I continue to keep all of you in my thoughts and prayers during the COVID-19 pandemic. I know that so many of you are concerned with your loved ones. So many are helping others who are alone, volunteering to just do what might need to be done. So many are looking ahead to how we will find new joy in some of the ordinary things of life that we have taken for granted. So many have shared incredibly moving essays and poems and insights. So many are growing in resiliency during these tough times. These are all unhistoric acts, acts of random kindness, (ARK) you might say!
Having just watched the sobering, profound movie “A Hidden Life”, (which I highly recommend) I find myself contemplating all the nuances of our daily lives. How do we live out our faith in these difficult times? How will we resume the significant social connections that make life worth living? What does it mean to be a Christian in 2020? How does our faith, as individuals and as the community of Central Church, make a difference in today’s world?
“The growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.” This quote from George Eliot’s Middlemarch serves as the title for Terence Malick’s film in which Franz, a simple Austrian farmer, struggles with doing the right thing in resisting Hitler.
Most of us, like Franz, try to do the right thing. Perhaps this time of social isolation can help us see the significance of those unhistoric acts – like helping a neighbor, taking time to listen to a teenager, remembering the beauty of a spring day. Small actions that do make a difference. As one review of the movie wrote, we deal with ambiguity in a fallen world…how do we act righteously without even the reward of believing it will do any good.
As we have celebrated the Resurrection just this past week, so too may we find new life in ourselves and in neighbors and strangers. May we be open to those hidden lives that make a difference in the world…those hidden lives we may never even know about, but who lived out their faith in acts of conscience small and large, those who have lived faithfully and rest in unvisited tombs.
May that openness make a difference in our lives and in the lives of those we love.
Yours, with love,
Thank You for Your Stewardship
As Central begins its fiscal year on May 1, the Stewardship Committee thanks those who have supported the church with gifts and pledges – especially during these trying times.
However, since Centralites are not able to gather in person, the church misses gifts made during Sunday Worship. At the April 22 service, Senior Minister Rebecca Spencer encouraged those who have not pledges to do so via mail, church website, or Tithe.ly app – welcoming any gifts of support.
“Your gifts make possible all we do for God’s children near and far,” she said, “Whether supporting the Rhode Island Food Bank, UCC missionaries in the Mideast, or maintaining our church home. It is all possible because of your gifts and commitment.”
What a difference a month makes. In typical Central fashion we are creatively worshiping and gathering remotely. The work of our committees continues. We are checking in on each other in formal and informal ways through phone calls, emails, and (gasp!) snail mail. People show up on doorsteps of our most vulnerable to this virus to leave food and other essentials. We are definitely connected spiritually and emotionally and virtually in this time which is like no other we have ever experienced. As I write this we are poised on moving toward the peak of the devastation this virus will cause.
We are living through an unprecedented time. We may find ourselves moving from exhaustion to tears to laughter in a nanosecond. We may have moments of insight. Have hope, dear friends! Practice compassionate grace, not only for others, but also for yourself. None of us know the “right” way to do this. Why? Because there is no right way to move through such a time as this.
And, in the midst of all that swirls around us we celebrate resurrection. Why? Because we are Easter people. Like Henry David Thoreau we welcome spring: “The spring came suddenly, bursting upon the world as a child bursts into a room, with a laugh and a shout and hands full of flowers.”
Resurrection is always about overcoming endings through beginnings. We welcome the birds as they return from their winter homes and begin the process of building nests and laying eggs. The resurgence of life is all around us. While many days we might feel that all we can do is survive, there are many days when we thrive.
In The Flowing Grace of Now, Macrina Wiederkehr offers this prayer, “Open my eyes to the moments of resurrection that surround me every day. There is always something rising, opening to new life, budding and blossoming, forgiving and transforming. Teach me to live awake that I may recognize the renaissance being celebrated in my midst at every moment. Make me a disciple of joy. Amen.”
May it be so for each and every one of us. May we “live awake” and be made into disciples of hope and, yes, of joy. Joy even in the midst of a pandemic.
Yours in love and resurrection hope, Claudia
God won’t give you more than you can handle! Right? Well, the Bible doesn’t really say that. This saying comes from 1 Corinthians 10:13, where Paul is encouraging the Corinthians to be strong in the face of temptation to do evil. It has little to do with what we can handle.
A central message of Christianity is that we can’t handle life on our own. We need God to survive this transit through a rapidly deteriorating planet, through a crisis we have little power to change. God has not given any guarantee that we’ll be able to handle it.
So? What to do? Don’t pretend. If you are having a hard time “handling,” then reach out for the love of God in prayer and in your neighbor. The worst thing that we can do is surrender to the stress of isolation, God forbid. There is great love in the world, and sometimes not handling what we are given is an invitation into that love. It’s okay to be not okay, so long as you know you are held.
Our prayers and sympathy are with Martha Nielson, on the death of her husband, Louis Nielsen.
