The Messenger

News and Views from St. Stephen's Episcopal Church
Schenectady, NY

February, 2008

Dear Friends:

This year Easter almost is as early as it can be!  Therefore, Ash Wednesday is also very early – February 6th!  The weeks before Lent are a good time to decide what your Lenten discipline will be this year.  As I was growing up in church the emphasis was on giving up something for Lent.  One problem with this is that we often get so caught up in trying to keep our Lenten denial, that we loose track of the true reason we are doing it.  Another problem is that we can perform the denial for the praise of others, and thus rob ourselves of that which we seek: true intimacy with God.

There is another way to observe a holy lent.  Instead of giving up, we can take on such activities as weekday Eucharists or participation in a Lenten study group.  This year we have increased Lenten opportunities by adding a Sunday evening study series.  Increasing the amount of time spent in reading the Bible and other religious books, in meditation and prayer, and in doing extra work to help the poor and needy ‑ are all worthwhile forms of Lenten discipline.  There is still time to join Deacon Pat’s Bible study on Matthew, to join Education For Ministry, or even to start coming to the Adult education hour on Sunday Mornings. Taking on additional activities during Lent is an excellent way to prepare for Christ's resurrection, because these are the very activities which were such an important part of Jesus' ministry.  How many times in the Gospels can you remember Jesus urging his disciples to give up something?  But think of the times Jesus urges his followers to feed the hungry and tend to the needy.

Up to a point Ash Wednesday is supposed to make us uncomfortable as we contemplate our sinful condition.  However, this stark, penitential day, the first of the 40 days of Lent does not have to be the beginning of a time of negativity, when we dwell on denial.  I am urging you today to consider taking on a spiritual activity, rather than giving up something.  The difference between giving up and taking on is that taking on an activity is a creative act; giving up something is not.  But don't think that taking on something for Lent is easier or requires less pain than giving up something.  Taking on an activity is every bit as much a discipline as self‑denial, but is more like the mother's joy at birth which overshadows the pains that precede it.

So Lent is not only a time for us to remember the shortness and frailty of human life, a time reflecting on our tendency to sin; it is also a time of spiritual refreshment and new commitment to Christ.  We shall not be unduly depressed, for we are children of God, in Christ.  Lent is a time when all we are called to do is to be who we are created to be.  We need only be human, a simple matter of being in relationship with God and other human beings.





Thursday Mornings:

For many, the Season of Lent is a period of healing ‑ ‑ spiritually, emotionally, relationally and physically.  The Sacrament of Healing is offered as a part of the Eucharist at 10:00 am.  It involves the Laying on of Hands and anointing with Holy Oil of Unction.  After the service we gather in the rector’s study for a Bible Study based on video travels to the holy lands.

 Sunday Eucharists in Lent: 

Throughout Lent we will be using Rite I.

Sunday Evenings: 

This year we will add a study series on Sunday evenings at 5:00 in the parish hall.  Fr. James will lead a study on Celtic Spirituality.   

Celtic Spirituality

This Lenten Series examines the spiritual aspects of Celtic lore.  For the first two Sundays we will trace the roots of Celtic Christianity through the lives of the men and women who kindled its fire in the British Isles during the Dark Ages.  We will explore the length and breadth of the ancient land to uncover the source of today's renewed interest in Celtic spiritual traditions---meditation, prayer, and music rooted in the ministries of the Celtic saints.  The next three weeks Herbert O’Driscoll and Esther de Wall, two of the world’s foremost thinkers and writers on Celtic literature and spirituality, will offer deeply personal views of how they came to the Celtic vision.  We will explore ancient sacred places, the crucifixion, monasticism and the Book of Kells. We will meet in the parish hall from 5pm to 7pm on Sunday evenings, from Feb. 10th to March 9th.  A light soup and bread supper will be prepared by the participants.

