Stephen's Church, Schenectady, NY
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 7th at 8:00 am and 10:15 a.m. with Eucharist and Renewal of our Baptism Promises.
Household Blessing 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, or "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.
As I write to you Thanksgiving has not yet arrived, so I will save any Christmas greetings for next month. Meanwhile I would like to share with you a couple of things on my mind and on my agenda.
First, let me tell you about how I've been spending my time when I am not working directly at St. Stephen's. Many of you know that I have been working with a group of lay people and clergy who believe it is appropriate to remain in the Episcopal Church, USA, with its strong mission, moral stances on various issues, association in the Anglican Communion and ecumenical work. These faithful members of our diocese differ in opinion regarding such moral issues as human sexuality. Some who are committed to remaining in ECUSA are opposed to the consecration of Bishop Robinson and the institution of Katharine Jefferts Schori, while others applaud it. At the same time, we are united in our conviction that such diversity expresses the range of faithful responses to the gospel of Jesus Christ. We strive to respect those who disagree with us, and we recognize that the disagreements issue from diverse legitimate readings of the Bible by faithful Christians.
Second, on a different but related topic I want to thank you for your gifts to the Rector's Discretionary Fund. I do not know each individual contribution, so I want to express my appreciation in a public way. Thank you for your thoughtfulness and generosity. In addition to these gifts you all make, I also add those honorariums that I receive from services of burial, marriage, baptism.
Deacon Pat and I divide your gifts in half, since she also sees great financial needs with her work with the women in the county jail. Together, we have been able to assist individuals and families in need. We have been able to fund several scholarships, provide a safety net in several cases of emergency, provide extra gifts to specific projects of SICM, etc. I try to make most gifts personal ones. From time to time, however, this fund has also been a way to provide needed equipment and supplies for St. Stephen's.
It says: "discretionary." I hope that I am faithful with the gifts that I make and in the spirit with which each of you have given. They are more needed than ever in this holiday season.
When to Call Your Clergy
Many people have the idea that the only time they should call their priest or deacon is when someone is critically ill or when there is a death in the family, and some don't even do that. Here are ten occasions when you should have no hesitation in picking up the phone to call James or Pat:
1. Before going to the hospital: it makes no difference whether you are going to the hospital for major surgery or for a routine checkup - call before you go.
2. When alcohol or drugs become a problem for you or for someone you love: the alcoholic or drug dependent person is not a hopeless sinner - he or she is a person with a disease who needs treatment. There are no easy answers to chemical dependency, but the clergy can help you to understand these problems or to assist families and individuals in locating help.
3. Before you engage a lawyer: this does not mean before you get an attorney for any purpose, but before engaging one when a husband and wife are considering separation. If you take the Christian view of marriage seriously, you will wish to talk through your situation with clergy or other pastoral counselor before matters proceed to the point of seeking legal counsel
4. When a baby is born: when a new member of our family is born, James or Pat would like to call while the mother is still in the hospital. This is a good opportunity to rejoice with the family and to ask God's blessing upon the child.
5. When you would like to talk or pray about a difficult decision: the big decisions in life are so important that they should be "talked out and prayed through". Your work, perhaps getting married, a change in jobs - are all included
6. When you know someone in need of spiritual help: it is part of our Christian responsibility to be alert to the needs of others. If you know of someone who needs help, do not hesitate to call. Together, we may be able to find a way to minister to those in need.
7. When there is a death in the family: no matter what the hour of day or night the clergy should be called at once. Their task is to bring you to strong consolation of our Christian faith and to counsel with you concerning arrangements for the funeral
8. When you are spiritually depressed: remember, help is available! The finest Christians have all gone through their dark night of the soul. Don't try to fight it through alone. If God seems far off and religion has lost its reality, you are not the first person to feel that way. Don't struggle with spiritual depression by yourself.
9. Before anyone enters the armed forces or leaves for college: Not only will the clergy want to know their address away from home, but would like to opportunity to make a personal visit to assure them of the concern of their home parish while they are away.
10. When you want to share a thanksgiving: when a parishioner wants to share a thanksgiving for all God's gracious gifts, the clergy will be delighted to share this with you.
Parish office - 346-6241
Fr. James - 370-3573
Deacon Pat - 372-5836
Bell Choir – Director Needed
Due to family constraints, I have to step down as bell choir director. I have truly enjoyed leading this wonderful group of people in the bells and hope you have enjoyed the fruits of their labors. They are a thoughtful, funny, and dedicated group of ringers who provide us with a beautiful gift.
