May 2023 Newsletter

Central News

May 2023 Vol. 31, No. 9

Join us for Sunday Worship at 10:30 am!

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From Rebecca

Dear Friends, May mornings … what a wonder these are … the stars retire and the sky lightens. The peepers and the birds are already up. The sun is still not really warm, but it rises before us. A new day dawns. And we begin again.

That sense of anticipation and wonder is what small children and animals show us so easily. But somehow, we lose this as we start to take things for granted.

How do we pay attention to the miracles that surround us every day? The miracle of breathing. The miracle of loving others and being loved. The miracle of muscle strength. The miracle of people living together in harmony. Why do we appreciate these more when they are missing? I’m not sure why the absence of so much we take for granted helps us here, but what if we were to simply take each day as it is given to us … with deliberate attention to God’s creation all around, small and large, recurring and ephemeral.

If we see each day we are given as a true gift – from the lightening of the sky at first light until we rest in the dark – might we then understand the immensity of this life we are granted one day at a time? Probably we would. We would see our own finiteness and our interconnectedness with others. We would see thinking as listening as the Kogi people in Colombia do, as Andrew Bayon reminded us. To think is to listen, and when we listen, we are able to wonder about others with whom we share this spinning globe we all call home.

My mother loved the days each May when the maple trees’ buds are that beautiful red color. This blush doesn’t last forever, but it sure is striking in its days of abundance. What are your favorite scenes in May? Think, listen, and share the wonder with those you love … and those you may meet in the new day.

Now I’m off to check on the cows. I know they will greet me – not just because they know I am carrying hay and some treats for them – but because I believe they are happy to share the dawn with me and whatever new thing may happen … for all of us in God’s creation.

Yours, in wonder – Rebecca

Reflections on Eid Al-Fitr

On Wednesday, Apr. 19, Central slowly came alive with the sounds of new beginnings, new friendships, and the anticipation of new traditions. Members and neighbors of three different faiths came together and united for one night under the same roof to share what this time of year means to them.

Everyone in attendance heard what Easter means to Christians, what Passover means for the Jewish community, and about the sacrifices Muslims make during Ramadan and what they mean to them. It was a truly blessed event as everyone who attended wanted to focus on the similarities we all have and not the differences: Follow the word of God and be kind to one another. We ended the evening breaking bread – or in this case, naan – and we all left fulfilled from the delicious food that was shared and the hope for a better tomorrow. We cannot wait until next year! – Bill and Heidi Iuliano

The Deacon’s Bench

I have a passion for helping people. But when I came to the U.S. to go to college, I was too busy and did not know my way around New York. Afterwards, I moved to Rhode Island and was lucky to get a job as a nutritionist at Rhode Island Hospital. One day, walking around my neighborhood on the East Side, looking for a place to worship, I saw Central Congregational Church. I decided to try it that Sunday and was glad I came. The music and the songs were familiar – and reminded me of my church, Lagos Anglican Cathedral Church. It was a nice, happy memory. During the service, people spoke about Central’s outreach programs. Then, the sermon of love and a very touching prayer after. It was very inspiring for me. I felt my whole perception about life changing. As I left the service, the minister welcomed me and asked me to come back again. I did, and I’ve never left.

Habitat for Humanity was one of the community programs discussed during the service. I have always been interested in such endeavors, so I signed up. I told the people in charge that I had no idea about house building. They were so nice and told me not to worry, but just to come. They would teach me and find me something to do. I learned how to install insulation and many other things. I loved it and never missed it on my Saturdays off. In fact, I looked forward to it. Today, when I pass through the South Side of Providence and see the houses built by Habitat for Humanity, they give me joy.

Soon I started getting ideas of how people in my own field could make an impact in our community. I went to my director, who not only gave me the go-ahead, but also suggested areas that needed help. This is how my journey began in volunteerism for many years.

I thank Central Congregational Church for preparing, encouraging, and teaching me to have a sense of purpose in life. There is more to life than just having a degree, getting paid, and living day to day. Our talents, abilities, health, intelligence, and family are all gifts given to us – given for the benefit of others. It is our responsibility to steward our gifts, work hard to develop them, and offer them as gifts back to God. Sharing our gifts with others is a reflection of God’s goodness working through our lives.

I encourage each of you to pray and ask the Lord what your gifts are and how He wants you to steward them to help others. – Temi Sonubi

Update:  Senior Minister Search

On Sunday, Apr. 23, following Worship, Central’s Senior Minister Search Committee hosted an open forum with our search consultant, Mike Goldsworthy, from the Slingshot Group, an organization specializing in church staffing.

