December 2023 Newsletter

Central News

December 2023 Vol. 32, No. 4

Join us for Sunday Worship at 10:30 am!

Download the PDF version of our December newsletter

From Rebecca

Dear members and friends, I begin and end with Thanksgiving. Thanks for each of you with whom I have celebrated the joys of life, shared in its sorrows and remembered its hope. Thanks for this remarkable place called Central, which, as Tom and Ezra reminded us on November 19, has always been an exceptional congregation, offering a sense of belonging to all. This church has always been ready to explore what it means to be a faithful Christian, what it means to truly live in and through the promises of Jesus’ Gospel.

As I reflect on our years together at Central, I think of all we have shared during that time. Since your courage in calling me as a young, single woman to serve as senior minister in 1988, we have seen the fall of Communism, the horror of September 11, the Great Recession, COVID-19 and the challenges of worshipping remotely, growing our understanding for racial justice, increased political polarization, threats to our democracy here in the U.S. and abroad, and a fall in religiosity across swaths of American life – and Central Congregational Church has persevered. And I am confident you will continue to thrive in all your tomorrows!

And then the many more intimate celebrations of life – hundreds of weddings, baptisms and funerals, Lenten Meditations, Maundy Thursday Tenebrae services, Palm Sunday processions with our donkey leading, Easter glory, Pentecost doves’ release, being recognized as an Open and Affirming Congregation and a Global Mission Church, inviting the community to a wide spectrum of thoughtful speakers on the intersection of politics and religion through the Darrell West Lecture Series, as well as the Stories of Faith lecture series created by Lorne Adrian. All these initiatives came about through the congregation working together.

And I’m not even counting the laughter shared in the kitchen, the conversations in my study, the encounters in the office while folding bulletins or after worship on Angell Street, and even the good cheer of taking out the garbage! We have also worked together to preserve our magnificent buildings and grounds which not only serve the congregation but also our surrounding community as an inspiration. These and so much more have marked you as truly an exceptional congregation with a strong sense of welcome and belonging to all.

Through all these years, I have been privileged to work with you, wonderful people, the generous, loyal and talented members and staff of Central Congregational Church. I do not think this was an accident. God knew I would need the help!

Many of you have asked about my plans for retirement. I do hope to tend to my cows on Rice Farm, to write, travel, and read. As I think about the life of faith and our great heritage as Christians, and as I reflect on this church and on my own ministry here, it is challenging to look backward and forward to try to understand all that has happened.

The affirmations of our Biblical faith sometimes seem to be in contradiction to everything we see and know about our world. But as we reflect, we understand the world and our fellow human beings with ever more grace and hope. There are such complexities that surround us, and the more we can listen and pay attention to all the nuances, the more we glimpse the clarities God offers each of us … clarities of the Good News for all, clarities for a certain roominess of our hearts, a curiosity and a willingness to engage for the common good.

We continue to figure out how each of us can be an influence for the good … and that is a journey that lasts a lifetime … step by step by step. Jesus offers each of us an example. He had dinner with the tax collector and the foreigner and the sinner. He also ate with the Pharisees. He forgave those who trespassed against him. He truly lived in love.

So now we turn toward Advent, and there are still those who are hurting in our world. But Christ will be born again, and the angels will sing. And you don’t have to be an angel. Or even a shepherd, or even a wise person. Just be you, yourself, beloved child of God. And may there be laughter and good stories around your table. May you be peaceful with the hawks and patient with the doves. May you find new friends each day. May you have laps for small children and pats for dogs of all sizes. May there be prayers at meals and at bedtime and when you wake up to a new day. Hug hello. Hug farewell. And not just angels. And not just shepherds. And not just wise people.

Yours, in thanksgiving and with love – Rebecca
December 1, 2023

CCC Youth Wreath Fundraiser

Please support CCC Youth’s mission trip fundraiser by helping decorate wreaths on Saturday, Dec. 2, from 11 am to 1 pm, in the Makepeace Room. All ages are welcome. (Children should be accompanied by an adult.) Help make the magic happen! If you have questions, contact Larry Kellam.

