January, 2002

Nominating committee appointed

In an attempt to be as inclusive as possible in nominating parishioners for elective offices, the vestry has appointed the outgoing members of the vestry as a nominating committee: Denise Crates, Jed Dare, Grant Jaquith, Scott Kilbourn.  They are securing the nominations for four positions vacant for next year.  In addition, nominations will continue to be made from the floor of the Annual Meeting of the parish.  The elected offices are:  3 - vestry members for three year term 1 - Warden - two year term

Requirements for vestry membership

  Basically there are only three    requirements for vestry membership: 

  (1)  be a confirmed member of the parish church 

  This can be accomplished through confirmation or reception by a bishop or through a transfer from another Episcopal Church. 

  (2) have been  regular in attendance of Sunday Eucharists

  (3) have been faithful in working, praying, and giving for the spread of the Kingdom of God  

  This includes giving of Time Talent and Treasure.

What is the 'vestry'?

The vestry is a group of eleven lay representatives from the parish who are charged with the temporal affairs of the congregation.  They meet monthly with the rector presiding.  The vestry spends considerable time on income and expenses and on writing the annual budget.  They set the salary scales and are responsible for raising the money to meet expenses.  The vestry also has the important job of finding a new rector whenever a vacancy occurs. Three representatives are elected at the annual parish meeting for a term of three years.  In addition, a Warden (vestry officer) is elected for a term of two years.

From the Rector

Dear Friends,

This Christmas season finds us in so many different places and conditions. Many I have talked with in passing conversation mention their worry over job security as the Christmas bills begin to arrive.  Others are still on their holiday trip visiting family and friends.  Some struggle with how to make ends meet on a fixed income, while others are beginning college savings plans with the birth of a new child.  This season also finds more and more of our church members involved in ministries which try to help people for whom Christmas is bleak.

One of my favorite Christmas carols is "In the Bleak Midwinter" and every year I ponder the question asked: "What can I give him, poor as I am...If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb; if I were a Wise Man, I would do my part..."  As I look back over the year 2001 I am proud of what our relatively small parish has done for Schenectady and for our own congregation.  We are very involved in the many outreach programs of Schenectady Inner City Ministry and our members are involved in most every community agency I know: from tutoring young students to serving meals to the homeless.  Our youth group, increasingly has been involved in service projects and has great plans for 2002!  On September 11th and throughout that week our church offered a haven to many who were wondering where God was  in the attacks.

In addition, the folks who are attending to the needs of our own church have done their part.  Thanks to generous financial giving we are one of the few churches I know who are able to close our books in the black as well as to do such things as fixing roofs and keeping up on general maintenance.  

Yes, St. Stephen's struggles with what it means to "do our part" and as community needs and congregational needs increase I suspect so will our struggle.  We all stand together in the bleak midwinter, trusting that by grace, we may at best give Him our heart.

 Adult Education Hour


We will begin the video-discussion series Between Two Altars by Martin Marty and David Clark.  This series examines the issues Christians face in living out their faith in today’s world.

Jan 6. The Mind: Conformed or Transformed?

Being conformed means accepting the values of culture as to what is right, good and worthwhile.  Being transformed means having a biblical mind and worldview in deciding what is right, just, God-honoring and worthwhile.

Jan 13. Ministering with the new generation: Gen-X and the Millennials. Led by The Rev. Vicki Brooks-McDonald, as part of ‘College Sunday’.

Jan 20. The Body: Idol or Temple? 

We live in a culture that idolizes the body’s physical appearance and beauty.  But as Christians we learn to see the body holistically – having a spiritual dimension as well – a place where we worship God rather than ourselves.

Jan 27. Work: Calling or Curse?

Does God call people to secular work, or does God care about only a chosen few called to “religious” work?  In what sense can work in the corporate world, service industry work, or government work, be considered a calling to serve God and his people? 

Feb 3. Wealth: Blessing or Barrier? 

The scripture says that wealth is a barrier to entering God’s kingdom, and it says that wealth is a blessing from God.  How can we receive our wealth as a blessing to others and ourselves instead of a barrier?

Feb 10. The Neighbor: Stranger or Friend?

The Bible tells us to love the stranger, even the alien, rather than ignoring them and building “walls” to keep them away.  Seeing strangers as friends means reaching out to them, building bridges to them, and showing them hospitality.

Feb 17. Technology: Servant or Master?

Technology serves us by mechanizing routine tasks, unleashing creativity and making us more efficient and effective in performing our work. But many see technology becoming our master – something that we can’t do without or get away from in our everyday lives.

