The Messenger

News from St. Stephen's Church

October, 2007

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 Thursday this year, the parish council thought that the following Saturday would be a good time for St. Stephen's to continual our annual tradition. Here's how it will work:

On October 6th at 10:00 am 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."

Nursery News

Please welcome Pam Guthrie. She will be serving in the Nursery every Sunday with the littlest members of our church. Pam will be working from 10:00-11:30 every Sunday. We are thrilled to have her.

The Nursery will still need a volunteer each Sunday to help Pam. There is a sign up sheet in the Nursery. If you have any questions about the Nursery, please ask Laura Davis.

From the Rector

I am writing this column on Tuesday, September 18th. As I do so, the sound of children is still ringing in my ears -- children laughing, crying, asking questions, giving me ‘high fives’, asking to "go to the potty", and in other ways being children IN GOD’S HOUSE.

My ears are also ringing with the sound of adults -- adults teaching Church School, instructing Acolytes, answering questions, giving gentle guidance, being patient.

In the Diocese of Springfield I was given a bumper sticker that read: "In the Episcopal Church We Treasure Kids!" That sentiment was certainly acted out on Sunday as we began our program year. To me there is no more beautiful sound than the gentle rumble (and sometimes dull and not so dull roar), of children in church. It is the sound of the church breathing. And even though a child’s giggle or question or comment or coo may sometimes distract you from your prayer or cause you to miss a few words of the sermon, it is certainly preferable to the sound of utter silence in an empty church.

A well-known African proverb says, "It takes a whole village to raise a child." At a time when newspapers and TV reports seem filled with ever-escalating violence involving children, we need to remember that it takes a whole congregation to raise a child. That is certainly evidenced at Saint Stephen’s - through all of us older people helping all of these wonderful younger people. to grow in the Lord. We, the church, are the village. Perhaps in the scant two hours our children have in this village once a week, we can teach them by our example, that the ways of God are better than the way of the world. And if we can teach them that then there is hope for our wider village - the schools, the playgrounds, the housing projects, our neighborhoods, these towns, the world itself.


Sunday Morning Adult Education: Buddhism

Our guest speaker for an introduction to Buddhism will be Rev. Koyo Susan Spang, a Buddhist priest and daughter of Austin and Marti Spang. She will instruct us on Oct. 7th.

Buddhism is a religion with millions of followers who seek spiritual enlightenment. It is an ancient tradition that began in northeast India and dates back to 560 B.C.E. when it was founded by Siddhartha Gautama, who later became known as the Buddha or "Enlightened One." His teachings of Dharma and the Four Noble Truths are the essence of Buddhism. Over the centuries, Buddhism has been embraced by many Asian cultures — from the Mahayana Buddhists of China and Korea to the Dalai Lama and the Buddhists of Tibet and today, has a growing Western following. Buddhism teaches pacifism and nonviolence, philosophies that have shaped the destinies where Buddhism has predominated and has made it an enduring and influential world religion.

Classes are held on Oct. 7, 21 & 28 from 9am to 10am in the Parish Hall.


Inquirer’s Class

This course is an introduction to the Episcopal Church in the United States. These four classes give an overview of how Episcopalians fit into the complex of protestant and catholic churches. The National Episcopal Church, the Diocese of Albany, the congregation of St. Stephen’s and the relationship among all three will be explored. Frank discussions include both the wonderful things about our Church, and also some not-so-wonderful things. This course is required for all adults who wish to be confirmed or received into the church, but is open to all members of the Parish Family. We meet on

Sunday afternoons - Oct. 7 – Oct. 28, 12 noon to 1:00pm in the rector’s office.

Communion Class

The prayer book 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 Wednesday, October 24 in the parish hall from 4:45 pm to 6:15 pm and on Tuesday, October 30 in the church from 4:45 pm to 5:30 pm. Parents are needed to help on October 24th.

Thank You – From Congregation Gates of Heaven

We are very grateful to your wonderful youth group for providing babysitting services for our Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services. We heard from parents that the babysitters were just terrific. They were mature, they asked good questions, they followed directions perfectly, and the children really enjoyed being with them.

We feel that your youths provided the most positive High Holy Days babysitting that we've had in many years.

We hope that you feel that this was a good experience for the members of your youth group and a good fund-raiser for them. We would very much like to have you back next year.

Please pass on our thanks and high praise to the teens and the adult helpers. They deserve it!


Church Outreach Committee Thanks Everyone!

One of the pleasures of serving on this committee is getting to deliver the school supplies. This year we brought 6 boxes of school supplies to Hamilton Elementary School in Schenectady. The teachers were thrilled and we received the lovely thank you note below.

