Central News

September 2022  Vol. 31, No. 1

Download the PDF Version of This Newsletter

Join Us Gathering Sunday, Sep. 11, at 10:30 am!

From Rebecca

Dear Central members and friends,

In writer/ theologian Frederick Buechner’s obituary in the New York Times (Aug. 17, 2022), he was quoted: “God does not go around changing things in the sense of making bad things happen to bad people and good things happen to good people, or of giving one side victory over the other in wars, or of pushing a bill through Congress to make school prayer constitutional…. Chance largely rules the universe but also, through the chance things that happen, God opens up possibilities of redemptive human change in the inner selves, even of people who wouldn’t be caught dead believing in God.” The obituary ended with strong words about the “power of faith, to lift us up, to hold us straight, to send us on again.”

We certainly live in difficult times when polarization slips off our tongues so easily, when people seem irretrievably divided into groups that can’t or won’t talk with each other, when a pandemic seems never ending, when our trust in the institutions of democracy feels sorely shaken, and a war in Ukraine continues to kill so many innocents.

But I do believe that when we gather together at the place we call Central, we have the chance to begin again, together. To reach beyond ourselves toward those who may feel lost or broken; to feel that power of faith lift us up, hold us straight, and send us on again. I know gathering together is not always convenient, but it does make a difference. When we sing together the magnificent stanzas of a stirring hymn Patrick has chosen for us, when we see children learn new ways to share, when we listen to each other’s stories of the summertime in Chapel Hall coffee hours, when we puzzle together over a scripture or book, when we share our joys and sorrows … this is God working in us and through us.

So let us enjoy these fading days of August, wherever you may be. I’ll be reading or weeding, calling the chickens or feeding the cows, and looking forward to seeing each of you, all of us together, God’s children, changed through the chance things that happen through God’s love for us.

Yours truly – Rebecca

Gathering Sunday

Sunday, Sep. 11, is Gathering Sunday. Summer hours are over. Morning worship will begin at 10:30 am. Rebecca will return to the pulpit with a sermon entitled, “Here We Are … the Lost and Found Department!” The scripture lesson will be Luke 15:1-10.  The Central Congregational Choir will sing, and Church School will be back in session. After worship, we’ll enjoy Coffee Hour in Chapel Hall – where you can see how construction has progressed over the past three months. And, NEOS and WORD will have their first meeting of the year.

According to archivist John Chaney, “Gathering Sunday” is a relatively new term at Central. In 1993, there was only “Children’s Gathering Sunday,” referring to the beginning of the children’s church school year. A year later, however, it was shortened to simply “Gathering Sunday.” Since that time, Gathering Sunday has come to indicate the second Sunday in September, when the entire Central congregation comes together again after the long summer for worship, learning, and fellowship – to make new friends and catch up with those we haven’t seen since June. We can’t wait to see you!

Gathering Guidelines

Central’s Regathering Task Force met on Aug. 15 to consider the best way to continue preserving the safety and well-being of all our worshippers. Even though the CDC has loosened some masking and social distancing requirements, we concluded that a conservative approach is the best way to support Central’s sense of community and to help one other.

Masks are still strongly recommended. We will continue to provide masks for individuals who desire them.

Social distancing: Pews in outside aisles of the sanctuary, east transept, and Wilson Chapel will continue to have ribbons blocking off every other pew, for worshippers who feel the need for greater distance. Center aisles will remain ribbon-free.

Congregational singing and communal praying aloud will continue.

Coffee Hour: Masks will not be required.

These may seem like baby steps, but we are moving toward getting back to our pre-pandemic “normal.” That day will come. Until it does, the Task Force thanks everyone for cooperating with its recommendations and accepting responsibility, as a congregation, to respect the needs of Central’s more vulnerable members. 
- Frances Munro, Head Usher

“The Church Needs You and You Need the Church,” by Michael Carl

As church attendance numbers fade across the nation, and online services become very convenient, it’s important to remember why church attendance for you and your family matters so much.

You can’t serve from your sofa.

You can’t have community of faith on your sofa.

You can’t experience the power of a room full of believers worshiping together on your sofa.

Christians aren’t consumers. We are contributors. We don’t watch; we engage. We give. We sacrifice. We encourage. We pray by laying hands on the hurting. We do life together.

The Church needs you.

And you need the Church.

The Deacon’s Bench

“Meaningless! Meaningless! says the Teacher. Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”

The book of Ecclesiastes has, for me, always been a challenge: “Everything is meaningless” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). Does this statement imply that anything we try to do for good is for naught? Does it imply that the evil we see in the world is okay? The history of mankind has been one of conflict, uncertainty, and domination of the powerful over the powerless.

