February 2020 Newsletter

February 2020
Vol 28 No 6

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From Rebecca

This Epiphany poem by Christine Hemp speaks to me and I hope to you also in these days of winter chill and uncertainty of all kinds in our world.

We asked for signs and followed what we saw
(Persian priest)
We found it strange the King
Was more keen about a baby
Than a star.

Before our journey to the birth, gifts once came
with their own requirements and obligations.
To give, really, was to ask.

Soon it was revealed our largesse
was dwarfed by a geography more expansive
than our charts. A gift no longer meant a ledger.

Afterwards I dreamt I saw a despot
licking dust, so we steered our lathered beasts
clear of the City. Sand blew

In our eyes, but we kept our course
for home. Everything was
different: constellations no longer

pointed out the path. We gave up gazing
at the stars for answers. We were haunted
by a fitful flame wavering inside us.

May that fitful flame wavering inside each one of us be lifted up in the warmth of faith and hope.

Yours, in the light of His love,

Pledge Season Kick-Off

What better way to start the 2020/21 pledge season than with a Community Dinner? It will be an evening of faith, fun, and camaraderie – as we share a meal and reflect on the role of stewardship in the life of our church. More than half of our annual operating budget, over $1 million, comes from pledges. They support our mission and ministries, the upkeep of our historic building, and staff salaries. As we approach Dedication Sunday on March 9, please thoughtfully consider what you and your family can pledge to Central this year. For more information, contact Jeff Baran, Stewardship Committee cochair. And please join us for the Community Dinner. We’ll meet at the church for appetizers and then move on to hosts’ homes for dinner. Saturday, Feb. 29, at 5 pm, in Chapel Hall. 

The Deacon’s Bench

Especially in the coldest part of winter, Central Congregational Church is a place of comfort. The serene beauty of the artwork and architecture of the sanctuary, the music of the choir and organ that is at once calming and energizing, the gentle but resolute rituals of the service of worship on Sunday mornings. All of these serve to comfort us. It’s like a model train passing over the re-railer; the device lifts each wheel back onto the track, where it can roll more smoothly. Even if you weren’t aware of the rattles and creaks, you are aware of having been righted.

Central is a place of comfort.  Let us work together to keep it from becoming too comfortable.

As Deitrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “the church is best served when we all recognize what we are and aren’t afraid to admit our sinfulness and humble ourselves.” This means, I think, that we should take advantage of our church’s space and community to let ourselves get shaken out of some of our routines and assumptions. Martin Luther King Jr. Day should require us to take an honest look at our society and recognize there are generations of discrimination still to undo. Whether race, class, gender, orientation, or any of the ways we unhelpfully divide ourselves into groups, we should also try to take an honest account of our own internal biases. I believe this is the only way out of polarized politics, the us-versus-them way of being that seems to have taken such a hold of us.

To paraphrase Rebecca, while the distressed should always be comforted, sometimes the comfortable need to be distressed, at least a little. Let’s use the safe space, comfort, and community of our church to allow ourselves to be shaken up just enough to break up the rough edges of our biases, and to get a little bit closer to the potential we have to be better neighbors, friends, and stewards of the church.

– Charley Rardin

New Members!

On Sunday, February 2, we will welcome six new members to the Central family. Please stay after Worship for the New Member Luncheon and say hello.

Elizabeth Howland and Adrian Doran are joining Central as associate members. Elizabeth is a family nurse practitioner at Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, and Adrian was a doctoral student in geophysics at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California in San Diego, and now works for the Federal Government. They moved to Providence three months ago from San Diego and chose Central because they were seeking a progressive, active, and diverse church community.

Lynne Seacord and David Mehl recently relocated to Barrington to be closer to their four grown children: Amanda, Molly, Mark, and Julia. Lynne is a retired cardiologist, and David is a former pastor of Hope United Church of Christ in St. Louis. They are both musically inclined and have already started singing in the choir.

Doug Werner moved to Providence just two months ago from Rowayton, Conn. Doug works as a real estate broker. Doug and his wife, Leanna Lawton, are the proud parents of three adult children – Dalton, Emory, and Logan. Leanna may join formally at a later time.

Robert Mingo is a machine operator at Materion Technical Materials. Rob was born and raised in Rhode Island and has returned after living in Norwich, Conn. He fell in love with Central after attending the Homeless Awareness Sleep-out ten years ago. Rob and his wife, Cali Skye Roberts, have two sons: Koda, 5, and Jace, 1.

