The Messenger

October 1996

From the Rector.....

Dear Friends,

The parish is well into the church school year and there is a wonderful atmosphere down in the children's classrooms. Also, the adult education programs are well attended and I hope are helping the participants with their life in Christ. It certainly shows that in the Episcopal Church learning about our faith begins at baptism and continues throughout our life

This summer I heard from a priest who had been given a copy of last year's "Education for Christian Living" and he commented on what a full and exciting group of classes we offer for all ages. Bishop Ball has also mentioned our educational program to me. We are blessed to have so many people who are willing to ask questions of faith and to explore them with others in our parish family!

Also we are blessed to be completing our capital improvement projects. I think this year we turn a significant corner at Saint Stephen's in terms of our physical plant. For most years of our life we have not been able to practice preventative maintenance on the buildings. There always seemed to be a lack of money or another building project underway. Now, with Blessings 2000 almost finished we have completed any building projects we will need for a long time. Our roofs and heating system are in good shape, our buildings are sound. The on-going maintenance is being shared by those in our congregation who have the skills to help. Our sexton, who has been at Saint Stephen's for almost ten years, is also committed to keeping our physical plant in good shape.

Yes, at this time in our parish life we have turned a corner. We enjoy beautiful and dignified worship, and we offer a number of opportunities for spiritual growth for all ages. Now is the time to concentrate on a third goal of the parish: increased outreach to the needy in our community and the world. Earlier this year a letter was written in The Messenger challenging us to spend more on others. The challenge was well received.

There are many ways in which we can meet that challenge. We could set aside a greater proportion of our budget for groups like Schenectady Inner City Ministry, the Damien Center, the Emergency Food Pantry and Bethesda House. Individually, we could put more money in our United Thank Offering and Presiding Bishop's Fund envelopes. Also, we could raise extra money for outreach in more novel ways.

The parish council is going to try something very new in order to raise money for outreach. We will ask our members to make something - something out of wood, something out of clay, a painting, baked goods, services, something from your imagination. Then we will gather in the parish hall in February and have a potluck and auction. For the first twenty minutes the kids will have their part, auctioning toys that they have donated. Then the adults will have their turn. On the tables around the edges of the hall will be articles for a silent auction. And up front will be a live auction of some of the major items. It could be fun and it could raise a considerable sum for outreach.

There are other interesting ideas for outreach fund raising. The youth groups of the congregation are planning a series of car washes - your car will be washed while you are worshiping on Sunday morning! All proceeds will go toward their work week this summer in Tennessee.

Yes, I think we're ready, as a congregation, to increase what we give to others. Have any other ideas? I am very interested in hearing them. In the meantime, what will you offer at the auction in February?

..................James+

CREMATION AND THE RESURRECTION

Second in a two-part series

Now that our new columbarium is in place and niches are being purchased, I thought that I would deal with two issues of cremation which a number of our members have questioned. Last week I examined the feeling that cremation is somehow an improper, disrespectful, even irreverent method of doing what needs to be done. And this week I will turn to the question of whether the cremation of a corpse affirms, denies, defies, accords with, or flouts, our belief in the resurrection of the body: the theological question.

"The Messenger" is not the place to make a complete analysis of the doctrine of resurrection, but if you would like to get this doctrine - the Christian doctrine - fixed in your mind I can only suggest that you stop right now and read Paul's first letter to the Corinthians (15th chapter).

God plants the seeds of our immortal souls in our mortal bodies at the time of our conception. Throughout our earthly life, God is forming and shaping a life that is eternal, and this is done through the physical body which we use throughout our earthly life. This body is a vital and necessary part of a person; in it we make our beginning as an eternal person. Hence there is a direct continuity and identity - which we cannot see but God sees - between this body of our present life and the body with which we shall be clothed for our life in eternity. Jesus (John 12:24) and Paul (1 Corinthians 15:35-38) both speak of this mystery by comparing it to what happens when a seed is planted in the ground. If you want corn, you plant a seed of corn; and that seed is the corn that is to be - potentially. But there is a very great difference in appearance between the seed and the full-grown plant. Even so, looking at the whole process you see the seed and the plant as being organically one and the same life.

This is similar to the Christian doctrine of the resurrection of the body. We may regard this present body of ours as the seed. Looking at it, we could never guess from its present appearance what it will eventually become. But we know God's present plan and purpose. God is using our present life in the physical body as the seed of our full-grown, completed, perfected life which will be ours eternally.

