From the Rector.....
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
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
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
CREMATION AND THE
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
"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
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.
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?
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
"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.
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.
Election of the following offices will
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
Al Lowe is chairperson of the
diocesan Hunger Coordinating
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.
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
First Semester (Sept. to Feb)
Grades 1- 3:
Grades 4 - 5:
Resource Room Coordinator:
Thanks for accepting this most
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
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!
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.