The Messenger

St Stephen's Episcopal Church, Schenectady, NY

December, 2011 WWW Edition

Dear Friends,

As I write this message, the last of the dressing has been eaten, the rest of the turkey will have to be frozen since another turkey sandwich is out of the question.  And I am thankful for so many things in our congregation.  Elsewhere in this newsletter you will read about our new Music Director; I am thankful that such a talented and generous person has joined our ministry. 

I am very impressed with Bob's organ playing  and his relationship with the choir. He knows church music and the Episcopal service, knows what he wants from the choir, and works hard to help them to achieve it. He is easy to get along with, while still being demanding.

Also, I am grateful to the taskforce which conducted the search for our new Music Director: Linda Emaelaf, chair, Jo Adams, and Bruce Tatge.

I feel that we were extremely fortunate to find such a good Music Director, so quickly.  Thanks be to God!

      Fr. James+

Saint NICOLAUS                  December 6th 
O you who love festivals,
Come gather and sing the praises
    of the fair beauty of bishops,
The glory of the fathers,
The fountain of wonders and great protector of the faithful.

Let us all say: Rejoice, O guardian of the people of Myra,
Their head and honored counselor,
The pillar of the church which cannot be shaken.

Rejoice, O light full of brightness
That makes the ends of the world shine with wonders.

Rejoice, O divine delight of the afflicted,
The fervent advocate of those who suffer from injustice.

And now, O all-blessed Nicolaus,
Never cease praying to Christ our God
For those who honor the festival of your memory
With faith and with love.    

  ....Orthodox liturgy

Christmas Services

9:00 a.m. Morning Prayer 
4:30 p.m.  Family Eucharist
10:45 p.m.  Christmas Carols
11:00 p.m.  Festive Candlelight Eucharist
10:00 a.m.  Eucharist
Monday, December 26th: 
9:00 a.m.  Eucharist
10:00 a.m. Choral Eucharist
January 1st, New Year's Day 
7:30 a.m. Morning Prayer 
8:00 a.m. Eucharist
10:15 a.m. Choral Eucharist 

January 8th
7:30 a.m.  Morning Prayer
8:00 a.m. Eucharist

10:15 a.m. Choral Eucharist 
7:00 p.m. Eucharist

Cleaning and Greening  of the Church

Help prepare the church for Christmas. On Sunday morning, December 18th, after the 10:15 Eucharist, please help hang the greens, and generally prepare the church for our celebration of Christ's birth.


         Advent began on Sunday, Nov. 27th.  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.


   An Advent Calendar can help us count the days.  "We await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ".  Making the calendar is a project for the family to undertake.  A card board cut to a house shape is the general idea.  It has a window cut in for each Sunday in Advent and a door for Christmas. Shutters close over the window and keep secret the picture or message hidden inside.  With the passage of each Sunday and additional window is opened and the contents revealed.  On the window's shutters one can write a prayer chosen from the text of that Sunday's readings at church.  Inside will be a corresponding drawing in bright colors.  Each family member can be responsible for a certain window, pasting it in place on the back behind the shutter doors and keeping its content a surprise until the day of its opening.  Hung against the window, the light shines through the picture emphasizing how darkness gives way as time passes.  Of course, if you wish to purchase an advent calendar with windows for all days of advent - they are available in the church shop.

The Christmas Crèche

The Christmas crèche-also known as a Nativity or manger scene-is more than a decoration. For many, displaying a Christmas crèche is a way to focus on the real meaning of the holiday. The traditional crèche 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 crèche. 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 crèche 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 crèche 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 crèche tradition in the folk art of many cultures. Francis of Assisi, an Italian saint, invented the crèche 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 crèche figures from traditional pottery. Remember, keep Christmas crèche 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.

Wreaths and candles are for sale at the Church Shop.


 If you or someone you know is unable to attend church on either a long or short-term basis, please call the parish office if you would like to have communion brought to you.

"Living the Questions"  

Facilitated by Fr. James, these ongoing classes will continue a year-long conversation about how we live out our faith in the world.  What does it mean to be in relationship with God and our neighbors?    
We will have a conversation about these questions and more, supplemented by video clips of leading theologians and spiritual thinkers discussion their thoughts on being faithful Christians in a 21st century society.
Dec. 4 - The Prophetic Jesus
Dec. 11 - Evil, Suffering & a God of Love
Dec. 18 - The Myth of Redemptive Violence
Dec. 25 - No Class

Class sessions are held in Fr. James' office on Sunday mornings, from 9am to 10am.


Thursday Morning Adult Education:   
The "Disciple" Bible Study

Disciple Bible Study offers a complete and structured approach to Bible study that uses video presentations, discussion, individual study, group fellowship and prayer to develop deeper spirituality in participants. The Disciple Bible Study series focuses on the entire Bible and how God is in relationship with God's people.

