September 2023 Newsletter

Central News

September 2023 | Vol. 32, No. 1

Join us Gathering Sunday, September 10, at 10:30 am!

Download the PDF version of the September Newsletter

From Rebecca

Dear friends, a few years ago some of my colleagues and I met with Professor Stanley Hauerwas, great theologian, fantastic raconteur, and son of a bricklayer. The August 14 issue of The New Yorker quoted him in a short essay about Leah Hunt-Hendrix, grand-daughter of H.L. Hunt, Dallas oilman estimated in 1967 to be the wealthiest person in America. Leah studied with Stanley at Duke University, and during a conversation, when he realized her family background, he told her, “My daddy must have laid bricks for your granddaddy.” The essay is titled “The Gift … What Should You Do with an Oil Fortune?”

Leah sees her answer in being an activist for causes in which she believes. She put it like this, “We are born into traditions, and it becomes our task to keep making sense of the world through those traditions, improving them as we go.”

The article ends with this poignant story told by Stanley. “I was a young guy, came home for the summer…. My father, who was caring in his way but not very expressive, hands me a hunting rifle. He’d been crafting it by hand, for months. For me. I told him, ‘Dad, you can keep it – those things ought to be banned.'” The author noted that Stanley looked pained by the memory, even though the incident had occurred decades earlier. Stanley went on: “What an ignorant little **** I was. He could have done whatever he wanted with the gun – locked it in a safe, made a sculpture advocating for gun-control laws, melted it down. But when your ancestor hands you a gift, however deadly it is, the first thing you do is you accept it. You have to accept the gift.”

We have all been given gifts, forces that have shaped our lives. The questions each of us need to answer for ourselves, are these: What do we do with our gifts? How do we accept these forces, positive and negative? How do we use them to make this world we share a better place? More loving? More peaceful? More beautiful? More grace-filled? These questions and their answers will be different for each of us as we live into them. But I believe we will make a difference as we work together and see ourselves as part of a greater whole shaped and loved by almighty God.

Wishing each of you strength, courage, and calm as you contemplate your gifts and challenges – Rebecca

Help Rebuild CCC Youth

NEOS and WORD, Central’s youth groups for middle schoolers and high schoolers, are ready for a new year of mission, faith formation, and friendships! Might you be ready to help guide them with your ideas?

Please come to a gathering before worship on Sunday, Oct. 1, at 9:30 am in Chapel Hall for a CCC Youth brainstorm. We want to start off the year by rebuilding our youth groups – with some new opportunities and exciting activities – so they will be ready to welcome the new senior minister.

Guaranteed, if you can join in this meeting or help out in some way to engage our youth, you will be glad you did! Maybe suggest an adventure you remember from your youth. Maybe a Saturday morning of volunteering at the new community food bank springing from Camp Street Ministries. Maybe just a time for our youth to share their experiences during the first month of the new school year.

All ideas and people are welcome!

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 24, 7 pm

Faith Exploration
Wednesday, November 1, 7 pm

New Member Sunday
Sunday, November 5, 10:30 am

The Deacon’s Bench

As a child, I anticipated September with a mixture of sadness for the ending of summer vacation and the excitement of the new school year. I usually spent most of my time in the summer with family, and I was always glad to go back to school to be with friends my own age. I also liked learning and looked forward to the new topics I would study. As an adult, I have managed to sustain some of these situations. I used to teach high school English, and I looked forward in September to meeting a new group of students, eager to learn, or perhaps not so eager, but offering me the challenge of finding ways to engage them. Since then, while I no longer teach, I do work at Brown University, and I am reminded of the sense of anticipation in late August as I go from a summer of riding the elevator alone to my seventh-floor office to riding with chattering students heading to their new classes.

Now, as I have happily begun devoting a great deal of time and thought to Central, I feel the same anticipation as I look forward to Gathering Sunday. Isn’t that a lovely term for the Sunday when we return to services at 10:30 am with the choir in the loft and children waiting for Church School classes to begin?

I have thoroughly enjoyed this summer, gathering each Sunday before worship to study the book of Mark with a delightful group ready to discuss that Gospel in depth. We have discussed the cultural history that leads to some of the phrasing, learning that some simple words would have carried great impact in the time they were written. I have learned so much about passages in Mark – things that I did not even realize I misunderstood – because others in the group asked questions of Claudia and the rest of the group. I would not have learned so much had I stayed home and read Mark alone.

