January 2023 Newsletter

Central News

January 2023 Vol. 31, No. 5

Download the PDF version of this newsletter

Join Us For Sunday Worship at 10:30 am!

From Rebecca

Dear Friends, how about this story for a new year’s challenge?

Famed orchestra conductor, Arturo Toscanini, was leading a rehearsal. During the rehearsal, it was obvious that the orchestra was bored and not putting forth much effort. After struggling with them for some time, Toscanini laid down his baton and leaned over the rostrum. “Gentlemen,” he said, “God has told me how He wants this symphony played and you … you hinder God!”

Toscanini died in 1957 at the age of 89, so presumably the orchestra at that time was composed only of male musicians. He also clearly thought of God in masculine terms. And he had a reputation for demanding perfection and somewhat imperial behavior. These considerations aside, his remark rings true for us as we look toward the new year.

Each of us is called by God, and we are continually being called for God’s purposes. And we all fall off the track, get a little tired, have trouble doing the tough stuff of forgiving, loving, reaching out to others. I believe God has a will and purpose for all of us, which has been revealed in Jesus Christ and which continues to call us … however much we fall short and “hinder” this call. Will we be a part of accomplishing this purpose? Will God find in us the hands and feet that will work for that divine purpose? Or will God be hindered?

We may not be great musicians, but each of us is essential in achieving God’s purpose and will for this world we share. We are more than a community gathered together for Christ’s sake. We are the flesh and blood proof of the Holy Spirit as that Spirit reveals the reconciling love of God.

We were claimed by God for this work through our baptisms. Will God find hands and feet ready here to work for peace, in love and compassion? Will God find us ready, one by one by one, to make a positive difference through our lives? Or will God be hindered?

The answers, as always, depend on each one of us.

With much love and inspiration for the challenging work ahead of us in the new year – Rebecca

Join the CCC Crossroads Snack Brigade!

The Mission and Action Committee is kicking off the New Year with another round of the CCC Crossroads Rhode Island Snack Brigade.

Sunday is the one day of the week when Crossroads doesn’t have food service available for the nearly 200 individuals housed there – as well as others who are there temporarily, awaiting assistance. Our goal is to supply snacks – that fit in a pocket or backpack – to tide them over. So every Sunday in January – Jan. 1, 8, 15, 22, and 29 – Mission and Action will collect fresh fruit and assorted pre-pack-aged snacks to drop off at Crossroads immediately following Sunday Worship.

But we need your help. Please sign up during Coffee Hour if you can bring snacks or fresh fruit for the following Sunday. Just leave them in the designated boxes you’ll find in the coatroom.

Maybe you’re thinking, “I’d really like to pick up few extra things to support this effort when I’m doing my own shopping, but I won’t be in church that Sunday.” I like the way you think! Please email me at wendywabelson@gmail.com so we can plan a work-around.

You also may be thinking, “Hey, didn’t we just do this?” Yes, we did. As it turns out, Crossroads receives the bulk of its donations around the holidays, but the need is greatest during the harsh-weather months. So the CCC Snack Brigade will be there in bleak January. And, we’ll be back in sweltering July. Thank you! And Happy New Year! – Wendy Abelson

The Deacon’s Bench

In “A Purpose Driven Life,” Pastor Rick Warren lists five key purposes: worship, unselfish fellowship, spiritual maturity, your ministry, and your mission. He makes the case that keeping our focus on these five key purposes will result in a meaningful and fulfilling life. Psychologist Abraham Maslow teaches that there are five layers, or tiers, to a hierarchy of human needs: physiological, safety, belonging (love), esteem, and self-actualization.

Wow, this work of being a happy human has a lot to it, doesn’t it?

The difficulty is not so much in the breadth and depth of these factors, but in the fact that these things are very often in competition with each other. So, perhaps a way to approach this is to focus, at any given time, on one or two that seem to need the most attention. This decision quite likely has a lot to do with where we are in our lives. Our maturity, health (physical and emotional), financial, social, spiritual, and professional place in life all conspire to make us choose where to put our energy and attention.

It seems to me that a sense of meaningful purpose and a sense of true belonging would rise to the top. Achieving these two things would tend to encompass many of the others.

But here’s the rub: If we’re not careful, we may find that one overpowers the other. For example, we may engage with groups and communities around being of service to others. We may join teams, committees, and boards so as to be a part of a purposeful endeavor. And then we may come to find that the work, the tasks, the assignments get all the oxygen. We may find ourselves feeling so much “purpose” that fellowship and belonging are being starved. Or, conversely, we may find that we’re part of a “social group with a purpose problem” – and the intended work of the group seems to be going nowhere.

