The Messenger

December 1997

From the Rector.....

Dear Friends,

Last month I wrote about the Jubilee Year as our opportunity to rededicate ourselves to God's worship and service, even as we rededicate our parish church for another fifty years. This month I would like to share with you some of the events that are being planned for the next year.

Music has always been an important at Saint Stephen's and it is fitting that our celebration include several musical events. At this time I am arranging for the folk-singing duo called the Miserable Offenders to perform here sometime in the late winter. They blend voices with guitar, tongue drums, Tibetan bowl and synthesizer to create a sound that moves from the hauntinly meditative to sheer joy. Their two compact discs can be found in the Church Shop if you want a preview of this wonderful music.

Outreach to those in need has also been an important ministry of our congregation. Therefore as a part of our Jubilee Year I am arranging for Carl Dudley, a nationally known professor at Hartford Seminary in Connecticut, to give talks and lead workshops on the churches' role in welfare reform, a topic on which he is currently doing research. In April he will speak to the clergy and laity of the member congregations in Schenectady Inner City Ministry and will be the preacher at our Eucharists that Sunday.

The Jubilee Year is our opportunity to rededicate ourselves to God's worship and service. Let me know of other ideas you have that might help us to be a rededicated people during the next year.

Wishing you,

A blessed Advent, and a Merry Christmas,

James

THE ADVENT WREATH

Pre-Christian peoples who lived far north and who suffered the archetypal loss of life and light with the disappearance of the sun had a way of wooing back life and hope.

'Primitives' do not separate the natural phenomena from their religious or mystical yearning, so nature and mystery remained combined. As the days grew shorter and colder and the sun threatened to abandon the earth, these ancient people suffered the sort of guilt and separation anxiety which we also know.

Their solution was to bring all ordinary action and daily routine to a halt. They gave in to the nature of winter, came away from their carts and fields and put away their tools. They removed the wheels from their carts and wagons, festooned them with greens and lights and brought them indoors to hang in their halls.

They brought the wheels indoors as a sign of a different time, a time to stop and turn inward. They engaged the feelings of cold and fear and loss. Slowly....slowly....they wooed the sun- god back. And light followed darkness. Morning came earlier. The festivals announced the return of hope after primal darkness.

AND SO.....

Christians have developed a tradition of the Advent wreath to help us take time out from our busy Christmas preparations and to open our hearts to Jesus.

The circular form of the wreath, like God's love, is never-ending. The greenery that covers it reminds us of everlasting life and hope because evergreen trees are green even in the midst of winter.

The candles are symbols of the light God brings us. Three of them are purple, the royal color for the new King. The fourth candle is pink and is lit on the Third Sunday of Advent when we celebrate with special joy. Some people light a white candle, the Christ candle, in the center of the wreath on Christmas day.

A "Simple Family-Advent Service" for each Sunday in Advent is available on the welcome table in the parish hall.

GATHERING STRAWS

A tradition at Saint Stephen's is the "Gathering Straws" to soften the waiting manger bed in your household creche. It is just helpful in reminding children about the season of Advent. For every good deed a straw is placed in the manger as a graphic sign of growth and preparation for the Christ Child we await. On Christmas Eve, the little manger, now soft with straw, is brought in procession to the waiting stable where the figure of the Child is placed during the night.

Small bags of straw can be found on a table in the Parish Hall Extension.

As we unpack the Christmas creche, let each piece become a prayer that our lives will be changed during Advent.

As we place the stable, let us remember how a place, never meant to be a home, sheltered our Lord. Let us pray that our homes will be places of hospitality for all who enter them.

As the star shone to give direction to the magi, let us hold high a faith in Christ to give direction to our lives.

As the shepherds were the most common of folk and yet the only ones to be summoned by angels, may we never forget that God calls the simplest among us to tasks of greatest glory.