The recent Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade has increased the suppression of women. COVID-19 has further increased the gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots.” Dramatic inflation in the United States has disproportionately impacted the poor. Russia has invaded Ukraine, causing devastating damage to physical structures, disrupting the world economy, and inflicting suffering on millions of Ukrainian citizens.

The United States government seems ineffective in finding solutions to climate change, poverty, homelessness, immigration issues, and LGBQT rights, among other issues.

One of the questions that has challenged me since I was a teenager is “what motivates people to try to do good?” Are we motivated by a thirst for power? Are we motivated to have people respect and admire us? Are we motivated to ensure a place in heaven? Are we motivated to have “stars in our crown” in heaven?

I believe it is truly impossible to fully know what motivates individuals’ behavior and, more importantly, their actions. As Christians, we are responsible for our own attitudes, opinions, and actions. We are taught, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like unto it. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matthew 22:37-39).

So, this is our job as Christians. Despite the conflict and suffering in our world, we worship a loving God who cares for each and every one of us. What it all comes down to is that God will decide what is “meaningless,” and God will know the motivation for our actions.

“Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12: 14). – Bob Griffiths

In Memoriam

Our prayers and sympathy are with the family and friends of Nancy Gage on the death of her husband Wayne. 
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  – Tuesday, October 25, 7 pm
Faith Exploration – Wednesday, November 2, 7 pm
New Member Sunday – Sunday, November 6, 10:30 am

Blessing of the Animals

This month, we will celebrate the Feast of Saint Francis with a blessing of the animals. This special observance honors the vital roles companion animals have in our lives. The love we give to and receive from our pets is a valuable reminder of God’s love for us all. All interested pets, great and small, on leashes or in carriers – and their human companions – are invited to Worship. Sunday, Sep. 25, 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 are offering Baptisms on Sunday, Oct. 2, 10:30 am. There will be a gathering for those wishing to be baptized on Sep. 24, 10 am, in the Fireplace Room.

World Communion Sunday

Every year on the first Sunday in October, Christians around the globe celebrate World Communion Sunday. It is a day to remember that Jesus Christ is Head of the Church and that all denominations that promote Christian unity are one. On this day, we can draw faith and inspiration from seeing that we are part of a community that boasts billions of believers and worshippers. Sunday, Oct. 2, 10:30 am

From Claudia

As summer changes into autumn, there is a moment or two of deja vu in my heart. After many changes in many seasons I recognize the signs not only of what has been, but also of what is to come. And I remember even as I anticipate those seasonal changes.

Yoko Ono once wrote:

Spring passes and one remembers one’s innocence.
Summer passes and one remembers one’s exuberance.
Autumn passes and one remembers one’s reverence.
Winter passes and one remembers one’s perseverance.

For me, there has always been “abundance” as summer begins to draw to a close and autumn beckons us to its September bounty. Children and teachers return to their desks in classrooms filled with promise. Groups of all kinds enjoy being together again after summer hiatuses. All seems shiny and new, but familiar as well. And yet, this season of abundance will give way to winter all too soon. And then before we know it, spring and summer will be upon us again!

The coolness of September nights heralds these changes and so much more. And yes, there is a reverence in the passage from one season to another. There is also expectation and the joy of knowing that the world continues to turn. And, God is in our midst.

In “Angle of Repose,” Wallace Stegner wrote, “That old September feeling, left over from school days, of summer passing, vacation nearly done, obligations gathering, books and football in the air … Another fall, another turned page: there was something of jubilee in that annual autumnal beginning, as if last year’s mistakes had been wiped clean by summer.”

May we all feel the reverence of new beginnings in this season and in all the seasons to come! And, may God bless us in what has been and in what will be.

Yours in autumnal joy! – Claudia

George Baylilss:  Doctor … Eventually

Central member George Bayliss was recently profiled in “Medicine@Brown,” a magazine for friends of the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. The article, “For the Love of the Ocean State,” by Jen A. Miller, is excerpted here.

Despite knowing in college that he wanted to be a doctor, George Bayliss, M.D., didn’t think it could work on a logistical level. “College was competitive enough,” he said. “Then I watched friends who went through medical school, working long hours in the middle of the night, and it sounded like they were in a completely different world.”

Instead, he earned a master’s degree in international and public affairs at Columbia University. He conducted a research project on alcoholism in the then-Soviet

Union to see if an anti-alcohol campaign published in state-run newspapers could “actually convince people to drink less,” he said. That deep dive led him to become a Europe-based journalist, working for the  AP Dow Jones wire service.

