New Year Issue 

January 2009

in this issue

A. From Father James

B. School Days

C. More News

D. More Activities and Dates

Shield Dear Dear Friends in Christ,

In one sense, the church's new year begins in September with the Parish Faire. In another sense it begins in Advent.  In yet another sense it begins in January with new vestry wardens and members, and a renewed commitment to the tasks at hand.

God knows, the church is not a static body, but an always growing, changing, challenging gathering of gifts and needs and expectations.  Keeping up with it all is a weekly, daily, hourly affair.  Sometimes we do.  Sometimes we don't.  Most of the time, we are doing the best we can. 

As new members come into our congregation, we need to help them become a part of our parish life.  For a long time I have observed a barrier between old-timers and newcomers.  Much of that barrier is simply knowledge of the church.  The church must never become a secret society.  Those of us in the congregation must explain our structure and language to newcomers so that they can enter into our parish life with as much ease and sense of belonging as possible.

When I first join an organization it always seems to me that everyone else knows how "things are done" but me.  Sometimes it takes many months (or years!) to become acquainted with how an institution is organized and the language used to describe it.  To help this process the Communications Committee has developed an updated booklet with the various volunteer ministries in the parish.  They with the vestry, parish council and me are updating a detailed handbook to describe the way things are done at Saint Stephen's.  We hope that this facilitates more members becoming involved in the congregation.

The point is this: if you are quietly sitting out there in a pew or pondering in your home why no one has contacted you to do what you do best in the life of the church, it could be for a number of reasons.  One is that we are getting our act together yet again and it hasn't quite made it on the road.  Another is  the unspoken belief that the initiative for your involvement in the church rests in the church's collective hands rather than in your own.

                                                DON'T BE SHY!

Given the overwhelming nature of the ministry and mission of St. Stephen's, your energy, intelligence, imagination and love are sorely needed but sometimes missed. Whether in Christian education, music, social witness, worship, youth, fellowship, your voice and experience and commitment will be welcomed with open arms. We just need to know where you want to jump in!  Therefore, don't be shy.  Look over the areas of our ministries, and then pick up the phone and call the office.  Your life and the life of this parish might be, in this new year, transformed!

Fr. James+

From the Rector 




 Annual Meeting Called for January 19th

Each year on the third Sunday in January, our congregation holds its Annual Meeting.  The purposes of the meeting are to elect representatives to the vestry, to review finances of the parish for the past year and to examine the budget of the current year, to hear brief reports from parish leaders and the clergy, and to discuss other issues which affect the congregation.

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: Ryan Davis, Austin Spang, Sidney Woodcock and Glenn Kaler.  They are securing the nominations for the seven positions vacant for next year.  In addition, nominations will continue to be made from the floor of the Annual Meeting of the parish.  The vestry elected offices are: 3 - three-year terms and 1   Warden - two-year term. A one-year term for Clerk is also sought.  Three Diocesan Convention Deputies and three alternates will also be nominated.

The Vestry

What is the Vestry? 
The Vestry is the body within our congregation that, with the clergy, leads the parish.

What are the responsibilities of the Vestry?
The Vestry is responsible for personnel management and the stewardship of our money and property. The Vestry has a legal and moral responsibility to manage our congregation's resources, including operating funds, investment, furnishing, buildings and grounds. As well as insuring the care of paid and volunteer personnel, so that they receive adequate compensation, benefits, equipment, resources, training, and support.

How does the Vestry accomplish this goal?
The Vestry engages in short and long range planning, both directly and through committees of the parish. We review our parish's mission, our current programs, staff and facilities, and plan for the future. A strategic plan can be delegated to a subgroup, but it is the Vestry's responsibility to make sure that such planning occurs, is formally adopted, and is supported.
Our congregation needs resources to accomplish our mission. Vestry members play a key role in gathering these resources. They actively give of their time, talent and treasure.

What is the time commitment of Vestry members?
The Vestry meets on the second Monday of each month beginning at 7:30. Each Vestry member is also assigned to a subcommittee of the Vestry. Much of the communication between meetings is completed via e-mail. Vestry members serve three year terms.

 Vestry meetings are open to members of the parish. Please drop by sometime and see how the vestry works.



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.

                      Parish office - 346-6241
                      Fr.  James
                      Deacon Pat


School Days

Many Miracles

The Episcopal Children's Curriculum is taking all of the age groups through the miracles Jesus preformed during his ministry.  These are wonderful stories that show us Jesus' power and his compassion for the people around him.  We'll talk about how we can show that same compassion today and being thankful for the powerful advances we have made in medicine and technology that makes our lives healthier and safer.

