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Sermon by Todd Grant Yonkman at Beneficent Church on 26 January 2014. Failure and the seeds of success.

Sermon by Shai Pina at Beneficent Church on June 10, 2013

sacred conversation on leadershipSermon by Nicole Grant Yonkman and April Lau at Beneficent Church on March 3, 2013.

Sermon by Todd Grant Yonkman at Beneficent Church on 23 September 2012. Text: John 17:20-24. How does information get passed from one generation to the next in the context of a faith community?

This video was made by Rhode Island College student, Kristin Blais, for a class. Thanks Kristin!

Paulette Littlejohn and family

Long time member of Beneficent Church, Deacon Paulette Littlejohn was recently featured in a news article in UCNews, the news organization of theUnited Church of Christ. Here’s a sample:

The Rev. Nicole Grant Yonkman figures 45 years is long enough.

Lifting up Paulette Littlejohn for her long-standing membership in and service to Beneficent Congregational UCC in Providence, R.I., Yonkman’s strong sentiment is succinct.

“It’s high time she got some recognition for what she does in the church.”

Yonkman and her husband, the Rev. Todd Grant Yonkman –– co-ministers at Beneficent for the past 16 months –– proudly presided over the Native American Ministries worship service Sept. 26 at which five members of Littlejohn’s family were baptized.

“She’s been a member of this church for 45 years and has never been asked to be in leadership,” says Nicole. “It’s crazy, because here she is an elder of a tribe and the tribe has 1,500 members. This year, for the first time, she is a deacon in our church.”

A council elder of the Northern Narragansett tribe, Littlejohn counts more than 300 –– including 12 great grandchildren –– among her family. Self-identified as Native American, she also has African-American blood.

“Our Native-American family is providing the leadership that is revitalizing and helping us to turn around this downtown struggling church,” says Todd. “Our ministry is about empowering groups, building leadership and affirming what they bring. This is not ministry to, this is ministry with.” Read more . . .

Beneficent Church

From Beneficent Church’s October 2010 newsletter:

On October 16 & 17, Beneficent Church will be hosting a gala celebration of the 200th anniversary of our Meeting House. This event will bring to a close over a year’s worth of work. We would like to thank what has come to be known as the MH200 planning team—Doris Mathewson, Pat Falcon, Jane Eastman, Marilyn Washington, Jon Farnum, Charlotte Decker, Jean Kelly, Matt Hird, Peter Borgemeister, Jed Griswold, Irene Hope, Susan Carroll, Pastor Todd, Pastor Nicole, and especially our chair, Mary Ryder.

Please make every effort to participate in the weekend celebration. And invite your friends! It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The Saturday evening awards gala on the 16th is an opportunity for us to invite people from the community to join us in celebrating community groups and leaders who are partners with us in working to make Providence a more just, compassionate, healthy, and whole place. The Sunday celebration is an opportunity for current members and alumni to celebrate our connection to this faith community.

The purpose of celebrating the 200th anniversary of our Meeting House has been twofold: 1) to get in touch with where we as a faith community have been in order to better understand where God is leading today and 2) to reconnect with our communities—Providence, in particular—by sharing our story and inviting our friends and neighbors to become a part of that story.

We began at the beginning. On January 3, 2010. Harl, Jonathan, and Linda Ryder dressed in 18th century period costume, and Harl acted as town crier announcing the commencement of the year’s festivities. Over the following months we celebrated different aspects of our history: our colonial beginnings as a “New Light” congregation, our African American history, the leadership role of women at Beneficent, our ministry among immigrant and refugee groups—particularly our connections to the Chinese community, our more recent public and intentional inclusion of LGBT people in our life and ministry. All of these aspects of our history can be seen in who we are today! They were celebrated with speakers and dinners and events—including a major renovation of Abbott Park—too numerous to mention here.

We’ll end with an 1897 quote from Beneficent’s Home Mission Board. At that point in our history, the neighborhood around the church was changing and putting pressure on the church to adapt. Here’s what our ancestors said: “In our location we must be largely a ‘missionary’ (as distinguished from a ‘home’) church. Let us pray for the success of the venture; and, that this old church, besieged by business and surrounded and restricted by growing traffic, may, in its adjustment to changing conditions, continue a powerful influence on the community.”

Little did they know at the time, but in 1897, Beneficent was on the brink of the greatest period of growth in its history!

That 19th century spirit of vitality, hope, and mission in the face of change is alive today and will carry us forward into the 21st century.

This coming Sunday, September 12, Beneficent Church will be giving away L.L. Bean backpacks with school supplies to all students grades pre-K through 12 who join us for worship at 10am. Invite your friends and join us to find out more about the exciting Christian Education programs at Beneficent Church.

The following is a journal entry by F of her experience of Providence Pride 2010

O borrows rainbow

Pride water stop 2010

June 19, 2010 Saturday 10:59PM

We got home an hour ago from the Pride Parade. I can’t wait till next year because that was so much fun!
They marched right down Weybosset Street in front of Beneficent Church. Olivia and I had just come from our Rhode Island Children’s Chorus concert and we were still in uniform.
I poured water for all the funky people dancing past. It’s one of the most amazing and beautiful things I’ve ever seen. People can show their true colors and be themselves. It was uplifting to see all the people so happy. There was dancing and cheering. Pat, a lady from my church, had on a rainbow hat. I put a glowstick around my head like a halo. There were some scantily clad dudes on a gigantic truck with “Bad Romance” playing. There were marching bands, acrobats, and drag queens. Some people were just marching. Posters and shirts said “EQUALITY” and “JUSTICE”. Necklaces, tattoos, and candy were thrown from floats. Daddy got nailed in the head with a bag of chips.
People said, “THANK YOU” to Olivia and me a lot when we poured water. This one dude was like, “Thank you SOOOO MUCH! I absolutely LOVE you guys!”
There was, also, this random dude on roller blades with a flashing airplane on his head.
The police had the streets blocked off and people were dancing, chatting, and just having pride. You could just let go and be yourself. You didn’t have to masquerade or put on a facade. All you had to do was let your soul shine through.
There was some protest there, too. Marriage equality banners were prominent.
I can’t wait till next year!

The Practicing Church by Diana Butler Bass is a helpful book for two reasons: 1) It offers a different story from the decline narrative that has dominated (and, unfortunately, continues to have strength) conversation about the mainline church for the past several decades. 2) It paints a picture of a model for mainline church redevelopment.

The central concept of Bass’ book is what she calls ” retraditioning.”. It is a process of creatively reappriopriating distinctively Christian practices such as prayer, Holy Communion, hospitality, Scripture study, healing, social justice, liturgical art, and so on. I find this concept compelling for. postmodern context that values creative juxtaposition and for an urban mainline context where churches are treasure houses of historic architectures, symbols, artworks, and traditions.

As an example, this summer Beneficent Church will be worshipping in the Round Top Center, which was originally built as the church’s chapel. in subsequent years the pews and organ were removed, a stage was built, and the Round Top Center was used as a parish hall. In order to reappropriatw the Center as worship space, we moved the historic deacons benches from the balcony of the meetinghouse into the Center. In doing so, we are creatively reclaiming and retraditioning powerful symbols.

Flickr Photos