Without our present body we could not begin to live; and that is what we are doing now - beginning to live, even as the planted seed is the plant beginning to live. Therefore, after death this present body is no longer essential to our continuing life, and what happens to it cannot affect the new stage of life in the new stage of body.

Last month I suggested that humans have a deep feeling that a corpse must always be dealt with reverently. The Christian belief in resurrection reinforces this feeling. If cremation appeals to you as the most reverent and proper way of committing the physical remains to the elements, nobody can condemn your judgment on Christian grounds.

Since last month's article several other questions have arisen. First, if it is desired that the burial rite be performed in church in the presence of the remains, is there any difference in degree of appropriateness between an urn with ashes in it or a casket with an embalmed corpse in it? I must answer that there is absolutely no difference that I can see. Why should there be? In the end, the committal is of "ashes to ashes"- and "dust to dust."

Second I have been asked to express my view of how the ashes should be finally disposed of: by burial in a consecrated grave, in a niche of a columbarium, or perhaps strewn from a boat into a lake where the deceased once loved to fish, or whatever. Here again, the only test of fitness which should be applied is that of loving respect for the wishes of the departed and for those who mourn the death. Where reverent love rules, there can be no irreverence in the sight of God.

Dear Rector,

The church in which I grew up had bright red doors. The Episcopal church from which I came had red doors. This summer in my travels I could often spot the red doors on an Episcopal churches even before I saw those welcome signs. So what is the historical significance/reason that church doors are often painted red?

...observant

Dear Observant,

I really don't know. So I asked my friends on the internet and I share their varied responses with you.

I've always understood it to mean "this church is named for a martyr" - red for the blood thereof.

"Red Doors" - the version I heard is that the doors symbolize the blood of the Lamb, through which one enters the Body of Christ, the Church.

Prior to the Revolution, in parts of what is now this Diocese (Albany) there were large groups of native Americans who requested Queen Ann of England to "be a good mother and send some one to teach us religion. Her majesty responded with Missionary Priests and Communion Silver. Parish Churches seeking to welcome the Native Americans painted their doors red or, in one notable case, painted a broad red band around the entire building.

I have found a "folk-belief" among many episcopalians that red doors means the church is paid for, i.e., unmortgaged. Probably goes back to the time when Bishops. would not consecrate an indebted church.

It is a sign of refuge. Once through the red doors for refuge, you were "safe home" if you touched the fair linen on the altar?

My favorite is this response from Scotland:

I am baffled. I don't think I ever seen church doors painted red - at least not in Scotland, England, France, Italy, or Spain. Perhaps its a transatlantic thing. A couple of weeks ago, however, we thought of repainting the notice board bright red, so that it would stand out, and if we did that we would have painted the doors the same colour. However, some people felt that such a colour was a mite unorthodox. No one actually said why by I suspect they were thinking of "scarlet women". Pity, because I quite liked it. At the moment, the doors are painted burgundy - that's because the paint was cheaper.

Give us a practice and we'll find a theology for it.

.............the rector

A WORD ABOUT TOYS IN CHURCH

Quiet toys, coloring books, etc. are quite in order for the younger set, especially during the sermon or while people are receiving Communion. Kids fade in and out during worship (so do adults!). That's O.K. It's amazing how much children pick up and use from worship, even when it doesn't seem that way.

127th ANNUAL CONVENTION OF THE DIOCESE OF ALBANY

The diocese is the most important unit of the Episcopal Church. It is based on geography, generally, but also on Church population, so that dioceses may have borders contingent with state boundaries, or there may be a number of dioceses in a state because of population growth. Dioceses are made up of parishes, which receive financial aid. It is in these local congregations that most Episcopalians have their Church involvement.

It is likely, therefore, that most Episcopalians will know more about their local communities than about the larger structures. Many will have no involvement beyond the local boundaries. However, since they are Episcopalians they bear a share of the responsibility for the support of the diocesan and national structures. This means that to be an Episcopalian is to be something more than a member of a local group of Christians, and it demands a greater awareness of larger responsibilities.

Once a year each diocese holds a convention to approve a budget, to elect officers, and to conduct other business that pertains to diocesan life. The annual session of the 1996 Convention of the Diocese of Albany will be held on October 13 - 14 at the Cathedral in Albany. The same delegates will represent Saint Stephen's next May when we elect our new bishop.

