December 2007

The Messenger

St. Stephen's Episcopal Church

Schenectady, NY


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Advent began on Sunday, Dec. 2nd..  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.



Christmas Caroling Party – December 22nd


Please join St. Stephen’s for Christmas caroling at Sunnyview Rehab Hospital.  Please bring your gifts of song, laughter, love and smiles to the patients who may not go home for Christmas.  After caroling, we will regroup at church, in the Parish Hall, for a potluck dinner, treats and fellowship.


When:  Saturday, December 22nd

Time:  4:30pm

Where:  Sunnyview Rehab Hospital lobby which is located at:

1270 Belmont Avenue, Schenectady  12308


Please sign up at the Shop.  If you have questions, please ask Cheryl Syta



Pat’s Girls Thank You


On behalf of the women in the Schenectady County Jail, our deep thanks to all who contributed to “Undies Sunday” on November eleventh. We received 17 T-shirts, 50 pairs of socks and 112 pairs of panties. With cash donations also received, I purchased bras and more T-shirts. In addition to filling a practical need, we are providing a reminder to the women that they are not forgotten, and that God’s loving care can reach them even through the bars of the jail.



From the Rector


As I write this message the busiest shopping day of the year has ushered in another shopping season.  Christmas carols are heard in the stores, on the radio, and in just about every other commercial on television.  And yet, it is four weeks before Christmas.  The rush has not begun.  We are between holidays.  Very soon Christmas break will be here, and then we will be doing that last minute shopping, addressing cards, wrapping presents, and rehearsing.  But, for the time being, we are resting, waiting.



God's people have always been a waiting people, waiting and watching.  Often we wait, not knowing exactly what to expect, hoping for something to happen, hoping for someone to come: a letter in the mail, a visitor, our number in the lottery.


God's people are a waiting people.  But waiting is difficult: in the surgical waiting room   awaiting a word; in a long line at the bank, in an airport.  Have you ever noticed the variety in the manner of people's waiting?  Some are the staunch kind who wait with a sure and certain hope. Others sit on the edge of their seats in anxious fear.  You can tell a lot about a person by the way he or she waits.


But waiting is hard.  We often become impatient and thereby miss the mighty movement and redemptive voice of God. Sometimes our impatient waiting causes us to miss out on the joy of that for which we are waiting.


The season of Advent, which we began December 2nd, evokes the emotions of anticipation in Christians.  It captures the ancient yearning for the Messiah that was so much a part of the history of the Hebrew nation.  Advent comes in the part of the year when the days grow shorter and shorter, when we feel surrounded by darkness, and when our need to look forward and to hope becomes especially intense.  It is an in-between season of waiting and of watchful preparation.  But there is a great danger in waiting for the Lord's Coming with impatience and anxious fear.  This Advent season could be nothing more than a busy, expensive holiday in which we burn up our emotions and become tired of Christmas weeks before it comes.


Take some time away from that busy schedule, slow down.  Included in this Messenger are activities that individuals and families can do at home. Let's take some time this Advent to make ourselves ready, to allow Christ to act upon us; to feel His penetrating power deep within us, enabling us to be ignited from within, creating the warmth that will give the glow of Jesus in us, a glow that will allow others to see that Christ has come and that He is coming again.


                                                            Peace,  James




Waiting for the Coming


We are, all of a sudden, in the middle of the excitement of Christmas.  The children are waiting for the special day.  As a Sunday school teacher, I’m hoping that the anticipation is not only for Santa Claus and presents, but for the baby Jesus that brings light to all the world! 

This Advent season, the children will be learning three beautiful Christmas carols that will be sung to the congregation as part of the Christmas pageant.  Rehearsals for the pageant will be scheduled soon.  I believe that we are in for a special treat this year.  The Youth Group will be playing a big role in the pageant.  Sometimes the best learning happens by telling the story.