WWII Memorial

Central’s record book of World War II veterans has been updated thanks to      Catherine Cooper and her calligraphy skills. The list originally included only veterans who joined Central before 1946. We have now added John P. Boyce, Lester Cloutier, Bertha Beth Freeman Davis, Pennell S. Eustis, Jane E. Kling, Julius W. Kling, George  Maranjian, Paul C. Nicholson Jr., Eugene H. Perry, Richard B. Pretat, Richard F.  Staples, Theodore S. Whitford, and Wesley W. Yando Jr. We’ll return the book to the World War II Memorial after ensuring it can be displayed following best conservation practices. Thanks, Catherine, for undertaking this project during your Christmas vacation!

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, April 22, 7 pm
Faith Exploration:  Tuesday, April 28, 7 pm
New Member Sunday: May 3

New Member Luncheon

Join us in welcoming new members to the Central family! The Membership Committee will provide main dishes, but you can enliven the fare by sharing a favorite side, casserole, salad, or dessert. Sunday, Feb. 2, after Worship

Committee Fair

Here’s your opportunity to make a difference here in our local community and beyond. Each committee will have a booth set up for you to explore the many volunteer opportunities available at Central. Sunday, Feb. 9, in Chapel Hall, after Worship. 

Ash Wednesday

On this first day of Lent, we share in communion, and those who wish may receive ashes. Please come beforehand for a potluck dinner and bring a favorite dish to share. Wednesday, Feb. 26, Worship at 7 pm. 

Rebecca’s Book Group

Take part in a lively discussion of “The Feather Thief” by Kirk Johnson, the weird-but-true story that leads readers into the jungles of Malaysia to the “feather fever” of the turn of the last century, when women’s hats were beplumed with ostriches and egrets. Thursday, Feb 27, 12:30 pm in Rebecca’s Study

From Claudia

I have been taking care of my son’s cat while he is away. In addition to the physical act of putting out food and water, I am the cat’s emotional support. He is a very lonesome little guy. Much of the time I’m there is spent holding him while he rather frantically clings to me. I always feel bad when I leave him.

As I held him, I started thinking about how all God’s creatures need others. We are interconnected. Feeling lonesome indicates that, deep within, each of us desires connection. And, loneliness is not the same as solitude. Robert Fulghum once wrote, “Solitude is a solitary boat floating in a sea of possible companions.” Solitude implies a choice.

Some of us need more solitude than others, but all of us need to feel connected. Jesus often left his followers to be alone in prayer. That solitude was balanced by the intentional way he reached out to those who were lonely. We can easily be lonely in a crowd of people. Feeling distant or disconnected from others can happen to anyone.

Sometimes I fear technology may create more loneliness than connection. We are able to interact with the world, but if we do so only through social media we may miss the deep connection possible with face-to-face encounters. Like all things, there is a balance needed for this useful tool.

Jesus knew all about balance. He knew people’s innermost needs and reached out to them to the shock and disapproval of those around him. Look at Zaccheus, the hated tax collector, Jesus invited to dinner. Look at the woman who would have been stoned but for Jesus’ rebuke of those holding the stones. Look at those who disliked Jesus because he “eats with tax collectors and sinners.”

Jesus knew people need to feel connected with one another. He also knew people need to feel connected with God. My prayer for us and all humanity is that we not only connect to the One who created us, but also that we connect to one another because of that connection with God.

May it be so! – Claudia

Musical Notes

On Feb. 23 at 4 pm, the Central Congregational Church Choir will present “How Brightly Shines the Morning Star,” a cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach, and “Missa Cellensis” by Franz Joseph Haydn – both accompanied by full orchestra.
“How Brightly Shines the Morning Star” (1725) opens with a brilliantly animated Baroque movement for full choir, followed by arias and recitatives for soprano, tenor, and bass – concluding with a traditional, straight-forward chorale presentation of the tune.
“Missa Cellensis” (1766) was written for the 600th anniversary of Austria’s original Mariazell Basilica. Haydn’s work is rooted in the Classical period, which features lighter and clearer music than Baroque. Haydn’s well-known panache, style, and skill are evident in this masterful work for choir and soloists.

Children’s Choir Rehearsal Mondays, 5 pm; Sundays, 10 am

Adult Choir Rehearsal   Thursdays, 7:30 pm; Sundays, 9:15 am

Least Among Us

On February 29, the youth of Central Congregational Church will gather on the West Lawn to erect a cardboard box village and experience, for one night, the cold reality of homelessness. They will rely on the kindness of church members and community-based organizations to visit and feed them.