As the magi moved in the deep belief that God was acting in this world, may we always look for that same redemptive activity and never be so proud that we cannot seek our Lord with childlike faith.

As sheep and donkey, oxen and lamb looked on the holy miracle in wonder and sang the newborn child to sleep, may we too stand in awe before each miracle, wondrous or simple, which our God will work.

As the angel proclaimed the tidings of God, may we be open to hear God calling us to be a part of God's plan.

As Joseph wondered, then obeyed where he could not understand, may we be obedient even in the face of our own lack of understanding.

As Mary opened herself to the miraculous working of God through her, may we be instruments of God's love in whatever humble way we are summoned.

As God was in Christ, reconciling the world, may we in prayer kneel before the manger and wonder again at the miracle of Christmas.

..........JCHuffstutler

THE ADVENT CALENDAR

The "Advent Calendar" helps us count days. "We await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ." This cardboard calendar has a window for each day in Advent and a door for Christmas. Shutters close over the window and keep secret the picture or message hidden inside. With the passage of each day and additional window is opened and contents revealed.

Each family member can be responsible for a certain window. Hung against the window, the light shines through the picture emphasizing how darkness gives way as time passes.

A variety of calendars can be found at the Church Shop.

We celebrate His birth because we believe

We believe because in Him we have faith

We have faith because He first loved us

We love because He taught us how

Merry Christmas

...... Kim Chapman

SAINT NICOLAUS

(Dec. 6)
O you who love festivals,
Come gather and sing the praises
of the fair beauty of bishops,
The glory of the fathers,
The fountain of wonders and great protector of the faithful.

Let us all say: Rejoice, O guardian of the people of Myra,
Their head and honored counsellor,
The pillar of the church which cannot be shaken.

Rejoice, O light full of brightness
That makes the ends of the world shine with wonders.

Rejoice, O divine delight of the afflicted,
The fervent advocate of those who suffer from injustice.

And now, O all-blessed Nicolaus,
Never cease praying to Christ our God
For those who honor the festival of your memory
With faith and with love.

....Orthodox liturgy

AN ENGLISH CAROL

Farewele, Advent; Christmas is cum;
Farewele fro us both alle and sume.

With paciens thou hast us fedde
And made us go hungrie to bedde;
For lak of mete we were nyghe dedde;
Farewele fro us both alle and sume.

While thou haste be within oure howse
We ete no puddynges ne no sowce;
But stynking fisshe not worth a lowce;
Farewele fro us both alle and sume.

There was no fresshe fisshe ferre ne nere;
Salt fisshe and samon was to dere,
And thus we have had hevy chere;
Farewele fro us both alle and sume.

Oure brede was browne, oure ale was thynne,
Our brede was musty in the bynne,
Oure ale soure or we did begynne;
Farewele fro us both alle and sume.

The tyme of Cristes feest natall
We will be mery, grete and small,
And thou shalt goo oute of this halle;
Farewele fro us both alle and sume.

SAINT STEPHEN, DEACON AND MARTYR

The patron saint of our parish is St. Stephen whose life we will celebrate on Thursday, December 26th at a 10 am Eucharist.

Stephen was called one of the "seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom" (Acts 6:3). He was chosen by the apostles to relieve them of the administrative burden of "serving tables and caring for the widows." This became what the Church traditionally considers to be the work and ministry of a deacon.

Stephen's activities involved more than simply "serving tables" for the Acts of the Apostles speaks of his preaching and performing many miracles. These activities led him into conflict with some of the Jews, who accused him of blasphemy, and brought him before the Sanhedrin. His powerful sermon before the Council is recorded in the seventh chapter of Acts. His denunciation of the Sanhedrin so enraged its members that, without a trial, they dragged him out of the city and stoned him to death.

Saul, later called Paul, stood by, consenting to Stephen's death, but Stephen's example of steadfast faith in Jesus, and of intercession for his persecutors, was to find fruit in the mission and witness of Paul after his conversion. The Christian community in Jerusalem, taking fright at the hostility of the Judean authorities, was scattered; so that for the first time the Gospel of Christ began to spread beyond Jerusalem.

