance, personal property, real estate, retirement assets, and securities.

There are many incentives for planned giving under current tax laws. We can help identify those that make sense for you. It is possible to make a generous gift to Central while obtaining significant financial and estate-planning benefits.

Your planned gift represents a lifetime commitment to Central – a commitment that will be recognized by membership in The Angell Society. And, we will be forever grateful for your generosity and foresight. For more information, contact Rebecca Spencer, Senior Minister, at 401-331-1960 or

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 25, 7 pm

Faith Exploration
Tuesday, January 31, 7 pm

New Member Sunday
Sunday, February 5, 10:30 am

Silver Tea Refreshments

Central’s traditional Silver Tea will be back – for the first time since before COVID – on Sunday, Dec. 18, following the Carol Service. So, as in the past, we are asking for contributions of tea sandwiches and homemade Christmas cookies. Sign-up in Chapel Hall during coffee hour on Sunday, Dec. 11.

Christmas Eve Candlelight Service

This service, with music provided by the Central Congregational Church Choir, is peaceful and contemplative as candlelight grows and glows throughout the sanctuary. Saturday, Dec. 24, 11 pm

Celtic Advent Calendars

This colorful advent calendar reminds us to practice grace in our lives, providing ideas every day from Nov. 15 to Jan. 6 – and they’re free for the taking! Pick up one or more at the Welcome Table. It’s a lovely gift and great way to share your faith! Questions? Ask Claudia.

In Memoriam

Our prayers and sympathy are with Peter and Susan Erkkinen on the death of their  son-in-law, Daniel Michael Cohen … and with Preston Callison and family on the death of his father. Requiescat in pace

From Claudia

As we creep toward the Light of the World’s birth, I am once again reminded of the ever-growing physical darkness all around us. I have always loved the new beginning of the Advent season. It is the beginning of the liturgical year. This year I have a brand new Advent devotional to savor, “All Creation Waits: The Advent Mystery of New Beginnings” by Gayle Boss with illustrations by David Klein.

This book “reflects on how wild animals adapt when darkness and cold descend. We hear, as if for the first time, the ancient wisdom of Advent: “The dark is not an end but the way a new beginning comes.” Author Christine Paintner writes that this book is “a lovely invitation into the quiet mysteries of darkness.” I was sold! As the days get ever shorter and the darkness ever longer, it sounds perfect. Even more so because each day features a different creature complete with a woodcut illustration.

This year we had a new-to-us creature living under our back step. My husband discovered it because there was some rot on the wall next to the step. Steve, the shrew, was living very happily there until we replaced the shingle. Yes, my husband named the tiny critter. I just looked in the index of my book. No shrews. Disappointing. I won’t tell Steve.

Shrews and other creatures can point us to deeper contemplation of God’s amazing world. Meister Eckhart wrote, “Every single creature is full of God and is a book about God. Every creature is a word of God. If I spend enough time with the tiniest creature, even a caterpillar, I would never have to prepare a sermon. So full of God is every creature.”

I don’t need to remind you that, like our smaller and larger siblings in God’s creation, we are all full of God as well. As we await the new beginning promised in the arrival of God’s Child, let us live in hopeful wonder because the miracle is about to happen again. The darkness will become light. And, we are all part of it. Thanks be to God.

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

Musical Notes

There isn’t a better way to start Christmas week than with our inspiring and music-filled Carol Service. 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. The Central Congregational Church Choir and Children’s Choir will sing anthems accompanied by harp, cello, and organ. And, the entire congregation will join in for familiar hymns and carols of Christmas. The service will conclude with a peaceful, candlelit tableau as everyone sings “Silent Night,” followed by the magnificent “Sleep of the Infant Jesus” postlude.

Afterwards, please stay and enjoy fellowship and refreshments at our elegant Silver Tea in the newly reimagined Chapel Hall. Join us Sunday, Dec. 18, at 4 pm!

Christmas at Central Still Needs You!

Christmas At Central, our fabulous holiday bazaar, is just a few days away – Sunday, Dec. 4, 11:30 am to 1:30 pm. You can still help make it a great success.

Many items are needed:

  • Baked goods
  • Gift baskets
  • Soups and breads for the Lunch Room
  • Gently used attic treasures

Many hands are needed:

  • Help set up on Saturday, Dec. 3 from 8:30 to 11:30 am
  • Work during the event – in the Lunch Room (contact Sue Chase,, Sweet Shoppe (Amy Punchak), or Grandma’s Attic (Nancy Gage, or Frances Munro)
  • Help clean up afterwards, Sunday, Dec. 4, starting at 1:30 pm (contact Liz Viall)

Many smiles are needed! Tell your family, friends, and neighbors about our one-stop shopping mecca – and help us welcome the Rhode Island community to our wonderful community of faith!