Dear Members of St. Stephens,

Thank you so much for your generous act of kindness to collect the well needed school supplies for our students and staff at Hamilton Elementary School.

What a blessing!

May God bless each and everyone even more!

Kathy Allen and Robert Flanders

Teacher and School Principal

The Outreach Committee wishes to express its thanks to everyone too!

Greeters at St. Stephens

This is a new group being organized to greet all new people and families to our church. We would have a Greeter or Greeter Family at both services on Sunday to greet new people and give them information about the different programs available to them at St. Stephen’s. Also consider taking on the task of keeping up-to-date photos for the picture board in the Parish Hall Extension.

No regular meetings are required. We would have one meeting in order to organize the "Greeter" committee and obtain any suggestions you may have for the committee. Consider wearing badges showing "Greeter" the day you are volunteering. If interested, please contact:

Norman Hoffmann

Sunday School – Off to a Great Start

Sunday School classes have begun! Pre-school and Kindergarten meet after the children’s sermon at the 10:15 service. Melinda Renken, Dawn Tonneau and Laura Davis teach this group.

Grades 1 through 6 meet at 9am. Trudy North and Dave Crates are working with the 1st-3rd in the classroom next to the Community Room. Peter Nelson and Allison deKanel teach the 4th-6th graders. They meet in the Community room and then go up to the Tower.

7th -12th grades meet during coffee hour, after 10:15 service. Once they’ve gotten a bite to eat, they go to Reid house. George Woodzell, Tracy Ormsbee and Laura DeNofio are working with the Youth Group this year.

Richey Woodzell will be helping with music for the young children this year. And Stacy DeBritz will be helping with special projects.

We hope to involve parents in our Sunday school programs this year. We ask that you sign up in the Community room. Hopefully, we will have parents come once during the program year to tell a story, help with a craft or even cook with the children. Once you have signed up, Laura will be in touch with you about the specifics.

The children will learn more about Deacons very soon. It will be Deacon Pat’s 25th anniversary as an ordained Deacon this fall. We will be preparing something special for that celebration in December. The celebration will be on the second Sunday in Advent.

We are in the "Cross Year" of Episcopal Children’s Curriculum. This curriculum is used for the grades preschool through six grades. The Old Testament is the focus for the first unit. The younger kids are learning some great Bible stories and about the people during the time of the Old Testament while the 4th –6th graders are diving into the Psalms.

Aside from having wonderful discussions around themes of religion and current events, the Youth Group is busy planning the Work Camp Thank You Dinner that is on November 17th at 6:00. Please mark your calendars.

Laura Davis

Home Furnishing Programs

Thanks very much to the two crews who picked up and delivered furniture in July: Rocky Bonsal, John and Tom Casale, Scott Kilbourn, Jim Ormsbee and Christian Renken. If you wanted to help, but didn’t get a chance, we will have two more runs during the week of November 12. Please see Rocky Bonsal or Richey Woodzell to sign up.

October 20th – Garden Work Morning

Please head to the church gardens sometime between 9 AM and noon on Saturday, October 20th, if you can lend a hand with the many tasks needed to prepare the gardens for winter. No previous experience is necessary! We will be planting tulip bulbs, moving plants, and weeding. Bring a sturdy screwdriver for weeding the out-of-control bishop’s weed. If you have a bulb planter, please bring it. A spade for moving plants would also be helpful. Many hands make light work, so drop by for a little exercise and contribute to the pleasure that our gardens give to all who pass by.

Workers of all ages are welcome. If you have any questions, contact Marilyn Causey.


It’s October. So it must be Stewardship time. The time we pledge our "treasure" to the life and work of St. Stephen’s. The very thought of this brings up things we would rather not think about ~ things like the "M" word (money) and the "T" word (tithing).

I don’t believe it works to "should" on ourselves, especially when it comes to pledging, so I’d like to offer another perspective on the "M" & "T" words, and offer a substitute "T" word -  TRUST. The idea or goal of tithing can’t be on the radar screen in the absence of TRUST.

One definition of a person of FAITH is someone who TRUSTS that at the center of things there is a divine, creative power. That FAITH is an act of courage – the courage to TRUST that life is good, and to reach across the boundaries and grasp a hand you cannot see but you TRUST will hold you forever. This kind of BOLD TRUST is foundational to the deepest understanding of Christian Stewardship. We are called to TRUST in an ever-living God. In the majesty and power of He who loves us without condition.