Now, as we gather on Sep. 10 for Gathering Sunday, I look forward to feeling that the sanctuary will be fuller and that my fellow congregants will have a variety of new experiences to share. I do have a sense of sadness, too, though, knowing that we have just a few more months to enjoy Rebecca’s sermons. If you wish to join me and many other volunteers in planning a celebration of Rebecca and all she has given to Central, please reach out to me with your suggestions and offers of help. And mark your calendars for this celebration on November 19. – Lucy Hanna

Committee Spotlight: Flower Committee

Do you love flowers? Do you like to gather them into beautiful arrangements and enjoy giving them to people who are ill or have lost loved ones? If your answer is yes, Central’s Flower Committee – eleven “creative types” who share their love of beautiful things – is for you.

Planning is underway for Sunday bouquets that adorn the communion table throughout the year. In November, there’s Festival Sunday’s Harvest Communion Table – overflowing with cornucopia, pumpkins, vegetables and fruits of the season, as well as lovely autumn mums.

Then on to the busy month of December. We’ll fill the sanctuary steps and rails with red and white poinsettias and adorn walls and doors with green wreaths – not just for the Carol Service, but the entire Christmas season. Spring brings the holy season of Lent and Easter with a whole new display of Easter lilies, daffodils, and tulips.

There’s lots of work ahead. But making Central’s sanctuary beautiful for Sunday worship and delivering bouquets to those who cannot attend make it all worthwhile.

2023/24 Flower Committee: Kristin DeKuiper, Marilyn Edwards, Margaret Gardner, Ginger Harkey, Janet Harris, Beverly Haviland, Carolyn Kolesar, Cheryl Ludwig, Martha Nielson, Sharon Rounds, and Ann Scott

Thanks to Steve Heywood

It is with exceptionally sad hearts that we must say goodbye to Steve Heywood, Central’s communications coordinator. Steve came to Central to help church administrator Antonia Greco – whom Steve described as “one of [his] favorite former coworkers” – for what was meant to be a twelve-week temporary job. Instead, he stayed on for almost two years ago, helping Antonia turn the church office into a creative, well-oiled machine that has made life – and work – easier for us all.

“I can honestly say I have enjoyed every minute of working here,” said Steve. “The staff and members are truly special, and I’m grateful I’ve gotten to know so many of you throughout my time. Thank you for making it so easy to come into work every day and loving what I do!”

Steve’s last day will be Thursday, Sep. 14. He will then move on to a new position in marketing. Please stop by and let Steve know how much we’ve appreciated his contributions to Central!

Gathering Sunday

Summer church hours are coming to an end, and Gathering Sunday is almost upon us. Morning worship will begin at 10:30 am. Rebecca will return to the pulpit with a sermon entitled, “Recollections May Vary.” The scripture lesson will be Romans 13:8-14. The Central Congregational Choir will sing, and Church School will be back in session. And after worship, we’ll gather together to enjoy Coffee Hour in Chapel Hall. Sunday, Sep. 10, 10:30 am, in the Sanctuary

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 Reverend Rebecca Spencer. We will be offering Baptisms on Sunday, Sep. 17, at 10:30 am. There will be a gathering for those wishing to be baptized – date TBD – in the Fireplace Room.

Celebrating Rebecca

We’re planning a fabulous celebration – on Sunday, Nov. 19, 11:45 am, in Chapel Hall – to honor the Reverend Rebecca L. Spencer’s 35 years of service before she retires at the end of the year. But we need your help. Please contact members of the planning committee – listed below – if you can contribute your time and talents. Thanks!

  • Communications: Marilyn Edwards
  • Food, Beverages, Decorations, Set-up: Carolyn Kolesar
  • Program, Speakers: Barbara Bayon, Caroline Patterson Inlow
  • Tech, Gallery, Archives, Photos: Jerry Brown
  • Donations/Gifts: Lucy Hanna
  • Clean-up: Liz Viall

In Memoriam

Our prayers and sympathy are with Donna Templeton and her family on the death of her mother, Viola Fettuccia. Requiescat in pace

From Claudia

A few days ago I heard the distinctive cries of an osprey in our backyard. Knowing they like high places, I looked out and finally spotted it way up in our very tall white pine tree. The cries were loud and shrill, and I feared it might be hurt. Not to worry! It was only a teenage fledgling telling the world and his parents where to find him! Sure enough, below the fledgling a parent soon arrived, encouraging the young bird to continue its flight. This went on for almost an hour with a lot of yelling by the young bird. Even though our cat is an indoor cat, he was deeply concerned … from his safe perch in the window.

We watched the young osprey, and I thought of how people, birds, and creatures of all kinds grow and mature. It’s a lot of trial and error, as I imagine learning to fly might be. Come to think of it, don’t all adults – feathered and otherwise – rejoice in their own ways when their fledglings … fledge?

