Rebecca Spencer

Rebecca Spencer

Born 1949

Rebecca Sherman with calves, courtesy of Rebecca Sherman.

Shepherd of both two-legged and four-legged creatures, Rebecca championed the concept of ‘radical inclusion’ long before the term was in common use.  Called to Central Congregational Church in Providence in 1988 as the 10th – and first female – senior minister, she set out to nurture and strengthen a church where all are not only welcomed, but also wanted, needed, safe and loved – especially during difficult and divisive times.  A church with impact – both tangible and intangible – far beyond its historic East Side walls. 

First woman to become a United Church of Christ (UCC) senior minister without first serving there as an associate minister, she leads a congregation of 600 gathered from throughout  Rhode Island and nearby Massachusetts, representing numerous social, racial and economic backgrounds as well as geographic and denominational origins.  Her commitment to mission and action has continued to build Central’s long standing partnerships with local groups such as Camp Street Ministries and Amos House as well as sponsoring refugee families and sending mission workers and aid to Haiti, New Orleans, rural Maine and South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation.  In addition to her preaching and pastoral work, Rebecca serves on the Champlin Foundation’s Distribution Committee, Wheeler School Board of Trustees and Women and Infants Hospital’s Bioethics Committee.

In Little Compton, the herd of 14 Hereford/Angus hybrid cattle keeps her busy with God’s four-legged creatures.  Having grown up with chickens, horses, a donkey, sheep and ducks, Rebecca and her family are transforming a wooded valley nestled next to the Sakonnet River into a working farm.  Over the years in Little Compton, they have raised over 30 calves, and continue building the herd as well as branching out with honey bees and lobsters direct from the Sakonnet. And who knows what is next!  She is grateful for wonderful relationships with local farm stands, (particularly Walker’s and Young’s where both sons have worked through the years), fellow farmers and neighbors.  The opportunity to connect in meaningful ways with Little Compton’s agricultural heritage is a real privilege. And Little Compton’s Historical Society is such a great resource for discovering new parts of the Town’s past! Her sons and her late husband have certainly also enjoyed sailing in the ocean,  swimming across the Sakonnet River (and back!) and fishing off the cliffs. 

A native of rural Middlebury, CT, Rebecca received her Master of Divinity degree from Harvard Divinity School, graduated from Wellesley College and also studied philosophy at the University of Edinburgh through Dartmouth College.  She met her husband, the late Charles B. Rice at church and is the mother of two sons, Thomas and Ezra Rice.

Rebecca Spencer

July 2020

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