Fridays in Lent - Stations of the Cross:

'Station' is any place in the church where, during a solemn procession, there is pause for a prayer.   During Lent there is a practice in which fourteen 'stations' are visited in turn, with a pause for a reading, a versicle and response, a prayer, and a time for meditation.  In this case, the 'stations' are fourteen pictures depicting incidents in the narrative of Christ's passion, from Pilate's house to the entombment.  These pictures will be placed around the church on Fridays and booklets which lead the participant through each station can be found on the table in the back of the church.  Please call the parish office if you wish to experience this tradition.

Lent affords us a good opportunity to explore areas of our liturgical tradition that not widely used in our church.


Don't miss the traditional Pancake Supper on Tuesday, February 5th! at St. Stephen's marking the last time for festivities before Lent begins, on Wednesday!

Menu includes pancakes, sausages and a beverage.  The price includes all you can eat!

Bring your family, your friends and your appetite!  Volunteers are needed to help cook, serve and clean up.



Shrove is the past tense of shrive.

Shrive is to hear confession, and give absolution to the penitent.

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Ash Wednesday is February 6th  with the Imposition of Ashes and Eucharist as follows:

7:00 a.m.

12:3 noon

7:30 p.m.


Services will be held at various times so that each Christian can observe the beginning of this penitential period which leads us into our celebration on Easter Day.  Barring illness, every Christian certainly will be in church on Ash Wednesday to begin his/her disciplined preparation for a meaningful celebration of Easter.




Making a confession in preparation for Easter is a long-standing tradition form many in the Church.  This is an individual confession to a priest.  The service of Reconciliation of a Penitent in the Book of Common Prayer provides an excellent form for personal self‑ examination, confession and reception of God's forgiveness.  If anyone is interested in participating in this rite as we move toward Easter, please feel free to contact the parish clergy.  A short brochure describing this sacrament can be found on the Welcome Table in the parish hall.


Lord, during this

Lenten Season

Nourish me with

Your Word of Life

And make me one

With You in Love and prayer.


May you be blessed by his grace

               On lent and always!


From The Web - Wikipedia

The ashes used in the service of Ash Wednesday are sacramentals.  Sacramentals are things that are set apart or blessed to manifest the respect due to the sacraments, to increase devotion, and through these movements of the heart, to “remit venial sin.” That is, to forgive those wrongs which lead to a temporary loss of grace from God.

Larry Levine

Education Opportunities in Lent

Bible Study on the Gospel of Matthew

"The Gospel of Matthew" will begin in late January, but there is still plenty of time for anyone who wishes to still join.  It will continue through the months of  February and March. 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 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 when you join the class.

Education for Ministry

The Education for Ministry (EFM) Program is the theological education extension program of the School of Theology of the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee.  Completion of the program takes four years, however, students register on an annual basis and that is currently taking place now. First year students will be studying the Old Testament from February to next January with a break for the summer and holidays.  A special emphasis is on doing theological reflection on daily life issues. Students meet weekly in seminars in the Community Room, Sundays from 2-4:30pm.

Sunday Morning Examination of Eastern Philosophies

This study will feature expert commentary by scholars, theologians and historians, on-location footage, and authentic re-creations, and explore Eastern philosophies and religions. This will include five weeks covering Confucianism, Shinto, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism and Islam. We will meet in the parish hall on Sunday mornings from 9am to 10am beginning Feb. 3rd.

Inquirers’ Classes

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 will meet on Sunday afternoons from Feb. 3rd – 24th from noon to 1pm in the rector’s office.


There will be no Agape meeting in February or March.  The next meeting will be

Friday April 11th.

We hope to have a speaker from Schenectady County Office for the Aging, on the subject of Long Term Care Insurance.

Summer is just around the corner…well almost!!

Summer time means Vacation Bible School.  We have scheduled the week for VBS and we hope that you can come.  Bible school will be held July 7th-July12th.  Children from preschool through 5th grade are welcome to attend.  There are many opportunities to volunteer for preteens, the youth group and adults.  It’s a super week.  More information will follow, as summer really gets closer.

If you have any questions please ask Laura Davis.

Sunday School during Lent

As we turn our focus in our church year to Lent, the children will be starting Unit III in the Episcopal Children’s Curriculum.  During Sunday school our focus will be on Worship.  Each age group will be looking at worship in different ways. 