If your child or children haven't been able to come to Sunday school lately, they are always welcome.

Here are Sunday school times and places:

Preschool / kindergarten group meets after the children's sermon during the 10:15 service in the basement nursery school rooms for about ½ hour. 

First, second and third grade group meets from 9:00-10:00am in the basement nursery school rooms.

Fourth, fifth and sixth grade group meets from 9:00-10:00am.  This group will begin in the basement and then go to the tower after the opening activities.

Youth group (7th-12th grade) meets after the 10:15 service (11:30-12:30) in the Chapel.

Please contact me if you have any concerns or questions.

 Laura Davis
 Home phone:  377-0626
 Church phone:  346-6241

Vacation Bible School 2009

We have scheduled the week for VBS and we hope that you can come.  Bible school will be held July 6th-July10th this year.  Children from preschool through 5th grade are welcomed to attend.  There are many opportunities to volunteer for preteens, the youth group and adults (any age).  It's a super week for all.  More information will follow in the next Messenger.  Stay tuned...

If you have any questions please ask Laura Davis.

Sunday Morning Adult Education

Jan. 11th  The Rabbi (Gamla): The Zealots longed for a political messiah, but Jesus came as a rabbi to influence His culture. To impact society today, we need to model His teachings.
Jan. 18th  Language of Culture (Sepphoris): In a Hellenistic cultural setting, Jesus sometimes used theatrical terms in communicating. We, too, must understand our society to be spiritually relevant.
Feb. 1st  Misguided Faith (Belvoir): Where the Crusaders sought to advance faith by the edge of the sword, Jesus taught a way of life-and so conquered the hearts of people.
Feb. 18th  Living Water (En Gedi): The water of a spring provided an oasis that sustained life. Similarly, Jesus referred to himself as "living water," our only refreshment from the heart of life.
All classes are held in the Parish Hall on Sundays from 9am to 10am.  These classes have been very popular!


Kerygma Bible Study

Our next course, "Parables: Stories for Life in God's World" will be offered on seven Wednesday evenings (note change) beginning on January 21st.

Jesus used these stories to make some basic points, but they usually challenge our assumptions and open our hearts and minds to new possibilities.

This 7-week course would be a good antidote to the winter blahs-so come and be surprised, puzzled, maybe even delighted at the richness of these "simple" stories.

Please register with Deacon Pat SOON.

The sign-up sheet is on the Shop counter.

Thank you.



Receiving the Messenger?

If you did not receive a copy of the Messenger, there are 4 ways to obtain it:

Web: There is a copy available at the web site (  

US Mail: Call the Church office weekday mornings at 346-6241 to add your home address to the mailing list.

E-Mail: You can give us your email by sending it to messenger.

At Church: Paper copies of the Messenger will be prominently displayed at the back of the Church.

Thank you.


Our Web Presence

You might have noticed that our web site has a new look. There are several reasons for the changes, including a more consistent appearance for different browsers (Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox, for example), more consistent appearance for different screen sizes, and some technical advantages having to do with uploading to the server and the use of template pages. I haven't completely figured out the new software to make all of this possible, but I'm making progress. You comments and questions are most welcome. Just to remind you, we're found at

which is where we have always been.

One change is that link to our on-line directory (Members)  is found at the top of the page instead of the bottom. Please visit there and check the information listed for your family. If there's an error, I'd like to correct it. If you don't like your  photograph, you are free to provide and alternate, or I will "re-mug" you on Sunday morning. For families with kids, we should do this at least every two years.

The purpose of the web site is to provide information for the members of St. Stephen's Church, but also to be a window into the world for those who might be looking for a church. It's your web site; if you have some suggestions or criticisms or content that you think should be there, I'm all ears!

Chris Jones


P.S.  In order to keep our records as up-to-date as possible: For two Sundays in January (Jan. 11 and 18), we are asking all of you to go to the back of the church after the service and check our directory information. This includes names, address, phone numbers (also cell phones), names of children (date of birth), and e-mail addresses. Please make corrections directly on the sheets.  You can also inspect the photographs. If there is no photograph on the page, or you don't like the one which we have, then you can either provide one yourself, or we will take a "mug shot" whenever you like. This is YOUR community, and keeping in touch is important business!


VESTRY MEETING UPDATE - December 8, 2008

Financial Reports
The December report continues to reflect the trend of being on track with respect to income, while exceeding the budget in certain expense areas.  One of the main reasons for this remains the unanticipated increase in utility costs.  This information is being taken into consideration as the budget for 2009 is being prepared.