Mike is an ordained minister who consults with churches, coaches pastors, and works with congregations – including those from the UCC – to help them find new clergy. As our search consultant, Mike will not only work directly with Central and the UCC, but also conduct a nationwide search, filtering candidates to present the Search Committee with the best, most qualified candidates.

During his visit to Central, Mike not only met with the Search Committee and reviewed our Senior Minister Search survey results, but also spent time with Rebecca and Claudia.

The purpose of the open forum was to help Mike better understand our church: who we are and, equally important, who we are becoming. He asked the audience to break up into small groups to consider and discuss four key questions:

  • What’s right? What do we love about Central and want to celebrate?
  • What’s wrong? What needs to be fixed?
  • What’s missing? What does Central need to add? What gaps should be filled?
  • What’s confusing? What areas need clarity or lack follow-through?

All comments were held in confidence.

Mike ended the meeting welcoming further thoughts and feedback. If you would like to contact him, please send an email to Mark McLaughlin, Search Committee Chair, at, and he will forward the message. Also, if you would like to see the results of the Senior Minister Search survey, just reach out to Antonia Greco in the church office.

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, April 26, 7 pm
Faith Exploration: Tuesday, May 2, 7 pm
New Member Sunday: Sunday, May 7, 10:30 am

New Member Reception

Join us in welcoming new members to the Central family during Worship and then stay after for a New Member Reception and potluck luncheon in Chapel Hall. See if you can meet all of our new members! The Membership Committee will provide main dishes, but you can enliven the fare by sharing a favorite side dish, casserole, salad, or dessert. Sunday, May 7, 11:30 am, in Chapel Hall


On Pentecost, we celebrate the wonder and mystery of God, the teachings of Jesus Christ, and the powerful gifts and movements of the Holy Spirit. Please wear red in celebration of the tongues of fire – and to remind us of God’s never-failing love for us and the love we are called to show to all people. Sunday, May 28, 10:30 am, in the Sanctuary


Please come to Worship on Pentecost Sunday and celebrate the hard work of Central’s confirmands – as they share their faith journeys and all that these journeys involve: beliefs, doubts, areas of confusion, and connection with the church. Sunday, May 28, 10:30 am, in the Sanctuary 

In Memoriam

Our prayers and sympathy with Sharon Cherry and family on the death of her husband, Michael. Requiescat in pace

From Claudia

This year we once again have violets growing in the crack between the brownstone steps and the brownstone patio at our house. This is literally the epitome of growing and flourishing between a rock and a hard place. And, flourishing they are. Every year since they appeared in that spot, there are more violets growing along that tiny crack. We look for them each spring.

It makes me think of all the unusual and difficult places where we might find ourselves growing and thriving against all odds. In this Eastertide, we celebrate resurrection and rebirth. So where do you bloom and grow? Where have you done so in the past? The present? The future?

It’s easier to prosper and grow under all the right conditions, but what about those conditions that should make us wither and fall away? The disciples encountering Jesus after his resurrection often couldn’t believe their eyes. And yet, they also began to flourish in the rocky cracks of Roman rule, as difficult as it was to do so. It wasn’t easy, and it certainly was inhospitable, but they persisted. And in so doing, they nurtured those tiny blooms of faith into full-blown Christianity.

As Christians, may we all seek out ways to adapt to and overcome the circumstances in which we may find ourselves. Just like the violets, may you bloom wherever life plants you. Samuel Johnson reminds us that “great works are performed, not by strength, but by perseverance.” In that way, we grow regardless of the odds against us.

As Easter people, we are called to share the good news of resurrection and changed lives. Anne Frank wrote, “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” If those violets can bloom in that minuscule crack, then we, too, can bloom and flourish wherever we are planted. And in so doing, we make room for others to bloom with us.

Thanks be to God! Alleluia! – Claudia

Musical Notes

Joseph Ripka, internationally recognized and award-winning concert organist, will perform at Central on Saturday, May 6, at 7:30 pm – the culmination of the Rhode Island Chapter of the American Guild of Organists’ (RIAGO) 2022-2023 season.

Known for his virtuosity and expressiveness, Mr. Ripka was the first-prize winner of the Dublin International Organ, Fort Wayne National Organ Playing, and San Marino/Elizabeth Elftman National Organ Competitions. He has performed throughout the United States – including the New World Symphony, Boston Philharmonic, and Boston Symphony Orchestra – and in Europe at St. Sulpice in Paris, Westminster Cathedral and St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, among others.