All of the Sunday school groups will be collecting change for Episcopal Relief and Development.  Our hope is that each family will take home a Hope Chest and fill it as they can.  The Hope Chests will be presented at the altar during the offering on March 16th.  We will also be collecting food for the SICM food pantry.  During this time the children will be learning more about the Millennium Development Goals.

Here are some special dates for the Sunday school children in the next two months:

Sunday, 2/3:                             Hygiene kits for Bethesda House are due back to church.

Tuesday, 2/5:                            Pancake supper at church.

Wednesday, 2/6:                      Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent.

A Sunday in mid February:        Pre K - K group will have a special class at 9:00am.

Sunday, 3/16: Palm Sunday:      Gathering of EDR Hope Chests.

Lenten program for children from 5:00-7:00pm.

Friday, 3/21, Good Friday:       Children’s Stations of the Cross at 2:00pm.

Sunday, 3/23, Easter Sunday:   Don’t miss the Easter egg hunt!

St. Stephen’s Church School Times

     1st through 6th grades meet at 9:00 every Sunday downstairs in the community room

     Preschool and kindergarten meet at 10:15 after the children’s sermon, during the 10:15 service.

     The Youth Group, 7th through 12th grades, meet after the 10:15 service in the Chapel.

 If have any questions or concerns please contact me:  church phone- 346-6241

Laura Davis


YOU  Are Invited

 to an


Saturday, March 1, 2008


in the Parish Hall.

A simple “Soup Supper” and beverages will be provided.

Child Care will be provided as well. 


~ are the person who is curious about what it really means to be a “MEMBERof St. Stephen’s

~ are curious about life at St. Stephen’s beyond what happens on Sunday morning

~ are one of our newer members

~ are a long-standing member who wants to be more in the know

~ are someone who feels your voice does not always get heard

YOU are St. Stephen’s.  Each of YOU!

Join your Church Family to continue in the dialogue about how we as a 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”?

This will be a conversation ~ not speeches.  There will be questions, thought provoking discussion, differences of opinion, all shared over a common meal, in the presence of our loving God and in a spirit of family connection. 

Among other things we will talk about our bylaws and how they direct us to disburse our money.  Your voice in this is critical to our common life.

These are important questions that we, as a congregation, need to examine and discuss. So join your fellow parishioners on Saturday, March 1st at 6:00pm as we continue our conversation.

We look forward to spending time together.

By Barbara Wisnom


The Annual Meeting

The Annual Meeting was held on Jan 20th. If you would like a copy of the Annual Report, please contact the church office and request one.

An abbreviated form of the  Annual Report is available on the website.

You can also e-mail the church office.


Vestry News

The Vestry is committed to keeping the folks in the pews up-to-date on what happens at the monthly Vestry meetings. Our goal is to give you a brief summary of the monthly meeting, within a week or so, and to give you an avenue of contact in the event you have a question, an observation, or just want to share your concern.

So this first report will contain two components, and will be a bit longer than future reports.  If you already know what a Vestry is and what it does, or you just aren’t interested, skip this first part, and proceed to the Report section.

At St. Stephen’s we have 2 Wardens and 9 members.  At each Annual Meeting, held this year on January 20th, we elected one Warden to serve for a two year term, and three Vestry members to each serve three year terms.  This system ensures a regular influx of new people, new ideas, and new energy.  The Wardens and Vestry members for 2008 are listed on the birthday and anniversary announcements page.

Vestry meetings are held monthly, with the exception July & August, on the second Monday at 7:30pm, in the Parish Hall.  Any member of the congregation may attend a Vestry meeting at any time.  Vestry members, as elected representatives of the congregation, are available to you to answer questions, hear your concerns and ideas and to bring them to the attention of the rest of the Vestry if so warranted. 

In mid-January, 2008, members of the Communications Task Force placed a display of Vestry member pictures, along with pictures of other parish leaders, such as the Parish Council, on one of the Bulletin Boards in the Parish Hall.  Now there is an opportunity to put a “face-to-a-name”.  Vestry members also wear pins that signify their membership on the Vestry.