Advent Lessons and Carols:

On Sunday, Dec. 3, at 10:30 am – the first Sunday of Advent – morning worship will include a special service of Advent Lessons and Carols with Holy Communion. We will take a closer look at prophecies and harbingers of the coming of the Messiah as we read and sing about the years of longing preceding Christ’s birth. “Let every heart prepare Him room!”

Christmas at Central Needs You!

Christmas At Central, our fabulous holiday bazaar, is just a few days away – Sunday, Dec. 3, from 12 noon to 1:30 pm. You can still help make it a great success.

Many items are needed

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

Many hands are needed

  • Help set up on Saturday, Dec. 2 from 8:30 to 11:30 am
  • Work during the event – in the Lunch Room, Sweet Shoppe, Grandma’s Attic, or Ye Olde Book Cellar
  • Help clean up afterwards

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

Christmas Holiday Brass

On Sunday, Dec. 3, at 4 pm, The Block Island Sound brass quintet will present a special Christmas concert at Central. The ensemble – two trumpets, two trombones, and horn – will perform familiar carols, both resounding and contemplative, joined at the conclusion by Central’s magnificent Aeolian-Skinner organ! The suggested donation is $20, and proceeds benefit the church. Come, invite friends, and enjoy the sounds of Christmas.

Tree Trimming at Central

Central’s annual Christmas Tree Trimming event will be back – for the first time since before COVID. Stay after Worship, put on some reindeer antlers, and enjoy refreshments as we joyously decorate our tree as a community of faith. Sunday, Dec. 10, at 11:30 am, in Chapel Hall.

Christmas Cookie Swap

Don’t miss Central’s annual Cookie Swap. It’s a short, fun, music-filled evening – plus you get to take home a platter-ful of delectable treats – like Grandma used to make. Your family and friends will be thrilled! Bring six dozen of your favorite cookies (no bar cookies), and a platter or container for transport home! Questions? Contact Claudia. Wednesday, Dec. 13, at 6 pm, in the Fireplace Room

The Angel Giving Tree

Help create a Merry Christmas for children in DCYF care. The need is greater this year than ever before – almost double. Our Angel Tree will be in the coatroom on Sunday, Dec. 3. Choose a tag or tags 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 Angel Tree by Wednesday, Dec. 12, at 5 pm.

Church School Christmas Pageant

Our first through sixth graders will 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. And, the Cherub Choir will sing. Sunday, Dec. 17, at 10:30 am

Carol Service

There isn’t a better way to start Christmas week than at Central’s inspiring and music-filled Carol Service, an East Side tradition and true highlight of the Christmas season.

Using the model made famous at King’s College in Cambridge, England, the story of the birth of Christ unfolds in scripture and song, beginning with the creation in the Garden of Eden and prophecies foretelling Jesus’ birth. The Central Congregational Church Choir and Children’s Choir will sing of the manger and of the angels and shepherds as they worship the newborn baby that becomes the Word of God incarnate. The service concludes with a stunning, candlelit choir tableau as the congregation sings “Silent Night,” followed by the peaceful “Sleep of the Infant Jesus” postlude with organ, harp, and cello.

After the service, all are invited to stay for refreshments at Central’s elegant Silver Tea in the festively decorated Chapel Hall. Join us Sunday, Dec. 17, at 4 pm!

Christmas Eve Worship

This reflective, early evening service will take you through the wonder of the Jesus’ birth – accompanied by joyous Christmas carols. Sunday, Dec. 24, at 5 pm

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. Sunday, Dec. 24, at 11 pm

Christmas Day Worship

Central is one of few churches in Rhode Island to offer a service on Christmas morning. Ours is an intimate celebration of Christ’s birth. There’s no sermon, just a wonderful Christmas story and communion. Monday, Dec. 25, at 10:30 am

The Deacon’s Bench

The holidays will be here soon. So some of us may wind up spending time with people whose politics we find incomprehensible at best and abhorrent otherwise. (Part of me hopes that happens over and over. In such cases, family and friendship bonds have not been severed by political schism.)

In anticipation, please consider preparing yourself mentally. Your opinions do not make you a better person than folks with whom you disagree. Try to avoid thinking or acting as though they do.

Treat conversation as an opportunity to learn. If you ask questions, listen carefully to the answers. Make a good faith effort to understand the feelings (and fears!) that underlie others’ views. Even if you should not be sympathetic, try to be empathetic.