The Convention Delegates for St. Stephen's are:

James Brooks-McDonald
Pat Jones
John Peatling
Norman Hoffmann
Michael Bishop
Suzanne Coonradt

Election of the following offices will take place:

Trustees
Standing Committee
Diocesan Council
Cathedral Chapter
Ecclesiastical Trial Court

From this parish Norman Hoffman is on the Ecclesiastical Trial Court,
Kabby Lowe is Coordinator for the Presiding Bishop's Fund for World Relief,
Al Lowe is chairperson of the diocesan Hunger Coordinating Committee,
Michael Bishop serves on the Salary & Benefits Committee
James Brooks-McDonald is a delegate to Province II Synod, and is running for Standing Committee.

The delegates will vote on a new budget with the following expenditures:

$85,165 assistance to small congregations

$202,677 to the National Church

$304,883 diocesan staff salary and benefits

$90,000 for the cathedral

$32,000 for the "Albany Episcopalian"

$113,631 for our retreat centers: Barry House and Beaver Cross

$40,000 for the Counselling Center

$69,000 retired clergy medical

This would require St. Stephen's assesment to the diocese of $24,918 for 1997.

COMMUNION CLASS

The prayerbook stresses that baptism is the beginning of full membership in the Church. Since all baptized Christians are welcome at the altar, discretion is left to parents as to when they want their child to begin receiving communion. Criteria for Confirmation involve the moment when a person is both old enough and prepared enough to know the implications of making a voluntary, public and personal acceptance of the vows made earlier at Baptism on his/her behalf.

Classes for parents and children who are planning to prepare for reception to the Holy Communion, and those who have already begun receiving but who want further preparation, will meet on two Wednesdays: October 23rd and 30th in the parish hall from 4:45 pm to 6:00 pm. Those parents wishing their children to take communion for the first time could plan to do so on All Saints Sunday, November 3rd at the 10:15 am Eucharist.

Meet Our Church School Teachers

First Semester (Sept. to Feb)

Age 5:
Barbara Adams
Margie Knickerbocker

Grades 1- 3:
Kim Chapman

Grades 4 - 5:
Dawn Rizzo
Cynthia Reedy

Middle Scool:
Mousumi Franks

Senior High:
George Woodzell
Suzanne Coonradt

Substitute:
Vickie Hoshko

Resource Room Coordinator:
Richie Woodzell

Thanks for accepting this most important ministry!

A CHILD'S PLACE IS IN THE CHURCH

Children are encouraged to attend the celebration of the Eucharist with the adults. For those too young to remain for the worship service (under the age of five years old), child care is provided from 10 am through 11:15 am BRINGING CHILDREN TO WORSHIP MAY NOT ALWAYS BE EASY FOR CHILDREN AND PARENTS, BUT IT IS THE FULFILLMENT OF OUR BAPTISMAL COMMITMENT AS THE CHURCH FAMILY TO NURTURE OUR CHILDREN IN FAITH

BLESSING OF THE ANIMALS AND ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI

On October 4th we celebrate the life and work of St. Francis. He is probably better known for preaching to birds than for the poverty he embraced in his passion to be like Christ. Yet, Francis' love of God's creation has given his statue a place in many church and home gardens.

No mere nature lover, Francis saw in nature's paradoxes and mysteries a revelation of the presence of God. He marveled at the simplicity and obedience of the birds, fishes, rabbits, doves, the falcon who wakened him for Matins, the famous wolf of Gubbio who gave his pledge of peace to Francis and kept it.

Because of St. Francis' connection to God's creation, and especially to animals, a tradition arose in England whereby the parish priest would bless the villagers' animals on St. Francis' Day. Since Oct. 4 falls on a Tuesday this year, the parish council thought that the preceding Saturday would be a good time for St. Stephen's to begin what could be an annual tradition.

Here's how it will work:

On September 28th the congregation and any animals (on leashes!) will gather next to the church behind the parish hall. WE WILL REMAIN OUTSIDE DURING THE ENTIRE SERVICE. The rector will begin a brief worship service and then will bless each animal saying: "O God, who has made all things for yourself, bless, we pray you, this animal; that it may be a source of love and joy to those with with whom it dwells."

It's quite a sight!

FOYER GROUPS

Sign-up forms for "Foyers - Fall '96 was available at the Parish Faire in September. Time is running out! It is essential that you sign up to participate in the fourth year of Foyers as we cannot assume that all those who have already participated will continue this fall.

The Foyer program at St. Stephen's emerged as part of our mission discernment and involves eight to ten people meeting monthly for dinner and conversation in each others homes. If you have any questions, please call the parish office.