Each Sunday school group will be learning about the birth of Jesus in different ways.  1st through 3rd graders will be thinking about the angel Gabriel and the birth of John the Baptist.  Preschoolers and kindergarteners will be learning about the magic of angels.  And the 4th through 6th graders are focusing on the words of Isaiah and Joseph’s dream.


Dates to remember for the Sunday school children:


Sunday, December 9th:  Celebration for Deacon Pat and presentation of the stole.  Regularly scheduled Sunday school


Sunday, December 16th:  Christmas pageant.  Time and rehearsals for the pageant:  to be announced.  Please bring in gifts for the Avenue Nursing Home Residents


Saturday, December 22nd:  Caroling at Sunnyview Rehab Hospital, 4:30 pm.


Sunday, December 23rd:  Regularly scheduled Sunday school.


Monday, Christmas Eve:  Family service is at 5:00pm.


Sunday, December 30th:  No Sunday school is scheduled.


If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Laura




Outreach Committee News


Fall was a very busy one for St. Stephen's Community Outreach Committee!  First we donated $250.00 to a campaign to raise money for a local three year old who is currently battling cancer for the second time in his young life.  His mother has quit her job to be by her son's side so the family has financial pressures along with medical concerns. 


Members of this committee have also been watching the struggles of the Schenectady Free Health Clinic.  You may have read that they lost their state funding then thankfully, got it back this time.  This service is run totally by volunteer nurses, doctors and other staff members.  In fact, the clinic has only one paid employee!  They provide free medical treatment to the working poor.   We were grateful to be able to donate $500.00 to this organization in November.


We also had the opportunity to donate $100.00 to a freshman college student who needed some financial relief while she secured a part time job at her new school.  This may seem an odd funding choice at first glance, however, this young woman has grown up in foster care and has received a scholarship to attend college.  In short, she has no family to call for help.  Fortunately, her social worker made the call to us.


And finally, we are all set to take Christmas gifts to some of the residents of The Avenue Nursing and Rehabilitation Center on Altamonte Avenue in Schenectady.  The Giving Tree was dressed with gift tags and they were rapidly snatched up by our membership.  This is a particularly touching experience because the residents we buy gifts for have no family members to remember them during the holidays.  The Avenue staff is so grateful for our efforts!


As the year comes to an end, members of this committee would like to thank all of you for helping us with donations of school supplies, food for SICM, Christmas presents for The Avenue and monetary donations throughout the year.  We work with a very small budget of around $2000.00 and thanks to all of you we are able to put some Christian spirit into action in our community.


Happy Holidays to all,

Cynde Schwartz, Carole Merrill-Mazurek, Barbara Wisnom, Richey Woodzell, Budd Mazurek, Marti Spang and Meredith Osta.




Worship Committee News


The Worship Committee is pleased to report that 117 new copies of the Book of Common Prayer have been received, and will soon be placed in the pews to replace the rather shabby copies that are currently being used. We will be using worship booklets during Advent, Christmas and the season after Epiphany, then we will return to using the Prayer Books in Lent




St. Stephen, Deacon and Martyr


The patron saint of our parish is St. Stephen whose life we will celebrate on Wednesday, December 26th in the Chapel of the Resurrection with 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 Wednesday!




Star of Bethlehem


"Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the King, behold there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, "Where is he that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and have come to worship him."    Matthew 2:1 2


The star seen by the Wise Men, as described in the Gospel of Matthew, has been a perennial source of wonder for astronomers and lay people alike for over 2000 years.  It has engaged the interest of historians and chronologists striving to determine the exact year of Christ's birth, theologians and exegetes attempting to plumb its significance, orientalists seeking to place the story in the context of the astrological beliefs of the time, and astronomers hoping to explain the phenomenon in a natural way.


Experts have placed the birth of Christ between 8 and 5 BC. If the Star of Bethlehem was the result of a natural event, there are several possibilities regarding the type of phenomenon that it could have been. Was it a brilliant meteor, a comet, an exploding star(nova) or a remarkable grouping of the planets? Could it have been a supernatural sign in the skies above, or something else entirely?