Imagine that the other person walks away feeling that they were heard and that their good qualities were recognized and appreciated. If so, you have conducted yourself well. Changing someone’s mind is hard. Treating them as you would like to be treated 
should not be. – Marshall Hoyler

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.

From Claudia

Advent is a special time in the calendars of churches worldwide. These four weeks of contemplative expectation of the coming again of the Christ Child into our midst offer us the opportunity to anticipate light and joy at one of the darkest times of our year.

We are moving toward the shortest day of the year for us. The sun often seems in shorter supply. Clouds gather, sometimes dropping rain or snow on us! And, we wait. In some ways, it seems that we have taken a deep breath of many weeks and are waiting to exhale. I think of friends in the southern hemisphere who are anticipating the longest day of the year on the solstice, however. They, too, anticipate the coming of the Child with days that are lengthening.

Christmas comes to us all. The Child comes to us all, on darkening days and on brightening days. This is a good idea to ponder this season. The world around us may seem very dark these days, but it was no less so when Mary and Joseph traveled that long road to Bethlehem under the watchful eyes of Roman soldiers.

I think that Advent helps us to keep life in perspective. It beckons us to peace and joy and love and hope. Change is inevitable in our lives and in the lives of all who inhabit this world. As we move further into Advent, may we prayerfully be cognizant of all that is around us knowing that we serve the Living Christ, who never forsakes us and who calls us into community.

For it is in community that we are strongest. Together we can navigate change of all kinds. Together we can pray for this often sad and sorry world. Together we can celebrate small and large joys. Together we can anticipate the Light that is Christ moving ever toward the renewal offered to us through our Savior, the Light of the World! Thanks be to God, through whom all things are possible!

Advent and Christmas blessings, dear friends – Claudia

Then and Now

Central’s magnificent church building is full of interesting details that add immeasurably to our worship and experience in this space. Case in point: the mural on Central’s chancel dome. This finely detailed mural, full of Christian symbolism, was painted by Herman T. Schladermundt in 1893 – a gift from Francis W. Carpenter. Schladermundt was paid at least $5,000.

We know that, in 1972, students from the Rhode Island School of Design repaired the mural. But what we don’t know yet is when the mural was slightly modified. The arch that enframes the dome used to have borders with Greek key motifs (2). Now it features ribbons of blue and red with a small green wave design. Additionally, the pattern of the stars at the crown of the dome was repainted, and the original crescent moons are gone (1). Both modifications were likely repairs due to water damage. – Tom Rice, Historian and Preservationist

Poetry Corner: Winter Skeletons

Standing alone in fields
Or together in forests,
Bare branches in winter
Resemble the skeletons
Of our memories.

Framed against a gray sky
Or conifer green backdrop,
Branches remind us of
Seasons past and,
Seasons yet to come.

Seasons as dreams
Realized or unmet,
Lovely or haunting;
Seasons of sun,
Seasons of shade.

We journey from
Season to season,
Memory to memory;
Skeletons we cherish
And those we put away.

– Barry Bayon (2023)
Central Poet Laureate

Welcome New Members

Please join us in welcoming Central’s newest members: Marjorie Lederer, Lane Jost, and Emily Robichaud!

In Memoriam

Our prayers and sympathy are with the family and friends of Anne Feiten … 
Jeff Fitzgerald … Brian Newberry on the death of his father, Ken … and Ted and Richard Staples on the death of their brother, Ben. Requiescat in pace

Cherub Choir

Central’s choir for children in preschool through second grade – led by Caroline Hunter – will continue to rehearse for 15 minutes before Worship in preparation for their performance at the Children’s Christmas Pageant. Sundays, Dec. 3 and 10, at 10 am, in the church school Gathering Space.