Finance Committee
Father James reported that to date 81 pledges have been received for a total of $154,475.  He also told the Vestry that 61 reminder letters were going out to parishioners who have not yet pledged.  These are people who have pledged in the past.

The Finance Committee met on November 19 and discussed the financing of the proposed new Parish Hall.  Vestry members who are also members of the Finance Committee reported that the entire committee was concerned about how this project would be financed in the current economic situation.  It was agreed that the Vestry will hold a special meeting in late January for the sole purpose of reviewing the entire new building project.  The Vestry will examine both financing options and options available to us for moving the project forward.

Concern was again expressed with regard to the upcoming budget for 2009.  In the current economic situation, we will need to carefully review all income and expense projections.  The full details of the 2009 budget will be more accurately known once the pledges are in.

Personnel Committee
Members of the Personnel Committee will be meeting over the next couple of weeks to prepare the annual review for Fr. James.  Fr. James will provide them with a self-assessment based on objectives.

Fr. James will be conducting performance reviews for the staff.

Going forward, the Vestry may consider conducting performance reviews in September, so that adequate time may be given for salary recommendations to coordinate with the annual budget preparations.

Nominations Committee
Ryan Davis is the Chair of this Committee.  Members are outgoing members of the Vestry:  Glen Kaler, Sid Woodcock and Austin Spang.  Ryan is the outgoing Warden.

The Committee will be asking the congregation to put forth names for the following positions for the Class of 2009:
§   Junior Warden - 2 year term
§   3 Vestry members - 3 year terms
§   Clerk - 1 year term; reappointed annually by the Vestry
Please contact Ryan to make recommendations for the above positions.

Bylaws Task Force
The Vestry met in a special session on December 6th to discuss the revisions and next steps.  Significant progress was made.  A second Special Vestry meeting will be held January 10 to continue the review and discussion of the proposed changes.

According to our current bylaws, the Vestry must vote twice in the affirmative to approve any revisions.  Once this has happened, the revised bylaws then go to the Congregation for their approval.  Members of the congregation will be given access to the recommended revisions after the Vestry has approved them.  Ample time will be given for review prior to scheduling a congregation vote.

Architectural Task Force
A motion was made and passed to authorize up to $100,000 for the continued rehabilitation of Reid House and the moving of the National Grid pole behind the church.  This motion was based on figures presented by Austin Spang and Mike Bishop detailing the projected expenses for both projects.

A second motion was made and passed giving authority to Austin Spang to engage with the necessary contractors for the Reid House work.

With regard to the National Grid pole project, Michael Bishop has been acting as lead.  He has gathered the necessary quotes and has made contact with both National Grid and Verizon.  Michael will be away for a period of time in the beginning of the year and the Vestry was asked to authorize someone to act in Michael's stead.  Ryan Davis volunteered and was so authorized, so this project can move forward without delay.

Work continues on Reid House.  Volunteer members of the congregation have been helping with interior demolition work.  Most of the interior walls have been removed, and the bathroom was taken down to the studs on Saturday, 12/6.  Austin Spang expressed his gratitude to the volunteers in the congregation who have been assisting with this project.

We ask your continued prayers for this project.

Endowment Committee
Mike Bishop and Dawn Tonneau, Trustees of the Endowment Committee, presented the Endowment Annual report to the Vestry.  A copy of the report will be presented to the Congregation at the Annual Meeting in January.  According to the report, the fund is down approximately 21%.  This is largely due to the market activity over the past several months.  The Vestry expressed thanks to the Committee for their work and dedication.
That's it for the November meeting.  "See" you next month.
Contact Barbara Wisnom for questions, feedback or suggestions


Vestry meetings are open to all members of the congregation.  Vestry meetings are held the 2nd Monday of each month at 7:30pm in the basement of the Parish Hall.
On very rare occasion, the Vestry may need to meet in "Executive Session" to discuss a confidential matter, and the congregation is not able to be.
Feel free to contact any member of Vestry at any time if you have questions about what goes on at Vestry meetings, or if you have something you would like to bring before the Vestry for discussion.
Please note the Vestry does not meet in July or August.



 D. More Activities and Dates

Our calendar is on line.  Click here:

 Jump ahead to Anniversaries and Birthdays

Prayer Shawl Ministry

The prayer shawl knitters (and crocheters) will plan to meet on the second Monday evening of the month and the second Thursday afternoon of the month, so as to accommodate as many people's schedules as possible. So:

                         Monday Jan. 12-Feb. 9-March 9 (7:30 pm)

                         Thursday Jan. 8-Feb. 12-Mar. 12 (1:30 pm)

All meetings will be in the Community Room, downstairs in the church.