That being said, they need someone who will pick up the reins and continue directing the choir. If you are interested, please give me a call and I’ll give you the “low-down.” Typically the choir has met on Wednesday evenings. The start and ending time has varied over the years, so this is probably flexible. The choir usually played 4 to 6 times a year and in the past has enjoyed putting on concerts for our own congregation and for others.
So if you know how to count, like the sound of the bells, and enjoy making beautiful music, please prayerfully consider volunteering for this position!
Every Member Canvas
The Every Member Canvass for pledges in 2007 is quickly drawing to a close. If you have not returned your pledge cards to the parish office, please place them in the offering plate during the Eucharist on Sunday, Dec. 3rd or please send them to the church office.
So far we have received 105 pledges for approximately $141,000. The parish extends its gratitude to those who have worked so diligently on the canvas, especially to Norman Hoffmann who served as Chairperson.
Book Review: Faith and Politics
By Senator John Danforth
Ok, I've read this short (233 pages) book one and a half times, so I ought to be able to tell you a little about why I think you might find it worthwhile reading. Basically, it's a readable down-to-earth book by someone who is eminently qualified to talk about the issues. John Danforth has a law degree and a seminary degree. He has served many years as republican senator from Missouri, as well as an Episcopal priest.
The first part of the book can be summarized in the idea of "humility". What's wrong with current politics is "our certainty that our political agenda must be God's agenda".
"I do not believe that any faith, including my own, monopolizes human understanding of God. I believe that God created and embraces all humankind, and that religious bigotry against anyone is more than uncivilized, it is in opposition to Christianity."
The middle portion of the book contains a
discussion of "wedge issues", issues that don't have all that much theological content, but tend to drive wedges between us. This includes public religion (monuments to the ten commandments, prayer in schools), the Terry Schiavo case (individual rights versus the federal government), abortion, stem cell research, gay marriage, and family values.
The last chapter begins with the twelfth chapter of Paul's Letter to the Romans, which Danforth calls a manual for Christian politicians, and maybe the rest of us too. For example, "think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned" helps us to see that "no one corners the market on truth." Love and reconciliation are other themes found in this chapter.
This book is an easy but profound read. I commend it to you.
When? 6:00 PM on the second Friday of the month!
December 8th – Deacon Pat will lead us in Carol Singing ♫!
Where? The Parish Room
Who? Anyone and Everyone!
(Sorry - no child care)
- Pot luck dish
- Own Plate
- Own Utensils
We are not planning to have scheduled speakers for these events, since the main objective of the gatherings is fellowship, but this may change if we can co-opt appropriate presenters.
Questions? Call Pauline Holmes.
For Christmas this year, our young people are presenting a simple and joyful celebration in music and dance, choreographed by our own Alli DeBritz and Tyleigh Versocki. We hope that everyone – parents, children, and friends – will enjoy this show without stress. It is our children’s gift to us and to the Baby Jesus. Please mark your calendar for the following dates:
Sunday, December 3rd – Present the Jesse Tree banner during the 10:15 service.
Sunday, December 10th after 10:15 service – Rehearsal for the Christmas performance and enjoy pizza together. You can’t beat that!
Saturday, December 16th ~ 10:00 AM – tentative Christmas performance at The Avenue Nursing home. This will also serve as a rehearsal for the 17th.
Sunday, December 17th after 10:15 service – Christmas performance for the congregation with celebration afterward.
Any questions???? Please ask a Sunday school teacher.
We welcome Diane Reed as a new teacher working with the primary class (1st through 3rd grade).
For the last few weeks, the Sunday School classes have been working hard on a new banner. We are hoping to be able to process it on December 3rd, the First Sunday in Advent, and the date of Bishop Love’s visit. Many, many thanks to Stacy DeBritz for all of her hard work in designing and guiding this project. Come to church and see for yourself how beautiful this banner is!
This banner project, like the Christmas Putz we’ve displayed in the last two years, helps us and our children to appreciate the stories of our faith as part of an integrated whole. The wonderful stories of Noah and of Jonah are part of the long narrative of God’s call to us: to return to Him, and to reconcile with Him and with each other. This narrative culminates in the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ, and in the out-pouring of the Holy Spirit upon his disciples.
In case you missed the Putz presentation in the last two years, we will be displaying some of the figures in church during Advent.
We will continue to meet for Sunday school at 9:00 for 1st through 6th graders, during the 10:15 sermon for the preschoolers and kindergarteners, and at 11:30 for 7th through 12th graders.
The Advent Wreath: At Church and At Home
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.
Advent candles and wreaths can bepurchased in the Church Shop
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.
bless this food which now we take,
And do us good for Jesus’ sake.”