I challenge us, this wonderful faith community at Central Congregational Church, to stop and ask ourselves if we’re going after the right balance of purpose and belonging in our groups and committees. – Bill Connors

Guest Preacher: Rabbi Sarah Mack

On Sunday, Feb. 5, Central will not only welcome new members, but also a guest preacher: Rabbi Sarah Mack, senior rabbi of Temple Beth-El since 2003.

Rabbi Mack was ordained at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. The Seattle, Wash., native graduated from Brandeis University in 1996 with majors in English and Near Eastern and Judaic Studies. She also studied at Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem.

Rabbi Mack sits on the executive committee of the Interfaith Coalition to Reduce Poverty and Center for Reconciliation. She is past president of the Board of Rabbis and has served on the boards of the Jewish Alliance, Chaplaincy Center, and Jewish Community Day School.

American Jewish World Service named Rabbi Mack a Global Justice Fellow, a program that helps American rabbis become national advocates for human rights. She is also a founder of Rhode Island’s Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom and has worked with community partners to encourage interfaith dialogue among Jewish, Muslim, and Christian teens.

Rabbi Mack enjoys running, gardening and baking. She and her husband Jeffrey Isaacs love raising their two sons in the warm community found in the smallest state in America.

Budget and Bylaws Meeting

Your presence and input are crucial to the annual Tentative Budget Approval Meeting. The budget determines what we can accomplish as a church during the coming fiscal year and enables us to keep our sanctuary alive with worship, music, fellowship, mission, and outreach. We’ll also share updates on church initiatives.

In addition, we will present for your approval proposed amendments to the Central Congregational Church bylaws. Generally, proposed revisions include updates, clarifications, adjustments, or wordsmithing intended to make the bylaws current and consistent with Central’s practices in 2023 – rather than fundamental changes.

You can pick up the revised bylaws in the church office. We have both marked-up and clean copies available. Or, contact church administrator Antonia Greco (401-331-1960 / antonia@centralchurch.us) and she’ll email you a copy.

Thanks for your attendance and participation! Sunday, Jan. 29, 11:30 am, in the Sanctuary

In Memoriam

Our prayers and sympathy are with the family and friends of Lorri Spooner, who died peacefully on Dec. 20 … and with the family and friends of Staci Fischer on the death of her mother, Whewellene Fischer. Requiescat in pace

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

The Sacrament of Baptism

Baptism is the beginning of Christian faith and life – and a vital part of our worship together. If you would like to be included in this celebration of love and acceptance into the care of Christ’s church, please speak to the Rev. Rebecca Spencer. We will be offering Baptisms on Epiphany Sunday, Jan. 8, during Worship. There will be a gathering for those wishing to be baptized on Saturday, Jan. 7, 10 am, in the Library.

Welcome Our Newest Member

Welcome to Central’s newest member, Diane Chase. Diane recently moved to Rhode Island from Charlton, Mass. She enjoys choral singing, sewing, and gardening – and looks forward to taking on an active role at Central.

Giving Back

With proceeds from Yard Sale Central, Central contributed $420 each to UCC Ukraine Relief Fund, Dorcas International: Afghanistan Refugee Resettlement, and Haiti Partnership of UCC Southern New England Conference / CONASPEH: The National Spiritual Council of Haitian Churches. Donations received at the Interfaith Thanksgiving Service, totaling $697, were sent to UNICEF.

Angel Giving Tree

Our 2022 Angel Giving Tree was a great success! Not one tag was left on the tree. Together, Central made Christmas brighter for 71 children in DCYF care. This was a wonderful way not only to put our faith into action, but also to care for some of Providence’s most vulnerable children. Thank you!

From Claudia

Howard Thurman, one of the people the Adult Sunday School studied this past fall, wrote some beautiful poetry. You may not have heard of Thurman, but he was a brilliantly thoughtful teacher and theologian, as well as a friend and advisor to Martin Luther King, Jr., John Lewis, and many others. He wrote the following poem around 1950:

I will light Candles this Christmas,
Candles of joy despite all the sadness,
Candles of hope where despair keeps watch,
Candles of courage for fears ever present,
Candles of peace for tempest-tossed days,
Candles of grace to ease heavy burdens,
Candles of love to inspire all my living,
Candles that will burn all year long.

What might happen in 2023 if we all lit candles – of joy, hope, courage, peace, grace, and love – in our hearts? Sounds like some major resolutions to me. Maybe not lit all at the same time, but interspersed throughout the coming weeks or months, keeping the darkness away.

Could we burn such candles throughout 2023? Would they ease all sorts of our burdens? Would they give us and those around us courage for future days? Would they inspire us all to lives well-lived?

Some days, we might be the ones holding those candles aloft. At other times, others might hold them for us. I think Jesus – who is the Light for our world – would be pleased.

So let’s hold those candles high, lighting the way into 2023 and beyond!