Rebecca’s Book Group

This month, we’ll discuss “The Beauty of Dusk,” by New York Times columnist and bestselling author Frank Bruni. It is a wise and moving memoir about aging, affliction, and optimism after the author partially lost his eyesight. Thursday, Dec. 1, 12:30 pm in the Fireplace Room

Food for Thought Book Group

Our Christmas gathering will have a different plot twist as we come together for our annual book swap. Please bring a gently used, wrapped book to swap over dessert. RSVP to Claudia. Thursday, Dec. 8, 6:30 pm, in the Fireplace Room.  Looking ahead: Jan. 12 – “America for Beginners” by Leah Frangui

Adult Sunday School

This month, we will focus on “The Revolution of the Heart: The Dorothy Day Story.” Day – co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement that became a network of hospitality houses for the poor – ex-posed severe injustices during the Great Depression. Questions? Ask Claudia. Sundays, Dec. 11 and 18, 9 am, in the Fireplace Room. No class Dec. 4 and 25.

Christmas Cookie Swap

If you haven’t joined in Central’s annual Cookie Swap, you’re missing one of the great events of the holiday season. It’s a short, fun, music-filled evening – plus you get to take home a platter of delectable treats … just like Grandma used to make. Your family and friends will be thrilled! Bring six dozen of your favorite cookies (no bar cookies, please), and don’t forget a platter or container for transport home! Questions? Call Claudia. Wednesday, Dec. 14, 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 274-4667. Thursday, Dec. 15, 7:30 am, in the Fireplace Room

Women Gather

Our women’s fellowship will not meet in December. But mark your calendars for our January meeting when we’ll share stories of Epiphany and epiphanies. Sunday, Jan. 8, 12 noon, at Hamilton House

Children and Spirituality

We have entered a season that is filled with emotion and activity. There are many events and parties to attend. There are errands to do, presents to buy, and gifts to wrap. Time must be made for decorating and baking. There is so much to do in these four weeks that many people become stressed and overwhelmed. How does anyone get everything done and pay attention to the deeper meaning of the season? How do we find ways to engage our children in the spiritual side of Advent and Christmas?

First, you need to make space – as a family – for pondering the season. Take one or two evenings each week and put down your electronic devices for a while.

Help your children make Christmas cards to give to special people in their lives. Watch “A Charlie Brown Christmas” together. Play Christmas music and sing familiar carols. Sit quietly in the candlelight. Tell your children about St. Nicholas. Discuss the story of Jesus’ birth. With older children, you can even talk about some of the symbols – like the growing darkness and the coming light. Explain how some familiar holiday items link back to the Christmas story. For example, candy canes are shaped like shepherds’ crooks, representing the humble shepherds who were first to worship the newborn Christ. Angels remind us of the heavenly host, rejoicing at Jesus’ birth.

Yes, Advent and Christmas can be busy and stressful, but they can also be a time of great comfort and joy. This year, step away from some of the “have-tos” of the season, be present with your family, and together bring a special light to this season of wonder and expectation.

Peace and blessings – Judy

Church School Christmas Pageant

Calling all angels and shepherds! The Church School Christmas Pageant is upon us, and we are hoping every Central child will participate in this holiday tradition.

Each year, our first through sixth graders reenact the Christmas story as only children can. They’ll tell of Mary and Joseph’s travel to Bethlehem and Jesus’ humble birth in the manger – celebrated by choirs of angels, shepherds, and mysterious Wise Ones bearing precious gifts.

We will work during church school with the children who have speaking parts. And, all pageant participants should plan on attending the dress rehearsal on Saturday, Dec. 17, at 10:30 am. If your child is interested, please speak to Judy.

And, bring your friends to Worship on Sunday, Dec. 18, at 10:30 am, for the big performance!

Grandfriends Day Celebration

This year, we are celebrating Grandfriends Day with an intergenerational event. We will decorate Christmas cookies and make all sorts of crafts. Think “stained-glass” stars, votive candleholders, and a variety of ornaments. All activities that children and adults can do together … side by side.

Please invite your friends, neighbors, and family members of all ages to join us after Worship for an event designed to bring comfort and joy to all generations. Sunday, Dec. 11, at 11:30 am, in Chapel Hall.