Astronomer David Hughes, in his book, The Star of Bethlehem: An Astronomer's Confirmation, indicates that as far as comets are concerned, a list was made in 1871 by John Williams, who derived his information from Chinese sources. This list contained 372 comets occurring between 611 BC and 1640 AD, which means that an easily visible comet was recorded every five to six years. Number 51 in Williams' list was Halley's Comet of August 26, 12 BC, which was too early to be the star of Bethlehem, while number 54 occurred in December, 13 AD, and was too late. We are therefore left with the intervening two, both of which fall in the reign of the Emperor Ai Ti of the Han Dynasty, who ruled from 6 BC to 1 BC. The first is number 52 in Williams' list and was recorded by Ma Tuan Lin: "In the reign of the Emperor Ai Ti, the second year of the epoch chie n p'ing, the second month a comet appeared in Ch'ien nui for about seventy days." Pan Ku writing in the Chien Had She said that it appeared "for more than seventy days." The epoch Chien ping is the equivalent of 6 to 3 BC, so that the second month of the second year is March 5 BC. Chien nib is a star division equivalent to our present constellation of Capricorn. The object seen was termed a huihsing, which can be translated as a 'sweeping star' or a 'broom star.'


If not a comet, then, could it have been an exploding star such as a nova or supernova? At the height of its outburst, a nova may shine with a brilliance 50,000 times greater than normal. The main objection to the nova theory is that novae are short lived, single events, which do not brighten, dim, and brighten again, as the Christmas Star appeared to do.  Another possibility is that the Christmas Star may have been a meteor. That is, a shooting or falling star as meteors are commonly called. However, it is more than the average meteor which is under consideration as a possible Christmas Star. A meteoroid the size of a walnut could blaze across the heavens with a brilliance rivaling the moon. Such an object is known as a bolide, and if it should explode in flight    as sometimes happens because of rapid, unequal heating of objects that were deathly cold in space    it is designated as a fireball.  It is highly unlikely, though, that this type of phenomenon could be the origin of the Star of Bethlehem. Two thousand years ago, unlike today, it was a popular pastime to gather outdoors beneath the stars and retell the popular legends as to how the various constellations came to be in the sky. It is hardly probable that people who watched the heavens so much would consider a bolide rare enough to herald so great an event as the birth of a King of the Jews. Moreover, since a meteor is a very short event (a few seconds at most), the Star of Bethlehem, which was seen over a long period, could not possibly have been a meteor.


Another possibility of the Star of Bethlehem's origin is an apparent close passage between two planets or an apparent grouping of several planets as seen from the Earth. When two celestial objects appear in the same direction as seen from Earth astronomers call it a conjunction. The triple conjunction of 7 BC between Jupiter and Saturn is believed by many to be the Star of Bethlehem witnessed by the Wise Men. Here is how it occurred: On May 29th of that year Jupiter passed Saturn which resulted in the two planets standing fairly close together. Our planet Earth, which is much closer to the Sun than Jupiter, takes only 1 year to orbit the Sun as opposed to the 12 years that it takes Jupiter. As a consequence, the Earth passes Jupiter annually as the two planets speed around their circular tracks in space. 


When this happens, Jupiter seems, for a brief time, to reverse its course in the heavens and move backward    or to the west.* As a result it passed Saturn again on September 29th, so the two planets again stood in conjunction in the constellation we call Pisces. The movements of the Earth and Jupiter canceled out the apparent backward motion and Jupiter reversed its course, going east once again. This time, it passed Saturn on December 4th, and for the third time in a year, the planets stood together in Pisces. By late autumn, they were high in the western sky, which was what the Wise Men may have witnessed. 


Was the Christmas Star a planetary alignment? Or a brilliant bolide, or a nova, or a comet? The theories of a planetary conjunction or a comet have strong supporters. Some theories see the Star of Bethlehem as a combination of several astronomical events. Who knows? We may never really be sure. Whatever the Christmas Star may have been, enjoy the holiday season with family and friends. 