Who is worth listening to?

The tragic events experienced by our country during these last few months have caused people to re-examine their values in many areas, including politics and religion. People who used to avoid political discussions have found themselves participating in them with new energy. Many people are engaged in a search for new understanding. This is healthy, and may be one of the ways God works his will for good in this situation.  But discussions about serious matters such as politics and religious commitments may also leave one feeling bombarded by heightened emotions.  Sometimes discussions with even our friends and family may leave us exhausted, frustrated, and no closer to real understanding than we began.

In the interest of helping to simplify life, I would like to offer a simple guide to help you evaluate these sorts of discussions and decide how you want to participate.  I first learned this scheme from one of my professors at St. Bernard’s Institute, Dr. John Dwyer.  As overwhelmed beginning theology students, we had asked him for the best way to evaluate whether or not a publication would be worth the time and trouble of reading.  Sadly, there is much material published that is not really worthwhile. So it is important to know who is worth listening to!

In a nutshell, Dr. Dwyer said that one is responsible to assess whether or not the person with whom one is in discussion is “going after the truth.”  Is the person committed to discover real value in his/her engagement with the evidence?  He gave us is a simple way to make an assessment:  Column A.

 Column A.  Column B.
When people are “going after the truth” (and are  therefore worth listening to)

 When people are not “going after the truth” (and are therefore not  worth listening to)

- They treat their subject with care and respect. - They use arguments based on prejudice, mindless emotions, cliches and slogans. Sometimes they work from a memorized ‘script’.
- They treat those who disagree with them with respect.

 - They make ad hominem attacks (attacking the character of the person with whom they disagree), and/or become overbearing or bullying.

- They are willing to examine competing values.

 - They deny facts, close their minds, and act in a way that shows they fear the truth.

- They are calmly confident that the truth, if given a hearing, will prevail.

-They try to create hysteria to win their points.

- They use practical and effective ways to get a hearing of the truth.

- They use shrill and strident tones (which shows they know their position is weak), and/or substitute pompous self-righteous rhetoric for reasonable discussion.

The first good news is that disagreement among people who are seriously committed to truth should never be cause for alarm.  Discussion is always possible between those people who are seeking to find ways that promote real human values, even when it can be extremely difficult to discover with certainty what those ways are in a particular situation. The second good news is that you have every right (actually a duty) to excuse yourself from discussing any matter of importance with people who place themselves in “Column B”.  Life is short, and you have only so much energy, and our Lord himself warns us against throwing our pearls before swine.

But (and here is where the chickens come home to roost) – our first responsibility is to figure out which column we place ourselves into!  When you pay attention to this, you may find that it is really hard to place yourself in “Column A” all the time.  It takes great humility. And disciplined effort. 

The Epiphany of our Lord

 The name "Epiphany" is derived from a Greek word meaning "manifestation" or "appearing." It is also called "The Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles."  This phrase is a reference to the story of the Wise Men from the East.

 A Christian observance on January 6 is found as early as the end of the second century in Egypt.  The feast combined commemorations of the visit of the Magi, led by the star of Bethlehem; the Baptism of Jesus in the waters of the River Jordan; and Jesus' first recorded miracle, the changing of water into wine at the marriage of Cana of Galilee -- all thought of as manifestations of the incarnate Lord.

 The Epiphany is still the primary Feast of the Incarnation in Eastern Churches, and the three fold emphasis is still prominent.  In the West, however, including the Episcopal Church, the story of the Wise Men has tended to overshadow the other two events.  Modern lectionary reform, reflected in the Book of Common Prayer, has recovered the primitive trilogy, by setting the event of the Baptism as the theme of the First Sunday after January 6th.  

Our celebration of Epiphany at St. Stephen's will take place on Sunday, January 6th at 8:00 am and 10:15 a.m. with Eucharist.

 Household blessings for Epiphany

A custom from Eastern Europe that is presently being recovered in North America is the practice of blessing homes on Epiphany.  Members of the household go from room to room expressing thanks to God for each room  and asking God to bless the room and its intended use.  Some small symbol of the blessing may be carried to leave in each room: a candle, a cross, "gifts" of the Magi.

 The procession ends outside the front door where the door's lintel is marked in chalk with the year and the initials C+M+B- each separated by a cross - recalling the traditional names of the Magi: Casper, Melchior and Balthasar. The members of the household are then invited to add their own initials.

Also at this time it is appropriate to pledge volunteer time or other gifts for Bethesda House or some local homeless shelter as signs of our thankfulness to God.  The ritual ends with a celebration of the Eucharist.