As summer turns into fall, many of our young will fledge into colleges and universities. Younger fledglings will enter new grades and classrooms throughout our educational systems. Some of us who are older might even fledge into new ventures ourselves! New beginnings are all around us. There is a crispness in this season in the weather, but also in the anticipation of what new things we will learn, of what new things we will discover.

As the weather turns cooler, our young osprey will need to be secure in his flight. Eventually he will travel south to the Carolinas and further. According to the Audubon Society, one osprey from Massachusetts named Penelope flew to the Bahamas, then the Dominican Republic, on to the Island of Birds off Venezuela, and finally she wintered in a remote jungle in Suriname.

May all of us, birds and humans and every creature in God’s creation, feel God’s presence as we fledge and soar to be all that God has created us to be!

Yours in hope and faith – Claudia

Central Choirs Resume for the Fall!

After a well-deserved hiatus this summer, our Adult and Children’s choirs will resume their weekly singing to once again enrich our worship – starting on Gathering Sunday, Sep. 10.

Our Children’s Choir welcomes young singers entering grades three through eight. Rehearsals are weekly on Mondays from 5 to 6 pm, starting on Sep. 11. The children will sing most Sunday mornings and warm-up prior to worship.

The Adult Choir rehearses every Thursday from 7:30 to 9:30 pm – beginning Sep. 14 – and Sundays at 9:15 am before worship.

We welcome and encourage new members to join! Our music ranges from simple to sophisticated. You’ll be challenged, rewarded, and meet new friends. Adding your voice in chorus with others not only brings beauty to our Sundays, but you will also find it personally fulfilling, grow in musical knowledge, and find your part in a rich tradition that has inspired our hearts and minds since creation!

Poetry Corner: Long Road to Freedom

A purloined mother-of-pearl shell
from Robben Island
cradles my orange earplugs
at the bedside.

How lame I feel in the shadow of Nelson Mandela,
how inconsequential.
Have I hit as many rocks?
A few fossils in Nova Scotia
was about it last year.

I curated them mercilessly
in the Windy City
down by the waterline,
but doubted anyone would buy
a coal-black leaf
from the Mississippian Period.

I’d forgotten, you see,
that his spirit is alive.
Forgotten until one night
when he answered my cry in silence
and handed me his medal.

Jon Wolston

Brunch/Lunch at Caspian Sea

Celebrate Labor Day weekend with friends over authentic Mediterranean cuisine as well as familiar and classic brunch options like omelets and French toast. Check out the menu at this Fox Point eatery ( and RSVP to Claudia. Sunday Sep. 3, 11:30 am, at Caspian Sea (239 Wickenden Street, Providence)

Women Gather

This month, Central’s women’s fellowship group will gather to catch up after the long – and sometimes very hot – summer. If you have questions, contact Claudia. Join us Sunday, Sep. 10, 12 noon, on the front garden patio at Hamilton House.

Food for Thought Book Group

Join us for a discussion about “Transcendent Kingdom,” by Yaa Gyasi. This raw, intimate novel is not only about a family of Ghanaian immigrants in Alabama ravaged by depression and addiction and grief, but also a deeply moving portrait of faith, science, religion, and love. Thursday, Sep. 14, 7 pm, in the Fireplace Room   Coming up on Oct. 12 – “Yellen: The Trailblazing,” by Jon Hilsenrath

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, Sep. 21, 7:30 am, in the Fireplace Room

Rebecca’s Book Group

This month Rebecca’s Book Group will tackle “The Undertow: Scenes from a Slow Civil War,” by Jeff Sharlet. This “guide” to the religious dimensions of American politics is a necessary reckoning with our precarious present that brings to light a decade of American failures, as well as a vision for American possibility. Thursday, Sep. 28, 12:30 pm, on the West Lawn.

Tuesdays With Scripture

Our weekly community devotional will be back in October! Every Tuesday morning, we’ll discuss a short Bible passage. Each session is self-contained. Come to one or to all of them! Contact Claudia for a Zoom invitation. She’ll also send you the reading and questions to consider ahead of time. Tuesdays, Oct. 3, 10, 17, and 24 – 8 to 8:45 am, via Zoom

Adult Sunday School

Adult Sunday School begins Oct. 15! We’ll meet on Sundays at 9 am, in the Fireplace Room. Contact Claudia to get on the email list

From the Religious Education Committee

Dear Church family, It’s hard to believe that the fall is nearly upon us with the accompanying busy back-to-school schedules, extracurricular activities, and for many of us, a return to the Sunday church routine. As you know, we are starting this Church School year without a director of children and youth. This seems like a daunting task.