But the idea of earning his M.D. never went away, even well into his thirties. “I called a few medical schools to see if this was completely out of character,” he said. Some were noncommittal or said they’d never admitted a student at that age and told him, “You figure it out.” At Brown, though, a first-year medical student in his mid-thirties led Bayliss’ tour of the anatomy lab. “It seemed the Medical School valued different people, including those of different ages,” he said. “That’s why I came.” He matriculated at the age of 40.

Bayliss was born in Michigan and grew up in [North Carolina], but is now a Rhode Islander through and through. He stayed at Brown for his internal medicine residency and came back after a nephrology fellowship at Harvard University. He said of his specialty, “It’s a way to interact with everybody in the hospital since kidney health is part of every service, whether it’s medicine or surgery or something else.” Plus he’s always working directly with patients; he said, “I like that I still use a stethoscope.”

Rhode Island “has a big need for doctors,” the associate professor of medicine added. “It felt like since I trained here, I owed something to the people of Rhode Island by coming back and practicing. I’m glad I did. It’s a good place to live.”

Lunch At Gregg’s Restaurant

Celebrate Labor Day weekend with Central friends old and new! We’ll meet after Worship. Check out the family-friendly menu (www.greggsusa.com/Menu/Daily-Specials) and RSVP to Claudia. Sunday, Sep. 4, 11:15 am, at Gregg’s (1303 North Main Street, Providence)

Food For Thought Book Group

This month, Claudia’s book group will discuss “The Four Winds,” by Kristin Hannah, a story of a family’s love and sacrifice during the Dust Bowl and Great Depression. Thursday, Sep. 8, 7 pm, in the Fireplace Room. Coming up on Oct. 13: 
“Born a Crime,” by Trevor Noah

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 274-4666. Thursday, Sep. 15, 7:30 am, in the Fireplace Room

Carousel Sunday

The amazing Looff Carousel – a National Historic Landmark closed for restoration since Oct. 2019 – is open again! Bring a snack or picnic lunch … and the kids. It’s fun for all ages! Tickets are $2 each. Children ages 3 and under ride free. Questions? Ask Claudia. Sunday, Sep. 18, 12 noon, at the Crescent Park Carousel (700 Bullocks Point Avenue, Riverside)

Women Gather

This month, our women’s fellowship will join other Centralites at the Crescent Park Looff Carousel. See “Carousel Sunday” for details. Sunday, Sep. 18, 12 noon, at the Crescent Park Carousel

Rebecca’s Book Group

We’re back meeting in person this fall! First up: “Graceland, At Last: Notes on Hope and Heartache from the American South,” by Margaret Renkl. For the past four years, Renkl’s columns have offered New York Times’ readers a weekly dose of natural beauty, human decency, and persistent hope from her home in Nashville. This sparkling new collection offers more than 60 of those pieces for our discussion. Thursday, Sep. 29, 12:30 pm, in Rebecca’s study. Coming up on Oct. 25: “Horse,” by Geraldine Brooks

Adult Sunday School

Mark your calendar! We will reconvene our learning community in October. More information will be sent mid-September via email, so contact Claudia now to get on the mailing list. Sundays starting 
Oct. 16, 9 am, in the Fireplace Room

Children and Spirituality

It’s hard to believe that September is already here, and with it comes the beginning of fall, the start of school, and the return to “normal life.”

Perhaps you are like me and see September as the start of a new year. It comes from all those years of beginning a new academic year around Labor Day. Every “new year” I’d make resolutions on how things would be different, how I would be different. I’d promise myself: This year I won’t doodle all over my book covers. This year I will do my homework right when I get home from school. This year I will keep my papers neat and sorted.

Like so many resolutions made in January, these would last maybe a few weeks. Yet still, every September, I would promise myself how this year would be different. It is indeed the perfect time to make changes, try new activities, and create or revive positive habits.

If you’ve gotten out of the habit of coming to church, now is the time to reconnect. Regular attendance enriches our lives so much. Children make and grow relationships with other children, as well as caring adults. Adults also foster connections and grow closer with the community. It is wonderful to have a group of people who support you, as well as accept the support you give. Church is a faith community where people of all ages and walks of life come together, teaching and learning from each other in the presence of God.

September is also a great time for families to make changes in their daily lives. Try reading Bible stories with your children. Say grace before meals. Take time to hear everyone’s “highs and lows” of the day. Ask for God’s blessing before you and your children leave the house each morning.