Dec.  1 - " The People Without a King"    The Time of Judges

Dec.  8 - " The People With a King"   Saul, David and Solomon

Dec.  15 - " God Warns the People"   The Prophet Elijah   

Dec.  22 - "God Punishes the People" The Prophet Jeremiah

Class sessions are held in Fr. James' office on Thursday mornings, from 10:45am to noon.

Sunday School 2011-12 

Sunday school times and places:

Babies through 4 have Nursery in the Chapel during the 10:15 service.

Preschool through 6th graders also meet during 10:15 services , following the childrens message.

7th - 12th graders meet from 9:00-10:00am. George Woodzell and Peter Nelson have joined in teaching.


photo@St. Stephen's from Ms. Miranda

 Train a child in the way he should go.
      When he is old, he will not turn away from it.
 Proverbs 22:6 (NIRV)

Sunday School 2011-2012:
Parents: If you have not already done so, please complete and return your child's registration and medical kidshistory forms.

1.      Students are grouped in clusters:

2.      Curriculum:


photoMY LIFE AS A movie star & OTHER COOL THINGS...

Not too long ago I had my first experience of making a movie...

No, I wasn't hired as an extra for the film that was shot in and around Schenectady this past summer, and no, I wasn't hired for my cinematographic magnetism, but I did recently "star" in a video that will help promote an organization that holds up two things I am passionate about - education and ecumenical relations.

During the course of the summer I had a conversation with a young man who was making a promotional video for Children at the Well - a local interfaith storytelling program for youth. He was looking for a person to speak to the benefits of interfaith relations for youth from the Christian perspective. I gave him a couple of leads from among my peers in Christian education and forgot all about the project.

Quite unexpectedly, and much to my surprise, the young man kept in touch with me, giving me periodic updates, and eventually asking me if I would fill the role.  
The video was shot at the College of St. Rose one recent Sunday afternoon. I was asked to respond to six questions relating to Muslim-Christian relations since the events of nine-eleven. The questions were handed to me just five minutes before the shoot and were not what I had been expecting, so my answers were unrehearsed - but half an hour later I was out on the street assured that I had a great personality on screen, and feeling that I had done a good thing for an organization whose principles I wholeheartedly believe in.

Thumbs up for all things ecumenical and interfaith related, and for the genius of storytelling as a way to spread harmony and understanding of those whose faith practices are different from our own.

Lifting a glass to education...

Miranda Rand, Christian Education Director 










From  Mr. Bob Acosta

As your new Organist-Choirmaster, I wish to introduce myself. My name is Robert
Acosta and I live in East Greenbush with my wife Diana, son Alex and daughter Ashley.
My oldest daughter, Andrea, lives in North Carolina with her husband Eric and my
granddaughter Ava Leigh.

I am a member of both St. Joseph's Church in Troy as well as the Cathedral of All Saints
in Albany. My wife is a member of the Cathedral Chapter as well as a Lay Eucharistic
minister at the Cathedral.

My organ studies were primarily with Donald Ingram, under whom I also sang as a
chorister at both St. Peter's in Albany and St. Paul's in Troy. During the week, I am
employed at the Wadsworth Center at the Empire State Plaza as a chemist in the Lead
Lab with the Department of Health.

Church Shop  

 We have some very unusual Christmas cards from the Metropolitan Museum for you to browse through. Also lots of interesting Christmas gift items, and decorations, and A Host of Heavenly Angels to add to your home this year. The Episcocats and Episcopup Calendars are a big hit, a fun way to travel thru our church year, there is always a chuckle with these interesting furry friends. The Encore Table is full of many gently used Christmas items, Always a treasure awaits you there.  Thanks so much for your continued suppport. 

Lily, Louise and Marilyn send you all many Christmas

photoSo many books and so little time!      

    The December meeting of the St. Stephen's Book Club will be held on Tuesday, December 13.  We will be discussing "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother"   by Amy Chua and selecting books that our group will read over the winter months. We meet at the Feyrer's home, 1198 Lowell Rd., Schenectady, from 7:00 - 9:00.  Please plan on joining us for an evening of good fellowship and stimulating conversation.

Thank you.   



photoEpiscopal Church Women  

    All ladies are invited to the meeting of Episcopal Church Women on Tuesday, January 24th , 7pm at the home of Sara Palko.  We will be collecting gently used jewelry for the Animal Protection Foundation (APF).  The APF provides sanctuary to unwanted animals, places them in homes, and provides low cost spay and neuter services for the community.   