That’s the grace that we often use at mealtime in our family. In John Danforth’s book “Faith and Politics”, John was advised by his bishop that one of the shortest blessings is “Benedictus benedictat, which means May the Blessed One give blessing”. The senator found himself a little embarrassed to say grace in public restaurants. How nice it would be to include some family favorite blessings in the new St. Stephen’s Cookbook. So, when you send in a recipe or two, please think about sending in the blessing that your family uses.
Our cookbook committee consists of Liz Varno , Barbara Adams and me (Chris Jones). And when you’re putting together those recipes, feel free to put in a little of the story behind them.
Recipe of the month, from the first “Feasts of St. Stephens” cookbook of 1970.
EYE OF ROUND IN WINE
Mrs. Gwen Robbins
(May use rolled rib roast, boneless chuck or rump roast)
Roast (5 lbs.), boned 2 cups dry red wine
Flour for dredge in Salt to taste
1/4 cup butter 8 crushed peppercorns
1 bay leaf 1/2 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, crushed 1/4 tsp. marjoram
1/2 cup chopped carrots 1/2 tsp. Thyme
Preheat oven to 325. Dredge roast with flour. In Dutch oven heat butter; add meat and brown all sides. Add onions, carrots and garlic and saute until browned. Add wine and seasonings. Cover and bake until tender (approximately 4 hours). If necessary, add more wine. Transfer meat to platter. Add seasoning to taste to sauce and pour over beef. (More wine may be added and the sauce may be thickened a little.)
The Architecture Task Force II is continuing to interview parishioners on needs and wants for our church to meets its mission. If you have any ideas you would like to share, please contact one of the committee members: Paul DeKanel, Austin Spang, Melinda Renken, Ryan Davis and Susan Feyrer.
your input! Thanks,
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. They are securing the nominations for the 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:
three-year terms for Vestry
1 two-year term for Warden
What is 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.
The Personnel Committee of the Vestry is conducting the annual performance evaluation of our Rector. If you have any input, please contact a committee member no later than December 8, 2006. Thanks!
Susan Feyrer, Grant Jaquith, Norman Hoffman, Marilyn Dare and Steve Ras
& Joan Moss 12/2
Robert Olberg & Andrea Worthington 12/10
Scott & Trina Moss 12/15
Daniel & Edith Lundquist 12/18
Gerald & Linda Perregaux 12/22
Tom & Eunice Chouffi 12/23
Grant & Rosemarie Jaquith 12/30
Rebecca Carroll 12/1
Louise Peake 12/5
Kurt McKeone 12/5
Mildred Gittinger 12/7
Vicki Hoshko 12/8
Tyffani Adams 12/9
Jim Ormsbee 12/9
John Liberis 12/12
Claudia Ashelman 12/12
athan Phillips 12/13
Robert McCalley 12/17
Jed Dare 12/18
Shirley Gretz 12/20
Taylor Pierce 12/20
Jean Greenspan 12/21
Stephen Sombor 12/23
Robert Olberg 12/25
Stephen Chapman 12/27
Ronald Michelson 12/27
Isabelle Jaquith 12/27
Anne Sombor 12/28
Elizabeth Canavan 12/28
Carl Hatlee, II 12/29
Denise Crates 12/3
* If a birthday or anniversary is missing or incorrect for you or anyone in your family, please contact the office (346-6241).
Christians by Maya Angelou
say... "I am a Christian"
I'm not shouting "I'm clean livin."
I'm whispering "I was lost,"
Now I'm found and forgiven.
say..."I am a Christian"
I don't speak of this with pride.
I'm confessing that I stumble
and need CHRIST to be my guide.
say... "I am a Christian"
I'm not trying to be strong.
I'm professing that I'm weak
and need HIS strength to carry on.
say... "I am a Christian"
I'm not bragging of success.
I'm admitting I have failed
and need God to clean my mess.
say... "I am a Christian"
I'm not claiming to be perfect,
My flaws are far too visible
but, God believes I am worth it.
say... "I am a Christian"
I still feel the sting of pain,
I have my share of heartaches
So I call upon His name.
say... "I am a Christian"
I'm not holier than thou,
I'm just a simple sinner
who received God's good grace, somehow.
If you or someone you know is unable to
attend church, please
call the parish office if you would like to have communion brought to you.
Mark your calendars!
The choirs of St. Stephen's, led by Tim Olsen, and Trinity Presbyterian, led by Elizabeth MacFarland, will come together to present an Advent Festival of Lessons and Carols. The service will take place on Sunday, December 10 at 3:00 p.m. at Trinity Presbyterian Church [185 Swaggertown Rd., Scotia]. A reception will follow. For more information, or if you'd like to serve as a reader at this service, please contact Tim Olsen.
Getting the Christmas cards ready for Pat’s girls
Work Camp Thank You Dinner