Love and blessings for the New Year to you and yours – Claudia

The Joy of Giving … Twice

When does one gift create another? When does kindness shown in one setting create kindness for a whole community?

Perhaps nothing answers these questions more emphatically than Central’s enthusiastic decision, almost three years ago, to launch the Campaign to Reimagine Chapel Hall. At the same time, our congregation also committed to honoring its annual pledge to give ten percent of monies raised to its mission partners.

We could not have known that two months later a pandemic would close Central’s doors for more than a year, and wreak havoc on the most vulnerable among Providence area populations. Homeless-ness, food insecurity, and every social need grew exponentially.

By December 2020, needs were severe. However, early gifts to the Campaign to Reimagine Chapel Hall enabled Central to donate $45,000 – $15,000 each – to three agencies on the front lines of COVID-19 pandemic relief: Amos House, Crossroads Rhode Island, and the Rhode Island Community Food Bank.

Crossroads Rhode Island was so appreciative, it devoted a full page in its 2021 Annual Report (available in the Church Office) to Central and its generous and consistent support for the needs of the community. In fact, with a 33-year history of support for Crossroads, Central is its longest-standing mission partner.

We hope you had the opportunity during the Christmas season to enjoy our light-filled Chapel Hall and Gallery – first used 130 years ago and now “reimagined” for current and future generations.

Please know if you have contributed to the Campaign, your gift also has helped to create better futures for countless Rhode Islanders. And if you haven’t yet had a chance to participate, your gift would be so welcome! What a fitting and blessed way to begin the New Year. Thank you! – Caroline Considine, Chair, Campaign Steering Committee

Countdown to $1.25 Million

As of mid-December 2022, The Campaign to Reimagine Chapel Hall has raised more than $1,030,000 of its $1.25 million goal. Please consider a gift to celebrate this great achievement. Gifts may be made on the Central website, via pledge card, or by calling Antonia Greco, at 401-331-1960 – and fulfilled over three years.

Poetry Corner:  “A New Year”

Hopelessness gives way to promise.
Despair halts its march.
Birds interrupt flight.
Animals postpone rest.
Wind blows more softly.
Fires are burned to drive the night away.
Daylight awakens in the land.
Awareness is all around.
The sun warms our faces.
Our feet feel the earth.
Rejoice and give thanks.

by Barry Bayon, Central Poet Laureate (2022)

Adult Sunday School

This month, we will study Fred Rogers – Presbyterian minister, television host, and all-around neighbor. With compassion and imagination, Mr. Rogers inspired both children and adults, embodying kindness to make a difference in the world. Questions? Ask Claudia. Jan. 8, 15, and 22, 9 am, in the Fireplace Room. No class on Jan. 29.

Women Gather

Central’s women’s fellowship group will kick off the New Year by sharing stories of Epiphany and epiphanies we may have had in our lives. Sunday, Jan. 8, 12 noon, at Hamilton House.

Food for Thought Book Group

This month Claudia’s book group will tackle “America for Beginners” by Leah Franqui. This funny, poignant, and insightful debut novel explores the complexities of family, immigration, prejudice, and the American dream through meaningful and unlikely friendships forged in unusual circum-stances. Thursday, Jan. 12, 7 pm, via Zoom. Contact Claudia for an invitation.

Looking ahead: Feb. 9 – “The Sentence,” by Louise Erdrich

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, Jan. 19, 7:30 am, in the Fireplace Room

Rebecca’s Book Group

This month, we’ll discuss “Eliza Hamilton: The Extraordinary Life and Times of the Wife of Alexander Hamilton,” by Tilar J. Mazzeo. This fascinating biography brings the multi-faceted personality of Hamilton’s devoted wife to vivid life. The book follows Eliza through her early years in New York, into the ups and downs of her married life, beyond the aftermath of Hamilton’s tragic murder, and finally to her involvement in many projects that cemented her legacy as one of the unsung heroes of our nation’s early days. Thursday, Jan. 26, 12:30 pm, in the Fireplace Room

Coming up in February: “How the Word is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America,” by Clint Smith

Save The Date:  Mozart Requiem

Join us Sunday, Feb. 26, at 4 pm, for a Special Service of Music. The Central Congregational Church Choir will perform the Mozart Requiem with soloists and orchestra.

Children and Spirituality

Not For Parents Only: Take a moment and think of the typical greeting in our culture. We normally address one another by showing an interest in that person. We commonly ask, “How are you?” or “How are things going?” with an implied “for you.” This stresses the relationship between the two individuals.

Compare this to the Masai tribe in Africa. They greet one another by asking, “Kasserian Ingera?” – meaning “And how are the children?” The response is, “All the children are well,” indicating that there is peace and little strife in the community’s life. All tribe members, including the warriors and those who have no children, do this.  All are interested in and have a responsibility to the youngest generation.