Bring jewelry you no longer want, clean out your jewelry box and donate it for this worthy cause - invite your co-workers, friends and family to do the same and join us!   The APF jewelry event "Tails of Treasure" acceptsfine, vintage, costume, handcrafted, silver, gold and gemstone jewelry and benefits all the animals at the shelter.
See the additional APF article in the next section entitled, "Jewelry Fund Raiser for the Animal Protection Foundation."  

photo                      Back by popular demand:  St. Stephen's Lawn Sale

 WAIT . . .   as you declutter your home for the holidays, please do not throw/give away unwanted items; save them for our St. Stephen's Lawn Sale to be held in early May. All proceeds to go toward furnishing the new parish hall. More information to follow in future Messengers.    

Any questions see Vicki Hoshko or Susan Feyrer.

St. Stephen's Holiday Outreach 

Does Uncle Harry really need a new striped tie or Aunt Molly another holiday apron?  This year give the gift that keeps on giving.  St. Stephen's will again be offering an opportunity for you to make a donation in your loved ones' names to two charities. We would be happy to accept a donation in your name, too.

Please consider supporting one, or both, of these organizations.  ECW members will be available after both services until Christmas to accept your donations.  You will receive a decorative card acknowledging your donation.
Locally we will be supporting the Schenectady Free Health Clinic, which offers free health care services and prescription medication to persons not otherwise receiving medical care through established programs.

Globally we will be supporting Mi Refugio. This program began as the vision of one woman, Kari Engen. It provides education, food, clothing, and medical assistance to children and families who live on the Guatemala City garbage dump. More than 1,000 children live on this dump. With their families, they work to scavenge for food, clothing, and building materials for homes. Kari saw a desperate need to improve the lives of these children and she founded Mi Refugio in 1987.

Kari organized a school for the children living on the dump and for children from native Mayan villages surrounding the school property. The school began with 50 students in a rented building next to the dump. With dedication and perseverance, Kari located a larger property in 1995 and increased the capacity of the school to 250 students. Mi Refugio is currently located 15 miles outside Guatemala City. Now in its 15th year of operation, the school provides education at the preschool through 6th-grade level.

Mi Refugio wants to expand its program to include high school grades. The goal is to build two classrooms each year for the next four years. Each classroom costs only $7,000, for a total of $56,000 for this much-needed project. The cost is low and the labor is provided free. All Mi Refugio needs is capital to pay for the building materials.

Our request is simple. As we celebrate this holiday season, think about this program. Every penny of your donation will go directly to construction of classrooms for Mi Refugio's school in Guatemala-a program that has a chance to break the cycle of poverty that traps these children and their families.

 Susan Feyrer

Join us for a
Christmas Caroling Party!!

Saturday, December 10th

4:30 - 7:30 PM

Please join us for Christmas Caroling at Kingsway Nursing home.  Bring your gifts of song, laughter, love, and smiles to the residents at Kingsway.  We will provide songbooks, no singing ability needed!  We just roam thru the halls singing.

We will meet in the main lobby of Kingsway at 4:30pm.  After caroling, plan on regrouping at the home of Erin Cohen (in Schenectady, near Ellis Hospital) to enjoy potluck appetizers, dinner and treats.  Please sign up in the back of the church.

Have questions?  Need directions?  Contact Cheryl

Hope you can join us!

Kingsway Nursing Home
Located at:
323 Kings Rd, Schenectady  12304













On Sunday, December 11, we will prepare the Christmas cards for the Schenectady County Jail inmates to send to their families and friends.   

Following both services on that day, we will stamp, stuff and bundle the cards, using the church pews as "assembly lines"! And on December 18, Mary Frances Hatfield, Mariellen Boomhower (from Trinity Presbyterian Church) and I will deliver the cards to the jail.  

The inmates are so grateful for the cards. We provide them for both men and women, and usually provide over 1000 cards for 200+ inmates. We have plenty of cards on hand, but we could use postage stamps, preferably "Forever" ones; there will be a basket for them on the table at the back of the church.

 Deacon Pat

Jewelry Fund Raiser for the Animal Protection Foundation  

  All ladies are invited to the meeting of Episcopal Church Women on Tuesday, January 24th , 7pm at the home of Sara Palko.  We will be collecting gently used jewelry for the Animal Protection Foundation (APF). 

The APF provides sanctuary to unwanted animals, places them in homes, and provides low cost spay and neuter services for the community.  Bring jewelry you no longer want, clean out your jewelry box and donate it for this worthy cause - invite your co-workers, friends and family to do the same and join us!   The APF jewelry event "Tails of Treasure" accepts fine, vintage, costume, handcrafted, silver, gold and gemstone jewelry and benefits all the animals at the shelter.

