St. 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 6th at 8:00am and 10:15 a.m. with Eucharist.
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, "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.
An important issue has arisen, impacting our common life at St. Stephen’s. It has to do with how our bylaws direct us to use money for outside organizations.
Under our current bylaws, the Vestry may only direct St. Stephen’s monies to two areas. The first is to direct money to objects which further the “support and maintenance” of St. Stephen’s Church”. I think this would include keeping our buildings in good order and hiring staff to develop and help conduct our programs.
The second is to direct money, with congregational approval, to objects which further “some religious, charitable, benevolent or educational object conducted by St. Stephen’s Church or in connection with it.” I think that this means organizations such as Schenectady Inner City Ministry, the Jail Ministry, the ministry to students at Union College and other groups we have supported for many years.
Herein lies the first problem: to which groups do our by-laws allow St. Stephen’s to direct money? Are Bethesda House, Safe House, Home Furnishings and other groups founded by a group of various congregations included? How about more secular groups such as the Red Cross, the Boy Scouts, the American Cancer Society? In other words, how restrictive are the by-laws in this area?
A second problem is this: which monies of St. Stephen’s do we want to direct, money from the operating budget (the proposed budget you received with your pledge card) and/or some proceeds of our Endowment Fund?
I think the underlying question is how does our congregation live out the first part of our parish mission statement: “…to glorify God by reaching out to others, universally, with hands that serve, hearts and minds that welcome, and voices that carry the good news of God’s redeeming love to all”?
These are important questions that I think we, as a congregation, need to examine and discuss. Therefore I am suggesting an informal, all-congregation meeting on Sunday, January 13th at 7pm in the Parish Hall for this purpose. This is not the Annual Meeting which will take place on the following Sunday at 11:30am, nor is it an official meeting of any kind. This will be a time for congregational conversation.
To My Dear Friends at St Stephen’s
My sincere thanks to all who participated in any way in the joyful
celebration on Dec. 9th. I will be reminded every time I wear my stole of
all the children (and adults) who helped to create it. And I am truly
blessed to have received the icon of Holy Wisdom and her Children. My
profound respect is due to Mark Bayer who created it. And my wonderful
picture frame, with all those greetings from "my girls"how appropriate to
St. Stephen's at the very heart of it!
Twenty-five years have passed, and many people have come and gone, from both St. Stephen's and the jail. Some days have been hard: the deaths of loved ones, and other lesser losses. But there have been many times of joy as well: weddings, baptisms, bread and soup and studying together. But best of all, I think, has been the privilege of serving you at the communion rail, week after week. God nourishes us all there, so that we can share God's abundant love with the world.
January 20th - Annual Parish Meeting
Our annual meeting will be held on Sunday January 20, 2007 at 11:30am in the Parish Hall. Please mark your calendars and plan to attend. Childcare will be provided.
As the Wise men approached to meet the baby Jesus, I wonder if they knew how the world would be changed from that moment. We don’t know very much about what happened in the life of Jesus between that night the Wise men came and when Jesus began his ministry when He was around 30 years old. We can only wonder what it was like for Jesus to be a child and then a teenager. We will be learning about Jesus’ life through the stories in the Bible in the next few months. And we will be wondering about what isn’t written. It’s an exciting time as we move into the New Testament.
We also plan to put together health kits for Bethesda House. This will be our project during the season after Epiphany. With this, the children will be learning more about the Millennium Development Goals. The projects we do at our church really make a difference in people’s lives. From Christmas presents to toiletries to canned goods, we are helping others in need. That seems to me to be one of Jesus’ most important teachings.
All are welcomed to come to Sunday school. Adults meet at 9:00am in the Parish Hall; 1st-6th grades meet at 9:00am in the Community Room; preschoolers and kindergarten meet after the children's sermon (during the 10:15 service) downstairs; 7th-12th graders meet after the 10:15 service in the chapel.
If you have any questions or concerns about Church school, please contact me.
The Pageant - Thank You
…to Ben Boese and Tom Casale who wrote and directed the 2007 Christmas Pageant. We couldn’t have done it without you two!!
…to Allison deKanel who assisted with the script edits and helped with rehearsals.
…to Laura DeNofio who got the cast together and organized. Laura helped with directing and costumes and keeping stomachs full with great Chinese food.
…to Richey Woodzell who brought music to the pageant. She rehearsed with the sheep and angels and helped them to make a beautiful noise. Richey also was invaluable in keeping the costumes organized.
…to the parents for bringing their kids to rehearsals and bearing with us when the weather got in the way.
…to Father James and Deacon Pat who were very flexible and understanding as we were trying to schedule the pageant.
…to Tim Olsen for accompanying the children as they sang.
…to Steve Sombor who recorded the pageant.
…to all that participated. You brought the story of Christmas to the hearts of our congregation.
Gospel Bible Study
Have you thought about taking a Bible study course in the New Year? "The Gospel of Matthew" will begin on January 9th and continue for 14 sessions. In 2008 we will hear readings from Matthew's gospel on many Sundays, so this would be a good opportunity to learn more about this book. Classes will meet on Wednesday evenings, from 7:30-9:00, in the Parish Hall. No previous experience is necessary, and newcomers are most welcome. Students' Resource Books will be available at the first class.
Thank You from the Schenectady Free
Dear St. Stephen’s Church,
Thank you for your generous contribution of $500.00 to the Clinic. Contributions are always important to our mission, but they are especially critical now as we struggle to continue the Clinic.
We are confident that with the help of members of St. Stephen’s Church, we will raise the money necessary to maintain our services of the uninsured of Schenectady County.
Thanks again for your support.
William P. Spolyar
The Christmas Card Project
The Christmas Card Project was a great success this year, in spite of weather and other distractions. Everyone pitched in at Agape and on Sunday morning, and the cards, all 1000+ of them, were delivered on time, and gratefully received. Thanks to all who contributed cards, money, postage and energy! Now it is time to bring your leftovers from this year, to begin collecting for next year. The inmates really appreciate the wonderful variety that we provide; they are "better than Hallmark!"
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.
Vestry Nominations for 2008
The Nominating Committee has presented the following slate of nominees to the Vestry:
Rocky Bonsal - Jr. Warden
Delegates to Diocesan Convention
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 offered by 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.
Michael Bishop &
Pauline Holmes 1/6
Irwin & Beverly Blanchard 1/19
John & Susan Goldthwaite 1/25
Dave & Liz Stevens 1/29
Bruce & Jane Tatge 1/31
Harvey & Mary Alexander 1/31
Jacob Price 1/2
Barbara Dobbins Stratton 1/7
Robert Bailey 1/7
Audrey DeBritz 1/7
Emma Koch 1/7
Laura Manor 1/8
Luke DeBritz 1/8
Chelsea Trant 1/8
David Taylor 1/9
Laura Practico 1/12
Lauren Steele 1/12
Susan Goldthwaite 1/13
Lillian Peterson 1/14
Daniel Lundquist 1/17
Pearl Burton 1/17
Andrei Crates 1/18
Megan Dominguez 1/22
Deborah Trawick 1/23
K. Scott Kilbourn 1/26
Carolyn Morin 1/27
* If a birthday or anniversary is missing or incorrect for you or anyone in your family, please contact the office (346-6241).