Come celebrate our patron saint on Thursday!

CHRISTMAS SERVICES

CHRISTMAS EVE
6:00 p.m. Family Eucharist
10:45 p.m. Christmas Carols
11:00 p.m. Festive Eucharist

***

CHRISTMAS DAY
10:00 a.m. Eucharist

***

FEAST OF ST. STEPHEN
Friday, December 26th
10:00 a.m. Eucharist

***

FIRST SUNDAY AFTER CHRISTMAS

December 28th
8:00 a.m. Eucharist
10:15 a.m. Choral Eucharist

***

THE HOLY NAME OF OUR LORD
New Year's Day
10:00 a.m. Eucharist

***

SECOND SUNDAY after CHRISTMAS
January 4th
8:00 a.m. Eucharist
10:15 a.m. Choral Eucharist

PHOTOGRAPHS WANTED

Many cameras were in evidence at the splendid 70th anniversary dinner November 16. Do you have a good snapshot from the party that could be shared with the church?

There will be a marked box on the SHOP counter for all contri- butions. They will become part of the permanent archives of St. Stephen's, and photos will not be returned.

Thank you for adding another level to a very wonderful event.

ADVENT

Advent begins on Sunday, November 30th. It is a time to prepare for Christ's birth as well as for His second coming to judge the world. It is a time of watching and waiting and great expectation. Purple, the color of thoughtfulness and penitence, is the color of the season. The Greek letters, Alpha (the first of the alphabet) and Omega (the last letter) combine to make the symbol for this season of the year signifying that God is Eternal -- the beginning and the end. Come and worship during Advent in joyful anticipation of the birth of our Lord.

The flowers on the altar in December are given to the Glory of God.

Dec. 7 - In memory of Mary Daly and Donald Atkinson by Mr. and Mrs. Charles Daly.

Dec. 14 - In memory of Mildred Briggs and the loved ones of Sondra and John Grady,
In memory of Karen Morris O'Hare by her mother, Helen Morris.

Dec. 21 - In memory of the loved ones of Diana and Salvatore Belardo.

Dec. 25 - CHRISTMAS DAY.

THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS

"People often think of 'The Twelve Days of Christmas' as the days preceding the festival. Actually, Christmas is a season of the Christian Year that lasts for the twelve days beginning December 25 and lasting until January 6 - the Day of Epiphany, when the church celebrates the revelation of Christ as the Light of the world and recalls the journey of the magi.

From 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholics in England were not allowed to practice their faith openly. During that era someone wrote 'The Twelve Days of Christmas' as a kind of secret catechism that could be sung in public without the risk of persecution. The song has two levels of interpretation: the surface meaning plus a hidden meaning known only to members of the church. Each element in the carol is a code word for a religious reality.

The partridge in a pear tree is Jesus Christ.
The two turtledoves are the Old and New Testaments.
Three French hens stand for faith, hope and love.
The four calling birds are the four Gospels.
The five gold rings recall the Torah (Law), the first five books of the Old Testament.
The six geese a-laying stand for the six days of creation.
Seven swans a-swimming represent the sevenfold gifts of the Spirit.
The eight maids a-milking are the eight beatitudes.
Nine ladies dancing? These are the nine fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5). The ten lords a-leaping are the Ten Commandments.
Eleven pipers piping stand for the eleven faithful disciples.
Twelve drummers drumming symbolize the 12 points of belief in the Apostles'Creed."

THE GIVING TREE

The service committee is pleased to announce that St. Stephen's will once again becollecting presents for "our" needy families. This tradition has become a very special part of Christmas for many in our church. Parishioners who want to participate in thisprogram may do so by:

- taking an envelope from the Giving Tree in the parish hall and purchasing the item suggested inside, or by

- contributing money for larger items to be purchased. Checks should be made payable to St. Stephen's with "Giving Tree" noted on the bottom.