                                           All are welcome.

                                             Deacon Pat 

1004 in 2008

Does that sound like a hot tip for playing the lottery?
Or maybe a campaign slogan?

Actually, it is the number of Christmas cards we provided to jail inmates on December 22nd. The weather was uncooperative, but with the help of a lot of wonderful people, including members of St. Stephen's, St. George's, Trinity Presbyterian and Lynnwood Reformed, we did get the cards collected, sorted, stamped, bundled and delivered to the jail. Robyn Stewart and I, accompanied by one of the Sheriff's Finest Men in Black, went through the entire jail in 90 minutes. We were met with enthusiasm and a great deal of appreciation.

Thanks to everyone who contributed cards or postage, those (including Father James) who spent a whole Adult Education class and/or coffee hour stamping and bundling. Please feel free to bring in your leftover cards for use in 2009: we will gladly store them until next Christmas.

                      Deacon Pat

Music to soothe the soul

Diana and Sal Belardo are collecting for a new piano for Tim Olsen.  Anyone wishing to contribute should contact the Belardo's or the Chuch Treasurer, Denise Crates. 

All contributions will be gladly accepted! 

The Counters

Thanks to Denise Crates who submitted the following schedule.  

       Counters' Schedule January - June 2009  

Date Group Date Group
Jan 4 A April 5 D
Jan 11 B April 12 **
Jan 18 C April 19 A
Jan 25 D April 26 B
Feb. 1 E May 3 C
Feb. 8 A May 10 D
Feb. 15 B May 17 E
Feb. 22 C May 24 A
Mar. 1 D June 7 B
Mat. 8 E June 14 C
Mar. 15 A June 21 D
Mar. 22 B June 28 E
Mar. 29 C    

** Easter Day: counters to be determined.

Group A Group B Group C
Doreen Millie Judy
Ralph Don M. Diana
Sondra Bob V.  
Group D Group E Sunstitute
Marilyn C. Pauline N. Marti
Denise C. Louise P.  
Austin Deborah O.  

If you cannot count on your scheduled Sunday,
 please find your own substitute.

Thanks to St. Stephen's November Home Furnishings Program Volunteers!!!

The following parishioners gave their valuable time and energy this November to deliver furniture (in the cold and dark!) with the Home Furnishings Program:

Bonnie Chambers
Sabrina Chambers
Paul DeKanel
Mike Debritz
Jim Ormsbee
Christian Renken

Thank you!

The next week that St. Stephen's will staff the truck runs will be in  July 2009.  Stay tuned.

Rocky Bonsal
HFP Volunteer Coordinator


Relief & Development Supports Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza

Since the recent upsurge on December 27th, the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict has left more than 550 people dead, and 2,500 injured.  Episcopal Relief & Development's partner, the Ahli Arab Hospital, reports devastating civilian casualties and a rising death toll in Gaza City.

During this time of crisis, Episcopal Relief & Development remains in close contact with its partner the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem.  Episcopal Relief & Development has responded to an urgent appeal from the Diocese by sending initial emergency funds to the Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza.

Ahli Arab Hospital, located at the heart of Gaza City, has treated more than 100 injured civilians since the beginning of the December attacks. The staff and volunteers at the hospital desperately need medicine and emergency supplies to continue their life saving work.

"We join Episcopalians around the world in a prayer for peace," said Radtke.  Read the Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Shori's statement here:


Wedding Anniversaries and Birthdays


 Jacob Price..............01/02
 Sam Boese................01/05
 Robert Bailey............01/07
 Audrey DeBritz...........01/07
 Emma Koch................01/07
 Barbara Dobbins Stratton.01/07
 Luke DeBritz.............01/08
 Laura Manor..............01/08
 Chelsea Trant............01/08
 David Taylor.............01/09
 Kayla Gibbs..............01/11
 Laura Pratico............01/12
 Susan Goldthwaite........01/13
 Pearl Burton.............01/17
 Lisa Ghendill............01/17
 Daniel Lundquist.........01/17
 Andrei Crates............01/18
 Marshall Cohen...........01/22
 Megan Norris-Dominguez...01/22
 Deborah Trawick..........01/23
 Brett Howe...............01/24
 K.Scott Kilbourn.........01/26
 Carolyn Morin............01/27
 Adam Boese...............01/29


 Michael Bishop and Pauline Holmes...01/06
 Susan and John Goldthwaite..........01/25
 Mary and Harvey Alexander...........01/31
 Jane and Bruce Tatge................01/31

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.
Please submit articles to Larry Levine