Wreaths by WORD

During Christmas at Central, WORD will sell beautiful, hand-crafted Christmas wreaths to raise money for their 2023 mission trip. Wreaths are in limited supply, so consider preordering yours. WORD will meet to decorate the wreaths on Saturday, Dec. 3, from 10 am to 1 pm. To preorder your wreath, speak to Judy or Larry Kellam.

Christmas Eve Family Worship

Central’s NEOS and WORD fellowship groups plan and lead this wonderful Christmas Eve service, tailored for families with children of all ages. At this interactive service, CCC Youth will guide the congregation through the story of the Jesus’ birth, posing questions for reflection and directing an improvisational rendition of the first Christmas. And of course, we will sing familiar carols throughout the service. Saturday, Dec. 24, at 5:30 pm

CCC Youth Reunion

We’re reviving a long-standing holiday tradition. Young adults and older teens are invited to stay late on Christmas Eve to reconnect with old friends. They’ll enjoy refreshments, share what’s happening in their lives, and reflect on favorite memories of Central. Saturday, Dec. 24, following the Christmas Eve Candlelight Service, in the Fireplace Room

Cherub Choir

Central’s Cherub Choir – for children in preschool through the second grade – is planning to sing in church three times in the coming year. Led by Caroline Hunter, the choir will rehearse – for 15 minutes – Sundays, at 10 am, in the church school Gathering Space.

The Angel Giving Tree

Help create a Merry Christmas for children in DCYF care. Our Angel Giving Tree will be in the coatroom on the first Sunday of Advent. Choose a tag from the tree. Each bears a child’s name, age, and gender. Select a thoughtful, age-appropriate gift. Wrap your gift, write the contents on back of the original tag, and attach it. Please deliver gifts back to the tree no later than Wednesday, Dec. 14, at 5 pm. 

Family Advent Packets

Once again, we will have Family Advent Packets to help you celebrate the holiday season. The packets include readings and prayers for each week of Advent, prayers for blessing the Christmas tree and crèche, craft ideas, suggestions for acts of kindness, interesting facts about Jesus’ birth as well as our celebration of His birth. It’s a great way to make time and space for faith – not only in your children’s lives, but also in your own. Pick up your packet in the Church School wing on Sundays or in the church office during the week.

Staff / Volunteer Christmas Party

Everyone is invited to celebrate the holidays with Central’s staff and volunteers. Bring your favorite dish and a wrapped gift, valued at $10, for our famous Yankee Swap! Come share in the laughter and cheer! RSVP to Antonia Greco: 401-331-1960 or Tuesday, Dec. 20, 12 noon, in the Fireplace Room

Epiphany Fest

In January, we will celebrate Epiphany, the arrival of the Magi in Jerusalem to pay homage to the Baby Jesus. While this event is designed for preschoolers through the second graders, children and adults of all ages are invited to join us for exploration, smiles, and laughter. We will make crowns with “gems,” craft stars out of all different materials, and who knows what else. We’ll also go on a “long journey” following a star … and eat some trail mix along the way. And, there will be even more games to play throughout! Saturday, Jan. 7, 10 am to 12 noon.

December Events

1 Rebecca’s Book Group 12:30 pm
Board of Deacons 5:30 pm
Choir Rehearsal 7:30 pm
3 Christmas at Central Setup 8:30 am
Darrell West Lecture 2022 6:30 pm
4 Stewardship Committee 9:15 am
Confirmation Class 9:30 am
Second Sunday of Advent 10:30 am
Church School 10:30 am
Christmas at Central 11:30 am
5 Children’s Choir Rehearsal 5 pm
7 Gallery Committee 9:30 am
8 Food for Thought Book Group 7 pm
Choir Rehearsal 7:30 pm
11 Adult Sunday School 9 am
Third Sunday of Advent 10:30 am
Church School 10:30 am
Grandfriends Day Fun 11:30 am
12 Children’s Choir Rehearsal 5 pm
14 Christmas Cookie Swap 6 pm
15 Central Men’s Group 7:30 am
Choir Rehearsal 7:30 pm
17 Choir Rehearsal 9 am
18 Adult Sunday School 9 am
Fourth Sunday of Advent / Christmas Pageant 10:30 am
Confirmation Class 11:30 am
Carol Service / Silver Tea 4 pm
19 Children’s Choir Rehearsal 5 pm
20 Staff / Volunteer Christmas Party 12 noon
Newsletter Deadline 3:30 pm
22 Choir Rehearsal 7:30 pm
24 Family Worship Service 5 pm
Christmas Eve Service 11 pm
CCC Youth Reunion 12 midnight
25 Christmas Day Worship 10:30 am
Church School 10:30 am
29  Technology Committee 7 pm

The Church Office will be closed on Monday, December 26.



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