The Messenger

October 1998

From the Rector.....

Dear Friends,

When I left for my summer sabbatical all of the Episcopal Churches in Schenectady were in the process of looking for new rectors. I am following closely their progress as the congregations examine and profile themselves in order to find a rector who will be best for them. Though it is much work, I think the process of mission discernment is an exciting one!

During my travels this summer I had time to pray and think about our own congregation. I reflected that in the last nine years we have accomplished much that was not able to be done over the last fifty years (the chapel, office space, a meeting room for high school students, etc.) and we have expanded that which the congregation said was most important to it (youth work, Christian education, outreach to the inner-city). This past year we celebrated seventy years as a congregation and fifty years as a church. Now we are at a crossroads and a novel idea occurred to me: What if Saint Stephen's went through a rector's search without the pressure and stress of having to find a new one? In other words, let's ask ourselves those fundamental questions of identity:

Why does the congregation of Saint Stephen's exist? What are we to be as a church? What does God want done in the world and what is Saint Stephen's part in that? How are we as a congregation to do it?

Of course, those questions could be asked individually as well as corporately. I propose that we take this month of October to prepare ourselves to ask those questions. What are our goals, both individually and collectively here at Saint Stephen's and what strategy should we use to work toward them? To that end I will devote the first three Sunday sermons in October.

Remember, it's Christ's Church and the scriptures make it fairly clear that a Christian community's purpose is already established. Our duty is to understand the purposes Christ has for Saint Stephen's congregation and to implement them. While programs may change every five or ten years, the purposes never change. We may be innovative with the style of ministry, but we must never alter the substance of it. I will try to preach on the substance and then I will need your input.

On October 25th in place of the sermon, I will ask everyone in the congregation to fill out a professionally developed survey (an opportunity to do it after church on Nov. 1st will also be given). The completed serveys will be placed into a box (by you) and mailed to an organization in California who will compile the data and compare it to data collected about the general communities of Schenectady, Niskayuna and Scotia. When they mail us their report we will make copies and hand them out at small group gatherings meeting in homes of our parish leaders. The purpose of these meetings will be to have the entire congregation participate in the reshaping of our congregation's vision and mission.

This strategic mission planning program has been endorsed by the Episcopal Church, as well as other denominations. It has a good track record' and I experienced it, first hand, when my wife, Viki, used it at Loudonville Presbyterian Church several years ago.

I believe it is time to re-examine ourselves and to vision again' who we are, why we exist and what we ought to be doing. It will be similar to the process that search committees use to call a rector, however, the nice part for me, is that I will be here to help implement the plan we develop!

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

SUNDAY MORNING EDUCATION FOR ADULTS

The Episcopal Church continues to explore the language of our common prayer, and how that language expresses our Beliefs about God and about our relationship with God. New texts for prayers and new canticles to expand our music in worship have been drawn from varied sources, both ancient and modern. During October 11-25 in the morning sessions, we will look at some of the new texts and discuss the importance of the language we use in worship. Church school children will participate in part of the program.

AGAPE'

An Agape' will be held on Friday, October 23. The evening will begin at 6:30 pm with a potluck supper and will be followed by a presentation given by Keith & Christine Nelson who will speak on their recent trip to India. A sign-up sheet is available at the Shop.

BLESSING OF THE ANIMALS AND ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI

On Saturday, October 3rd at 9:30 am, 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.

Here's how it will work:

On October 3rd, 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 whom it dwells."

It's quite a sight!

ALL SAINT'S DAY

All Saint's Day is one of the seven principal feasts of the church. This day is a celebration of Christ in His whole mystical body. We are reminded that the saints still support us by their witness and example and surround us with their love and prayers. All Saint's Day is the one day set aside each year when our faithful departed are remembered. If you would like to have a particular person remembered by name, it is not too late. Please call the parish office as soon as you receive this newsletter. We will remember them on Sundays, November 1st. We will celebrate special Eucharists at 8 am & 10:15 am here at St. Stephen's. The later service will include first communion for some of our young people.

ALL SAINTS' DAY FLOWERS

Everyone is invited to participate, and any amount will be gratefully received by the altar guild. So that we may list the names of those to be remembered at the altar, please fill out your All Saints Day envelope or use the coupon below. Make checks payable to St. Stephen's Church and place the envelope or coupon in the offering plate or send it to the parish office. The deadline for receiving names to list in the bulletin is Sunday, October 18th.

IN MEMORYOF:_______________________________________________________

OR LOVED ONES OF:______________________________________________________

GIVEN BY:____________________________________________________________

CONTRIBUTION: $_______________

ENVELOPE NUMBER: _________________

DON'T FORGET TO SET YOUR CLOCKS BACK AN HOUR ON OCTOBER 25th

25TH!!HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO US!!!...

October marks the beginning of the 29th year of THE MESSENGER. We may have grown a bit from the first issue of 1- 2 pages, but the original intent remains the same: "a monthly newsletter to be a means of communicating church news and views between members of the parish - an open forum to express ideas on various subjects."

We are grateful to Fr. Sitts for his leadership in establishing this important parish tool, and hope it will always continue to fill a needed place in the life of St. Stephen's.

HOME COMMUNION

If you or someone you know is unable to attend church on either a long or short-term basis, please call the parish office if you would like to have communion brought to you.

ALTAR FLOWER DISTRIBUTION

Volunteers are needed to distribute flowers to the sick and shut-in. Flowers that are taken off the altar after the Sunday 10:15 am service are brought to those in our parish who are ill or can't get to church. If you would like to help in this special ministry, please call Kabby Lowe (346-8879).

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

Oct. 4 - in memory of the Loved Ones of Jesse & Betty Dipley

Oct. 11 - In memory of Jeffrey Knight given by William Bonsal

Oct. 18 - In memory of Lawrence Peterson, William & Johanna Earle, Justus & Anna Peterson and Elizabeth Card, given by Lillian Peterson

Oct. 25 - In memory of Leigh & Dorothy Lydecker and Jennie and Alfred Lowe, Sr., given by Mr. & Mrs. Alfred Lowe Jr.

UTO INGATHERING

The Fall Ingathering of the United Thank Offering will be held on Sunday, October 18th. Every cent of Ingathering money is awarded in grants. Envelopes will be available in the pews for your gift.

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