Adult Sunday School

We’re taking our study of C.S. Lewis – beloved author of “The Chronicles of Narnia” – in a new direction: his loving friendship and eventual marriage to American poet / writer Joy Davidman. Questions? Contact Claudia. Sunday, Dec. 10 and 17, at 9 am, in the Fireplace Room (No class Dec. 3 and 24)

Women Gather

Central’s women’s fellowship will meet after “Tree Trimming at Central” for lunch and a Christmas gift swap. Please bring a gently used, wrapped gift – and lots of good cheer. Sunday, Dec. 10, at 12 noon, 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. Thursday, Dec. 14, at 6:30 pm, in the Fireplace Room. Coming up Jan. 11 – “Demon Copperhead,” by Barbara Kingsolver

Friday Film Fare

Tammy Faye Bakker – with her idiosyncratic singing, bubbly personality, and eye-lashes (especially those eyelashes!) – was unique. She and her husband Jim rose from humble beginnings to build the world’s largest religious broadcasting network. Then it all went terribly wrong, terribly fast. Jessica Chastain’s Oscar-winning performance in “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” defines a woman too simple and too good for her own good. You may roll your eyes, but you will love Tammy Faye. [126 minutes; color; rated PG-13, 2021] Friday, Dec. 15, at 7:30 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 John Trevor. Thursday, Dec. 21, at 7:30 am, in the Fireplace Room

Fourth Thursday Book Group

The Fourth Thursday Book Group – formerly Rebecca’s Book Group (we’ll miss you, Rebecca!) – will not meet in December. In January, we will discuss “Warrior Girl Unearthed” by Angeline Bouley. If you would like to join us, please email Ann Scott. Thursday, Jan. 25, at 12 noon, via Zoom.

Celebrating Rebecca! – Sunday, November 19, 2023

See the newspaper pdf for a photo array of this wonderful event commemorating the Reverend Rebecca L. Spencer’s 35 incredible years of service. And, be sure to read Mark Patinkin’s Nov. 19 column: “Ready to tend to her cows, Central Congregational Church’s longtime pastor says farewell.”

December Event


1 Funeral: Jeff Fitzgerald 10 am
2 Christmas at Central Set Up 8:30 am
CCC Youth Wreath Making 11 am
3 Cherub Choir Rehearsal 10 am
First Sunday of Advent / Lessons and Carols 10:30 am
Church School 10:30 am
Christmas at Central 12 noon
Brass Quintet Concert 4 pm
4 Children’s Choir Rehearsal 5 pm
Girl Scout Troop 178 5:30 pm
5 Prudential Committee 7 pm
Scouts BSA Troop 28 7 pm
6 Amos House Volunteers 6:30 am
Gallery Committee 9 am
7 Board of Deacons 5:45 pm
Choir Rehearsal 7:30 pm
10 Adult Sunday School 9 am
Stewardship Committee 9:15 am
Cherub Choir Rehearsal 10 am
Second Sunday of Advent 10:30 am
Church School 10:30 am
Tree Trimming at Central 11:30 am
Women Gather 12 noon
R.I. Association of the SNEC 2 pm
11 Children’s Choir Rehearsal 5 pm
Girl Scout Troop 178 5:30 pm
12 Staff / Volunteer Christmas Party 12 noon
Angel Tree Gifts Due 5 pm
Scouts BSA Troop 28 7 pm
13 Amos House Volunteers 6:30 am
Christmas Cookie Swap 6 pm
14 Food for Thought Book Group 6:30 pm
Choir Rehearsal 7:30 pm
15 Friday Film Fare 7:30 pm
16 Choir Rehearsal 9 am
17 Adult Sunday School 9 am
Third Sunday of Advent / Christmas Pageant 10:30 am
Church School 10:30 am
Carol Service / Silver Tea 4 pm
18 Children’s Choir Rehearsal 5 pm
Girl Scout Troop 178 5:30 pm
Technology Committee 7 pm
19 Plant & Properties Committee 5:45 pm
Prudential Committee 7 pm
Scouts BSA Troop 28 7 pm
20 Amos House Volunteers 6:30 am
Newsletter Deadline 3 pm
21 Central Men’s Group 7:30 am
24 Fourth Sunday of Advent 10:30 am
Church School 10:30 am
Christmas Eve Worship 5 pm
Christmas Eve Candlelight Service 11 pm
25 Christmas Day Worship / Communion 10:30 am
27 Amos House Volunteers 6:30 am
31 Worship 10:30 am
Church School 10:30 am


The church office will be closed December 25 and 26 for Christmas.


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