In Matthew 25, Jesus teaches us that what we do for the “least” among us is what we do for him. Jesus is our God, and yet he emptied himself of all dignity and honor to die a sinner’s death on the cross. This lessening of himself identified Jesus with the poor and marginalized of the world. It is in this spirit we bear witness to the suffering of the poor in our community.  When we do good by the poor, we do good by Jesus. Our acts of service take on an almost sacramental quality. We are able to serve our God anywhere in the world, if we simply look around to find who needs us.

Caring and Sharing

Join women of all ages who come together in care and concern – to get to know each other in deeper ways, share a meal, or simply have a good time. This month, we’re making Valentines! To get on the email list, contact Claudia or Martha Nielsen. Thursday, Feb. 6,  1:30 to 3:30 pm at Ginger Harkey’s.  Coming up… Mar. 19, 7 pm, at Central April 17, 12 pm, at Gourmet House May 21, 7 pm, at Central June 18, 6pm at Janice Corbett’s

Spiritual Companionship Group

Where is God in our lives?  Discover how the ancient tradition of spiritual companionship with others will help you attain inner wisdom and find new possibilities in your life.  We meet on the first Thursday every month.Thursday, Feb. 6, 6 pm in the Deacons’ Room. RSVP to Claudia.

Adult Sunday School

This month, we’re exploring “The Asphalt Gospel,” a 2,500 mile lifechanging walk and the affirmations that inspired it. Six ordinary people journey on foot from Phoenix, Ariz., to Washington, D.C., spreading a message of love and inclusion to change the face of Christianity in America. Sunday,  Feb. 9 and 16, 9 am in the Fireplace Room.  No class on Feb. 2 and 23.

Angellic Knitters

Whether you knit or just aspire to knit, join us for fellowship and share in the blessing of the prayer shawls we lovingly make for others.  And, if you want to learn how to knit, we’ll teach you!  Questions? Call Janice Libby or Claudia. Sunday, Feb. 9, 11:45 am in Chapel Hall.

Food for Thought Book Group

Join us for a lively discussion of this month’s book, “Tenemental: Adventures of a Reluctant Landlady” by Vikki Warner. Call Claudia for information. Join us Thursday, Feb. 13, 7 to 8:30 pm, in the Fireplace Room. Coming up… Mar. 12: “Mozart’s Starling” by Lyanda Lynn Haupt

CCC Annual Women’s Retreat

Imagine!  No cooking, planning, appointments, or deadlines for an entire weekend! Just come, and find nourishment for your body, mind and soul. Enjoy 180 wooded acres of hiking trails bordering Echo Lake, an original 1700s farmhouse, as you reflect, relax, and renew! The cost is $175 for five meals, lodging, and materials. Payment due March 1. March 27 to 29, Episcopal Conference Center, Pascoag.  Reserve with Claudia.

Church School News

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

Hello from the new Religious Education Director! My name is Beth Willis; I live in North Kingstown with my four-year-old daughter Claire and newborn son Teddy. I grew up in Barrington and settled in South County after graduating from the University of Rhode Island with a B.A. in Art History and minor in Religious Studies. Growing up I attended Evangelical Covenant Church in Riverside, which provided the foundation of my faith, while my college studies provided a deeper, wider understanding. Professionally, I was a nanny for 20 years. I have a deep love for children; watching them grow as they explore the world has been a rewarding experience.

I joined Central eight years ago. I’ve sung in the choir, served as Music Committee chair, and made ornaments for our Tree Trimming event. Serving Central has brought joy into my life while providing opportunities to continue my own faith journey.

This is a transitional time, as we adjust to not seeing our beloved Cathy Clasper-Torch each week. I hope to bring a sense of peace and consistency to the children of the church school, as well as new, fun opportunities to learn. I will be drawing on my background in Religious Studies and my daily work with children to provide a warm and open space to learn and explore faith and what that means in our daily lives.

It is an honor to be entrusted with the Christian education of Central’s children. Moving forward together, we will create lasting, joyful memories of fellowship as we deepen our understanding and faith in God.

With Love and Gratitude – Beth

Family Game Night

It doesn’t matter whether you are eight or 80. You’ll love this unplugged evening with table games, pizza, fellowship, and good old-fashioned fun!  Bring your favorite games to share and play with others. Pizza, snacks, dessert, and beverages will be provided by the Religious Education committee. NEOS, WORD, and 19-39 will be there, so bring the whole family! Suggested donation: $5 per person or $10 per family. Saturday, Feb 1, 5 to 7 pm in Chapel Hall.


This month, we eat! Our WORD fellowship – for ninth to twelfth graders – will attend the New Member Luncheon to greet Central’s newest members and learn what it means to be part of the church. Sunday, Feb. 2, 11:30 pm after Worship, in Chapel Hall. 