Gathering Straw


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.




Cleaning and Greening the Church


Help prepare the church for Christmas.  On Sunday morning, December 23rd, after the 10:15 Eucharist, please help hang the greens, and generally prepare the church for our celebration of Christ's birth.




Coats for the Needy


With the return of cold weather, we will again be distributing good used coats and jackets to various agencies for distribution to those who need them. If you have coats to contribute, please hang them in the closet at the back of the Nave Extension, behind the “Second Coats” sign that is hanging there. (“Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” Luke 3: 11).

                                                Deacon Pat



Child Care Christmas Eve


the Community Room will be open at the 5:00 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.




The Christmas Crèche


The Christmas creche—also known as a Nativity or manger scene—is more than a decoration. For many, displaying a Christmas creche is a way to focus on the real meaning of the holiday. The traditional creche figures are drawn from the accounts of Jesus' birth in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. There are many ways and variations to display a Christmas creche. Feel free to adapt these basic steps.

First Sunday in Advent:

Set the basic scene. Traditionally, most people begin with the stable, or something which resembles the rough Bethlehem setting of the Nativity. Put shepherds in the fields. Place the figures representing shepherds, their flocks of sheep and their sheepdog near the stable but not yet surrounding the manger. Use a green cloth to represent the fields, or unroll sheets of absorbent cotton to represent snowdrifts—not meteorologically accurate, but traditional.


Second Sunday in Advent:

Add the figures of Mary and Joseph and the ox and donkey who share their shelter. Display the manger, filled with a bit of straw (from the bags of straw) if you like, topped with a star ornament or Christmas light, but don't place the Baby yet.


Third Sunday in Advent:

Launch the Magi on their journey. At a distance from the stable, set the figures representing the Magi—also known as the Wise Men or the Three Kings—along with their camels and retinue of servants.


Christmas Eve:

Add the Bambino. On Christmas Eve, place the figure representing the Christ Child in the manger. Top the stable with an angel figure. Bring the shepherds and their animals in around the Holy Family. Display and enjoy your Christmas creche through January 6. On Christmas Eve, begin moving the Magi figures closer to the stable, advancing them a little each day for the twelve days of Christmas.



By January 6, the traditional Feast of the Epiphany, the Three Kings should be gathered by the manger to offer their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.


Tips & Warnings

You don't need to limit yourself to traditional figures. The creche custom in many countries has grown to include all kinds of people who might have been present in Bethlehem on that first Christmas Eve. In some Nativity scenes, the Christ Child and the manger are one inseparable piece. If you have one of these figures, keep the whole piece out of sight until Christmas Eve.


Explore the creche tradition in the folk art of many cultures. Francis of Assisi, an Italian saint, invented the creche tradition in the 13th century, and Italians are still masters of what they call the presepio. Latin American Nativity scenes are fashioned from clay and sometimes set inside carved gourds. In recent decades, Native Americans of the US Southwest have made a specialty of building creche figures from traditional pottery. Remember, keep Christmas creche figures, especially fragile heirlooms, out of the reach of pets and unsupervised young children.




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.


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.




Every Member Canvas


The Every Member Canvass for pledges in 2008 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. 2nd  or please send them to the church office.


So far we have received 85 pledges for approximately $146,000.  The parish extends its gratitude to those who have worked so diligently on the canvas, especially to Norman Hoffmann who served as Chairperson.




AGAPE - Let’s Keep it Going


When? December 14th, 6:00 PM Marilyn Causey will present a Christmas edition of All Creatures Great and Small


Where? The Parish Room


Who? Anyone and Everyone!

(Sorry - no child care, but children are, as always, welcome)


Please Bring                                                    

- Pot luck dish

- Own Plate

- Own Utensils


Questions? Call Pauline Holmes




Book Review: BUDDHISM: Introducing the Buddhist Experience by Donald W. Mitchell


Prof. Mitchell presents a broad picture in his introduction to Buddhism including a suggested reading list at the end of each chapter, and at the end of the book a very helpful glossary. 


