June/July 2020 Newsletter

From Rebecca

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.So we are reminded by Ecclesiastes, or the preacher.

Even the weather has been so variable this spring, hasn’t it? One day we have brilliant sunshine and put away our warm jackets; the next day we cover outdoor plants so they don’t get hit with frost.

“… A time to plant and a time to pluck up what is planted …” Your child or grandchild, or the neighbor’s small child has all of a sudden graduated from high school or college. Where did the time go? It seems just yesterday they were learning to ride bikes. As we approach Memorial Day, we understand and appreciate ever more fully the contributions of those who served during World War II, as they grow older and many are leaving us for another shore … those who planted our world firmly in the cause of freedom.

“… A time to break down and a time to build up …” While we are not worshipping in our sanctuary right now, we are planning to reimagine Chapel Hall, and I look forward to sharing these ideas with all of you come fall and our annual meeting. The restrooms off the Gallery should be finished by the end of June. Safety for all is a priority for when the time comes that we are able to gather together again.

“… A time to break down and a time to build up …” The corona virus has changed the way we gather. How many of us used to use the word “zoom” in frequent conversations, unless it was with a small child making fast engine noises with a toy truck? And on a serious note, how will we reopen our economy and let people get back to work while keeping everyone safe and healthy? From Scouts to choirs to theaters to restaurants to nursing homes to our vulnerable neighbors, to schools and religious institutions, our ways of reaching out have been creative and thoughtful. We are learning new habits of resilience and compassion, new forms of respect for our essential workers. And we look forward to gathering together in person. Handshakes and hugs are missing now, but they will come back!

“… A time to rend, and a time to sew …” Many have lost loved ones in this time of the corona virus, and grief has been overwhelming for so many.  Yet, we believe in the eternal life and love entrusted to us by our God.

“… A time to keep silence, and a time to speak …” In our worship together, in our small groups meeting remotely, and in family discussions and phone calls reaching out to distant friends, we have become better listeners, more attentive friends, stronger disciples.

And one more change: I’m organizing our home on Taber Avenue to let another family grow up in that familiar place! I’ll be making my usual move to Little Compton and commuting back to Central over the summer to plan for the fall. One of the happiest tasks is gathering up all the books I hope to read over the next few months! (One of the sadder tasks is packing them back up because I did not get to them all, but I’ll think about that tomorrow!) Meanwhile, I’ll be looking for a smaller place for convenience’s sake.

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” Ecclesiastes has it right. This is the day that the Lord has given. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Yours, with love,


The Deacon’s Bench

Today, I walked from my home on Lloyd Avenue in Providence to the post office on Thayer Street. As I was walking past the Brown Athletic Fields, the dome and towers of Central Congregational Church came into view. It was a comforting sight to see Central, glowing in the bright sun of late morning. Like most who are reading this monthly newsletter, I miss going inside and seeing everyone.

In many ways, worship, outreach, committee and youth activities, and the missions of our Church continue thanks to technology like YouTube and Zoom. As Rebecca reminded us on Easter Sunday, “He will find us wherever we have huddled.”  I found that line so meaningful that I wrote it on a post-it note and placed it where I see it multiple times each day. When I access our Sunday worship service on YouTube, I often imagine others who are worshiping along with me, huddled in front of their home computers.

Even though we are participating asynchronously, I like to think we are listening in sync, just as if we are all sitting together in the sanctuary, repeating our prayer of confession, hearing the voices of our soloists and organ, listening to the scripture readings, absorbing the sermon message and repeating the Lord’s Prayer together.

So, thank you to the entire Central team – Rebecca, Claudia, Patrick, Joshua, Beth, Tony, Jennifer, and Lauren – for leading us during this time of physical separation and helping us all remain a close community. Thank you to those who are working behind the scenes with technology to keep us connected and to keep that technology running smoothly … as we huddle in various places.

– Peter N. Woodberry


Congrats Grads!

Here’s to Central’s Class of 2020 – high school and college graduates alike!

Each time we celebrate a baptism here at Central, we are reminded that we covenant together to nurture and support God’s children in our church. We hold them as infants, play with them as children, help guide them through their teen years, and share in the joys and depth of their wisdom and personalities as young people. This spring, we virtually recognize and applaud their achievements as they graduate from high school and college.

High School Graduates: Simon Azar, Ben Buroker, Olivia Bush, Lexi DeShaw, John Lalli, Coco Maranjian, Phoebe Maranjian, Harry Mazurkie, Henry Miller, Sophia Mott, Margaret Nozaki, Molly O’Hara, Gavin Rardin, Ben Thornton, Maddie Lee, and Caroline Worrell

College Graduates: Laura Davison,   Harry Dewitt, Hannah Fitts, Asa Hebb, Bo Kellogg, Thomas Kellogg, and Maddie  Mahoney

We are praying for you, cheering you on, and offering blessings to you on your next steps to a bright future. Congratulations on your success!