Cards will be placed on the tree as soon as our ever helpful social worker gives us the list of families and their wants and needs. Distribution of the gifts will take place on December 21, so it is essential that your gifts be at church by the 10:15 service on that date.

We hope that this will be a joyful opportunity for families to share with others in our community the love that God has given us in the priceless gift of the Christ Child. For further information please call Pauline Holmes, 384-0904. Thank you for your support.

PARISH FAMILY CHRISTMAS TREE

On Christmas Eve it is the tradition of this parish for each new family or individual to place their offering of an ornament on the same tree at one of the worship services. The tree remains up through Epiphany (Twelfth Night). Ornaments are kept and used over and over again each year so that each Christmas all families of the parish are represented on the tree.

Come to the Church on Christmas and bring your offering for the tree.

0 COME, ALL YE FAITHFUL

Come caroling on St. Stephen's Day. Share your Christmas celebration with shut-in members of our parish who are not able to attend Christmas services.

We will meet at the church at 2:30 pm on Friday, December 26 and return by 5:00 pm.

All ages are welcome - no choral experience required. We will provide carol booklets and refreshments.

A sign-up sheet will be at the SHOP counter in December or please call Richey Woodzeil, 372-9398.

St Stephen's Christmas Pageant

Directed by the Senior High Youth Group Sunday, December 21, 1997 5:00 pm Everyone is invited to attend Potluck dinner will follow - see the sign-up sheet at the Shop.

CLEANING AND GREENING OF THE CHURCH

Help prepare the church for Christmas. On Sunday afternoon, December 20nd, beginning at 10:00 am. We will meet in the Parish Hall to clean the church, polish brass, trim candles, hang the greens, and generally prepare the church for our celebration of Christ's birth.

A BLESSING for the HOME CHRISTMAS TREE

O Lord Jesus Christ, who by your death on the wood of the tree redeemed the world from sin and darkness, grant, we beseech you, the abundant grace of your Incarnation that we may so live by its light as to be worthy living branches of yourself, and in your strength bear the fruit of good works to eternal life.

Be with us here, Lord Jesus, as we meet in love around this tree in grateful memory of your birth in Bethlehem. May we, showing forth your love, be guided by angel song, and may our way to you be lighted by signs from heaven. AMEN.

Snap Shots...

Family growing? Need an up-to-date photo for the St. Stephen's "rouges gallery"? New to the parish? Maybe you never did get around to putting a photograph on that marvelous three sided photo gallery that George Woodsell created for us a few years ago. I'm willing to take family pictures or just you if that's the family group. All you have to do is catch me before or after church. A good place is in the nave itself, in front of a stained glass window or in the chancel in front of the altar. No guarantees, but it won't cost you anything either. If the resulting print is O.K., we can put it up on the board.

........ Chris Jones, the choir guy who carries the camera.

SHOP AT THE CHURCH SHOP FOR ADVENT AND CHRISTMAS PREPARATIONS AND PRESENTS.

CHILD CARE CHRISTMAS EVE - the Community Room will be open at the 6:00 p.m. service. Toddlers are invited to share the church service experience with their families, but it can be a long time for some to be still.

THANKS FOR YOUR HELP

Many, many thanks to Stacey DeBritz for making the calls and to all the people who brought us meals after David was born and Marilyn was recuperating from surgery. Your generosity and thoughtfulness heped us more than you know.

...........Jed, Marilyn, Devon and David Dare

EVERY MEMBER CANVASS

The Every Member Canvass for pledges in 1997 is quickly drawing to a close. If you have not returned your pledge card to the parish office, please place it in the offering plate during the Eucharist on Sunday, Dec. 8st or please send them into the church office.

The gratitude of the parish is extended to those who have worked so diligently on the canvas, especially to Norman Hoffmann who served as Chairperson.