The first few chapters cover the life of Gautama Buddha, his travel and teaching.  This includes the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path.  Following his death The Elders met and an authentic standard of Buddha’s teaching and discipline were set.  This oral tradition became known as the “Baskets”; one for his teachings and one of rules for the monastic life.


Buddhism spread through Asia with varying acceptance giving rise to the many schools of Buddhism we see today.  Tibet, China, Korea and Japan are discussed, showing the influence of the dynasty in control of the country as well as existing customs.  The Silk Road became a favored route for those desiring to make a pilgrimage to India.  


Mitchell’s final two chapters examine Buddhism today in Asia and in the West.  He tries to present a balanced overview without favoring a particular school.  The book was strongly recommended by Sue Spang during her October presentation. 




Coming Soon to St. Stephens: Note Cards


In support of the youth group Work Week, a small group at St. Stephen’s Church is creating a set of picture note cards which will be available in December and beyond. Each card will have an original artwork on the cover, space to write a note inside, and will include an envelope. They will be individually wrapped, and will be sold for three dollars. Every dollar will go towards the support of the July work camp in Appalachia, where our young (and not so young) people go each summer to help repair houses of people too poor to maintain them. These are perfect for gifts or for your own thank-you notes.


Participants in the project (so far) include Mary Frances Hatfield, George Woodzell, and Chris Jones. Some of the cards will be photographs, others will be reproductions of original art work: pastels, watercolors and so forth.  If you have some original artwork that you think might be appropriate for this project, please get in touch with some of the participants - we would be delighted to see more people creating these cards.


It’s a bargain! It’s in an excellent cause! They’re very pleasing to the eye! Watch for them Sunday mornings in December!


                                             Chris Jones





Episcopal Relief Responds to Flooding in Mexico and El Salvador


Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD) is assisting people affected by severe flooding in Mexico and El Salvador. Thousands of people remain in emergency shelters and in need of provisions.


“We are extremely worried about the situation in Tabasco and Chiapas,” says Rt. Rev. Benito Juarez, Bishop of the Diocese of Southeastern Mexico. “Thank you to ERD for their concern and for thinking of us.”   In partnership with the Diocese of Southeastern Mexico, ERD is providing food, first aid supplies and other emergency services to help those impacted by the floods.


After two weeks of pounding rain in eastern El Salvador, areas of the region are under water and many homes have been washed away. Working with the Diocese of El Salvador, ERD is providing food, clothing and household essentials to families left homeless by the rains.


To help people affected by the floods in Mexico and El Salvador, please make a donation to ERD’s “Emergency Relief Fund” online at:, or call 1-800-334-7626, ext. 5129.






Robert Olberg &                            12/10

     Andrea Worthington

Daniel & Edith Lundquist                12/18

Gerald & Linda Perregaux  12/22

Grant & Rosemarie Jaquith 12/30




Sarah Masse                                  12/1

Peter Nevius                                   12/1

Rebecca Carroll                             12/1

Louise Peake                                  12/5

Mildred Gittinger                            12/7

Vicki Hoshko                                 12/8

Jim Ormsbee                                  12/9

John Liberis                                    12/12

Claudia Ashelman                           12/12

Robert McCalley                            12/17

Jed Dare                                        12/18

Shirley Gretz                                   12/20

Taylor Pierce                                  12/20

Jim Syta                                         12/21

Jean Greenspan                              12/21

Stephen Sombor                             12/23

Robert Olberg                                12/25

John Petito                                     12/26

Ronald Michelson                           12/27

Isabelle Jaquith                               12/27

Chrstian Renken                             12/28

Anne Sombor                                 12/28

Elizabeth Canavan                          12/28

Carl Hatlee, II                                12/29

Denise Crates                                 12/31


If a birthday or anniversary is missing or incorrect

for you or anyone in your family, please contact

the office (346-6241).




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