Mr. Ripka is the Canon Musician at St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral in Oklahoma City, Okla. He also is an instructor at Oklahoma City University where he serves as director of the Early Music Ensemble.

The concert is free and open to the public. Please bring your friends to hear this 
extraordinary organist on Central’s incomparable 58-rank Aeolian Skinner organ.

Save the Date

Please plan on attending the Annual Church Meeting on Sunday, June 4, at 11:30 am.  And stay after for luncheon in Chapel Hall provided by the Social Committee.

Women Gather

Central’s women’s fellowship group will enjoy a “field trip” to the historic Maxwell House for Spring Tea – with scones, tea sandwiches, home-baked sweets, and wonderful fellowship. The cost is $15. Saturday, May 6, 1 pm, at Maxwell House (59 Church Street, Warren)

Adult Sunday School

This month the Adult Sunday School will go “In Search of Easter,” exploring the Easter events that changed the world. If you have questions, contact Claudia. Sundays, May 7, 14, 21, and 28; 9 am, in the Fireplace Room

Food for Thought Book Group

This month Claudia’s book group will discuss “This Other Eden,” by Paul Harding, a novel inspired by the true story of Malaga Island, an isolated island off the coast of Maine that became one of the first racially integrated towns in the Northeast. Full of lyricism and power, “This Other Eden” explores the hopes, dreams, and resilience of those who struggle to preserve human dignity in the face of intolerance and injustice. Thursday, May 11, 7 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, May 18, 7:30 am, in the Fireplace Room 

Lunch At Gregg’s Restaurant

Join Central friends old and new after Worship for good conversation and delicious food at Gregg’s, a Rhode Island tradition for 50 years. Check out the extensive, family-friendly menu ( and RSVP to Claudia. Sunday, May 21, 12 noon, at Gregg’s (1303 North Main Street, Providence)

Rebecca’s Book Group

This month, we’ll discuss “True Biz,” by Sarah Novic, an unforgettable journey into the Deaf community and a universal celebration of human connection. Thursday, May 25, 12:30 pm, on the West Lawn

Children and Spirituality

May is a wonderful time to explore nature with your child. The “awakening” of the earth with flowers budding, leaves opening on the trees, and the new life: baby squirrels, baby birds, and, yes, even baby bugs. It seems life is just springing forth from everywhere. Take a walk through a park or venture into some woods with your family.

Let younger children explore. And as they show you their wonderful discoveries, take time to praise God for these incredible creations. As they continue looking around, there will be many opportunities to connect with God: Gratitude for new life. The joy of walking in nature. Praise for all of nature’s sounds, colors, and shapes. Praise for the careful yet ingenious ways God has created a life that succeeds and flourishes. Awe that God has given us the responsibility to take care of the earth. And the faith that we can ask for wisdom and God’s blessing to do just that.

With older children, you can talk about the cycle of the seasons and relate it to the hope of resurrection. God is always with us, even when the world is cold and dark and all growth has stopped. As we wait and depend on God, new life will come forth. We may not even notice it at first, but God is with us. And with God comes light, warmth, love – and everything that is needed for growth.

If you want to try another fun and lighthearted activity, go outside and blow bubbles with your children, whatever their ages. Share the joy and wonder of the bubbles’ beautiful shapes and colors. Smile, laugh, and remember to thank God for this time together and for all the goodness of life.

Peace and blessings – Judy

The Gallery

In May, the Gallery will showcase “Recent Paintings” of Michele Mennucci. Her work – primarily oils and acrylics – features saturated colors with rich textures, as well as brilliant light and deep dark areas. A native Rhode Islander, Michele has spent summers in Dennisport since childhood, capturing some of her favorite Cape Cod locations on canvas. She has taught and exhibited her artwork throughout Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

Michele earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting at the Rhode Island School of Design, and then went on to Cornell University, in Ithaca, N.Y., for her Master of Fine Arts. For 26 years, she taught art at Providence Country Day School, in East Providence, also serving as head of the department. She retired in 2020 to devote more time to her painting, but continues to teach one of her most popular classes, Advanced Placement Art History.

Come, meet the artist at the opening reception on Saturday, May 6, 3 pm, in the Gallery.