On the Use of the Columbarium in the Chapel of the Resurrection

Now that our new Columbarium has been dedicated in the Chapel of the Resurrection, I think the issue of cremation and the use of our columbarium needs to be re-addressed. A number of people have asked good questions about the appropriateness of cremation for Episcopalians. I have 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.

However, the opportunity of purchasing a niche in our columbarium has created new questions for some. In several families a spouse has left instructions for their ashes to be scattered in the mountains or over a body of water or to the wind'. Most often these instructions are carried out, yet there still remains the need for surviving family members to visit the site' on special occasions such as Memorial Day or the anniversary of the death and to be able to leave flowers in memory of that person. Scattering ashes outdoors makes it very difficult to meet this heartfelt human need. Let me share with you what two members of our church have done.

Behind each niche in the columbarium is a box made of oak. The box is large enough to contain the remains of a loved one. When the remains of a loved one have not been available, some members have taken possessions of their loved one - a favorite article of clothing, a copy of their birth or baptismal certificate, a symbol of that person's profession or hobby - and have placed these remains' in the box where ashes would normally go. A memorial plaque with the person's name and dates of birth and death is mounted on that niche in the columbarium. Thus family members have a quiet, meditative place to remember that person.

I have been asked other questions as well. 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 during the burial service? 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."

Also I have been asked to express my view of how the ashes should be finally disposed. I think 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. Given my experience over the past fifteen years I caution anyone who is considering having their remains scattered - consider the importance for your survivors to have a place' where they can remember you.

Death is a subject about which none of us wishes to think, but prudence and stewardship, as well as concern for one's family and self, require that each of us be prepared for the inevitable consequences of living and dying. The best time to prepare for these eventualities is when one is in good health. We are very fortunate to have a columbarium in a chapel which is full of light and symbols of hope. Please consider it in your plans.

.........Fr. James

LIBRARY NEWS

New books recently added to the library include the Following:

Armstrong, "Black-eyed Susan"
Bell, "Grandma According to Me"
Capon, "The Parables of the Kingdom"
De Paola, "Tomie De Paola's Book of Bible Stories"
Gray, "Mother Teresa"

Newson, "The Woman's Bible Commentary"
Nouwen, "Behold the Beauty of the Lord"

Armstrong and Bell are both local authors. Look For these books on the shelves after Christmas.

A new book, "Reader's Digest Who's Who in the Bible" has been given in memory of Gwen Robbins by her daughter, Suzanne Taylor. More than 500 people are profiled, From Aaron to Zophar. At the end of the book there is a helpful list of 3400 people mentioned in the O.T., N.T. and Apocrypha.

..........Jane Tatge

TO USHER OR NOT TO USHER? THAT IS THE QUESTION...

One of the questions on the Worship Committee Questionnaire in September dealt with the ushers' service to the congregation. We asked: "Would you prefer having ushers at the 10: 15 service control the flow to the Communion rail? Why or why not?" Of the 31 responses 17 said "no," 1 1 said "yes," and 3 said "only on special occasions." The reasons given were thoughtful and helpful--and varied. (That's St. Stephen's for you!)

Several people prefer more orderliness and dignity to the present "confusion." Others find it hard to stand in long lines, especially when accompanied by small children. Some people appreciate the assistance of the ushers at the chancel steps. These are important issues, and there are several ways to respond to them. Liturgy means "the work of the people." We are a community at worship, and we show consideration for the needs of others--for space, for quiet, for assistance. There is no need to empty the pews all at once; it may be better to wait in the pew until the line is shorter. If the trip to the altar is too hard, the sacrament can easily be brought to people where they sit. There is plenty of time. There is plenty of bread and wine. We are not in a race, or on a march, rather we are part of the dance of God's people, sharing and celebrating the gifts God gives so abundantly. At larger services, when there are more visitors than usual, ushers may be needed to control when people leave the pew. But in ordinary times, we are small enough not to need crowd control or even.gatekeepers. Let's try to do "the work of the people" in an orderly way, sensitive to those around us.