Ultimately, this is what a congregation strives to exemplify. In doing this, all members show they are interested in the youngest generation and accept responsibility for growing the faith of both children and teens. It does not matter if we have no children, if our children are all grown, or if we are busy raising our family. It is a covenant we renew each time a child is baptized.

The question then becomes: how do we best grow our children’s faith? It begins by creating a space where children are welcomed. It means providing opportunities for children to express their thoughts and experiences of faith. It is making sure children feel accepted and comfortable. It includes challenging them so they connect more closely with the divine, with themselves, and with others. It also includes encouragement and support, as not every endeavor is successful.

This way of being church is something we all can do. And at Central, we are doing well by helping children feel included and cared about. However, we must continue to be cognizant of our responsibility, so our church community becomes even more tuned into meeting the spiritual needs of children. While some people have a greater focus on this, it still is the responsibility of all. Perhaps we should try asking, “And how are the children?” and answering with “The children’s faith is well.”

Peace and blessings – Judy

Epiphany Fest

Calling all Wise Ones … or those who wish to be one. We’re celebrating Epiphany, the Magi’s arrival in Jerusalem to pay homage to Baby Jesus. We’ll make crowns and stars, go on a “long journey” following a star … and enjoy refreshments along the way. Saturday, Jan. 7, 10 am to 12 noon, in the Fireplace Room. While designed for children, Centralites of all ages are encouraged to attend.

A Time Of Service

Take time with others to feel God’s love and to put His love into action. Join us for crafts and activities that reach out to people both within and outside our church community: Prayer rocks, cards of caring, bags for unhoused individuals, welcome bookmarks, and more. Sunday, Jan. 21, 11:30 am, in Chapel Hall.

C3 @ CCC

Central has a new group for young adults in college through their early thirties called Conversation, Contemplation, and Christ … aka C3. We’ll meet virtually – so you can join from wherever you may be –to talk about faith, the intersection of current events and our beliefs, living as a Christian, and whatever else is on your mind. Meetings will last for about an hour. Sundays, at 5 pm, via Zoom. Contact Judy for an invitation.

Scenes from Christmas 2022

Check out the pdf version of the January 2023 Newsletter to see an assortment of photographs.  Clockwise from top left:

  • The Reverend Darrell Goodwin, Executive Conference Minister, Southern New England Conference, reads the seventh lesson, John 1:1-14, at the Carol Service.
  • Heidi and Bill Iuliano and their children, Jackson and Emelia Chambers, prepare to light the Advent Candles.
  • The Chancel, decorated for Christmas Week.
  • Christmas at Central, bustling with activity.
  • Ellie, Suzannah, and Grace Hopkins and a friend were among the volunteers who made Christmas wreaths to raise money for CCC Youth’s 2023 mission trip.
  • The Central Congregational Church Choir and Children’s Choir sing “Silent Night” at the Carol Service.

January Events

1 New Year’s Day Worship 10:30 am
4 Gallery Committee 9:30 am
Finance Committee 7 pm
5 Board of Deacons 5:30 pm
Choir Rehearsal 7:30 pm
7 Baptism Meeting 10 am
Epiphany Fest 10 am
8 Adult Sunday School 9 am
Epiphany Sunday Worship / Communion / Baptism 10:30 am
Church School 10:30 am
WORD 11:30 am
Confirmation Class 11:30 am
Women Gather 12 noon
9 Children’s Choir Rehearsal 5:30 pm
11 Finance Committee 7 pm
12 Food for Thought Book Group 7 pm
Choir Rehearsal 7:30 pm
15 Adult Sunday School 9 am
Worship 10:30 am
Church School 10:30 am
Confirmation Class 11:30 am
17 Plant & Properties Committee 5:45 pm
Prudential Committee 7 pm
19 Central Men’s Group 7:30 am
Choir Rehearsal 7:30 pm
20 Newsletter Deadline 3:30 pm
22 Adult Sunday School 9 am
Worship 10:30 am
Church School 10:30 am
23 Children’s Choir Rehearsal 5:30 pm
Technology Committee 7 pm
25 Inquirers’ Meeting 7 pm
26 Rebecca’s Book Group 12:30 pm
Choir Rehearsal 7:30 pm
28 Mission and Action Committee 6 pm
29 Worship 10:30 am
Church School 10:30 am
Tentative Budget Approval and Bylaws Meeting 11:30 am
Confirmation Class 11:30 am
30 Children’s Choir Rehearsal 5:30 pm
31 Faith Exploration Meeting 7 pm


The Church Office will be closed Monday, Jan. 2, for New Year’s and Monday, Jan. 16, for Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, respectively.


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