In an effort to start off the year in an organized manner for the children, the Religious Education committee is seeking volunteers to teach Church School. Do you want to know what your children are learning? Do you need a break from your own child’s age group and want to work with a different group of kids? Have you been away from kids for a while and miss those interactions? Or maybe you can’t commit to every Sunday but would be willing to contribute your time and talents if needed?

If any of these options appeal to you, please contact Caroline Hunter ( or Susannah Mozley Hopkins (, co-chairs of the Religious Education committee.

The committee already has a curriculum in place – one that Central has used for many years – a space to gather, and all of the crafting supplies anyone could ever need. All that’s required is you, a little time, and a loving heart.

Thank you for your consideration. Like every other time Central has encountered a challenging situation, we have no doubt that this amazing congregation will rise to meet the Church School’s needs.

In the Gallery

In September, the Gallery will showcase the oil paintings of Marjorie Ball.

Marjorie likes to work in oil and charcoal – for their sensuality as well as the range of values, colors, opacity or translucency, and textures. She said, “The plasticity of oil paints encourages me to relinquish control, then grab it back when I need it, then lose it again. This process allows me to search, explore and experiment as much as I want.”

Marjorie paints ordinary scenes – landscapes, figures, and still lifes – from novel perspectives. Her subjects are the glow of afternoon sun as it warms the side of a farmhouse, the lights of a city, or the vista across a patterned expanse of earth. She brushes or wipes on layers of luminous oil colors. Then she wipes, scrapes, or layers over her original marks to obscure or reveal parts of the original exploration.

Although the paintings are representational, Marjorie softens the edges and brings a kind of glowing color to them. The resulting paintings have an aura of mystery and a dreamlike quality that hints at abstraction and evokes memory.

Come, meet the artist at the opening reception on Friday, Sep. 15, 5 to 7 pm, in the Gallery.

Friday Film Fare is Back!

After a one-year hiatus, Jim Silverthorn is bringing back Central’s Friday night at the movies. He’ll screen a different film each month, followed by a lively discussion. Mark your calendars and join us at 7:30 pm in the Fireplace Room.

  • Oct. 13: Till (2022)
  • Nov. 7: The Fallen Idol (1948)
  • Dec. 15: The Eyes of Tammy Faye (2021)
  • Jan. 19: Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
  • Feb. 16: The Shape of Water (2017)
  • Mar. 15: The Banshees of Inisherin (2022)
  • Apr. 19: Three Identical Strangers (2018)

Thanks from Frances Munro and Bob Stout

Frances and I would like to thank all those who helped make our Aug. 6 wedding a very special occasion. Many late-life wed-dings are small affairs, but as we are both involved in multiple communities, especially the church, we thought it appropriate to throw the doors open to many, including the Central congregation.

On the day, we were astonished to see more than 160 people filling the sanctuary. The room held churched and unchurched, close and remote family, friends from near and far, and of course many Central members as well as the choir. More important than the diversity, though, was the spirit of love and joy that filled the room. As we looked around the sanctuary, all we could see were smiling faces happy to see us wed. We were overwhelmed by the love and support shown to us, and can never thank adequately those of you who were there. This was a wedding we can never forget. – Bob Stout

September Events

3 Worship 10 am
Church School 10 am
Brunch / Lunch at Caspian Sea 11:30 am
6 Amos House Volunteers  6:30 am
Gallery Committee  9 am
7 Board of Deacons 5:30 pm
10 Gathering Sunday 10:30 am
Church School 10:30 am
Women Gather 12 noon
11 Children’s Choir Rehearsal 5 pm
13 Amos House Volunteers 6:30 am
14 Food for Thought Book Group 7 pm
Choir Rehearsal 7:30 pm
15 Gallery Opening Reception  5 pm
17 Worship / Baptism 10:30 am
Church School 10:30 am
Leadership Development Committee 11:45 am
18 Children’s Choir Rehearsal 5 pm
Technology Committee 7 pm
19 Plant, Properties & Design Committee 5:45 pm
Prudential Committee 7 pm
20 Amos House Volunteers  6:30 am
Newsletter Deadline 3:30 pm
21 Central Men’s Group 7:30 am
Choir Rehearsal 7:30 pm
24 Worship 10:30 am
Church School 10:30 am
25 Children’s Choir Rehearsal 5 pm
27 Amos House Volunteers 6:30 am
28 Rebecca’s Book Group 12:30 pm
Choir Rehearsal 7:30 pm

The Church Office will be closed on Monday, September 4, for Labor Day.



Posted in Newsletters, Updates.