 Talk to the rector if you would like to have your home blessed.

 Thank you...... thank you.....  thank you..... Rocky Bonsal who directed the Christmas pageant a, to Alison de Kanel who wrote the script, and to the children and parents who helped it all come together Paul  Cudihy who accompanied the Christmas pageant and the bell choir for a wonderful concert following the pageant the bell choir for wonderful music at the Family Christmas Eve Eucharst the youth choir and the adult choir who sang with gusto the Altar Guild and to brass polishers par excellence who polished all the brass in the church, and made Christmas beautiful all who took time on a busy Saturday-before-Christmas to help 'green' the church

...To Tim Olsen, the choir members and all the instrumentalists who helped to make Advent and Christmas beautiful 

...To the lectors, chalice bearers and acolytes who made our worship possible 

...To all those who helped in the toddler and nursery rooms 

...To the ushers and to the offering counters 

..To all of you who do quiet things in quiet ways and help this parish to work.

 ....What a Christmas celebration!

Annual meeting

Sunday, January 20, 2002

11:30 am

 Christmas eve was beautiful  & grace-filled

 What a joyous Christmas it has been. More people at the Christamas Vigil (Eve) than last year (330 people!).  The Christmas Offering was over budget. Christmas flower offering was as large as ever. How wonderful to have everyone having a share in the Festival.

 Considering Becoming a Member of the Episcopal Church?

 On Sunday, January 6th an Inquirers' course will begin.  This course is intended to introduce prospective members of our parish to the ethos of Anglicanism.  It is also a good 'refresher course' in our beliefs for any member of the parish.  It is offered to prospective members four times a year.  All four classes are lead by the rector in his office at 9am Sunday mornings. 

The study will explore our particular ethos: Anglican traits rooted deeply in the past (200 A.D.) of Britain's relatively pragmatic and moderate peoples.  It explores why we Episcopalians do what we do and how our church has been shaped and is being shaped.  We will also attempt to discover how the Episcopal Church compares with other denominations.

 The course is required for all adults who wish to be confirmed or received into the Episcopal Church.  The next confirmation service will be announced in the Messenger as soon as Bishop Herzog sets the date.

 Flowers in January

 January Birthdays

1       Carol Molino
2       Kelly Palmer, Jacob Price
7        Barbara Dobbins Stratton, Robert Bailey, Helene Daly, Audrey DeBritz,  Emma Koch
8       Laura Manor
9       David Taylor
12     Laura Pratico
13     Sue Goldthwaite
14      Emery Chapman, Lillian Peterson
16      Nancy Bernard
17     Pearl Burton, Daniel Lundquist
18     Mary Pasko
23      Debby Trawick
26     Scott Kilbourn
27     Carolyn Morin


 6        Pauline Holmes & Michael Bishop
19       Beverly and Bud Blanchard
25       Susan and John Goldthwaite
   Jane and Bruce Tatge

 Confirmation Mentoring program large group sessions

 Schedule for Confirmation Mentoring Program Large Group Classes

Classes meet on Sundays as noted 5:00 pm – 6:45 pm

 Class 3. January 13

 What do you want to be when you grow up?  The church is not in the business of career counseling, but we are about guiding people to understand and to own their unique gifts, and to discern how use them in God’s service.  We will talk about how you can hear God’s call in your life.

 Class 4. February 17

 What about your love life?  Have you ever heard any good news from the church about dating and romance?  We will explore both the unity and diversity of perspectives on human sexuality in the Bible, and talk about how the freedom and responsibility of Christian discipleship shapes our lives as sexual beings.

 Class 5. April 7 

Living a life for God in the world.  For many of our young people at St. Stephen’s, work camp has been an important experience.  But will it become merely a fond memory when you are grown and absorbed in your career?  We will talk about ways to build this experience into your life by practicing the lifelong discipline of Christian service.

Instructed Eucharist Jan 27th

 As our community grows, many of our people at St. Stephen’s are new to liturgical worship, or new to the sacramental celebrations, or just new to the Episcopal Church.  That means it is time once again for an “instructed Eucharist” – a celebration with explanations!  We are planning to conduct an instructed Eucharist on Sunday January 27th.  We are excited about using a new format, in which Deacon Pat, Mother Lorrie and Father James will interrupt the ‘progress’ of the liturgy at important points to explain why we are doing what we are doing.  The ‘instructions’ will take the place of a full sermon on this day.  Through clearer understanding we can make the experience of worship more rich and full for all of us – even ‘cradle-born’ Episcopalians!

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