With Caroline Patterson Inlow, on the death of her mother, Olive Johnson.
With Ted Radway on the death of his mother, Gloria Radway.
With the family and friends of Martha Sherman.
With Amy Hebb on the death of her mother, Margaret Ann Seiple.
With Diane Worthen Hirsch, on the death of her father, Leonard Worthen.
With Joan Harrison on the death of her brother, Jonathan Harrison.
With Joshua Berkowitz on the death of his grandmother, Mary Ann Murray.
With Brian Lalli on the death of his step-mother, Collette Santy.
With Nancy Brant on the death of her mother, Marion E. (Guenkel) Brant..
Requiescat in pace.
New ARK Leadership
Tracy Baran and Temi Sonubi will assume leadership of ARK (Acts of Random Kindness) as of May 2020. They will take over from Barbara Bayon and Maureen Whittemore, who have organized ARK volunteers for the past 3 years.
ARK is a group of Central volunteers who provide rides to members and friends who need transportation to Sunday Worship and other church events. ARK also provides meals to those who are ill, have illness in their families, or have experienced a loss or difficult life experience.
Many thanks to Barbara and Maureen for their time, talent, and willingness to step up when needed. Their contributions have been invaluable over the years. And, stay tuned for announcements from Tracy and Temi regarding updates to the ARK program,. To join ARK or for more information, contact Tracy, firstname.lastname@example.org or Temi, email@example.com.
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.
Wednesday, October 21, 7 pm
Tuesday, October 27, 7 pm
New Member Sunday: November 1
Church School News
Hello dear friends and families,
As each day passes, another day of wondering when we will be able to gather together again ensues. It is beginning to feel like that day will never arrive. When will the classrooms upstairs be filled with the joyous laughter of the children? When will the songs of gathering time fill the gathering space. I find myself getting lost in these questions, and often wonder if the children are lost in this type of thinking as well. Our Sunday morning routines of worshipping together and meeting in our classrooms are so important. The lack of these routines are felt deeply.
I recently challenged myself to think of this loss of routine in a different way. Instead of focusing on the when, I could focus on the “it will”. The classrooms upstairs WILL be filled with the joyous laughter of the children again. The gathering space WILL be filled with the songs of gathering time. We WILL all join together again and rejoice in the joy of seeing each other and worshipping together. Until that great day, I encourage you as families to also take this mind frame challenge. Join me in thinking outside the “when” and focus on the “it will”.
“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:21-23
With Love and Gratitude,
One Great Hour of Sharing
Imagine a seedling made possible by your gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing (OGHS). With God’s help, it can provide food not just for a family, but an entire village. A village that can grow an economy, providing opportunities that didn’t exist before. Opportunities that provide a ripple of change, bringing hope to other villages, regions, even entire countries. When you give to OGHS, you are planting seeds of new life, bringing hope and recovery to the world’s most vulnerable people.
Founded in 1946, OGHS is a special Lenten mission offering of the United Church of Christ that supports disaster, refugee, and development ministries. OGHS works through a global network of partners to invest in communities around the world, providing education and vocational training, supporting microcredit lending, and participating in sustainable solutions that lead to self-sufficiency. Strong relationships are at the heart of this shared ministry, empowering each person and community to use the gifts they’ve been given.
In 2019, after Hurricane Dorian struck the Grand Bahamas, OGHS restored close to 200 homes and helped support 25 children evacuated from a destroyed children’s home. OGHS has helped vulnerable Syrian families combat harsh winters, providing thermal blankets and heaters, as well as shoes and warm clothing. OGHS responded to emergency health and psychological needs among Palestinian women and children in Gaza, an area targeted by an Israeli bombardment that killed close to three dozen people and injured more than 100.
But more is needed. Today, you have an opportunity to improve the lives of others. Please support OGHS by making a gift on the church website, via the Tithe.ly app, or by sending a check – payable to Central Congregational Church with “OGHS” on the memo line – to the Church Office. Your gift will join with others in building sustainable communities, responding to disasters, and ministering to refugees – and multiply exponentially as God gives growth.
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.
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 May, 7 pm.
Food for Thought Book Group
Join us for a lively discussion of this month’s book, international bestseller ”When All is Said” by Anne Griffin. In this elegy to love, loss, and the complexity of life, a man toasts the five people whop have meant the most to him. Thursday, May 14, 7 pm.
Coming Up… June: “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City” by Matthew Desmond. July: “Unsheltered” by Barbara Kingsolver.
Caring & 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, May 21, 7 pm.
Rebecca’s Book Group
You are welcome to join our lively discussion of this month’s book, “The Splendid and the Vile” by Erik Larsen. We may even meet in person if possible! Thursday, May 28, 12:30 pm.