Throughout the year, Central has special programs and events to enrich your lives. There is much to learn and share. And, there is also time and space for individual growth. Come join us on Gathering Sunday, Sep. 11, and reconnect in ways that really matter! – Judy

Church School Registration

On Gathering Sunday, before Worship, children and their parents will meet with Judy for church school registration. Judy will review the general curriculum for the year and discuss some of the special units they’ll be undertaking. She will also answer questions and deal with any concerns. Then everyone will head down to Chapel Hall for some pre-church refreshments! Sunday, Sep. 11, 9:30 am, Church School Gathering Space

Congratulations, Alphonse!

Back in 2016, Central proudly welcomed Alphonse Mupenzi, his wife Charlotte, and their children Sandra, Oliver, and Sonia into the Central community as they emigrated from the Congo to Rhode Island.  Six years later, on Wednesday, July 29, Centralites Mary Frances and Ed Bishop, George Delany, Mary Hazeltine, and Liz Viall were on hand to applaud Alphonse as he took the Oath of Naturalization and became a citizen of the United States of America! (See newsletter pdf for photos)

CCC Youth

Confirmation will begin Sunday, Sep. 18, after Worship with an orientation for teens and parents. Depending on the weather, we’ll meet outside at the labyrinth or inside in Chapel Hall. This is a wonderful opportunity to learn about the confirmation process, discover how classes are run, ask questions, and share concerns.

The fun will start for NEOS and WORD on Sunday, Sep. 11. We’ll meet after Worship for food and fellowship. We’ll play games, share ideas for the upcoming year, and basically have a good time. CCC Youth activities are open to all youth in the sixth through twelfth grades. NEOS is specifically for middle schoolers, while WORD is for high school teens. Sometimes we’ll meet together, and other times we’ll meet separately. If you are interested or want more information on Central’s youth programs, please contact Judy Martowska.

Coffee Hour Assignments

With Coffee Hour resuming in September, the Social Committee has made 2022/23 committee assignments for providing Coffee Hour refreshments:

  • September – Social Committee
  • October – Mission and Action
  • November – Calling and Flower
  • December – Prudential
  • January – Membership
  • February – Music
  • March – Religious Education
  • April – Care of Interior and Technology
  • May – Gallery

Contact Carolyn Kolesar, carolynkolesar2013@gmail.com, with questions.

Amos House Needs Volunteers!

We need volunteers to work at the Amos House soup kitchen every Wednesday from 6:30 to 8 am – when we meet in the Amos House kitchen to assemble pre-packaged breakfasts. For more information or to volunteer, please contact Tracy Baran at tmoorf@gmail.com.

Calling All Photographers!

We are looking to develop a list of volunteers to photograph church activities, events, and outings – instead of relying on the same few individuals. This will help mark Central moments in history and enhance newsletter and social media campaigns. Prior to an event, we’ll send an email asking if you are available. After you photograph – and enjoy – the event, simply email the photos to the church office. If you’re interested in joining the Central Photography Group, contact Antonia or Steve (antonia@centralchurch.us / steve@centralchurch.us) in the church office (401-331-1960) or stop by to sign up!

Save the Date

World Communion Sunday:  Join us as we share in the sacrament 
with Christians the world over. Sunday, Oct. 2, 10:30 am

September Events

4 Stewardship Committee 9:15 am
  Worship 10 am
  Children’s Summer Program 10 am
  Lunch at Gregg’s 11:15 am
7 Gallery Committee 9:30 am
8 Food for Thought Book Group 7 pm
11 Church School Registration 9:30 am
  Gathering Sunday 10:30 am
  NEOS and WORD 11:45 am
13 Board of Deacons 5:45 pm
15 Central Men’s Group 7:30 am
  Choir Rehearsal 7:30 pm
18 Worship 10:30 am
  Church School 10:30 am
  Confirmation Class 11:30 am
  Leadership Development 11:45 am
  Carousel Sunday 12 noon
  Women Gather 12 noon
20 Newsletter Deadline 3:30 pm
  Plant & Properties Committee 5:45 pm
  Prudential Committee 7 pm
21 Chapel Hall Design Committee 5 pm
22 Rebecca’s Book Group 12:30 pm
  Choir Rehearsal 7:30 pm
24 Baptism Meeting 10 am
25 Worship/Blessing of the Animals 10:30 am
  Church School 10:30 am
26 Technology Committee 7 pm
29 Choir Rehearsal 7:30 pm


The Church Office will be closed on Monday, September 5, for Labor Day.



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