So don’t be shy.  Come talk to any of us.  Or join-us at one of the monthly meetings.

Vestry Notes: A Bit of Background

The following is taken from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Editors: Don S. Armentrout & Robert Boak Slocum.

In England the annual election of churchwardens took place in Easter week. The parishioners gathered at the church to hear the outgoing wardens render their accounts and elect their successors. The parishioners assembled in the vestry, the room off the chancel where the clergy vested. The assembled parishioners came to be known as the vestry. These were open vestries in that all adult male parishioners could participate. It was like a modern annual congregational meeting. In Virginia the parishes were very large and it was difficult to get all the male parishioners together. So they would meet only once and elect twelve of their number to serve for life. This was known as a closed vestry. The transition to a closed vestry was completed by 1633 or 1634, when a Vestry Act was passed. It provided that "there be a vestry held in each parish." The current vestry evolved from this colonial pattern.

The vestry is the legal representative of the parish with regard to all matters pertaining to its corporate property. The number of vestry members and the term of office varies from parish to parish. Vestry members are usually elected at the annual parish meeting. The presiding officer of the vestry is the rector. There are usually two wardens. The senior warden leads the parish between rectors and is a support person for the rector. The junior warden often has responsibility for church property and buildings. A treasurer and a secretary or clerk may be chosen. These officers may or may not be vestry members. The basic responsibilities of the vestry are to help define and articulate the mission of the congregation; to support the church's mission by word and deed, to select the rector, to ensure effective organization and planning, and to manage resources and finances

The Vestry Meeting was held on January 14th


The 2008 budget was passed.  Copies were distributed at the Annual Meeting. 

A large component of our income is the pledges made by the members of our congregation.  This year, there were a 100 pledges made, for a total of about $177,000.  Pledging is an important element of the Episcopal tradition, has its basis in Scripture, and is one of the ways in which we express our gratitude to God for all of our gifts.  Our pledges work to support the “bricks and mortar”, the Rector and staff salaries, and the many ministries carried out by St. Stephen’s. 

The total amount of budgeted expenses for 2008 is $217,144.  The difference between the income from pledges and expenses will come from non-pledged income in the Offering Plate at each service, as well as the Smith Green Trust, rental from First Friends Nursery School, and a number of holy day offerings.

If you didn’t get a copy of the budget and would like one, please contact one of the Vestry members or the Parish office (346-6241).

Buildings and Grounds

You may have heard that as a part of an overall inspection of our property, Reid House was found to have a number of defects that made it unsatisfactory to occupy.  No group is using Reid House at this time.

The Vestry is in the process of deciding what to do about Reid House.  In particular, we are looking at how this all fits into the bigger picture of what the Architectural Task Force is doing (more on that in a minute).  Do we tear it down, or have it fixed?

As a part of this process, no matter what our final decision is, Reid House must be inspected for asbestos.  The Vestry agreed at the January meeting to engage the services of such an inspector.  The findings of the inspection will assist us in our decision. So watch this space for future updates about Reid House.

Communications Task Force

The Task Force reported welcoming 3 new members:  Linda Emaelaf, Larry Levine, and Richey Woodzell.  (Other members are Stacy DeBritz, Christian Renken, Chris Jones, Debbie Trawick, Laura Davis & Barbara Wisnom). 

Larry Levine will be taking over as editor of the Messenger from the very capable hands of Laura and Ryan Davis.  Larry brings wonderful skills.  February will be his inaugural issue.

The Task Force is working on the production of a Ministry Booklet for the congregation.  It will contain current information about each of the many ministries present at St. Stephen’s (from the Choir & Altar Guild to the Garden Group & Christian Education), along with contact information.  Publication is anticipated to be in the spring.

Architectural Task Force

Ryan Davis reported that this group is in the process of interviewing architectural firms.  Step One in the process of evaluating what to do about the physical plant at St. Stephen’s (and in particular the Parish Hall & Reid House) was to conduct the Parish wide survey, a copy of which is available in the Parish Hall.  Step Two is to now invite various architectural firms to submit bids for the delivery of what are called “concept designs”.  This means we would get a rendering of what changes to our current building structure would look like.  These would not be actual architectural drawings.  They would simply give the congregation something to look at and react to.