And, stay tuned for a full-on graduation celebration some time next fall.


Virtual Choir

During this time of social distancing we have been doing our best to present music for virtual services with a combination of pre-recorded music from past years, and music recorded specifically for each week.

We always are thankful to Jim Silverthorn for recording our weekly worship services on CD, but are particularly grateful for him now as we have a library of four years of services to pull up for our congregational hymns to include in videos.

Special thanks also go to Jim Scott for the beautiful stock photos he has provided that you see in our video worship.
Watch in the coming week or two for a special virtual choir anthem featuring all of the Central Choir!


In Memoriam

Our prayers and sympathy are with Debra Chase and her family on the death of her father, Edward Chase.

Our prayers and sympathy are with Paul Morrissey and his family on the death of his mother, Edith Morrissey.

Our prayers and sympathy are with Peg Fletcher and her family on the death of her sister, Audrey Binn.

Requiescat in pace.

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 phone the Office at 401-331-1960 and Rebecca will get in touch. We will be combining the usual spring membership meetings and luncheon with our fall gatherings.

Inquirers’ Meeting
Wednesday, October 21, 7 pm

Faith Exploration
Tuesday, October 27, 7 pm

New Member Sunday:  November 1


Summer Hours

Beginning June 21 and continuing through Labor Day weekend, Worship at Central will move to 10 am for the summer months. Services will continue to be posted on YouTube (search: Central Congregational Church) until we can safely reopen our doors.

In addition, as of June 1, Central’s summer office hours will be 9 am to 3 pm Monday through Friday.


Annual Meeting Postponed

Central’s annual meeting is being postponed until the fall. At that time, we will review and vote on the annual budget, as well as the nominations for church officers and committee members – and discuss any other necessary church business. All Central members are encouraged to attend, so we’ll keep you apprised of the new fall date.


COVID-19 Task Force

Frances Munro, Bill Connors, and Drs. Staci Fischer, Charley Rardin, Mary Marran and Sharon Rounds have formed a task force to strategize procedures for reopening our church building and phasing back into physical Worship services once we are able to safely gather together again. If you have any questions or concerns please contact the Church Office.


From Claudia

The topic of uncertainty came up at a recent Women’s Retreat virtual gathering. Who among us in these times isn’t uncertain about what is happening?  We listen to the governor and wonder what will come as we reopen the state. We don’t give up, do we?

New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote, “Endurance is patience. It is shortening your time horizon so you just have to get through this day. Endurance is living with unpleasantness. In fact, it is finding you can adapt and turn the strangest circumstance into routine. Endurance is fortifying. It is discovering you can get socked in the nose and take it. Above all, endurance is living with uncertainty.”

I don’t know about you, but I am enduring quite a bit these days – especially being physically separated from all of you. We all are enduring such things and more. Yet we have faith. And hope. And we pray as we cling to the grace that sustains us. We have love that connects us with God and one another – despite the uncertainty.

Out my upstairs window, a dove sits in her nest among the roses that stretch across our arbor. She is not visible except from above. A hawk or other carnivorous bird could see her and possibly steal her eggs or babies. Still, she is the picture of serenity in the midst of great uncertainty. What will come will come. She not only endures, she thrives.

My prayer is that we all will thrive – in old and new ways.

I came across a prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, which speaks to the grace that he drew on in his own time. He prayed, “Help me to live this day quietly, easily. To lean upon Thy great strength trustfully, restfully. To wait for the unfolding of Thy will patiently, serenely. To meet others peacefully, joyously. To face tomorrow confidently, courageously.”

Amen! May we face tomorrow confidently and courageously, knowing that God accompanies us every step of the way!

With love, Claudia


Graduation 2020

Sofia Mazza, a 2020 confirmand, asked Central’s poet laureate Ilse Kramer to write a poem for her confirmation project, which entailed sending care packages to Central’s high school seniors, offering them our blessings in this year of social distancing. This poem is in honor of all of     Central’s 2020 high school and college graduates.

There is no pomp and circumstance

This year,

But you, the graduating class, deserve much praise and honor

And even adoration.


We now live in a dangerous

And sometimes weepy world.

Our country and world around us

Are changing.


But at the end there still is

Faith, Hope and Love.

We badly need all three

And want Faith, Hope and Love to grow.


Love is the most precious one.