Mission Trip Info Session

The plans are made. If you’re in NEOS or WORD – or a parent of someone who is – come learn the nitty-gritty about CCC Youth’s upcoming mission trip to Appalachia and how to sign up online. Monday, Feb. 3, 7 to 8:30 pm, in Chapel Hall. 

Confirmation Class

During our February meetings, we’ll be reading the Book of Luke and learning about the story of Jesus. Sunday, Feb. 9 and 23, 9:15 am in the Church School Wing.


Our NEOS fellowship – for sixth to eighth graders – will screen the LEGO Movie and briefly discuss the Biblical themes in the film. Sunday, Feb. 9 and 23, 12 pm, in the Fireplace Room

Homeless Awareness Sleep-Out

WORD – Central’s ninth to twelfth graders – will be camping out on the West Lawn to learn firsthand about the experience of homeless people in our community. We will stay over and join the congregation for church the next morning. But we hope Central members will swing by Saturday night to cheer us on and share a little in the experience. Saturday, Feb. 29, 8 pm, on the West Lawn. 

In The Gallery

February’s artist is the talented Hollybeth Runco, an oil painter who specializes in landscapes and cloudscapes.  Runco is an accomplished member of the Providence Art Club. Please join us for an artist reception to celebrate her beautiful paintings. Meet the Artist: Friday, February 7, 5 pm to 7 pm.

Friday Film Fare

Acclaimed writer Joe Castleman (Jonathan Pryce) has just been accorded the crowning acclamation – the Nobel Prize in Literature. And with him every step of the way has been his elegant, self-effacing wife Joan (Glenn Close). But on the journey to Stockholm, long simmering tensions and lurking secrets emerge under the probing eye of an investigating journalist (Christian Slater). Which spouse’s career has actually accomplished more? Close is nothing short of dazzling as the companion and partner who’s far more than just the Great Man’s Wife. [100 minutes; color; Rated R] February 14, 7 pm.

From Joshua

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Sometimes it feels like Christian life hits a lull. I admit I whine about too much work around the holidays. But once they’re over, it’s hard to feel motivated.

In Thessalonians, Paul isn’t suggesting we’ll always feel like rejoicing, praying, and giving thanks. Being a Christian is not a cultural identity or social club. It’s a relationship with God. Paul is inviting us to build this relationship. We accept his invitation when we find joy in the ordinary, pray when we would rather watch TV, or give thanks to God when circumstances are less than inspiring.

This is God’s will – not because He is an overbearing parent, but because cultivated joy, insistent prayer, and stubborn gratitude are super powers. They carry us through the narrows and back to God’s wide-open spaces. That’s what we’re learning in CCC Youth: how to find joy, pray, and give thanks regardless of the circumstances.

Yes, it’s easier to attend youth group when it’s a zombie-themed sleepover with a Nerf gun battle. But sometimes we come to youth group in the midst of homework, upcoming tests, and packed extracurriculars. Why? Because this is God’s will for us in Christ Jesus: to rejoice, pray, and give thanks through all life’s challenges.

– Joshua

February Events


Feb. 1 Family Game Night 5 pm
Feb. 2 Stewardship Committee 9 am
Worship 10:30 am
New Member Luncheon 11:30 am
WORD 11:30 am
Feb. 3 Mission Trip Info Session 7 pm
Technology Committee 7 pm
Feb. 5 Gallery Committee 9:30 am
Feb. 6 Caring & Sharing 1:30 pm
Spiritual Companionship 6 pm
Music Committee 6:30 pm
Feb. 7 Gallery Opening 5 pm
Feb. 9 Adult Sunday School 9 am
Confirmation Class 9:15 am
Worship / Scout Sunday 10:30 am
Committee Fair 11:30 am
Membership Committee 11:45 am
NEOS 12 pm
Feb. 11 Deacons’ Meeting 5:45 pm
Feb. 13 Nominating Committee 5:30 pm
Food for Thought Book Group 7 pm
Feb. 16 Adult Sunday School 9 am
Calling Committee 9:30 am
Worship 10:30 am
Feb. 18 Plant & Properties 5:45 pm
Prudential Committee 7 pm
Feb. 20 CCC Men’s Group 7:30 am
Feb. 23 Confirmation Class 9:15 am
Worship 10:30 am
NEOS 12 pm
Feb. 26 Potluck Dinner 5 pm
Ash Wednesday Worship 7 pm
Feb. 27 Rebecca’s Book Group 12:30 pm
Feb. 29 Community Dinner 5 pm
Homeless Awareness Sleep-Out 8 pm

The church office will be closed Monday, February 17, for Presidents’ Day.

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