Have some time on your hands? Try knitting, it’s calming, relaxing, and helps keep you centered because of the repetitive rhythmic movements. Plus, you’ll make something useful! Central’s Angellic Knitters welcome your hand-knitted donations – and hope you will join their after-Worship gatherings once social distancing is over. Questions? Call Claudia or Janice Libby.
Louis Nielsen’s Obituary
Since it will be some time before Central can celebrate the life of longtime member Louis Nielsen, his family would like to share a brief obituary.
“Louis’ great joy in life remained classical and choral music. He played the piano, had a massive record and CD collection, and could often be found in his brown recliner, listening with headphones to music while reading the newspaper. Oftentimes he conducted, a habit he shared with his brother Niels.” For the complete obituary please go to csori.com
Coronavirus: Archive Your Story
Central Congregational Church is joining the Rhode Island State Archives, Mattatuck Museum in Waterbury, Conn., and several other institutions to document and archive the effects of COVID-19 on everyday lives.
John Chaney, Central archivist, said that Central is looking for written narratives and observations about individual and family experiences – especially as members of a faith community – as we shelter at home during this pandemic. What does your life look like now? How are you participating in Worship? How did you observe Easter at home? Has your prayer life has changed? Mention how you are protecting yourself and your family. Include the mundane as well as creative ways you’re passing the time at home; how you’re celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, and other family events. Finally, what do you think future generations should remember about these trying times?
The archives is also seeking photographs of you and your family during isolation, as well as any artwork created during this time – whether or not it is related to COVID-19.
Planning for the COVID-19 archive is in the preliminary stages, so there are numerous logistical issues still to resolve – especially as to when and how materials should be submitted. Space will prohibit collection of physical objects, so organizers ask that you photograph artwork and other items, providing good quality digital images in tiff or jpeg formats, 300 dpi (dots per inch). Also, do not include personal medical information. John Chaney will keep Central members apprised as other details are finalized.
“We must accept the fact that COVID-19 isn’t going away any time soon,” he said; “so we will keep collecting. It is important that we record what it is like living through these difficult times. With your assistance, we will be able to do so.”
The Mupenzis Buy a House!
In April, the Mupenzis, the refugee family from the Democratic Republic of Congo that Central befriended and supported upon their arrival in the United States 4 years ago, became homeowners for the very first time.
In a text message to Central member, George Delaney, Alphonse wrote; “I am happy to share my happiness with you and all CCC members. Owning a home is a big achievement for me and my family in our four years in USA. 2011 we went to exile in Uganda, five years we were in miserable life, no food, no school fees for my children, and the biggest challenge was shelter. When I got to know that we will come to America, my dream was to own a house. Thanks to God who made this to happen, thanks to good people from CCC, to Dorcas who participated a lot to my adjustment in our new country. Thank you all so much and God Bless you.”
Alphonse and Charlotte Mupenzi – along with their three children: Sonia, Oliver and Sandra – arrived in Rhode Island four years ago on a cold, February night. Central signed on with Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island, a local organization that specializes in settling newly arrived immigrants into the U.S., to assist this refugee family in any way we could. And, we did … with rent, clothing, furniture, transportation, and counsel on any topic that could help the Mupenzis better understand and adapt to life in Providence, R.I. Central members welcomed the family into the church – where Sonia, Oliver and Sandra sang in the Children’s Choir – and into their homes, sharing their first Thanksgiving and Christmas, as well as the little joys in everyday occurrences.
“We want to congratulate the Mupenzis on all they have endured and all they have undertaken along this truly inspiring journey,” said Rebecca. “For all, by God’s Grace, this family has accomplished since coming to America – and on the occasion of their purchase of a new home – we at Central Church wish them continued success!”
Central hopes to throw a housewarming party for the Mupenzis in the near future.
CCC Youth Check-Ins
Central Youth may be stuck at home all day, but you can still get together with your Central friends during Wednesday Night Youth Check-Ins. For information on how to join our GoToMeeting video conferences, contact Joshua. Wednesdays throughout May, 6 pm.
Be a Good Egg
Join the Church School in a special collection for the “Great 50 Days” of Easter. Your contributions benefit One Egg Haiti, which provides much-needed protein, one egg every day, to Haitian school children. Please send your check – payable to Central Congregational Church with ‘One Egg Haiti’ on the memo line – to the Church Office. We will accept donations through the first Sunday we are allowed to gather again.
If you need help during this time of “home sequestering” please don’t hesitate to contact the Church Office at 401-331-1960. We’re always there to help with your questions, concerns and requests.
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 or contact Joshua.
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 each of you.
Central’s virtual Worship services are broadcast on YouTube. All other meetings are held via Zoom or GoToMeeting unless otherwise indicated.
|CCC Youth Check-In
|CCC Youth Check-In
|Food for Thought
|CCC Youth Check-In
|Caring & Sharing
|CCC Youth Check-In
|Rebecca’s Book Group
The church office will be closed Monday, May 25 for Memorial Day.