We need to love each other (and our dogs and cats)

More and more

And each to hold each other’s hand.


If you look closely

You will see a miracle

On your way each day,

A gift from God (for God is good).


Let us hold out our empty hands,

They will be filled with blessings

Which we pass on.

We confirmands are the younger ones, and we will pray for you and you for us.


The evil thoughts and deeds exist.

We hide behind protecting masks

Which we tie behind the ears.

God always finds us, even should we wear a hundred masks.


And let us not forget:

God will stay with us


For God is good.


– Ilse Kramer

Poet Laureate


During this time of social distancing, many Central committees and groups are meeting via Zoom or GoToMeeting. To be notified about any of the following virtual meetings, contact Claudia.

Women’s Retreat Group

The women of Central are invited to gather in solidarity to pray and check in every Saturday – until we no longer need to meet like this! Saturdays throughout June and July, 7 pm.


Food For Thought Book Group

Join us for a lively discussion of international bestseller, “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City” by Matthew Desmond. Thursday, June 11, 7 pm.  Coming Up on July 9: “Unsheltered” by Barbara Kingsolver.


A Way in the Wilderness

A new UCC devotional provides “14 Days of Spiritual Sustenance for Life in a Pandemic.”  We’ll discuss these short devotionals and reflect on our lives. Contact Claudia for free downloads and invitations to our virtual gatherings. Sunday, June 14 and 28 at 7 pm.


Caring and Sharing

Join women of all ages who come together in supportive fellowship and activities. This month, we’ll discuss where are in our lives during this time of COVID-19. Thursday, June 18 at 7 pm. Thursday, July 16, TBA.


Rebecca’s Book Group

We’ll discuss “Hell and Other Destinations,” by Madeleine Albright, America’s first female secretary of state. In this revealing, funny, and inspiring memoir, she reflects on the final stages of her career and working productively into later decades. Thursday, June 25, 12:30 pm.


Summer Bible Study

Bible study this summer is going virtual! We’ll learn how God’s purposes are not thwarted through the book of Ezra, how Nehemiah’s work for God prospers, and how Esther wins a beauty contest and saves her people. A different topic each week. Contact Claudia to participate. Books are $3. July and August, time and date to be announced.


Virtual Mission Trip

What a time to be alive! Candidates for Confirmation (9-10th Grade) will join together for a World Vision “30 Hour Famine.” The youth will engage with fasting, learning about world hunger, and fundraising for this excellent organization that provides much needed care for the vulnerable throughout the world. Contact Joshua for more details or to signup. Saturday, June 13, 12 pm


Church School News

Greetings from the Church School! What a month it has been! We have not been able to meet in person, but in the spirit of staying spiritually connected, we have been meeting by Zoom! Each class has had a Sunday School class meeting where we have been discussing the scripture of the week, while also beginning to focus on learning Psalm 23. These meetings have been a wonderful time for the children of Central to come together and have a time of fellowship and also continue their learning. While everyone is getting a bit weary of this type of connection, I want to thank all the families who have participated. It is important to keep our usual church connections going, and our time together during Zoom meetings on Sunday mornings have been wonderful! What a gift all the children of Central are!  We will continue to connect at home, and plan a special celebration for our usual end-of-year Sunday.

Lastly, I wanted to take a moment to discuss the future of the church school. It has been a great honor to be able to be the Interim Religious Education Director. Filling this time of need has given me the wonderful opportunity to get to know all the children individually, and be a witness to such wonderful insight and thoughts they have. As my time as the Interim Religious Education Director is coming to end, a search committee is being formed. We are all hopeful that a new wonderful person will be found before the fall, and bring an immense amount of energy and commitment to our wonderful Church School program.

There is some light at the end of the tunnel, however it does seem like we will not be able to gather in the near future. While we are physically separated, we will continue working on making our spiritual connection grow stronger!

With love and gratitude, Beth Willis


Virtual Art Show

We are proud to announce Central’s first Virtual Art Show. To view the art by our talented Central members please visit www.centralchurch.us/CentralArtGallery.

As we shelter at home, many congregants have missed their weekly dose of culture delivered by our Gallery. So Central is taking a cue from museums and mounting a Virtual Art Show.

Children, teens, and families are invited to share their drawings, paintings, crafts, and photography. This could be artwork created for Lent, Easter, or a school project. Photos that capture a special memory. Or, it could be something new designed just for this exhibit … inspired by a favorite psalm or scripture or expressing feelings about living through COVID-19. The sky is the limit!

Scan the artwork and email it to Lauren at lauren@centralchurch.us. We’ll upload it to the church website and share it with the world, as well as one another. It’s another way for Centralites to connect with each other while we are apart.