........ Pat Jones for the Worship Committee

NURSERY NEWS

At the meeting of nursery parents in September several matters of importance were discussed.

A new list of rules were drawn up which will be posted for ALL who use the nursery to see and to follow. Sarah Rapp, the nursery helper, and the volunteer nursery parents will be enforcing the following:

As I begin my tenth season of teaching in the Disabled Ski Program at Ski Windham in the Catskills, I want to share with the congregation why it means so much to me. During the coffee hour following the 10:15 service on Sunday, December 7, 1 will show a video about the program and be happy to answer any questions.

As a point of information, last year we served 805 students during 1,247 lessons with 105 volunteers. This year we will add a program for children with serious illness at the Double "H" Hole in the Woods Ranch. We are the largest program in the east.

.........Millie Gittinger

NOVEMBER SCHENECTADY INNER CITY MINISTRY HIGHLIGHTS

SICM Highlights are an easy way to alert your congregation to what is new at Schenectady Irmer City Ministry. The Highlights is ready to insert in your church bulletin or newsletter. It includes urgent needs, current issues, concerns and notes from the latest SICM Assembly. If you have any questions, please call Marianne Comfort at 374-2683.

Food-Buying Co-op Seeks Support

Save and Share Food Buying Co-op is expanding its reach into the community with discounted units of quality food. Monthly packages of meats, fresh fruits and vegetables and nonperishables are available for $15, which may be paid in cash or with a combination of $13 in Food Stamps and $2 in cash. Groups interested in hosting a Save and Share site or in getting information to share with others, should call Nancy Cozzy at 346-5207. Volunteers axe also needed the fourth Friday of each month between noon and 6 p.m. to unload the truck that brings the groceries, to distribute the food to participants or to clean up. To volunteer, call Nancy Cozzy.

SICM Selling "Shares" for a Mortgage Burning

SICM seeks supporters to buy 'shares' in its building to pay off the remaining $24,000 mortgage and to create a building reserve fund. Shares are $180 each, and may be purchased in one lump sum, quarterly, or in $5 monthly installments. Shareholders -- individuals, congregations or groups within congregations -will be listed on a plaque of appreciation to hang in SICM's Ecumenical Center. Gifts of stocks are welcome., and remember to consider GE matching funds. For more information, call Marianne Comfort at 374-2683.

Welfare Reform Progress Cited

Church and Community Worker Jim Murphy reported that Schenectady County has agreed to offer the Child Assistance Program, a statewide program that removes some of the barriers for welfare recipients transitioning to work. The county also is hiring a coordinator to work with individuals needing transportation assistance to get to jobs. As the county continues to shape its welfare policy, churches will be asked to address welfare-to-wages projects and efforts to overcome employment barriers for welfare recipients.

Damien Center Needs Meal Sponsors

The Schenectady Damien Center still has some slots open for groups to prepare and serve the monthly Saturday night dinners at Emmanuel Baptist Church. Available dates are July 18, Aug. 22, Sept. 19, Nov. 21 and Dec. 19. For more information, or to volunteer your congregation or community group, contact Jerry Oliver at 861-5062.

Christmas Caroling through Hamilton Hill Set

The Shalom Zone focused at Albany Street United Methodist Church and Christ Church Episcopal will be sponsoring Christmas carohng through Hamilton Hill on Saturday, Dec. 13. Everyone is welcome to this event, which will start at Christ Church Episcopal on State Street and conclude at Albany Street United Methodist Church for a giant tree light and refreshments. For more information, contact Jerry Oliver at 861-5062.

SCHENECTADY INNER CITY MINISTRY
930 Albany Street,
Schenectady, New York 12307-1514

Relating the resources of the churches to the human needs of the city