 Ryan feels that we will have bids from about four firms.  At either the February or March meeting, the Vestry will likely decide which of those to accept.  It will then take 2 – 2½ months from then for us to actually see the drawings.

Endowment Trustees

Mike Bishop gave the Vestry an update, as he does each meeting.  A comprehensive report of 2007 activities was distributed to everyone at the Annual Meeting.  If you did not receive a copy & would like one, please contact a member of the Vestry, or the Parish Office (346-6241).

St. Stephen’s Foundation

Given the language of the current bylaws, which define the circumstances under which money may be given to groups outside of St. Stephen’s, the Foundation may not make recommendations with regard to donations outside of St. Stephen’s.  The Vestry voted to keep the Foundation intact as a Committee. 

The 2008 Vestry will be undertaking a comprehensive review of the current bylaws, and bringing them to the congregation for review at some point in 2008.

Changing of the Guard

With deep gratitude for their commitment and dedication to St. Stephen’s, and their hard work on the Vestry, we bid farewell to three people whose terms completed at the January meeting:  Paul DeKanel, Stacy DeBritz and David Caruso.  Susan Feyrer stepped down as Senior Warden, but will be returning as a Vestry member.

At the February meeting, we will be welcoming three new members and a new Warden:  Susan Feyrer (as mentioned above), Peter Nelson and Amy Soule.  Rocky Bonsal will be coming on as Junior Warden.

That’s it for the January meeting.  Please give us feedback and let us know if this is useful information ~ or not.  Too much?  Not enough?  Suggestions for improvement? 

Contact Barbara Wisnom.

“See” you next month!

The next Vestry Meeting is February 11th  at 7:30 in Parish Hall

St. Stephen's Calendar for February:
It's on our web site!

Click Here




      Anniversaries *


Hector & Megan Dominguez    2/6
Paul & Allison deKanel 2/7
J. Keith & Christine Nelson      2/10


Birthdays *



Bennett Beardsley                     2/1
Charlotte Soule                         2/1
William Walker                         2/1
Suzanne Davis                          2/2
Nicolaus Brooks-McDonald     2/3
Megan Price                             2/3
Ryan Davis                               2/4
Millard Barber                          2/5
Alexxis Gibbs                           2/6
Patricia Jones                           2/8
Drew Prescott                          2/8
Patrina Marx                            2/9
David Goyette                          2/10
Claire Syta
Grace Strong                            2/10
Donald Regula                          2/12
Samuel Koch                            2/13
Dawn Rizzo                               2/13
Nan Blaufuss                            2/14
Marilyn Causey                        2/14
Carolyn Manor                         2/14
Hugh Campbell                         2/15
Olivia Canavan                         2/15
Ben Boese
Jane Tatge                                2/18
Sierra Renken                           2/18
Mary Alexander                       2/19
"Christine Nelson                       2/19
Greg Varno                              2/21
Pauline Northrop                      2/24
Elizabeth Practico                     2/28


* Please add or correct Birthdays and Anniversaries.

Contact the office at 346-6241, or e-mail




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 

The Vestry

 SrWarden, Ryan Davis
JrWarden,Rocky Bonsal

Class of 2008:

Austin Spang
Sid Woodcock
Glenn Kaler

Class of 2009:

Melinda Renkin
Tracy Ormsbee
Barbara Wisnom

Class of 2010:

Susan Feyrer
Amy Soule
Peter Nelson

Serving without Vote:

Treasurer:                  Denise Crates
Chancellor:                Rosemarie Jaquith

The Church Office

Our office is located at 1229 Baker Avenue.
It is open on weekdays, 9:00 am - 1:00 pm.
The office telephone number is (518) 346-6241
The office fax number is (518) 346-6242

If we are unable to answer your call, please leave a message.  We will call you back as soon as possible.

The Messenger is published September - June.