From Joshua

A person’s steps are made secure by the Lord when they delight in his way Psalm 37:23

Dear Friends, it was with a heavy heart that I announced my resignation in May. Heavy because of the relationships I have built with the youth of Central Congregational Church over the last year. I have learned so much from you in our time together, and I have been blessed to watch you grow in your relationships with one another, laughing along the way at your humor and antics.

This year, I have been learning about discernment and vocation. Each of us, every single one, has a calling from God to walk with Jesus, and sometimes it takes a tremendous level of effort to figure out where on earth we are going! Though my walk with Christ is taking me away from Central right now, I know that all our journeys have the same goal of serving God and others in the world.

Sometimes separation is difficult, even frightening. The Psalmist tells us exactly what we should do to secure our steps: “delight in God’s way.” Not just accept it, not just say we believe in it, but delight in the way of God. Joy is a practice, not just a feeling, and we need to keep our joy and delight alive along the paths we travel.

Thank you for a year of journey and delight. See you on the road.

– Joshua

Teacher Recognition

Please take a moment to thank our fabulous Church School teachers who have spent the past year planting seeds of

faith in Central’s schoolchildren!

  • Cherub Childcare: Kathleen O’Hara, Coco Maranjian
  • Gabriel’s Gang/Shepherds (pre-school, kindergarten, first grade): Susannah Hopkins, Jaime Lavoie
  • Stargazers/Disciples (second and third grades): Maureen Lapre, Pamela O’Hara
  • Peacemakers (fourth and fifth grades): Amy Frazer
  • Dream-makers (sixth through eighth grades): Joshua Berkowitz, Amy Punchak

Support Your Community

There are practical ways to keep connected to our faith, nourish our Spirits and remain united in prayer during these trying times.

  • If you have the means, donate to Central. Through your pledges Central supports many of our local agencies who are working hard to help. Places like the RI Food Bank, Crossroads, Amos House, Sojourner House, Camp Street and others.
  • If you sew, try making facemasks. Central will see your donations reach those in need.
  • If you can get out of the house, consider delivering groceries to at-risk members via front-porch drop offs.

For more information, call the Church Office.

Get Connected

Many of you know that Central Congregation Church has a public Facebook page at facebook.com/CentralChurchRI. This is meant to be a place for members and friends to share information with each other. In these times of social isolation, it is also a resource to stay in touch and connected. If you are on Facebook, be sure to like our page for church updates!

Stay Well

First and foremost, we hope you are prioritizing your health and safety, as well as that of your friends and loved ones. Stay positive and have faith that the health of our community… and our country… will be restored. Our prayers are with all of you.


June Events

Central’s virtual Worship services are  broadcast on YouTube. All other meetings are held via Zoom or GoToMeeting unless otherwise indicated.

June 1 Technology Committee 7 pm
June 3 Gallery Committee 9:30 am
June 4 Spiritual Companionship 6 pm
Music Committee 6:30 pm
Religious Education 7 pm
June 7 Stewardship Committee 9 am
Virtual Worship 10:30 am
June 9 Board of Deacons 5:45 pm
June 10 Membership Committee 6:15 pm
A Way in the Wilderness 7 pm
June 11 Food for Thought Book Group 7 pm
June 13 Virtual Mission Trip 12 pm
June 14 Virtual Worship 10:30 am
LDC All  Committee Chairs 11:45 am
June 16 Plant & Properties 5:45 pm
Prudential Committee 7 pm
June 17 Mission & Action 6 pm
A Way in the Wilderness 7 pm
June 18 CCC Men’s Group 7:30 am
Caring & Sharing 7 pm
June 21 Virtual Worship 10 am
June 25 Rebecca’s Book Group 12:30 pm
June 28 Virtual Worship 10 am

July Events

July 1 Gallery Committee 9:30 am
July 2 Music Committee 6:30 pm
Religious Education 7 pm
July 5 Stewardship Committee 9 am
Worship 10 am
July 6 Technology Committee 7 pm
July 9 Food for Though Book Group 7 pm
July 11 Women’s Retreat Group 7 pm
July 12 Worship 10 am
Summer Bible Study TBA
July 16 CCC Men’s Group 7:30 am
Caring & Sharing TBA
Religious Education 7 pm
July 18 Women’s Retreat Group 7 pm
July 19 Worship 10 am
July 21 Plant & Properties 5:45 pm
July 25 Women’s Retreat Group 7 pm
July 26 Worship 10 am
July 30 Rebecca’s Book Group 12:30 pm
Posted in Newsletters.