We read that we are children of God, created in His image and likeness. Do we really believe it? Taken it from our head, as an intellectual pursuit, into our hearts and souls, as a deep knowing. A belief? Do we TRUST in what this really means. God will be with us always. He will never desert us.

When I ponder this, the Old Testament and those poor Israelites come to mind. Over and over again, God gave generously to them. All He asked was that they love and follow Him. They’d be good for awhile and then BOOM! Along would come some distraction or another and they would go away from God. But do you notice how God NEVER gave up? No matter how many times the Israelites turned away, He never stopped loving them. Got mad? You betcha! But stopped loving? Never.

What’s the message for us? Are we like the Israelites? How much have we learned from reading about them? Will we choose to TRUST in God, who created us in His image, and who loves us unconditionally? Just like the Israelites, we are God’s children and loved forever. When we claim that great inheritance, we will become faithful stewards of God. Without TRUST there can be no foundation for Stewardship. Our giving will be mechanical. It may even be generous. If this isn’t grounded in our belief of a loving God, and that we are giving as an expression of our love for and gratitude to Him, then it’s not a lot different than writing a check out of obligation to an appeal that comes in the mail. If I believe that God has given me life, through the act of being my Creator, then all I am and all I have is a gift. What I have been given is in fact on loan. It is not mine forever.

So where is the connection to your pledge to St. Stephen’s? My prayer is that it comes from you heart, from a place of gratitude, love and a deep and abiding TRUST in an abundant God. Ask God to guide you as you fill out your pledge card. Ask Him to be the writer, while you hold the pen. TRUST that the right thing will come. And that whatever your pledge, it is a reflection of your TRUST in God. The rest is up to Him.

Barbara Wisnom, for the Stewardship Committee


Not many of us realize that one of the most decisive battles in world history took place almost at our own doorsteps, just 230 years ago this month. Come celebrate the victory of the American army at Saratoga at the 6:00 pm meeting of Agape on Friday, October 12. Bruce Tatge will describe the battle and its consequences, which included both American independence from Great Britain and a major contribution toward to the outbreak of the French Revolution. Your ticket to the event is a dish to share at the supper. In return, we guarantee that everyone who attends will pass this particular history course with an "A."

Wedding Anniversaries

Jesse & Elizabeth Dipley 10/9
Robert & Bonita Bailey 10/9
Bob & Angela Strong 10/14
Herbert & Shirley Gretz 10/19


Katharine Lowe 10/3
Alex Rizzo 10/3
Barbara Strangfeld 10/4
Eugene Whitney 10/5
Susan Liberis 10/7
Grant Jaquith 10/8
Herbert Gretz 10/11
Janet Schlansker 10/11
Donald Molino 10/12
Diana Belardo 10/14
Cameron Pierce 10/14
Polly Mathews 10/15
Susan Feyrer 10/15
Rosemarie Jaquith 10/16
Norma Flora 10/19
Katherine Casale 10/20
Suzanne Wolff 10/20
Thomas Miller 10/21
Dante Anthony 10/21
Karen Holcombe 10/22
Michael DeBritz 10/24
Larene Jaquith 10/24
Peter Nelson 10/24
Allie Strong 10/25
Colton Jaquith 10/26
Eunice Chouffi 10/28
David Masses 10/29
Samuel Holocombe 10/30
Matthew Canavan 10/30
Vera Crates 10/31
Christopher Morin 10/31
Emily Riordan 10/31

 If a birthday or anniversary is missing or incorrect for you or anyone in your family, please contact the office (346-6241).

About us....

St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church
1935 The Plaza
Schenectady, New York   12309
Church Staff 

 The Rev. Dr. James R. Brooks-McDonald, Rector
 The Rev. Patricia L. Jones, Deacon
 Dr. Timothy Olsen, Director of Music
 Ms Katherine Miller, Office Manager 


 Warden:                     Susan Feyrer
 Warden:                     Ryan Davis
 Clerk:                         Peter Nelson
 Treasurer:                  Denise Crates
 Chancellor:                Rosemarie Jaquith 

Class of 2007              Dave Caruso
                                    Paul deKanel
                                    Stacy DeBritz 

Class of 2008              Austin Spang
                                    Sid Woodcock
                                    Glenn Kaler 

Class of 2009              Melinda Renkin
                                    Tracy Ormsbee
                                    Barbara Wisnom                       

THE CHURCH OFFICE, located at 1229 Baker Avenue, is open every weekday from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm.

TELEPHONE/FAX: The office telephone number is   518/346-6241 and the office fax number is 518/346- 6242. Please leave a message if no one answers and someone will get back to you as soon as possible.

The Messenger is published 10 times a year, September through June.