Church Picnic

Mark your calendar for Central’s annual Church Picnic. It’s always a wonderful celebration of almost-summer. But this year, the children and youth of Central will offer a musical / dramatic presentation during Worship. Afterwards, we’ll enjoy the fresh air and warm weather as a community of faith. Please bring some picnic sides or sweets. We’ll provide the hotdogs and hamburgers! Sunday, June 11, 11:30 am, on the West Lawn. 

Cherub Choir

Central’s Cherub Choir – for children in preschool through the second grade – is planning to sing in church three times in the coming year. Led by Caroline Hunter, the choir will rehearse – for 15 minutes – Sundays, at 10 am, in the church school Gathering Space

Confirmation Class

Throughout the month of May, Central’s confirmands will work to write or artistically portray their faith journeys and beliefs. They’ll consider their views, doubts, areas of confusion, and connection with the church. They’ll also look forward to where they see their journeys heading. Sundays, May 7 and 21, 11:30 am, in the Church School Wing

Rehearsal and Celebration Dinner

The confirmands will present their faith stories to their friends and families at a Celebration Dinner held immediately after the confirmation rehearsal. Friday, May 26, 6 pm, in Chapel Hall

Confirmation Sunday

Confirmands will meet before Worship for a final run-through of the confirmation service. Sunday, May 28, 9:30 am

Banjo Concert and Reception

Central and Hamilton House will co-host a concert and farewell reception for Central members Rick and Roxana Sasse, who are moving to the New Jersey shore. Entertainment will be courtesy of Rick’s Good Tymes Banjo Band, which performs Tin Pan Alley favorites from the twenties through the early fifties. Please bring your favorite dessert to share – and say good-bye in style. Friday, May 12, 1 pm, in Chapel Hall

CCC Youth

NEOS and WORD will journey over to TimeMission where they’ll travel through time by solving various challenges of mind and body. Once they make it back to present, they’ll race Go-Karts and play in the Arcade until it’s time to head home. The cost is $60 each. Please wear flexible clothing and sneakers; sandals are not permitted. Sunday, June 4, 12:15 pm. We’ll meet in Chapel Hall and return to the church at approximately 3:30 pm.

Poetry Corner

I Call Myself a Christian 

I call myself Christian
Am I really?
Do I follow Jesus’ teachings
Or merely claim that I do?

I go to church and say prayers
And sing favorite hymns
And sometimes quietly pat myself on the back
For acts of generosity

Wouldn’t anonymity and humility
Be the true way
To honor His example?
Would Jesus love the loving acts
More without the publicity?

I will still call myself a Christian
For that is what I aspire to be
With love for humanity
No strings attached
Flawed but still trying.

– Charrel Maxwell

May Events

1 Children’s Choir Rehearsal 5 pm
2 Faith Exploration 7 pm
3 Gallery Committee 9 am
6 Scout Pancake Breakfast 8 am
  Women Gather 1 pm
Gallery Reception  3 pm
  Organ Concert: Joseph Ripka 7:30 pm
7 Adult Sunday School 9 am
Stewardship Committee 9:15 am
Cherub Choir Rehearsal 10 am
Worship / New Member Sunday 10:30 am
Church School 10:30 am
New Member Reception 11:30 am
Confirmation Class 11:30 am
8 Children’s Choir Rehearsal 5 pm
10 Nominating Committee 10 am
11 Food for Thought Book Group 7 pm
12 Banjo Concert / Reception 12:30 pm
14 Adult Sunday School 9 am
Cherub Choir Rehearsal 10 am
Worship 10:30 am
Church School 10:30 am
WORD 1 pm
15 Children’s Choir Rehearsal 5 pm
16 Plant & Properties Committee 5:45 pm
Prudential Committee 7 pm
18 Men’s Group 7:30 am
Board of Deacons 5:30 pm
Potluck Supper: Deacons and Permanent Diaconate 6 pm
21 Adult Sunday School 9 am
  Cherub Choir Rehearsal 10 am
Worship 10:30 am
Church School 10:30 am
Confirmation Class 11:30 am
Lunch at Gregg’s 12 noon
22 Children’s Choir Rehearsal 5 pm
Technology Committee  7 pm
25 Rebecca’s Book Group 12:30 pm
28 Adult Sunday School 9 am
Cherub Choir Rehearsal 10 am
Worship / Pentecost /
 Confirmation Sunday 10:30 am
Church School 10:30 am
29 Children’s Choir Rehearsal 5 pm

The Church Office will be closed on Monday, May 29, for Memorial Day.



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