Thank you.


  It's not too late!!!

          The Yankee Hassock Raffle
                   is in full swing

We have more tickets for you.  The price is $5.00 each or 5 for $20.00 and the proceeds are to go to our new kitchen fund.  Drawing will be after the 10:15am service on Dec. 18th. just in time for Christmas giving. Stop at the shop and see Louise, she will be happy to sell you some more tickets. 

Thanks so much for your support. 


Partners in the Philippines and Friends in Tennessee 

This month'simage Power of Partnerships features a collaborative effort between rural communities, the Episcopal Church of the Philippines and the municipal government of Cabiao. In four barangays (villages) in the country's central plains region, the local government has matched the efforts of the Church to build artesian wells in places where water is scarce. To become eligible for a well, a cluster of households agree to plant a vegetable garden that will be watered by overflow from the well and grey water from cooking and washing. This infrastructure, combined with micro-finance loans available from a community fund established by the Church, can reduce the impact of typhoons and other disasters, and make it easier for communities to recover.

November's Friends of Episcopal Relief & Development highlights a growing phenomenon in Episcopal churches across the US: the U2charist. This is a church service that uses songs by the band U2, along with elements of a traditional liturgy, to create a worship experience that is spiritually uplifting but also presents a imagecall to action. The U2charist gives an opportunity for attendees to learn about the Millennium Development Goals, and take action to help eradicate extreme poverty. St. Philip's Episcopal Church in Nashville, Tennessee, recently held a U2charist, with an offering designated to support Episcopal Relief & Development's mission of healing a hurting world.

The monthly Power of Partnerships and Friends of Episcopal Relief & Development web series feature stories about the agency's partners in the US and worldwide. Visit to read past installments, find information about our programs or make a contribution. You can also call 1.855.312.HEAL. Gifts can be mailed to Episcopal Relief & Development, PO Box 7058,Merrifield, VA 22116-7058. 

To support Episcopal Relief & Development's work, please visit: or call 1.800.334.7626, ext. 5129. Gifts can be mailed to Episcopal Relief & Development, PO Box 7058, Merrifield, VA 22116-7058.

The Order of the  
Daughters of the King

Please pray for the Daughters and families affected by the recent storms around the United States.

Loving God, we know that our time is in your hands.  Protect now the people of Japan, New Zealand, and Haiti in their time of trial.  Cover them with your loving care and bring them that comfort that comes through you.  Guide and protect those in the Arab nations who now seek a just government.  Lead us all towards systems of governance in which all are safe to live out their lives in search of your will.  Through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Amen


Mark your calendars for the SICM Holiday Assembly-  
Wed. Dec. 7, 2011 at Niskayuna Reformed Church, Route 7, Niskayuna. 

Supper begins at 6 p.m.

    Please bring a covered dish or salad.
    Friends are very welcome.
    We always have a nice time!!!!!

    No SICM meeting in January

    Next Assembly Meeting- Wed. Feb.1, 2011


Mark your calendars for TWO DISTINGUISHED SPEAKERS!
Rev. Marjorie Thompson and Shane Claiborne will both be coming to CRTC in 2012! 

Go Ye: The Nuts & Bolts of Planning a Mission Trip- A Resource Sharing Event, w/ Panel of Area Presenters, Sat., Nov. 19, 9am-12:30 pm, Ever wondered how to put together a mission trip, and do it well?  Hear about planning, fundraising, finding volunteers, & more!  $45.   

"The Second Five Minutes: Introduction to Preaching"- w/ Rev. Dr. Bill Levering, First Reformed Church in Schenectady, Begins January 14, A Lay Theological Education Program 20-hour course.  $275; $250 to Audit.  Reg. deadline: December 29, 2011.

The Church & Its Money- w Rev. Dr. Norman Tellier,St. George's Episcopal Church, March 3, 9am-3pm, For everyone who handles money in the church; $75 by Feb 3; $85 thereafter; Reg. deadline: February 15, 2012.

Befriending Our Inner Teacher: Biblical Foundations & Practices of Discernment, w/ Rev. Marjorie Thompson, First Reformed Church of Scotia, March 8 & 9, 9am- 4pm, The distinguished author of Soul Feast helps us seek a deeper understanding of ourselves, others and Christ.  One day: $85 by Feb. 8; $95 thereafter; Both days: $165; Reg. deadline: February 21, 2012.

Come Into the House of the Lord: The Worship Conference, w/ Rev. Ron Rienstra & Panel of Local Presenters
 Brunswick Presbyterian Church, March 22-23, 9am-4pm; Find new enthusiasm and inspiration for the work of creating engaging worship, using music, senses, technology and more.  One day: $85 by Feb 1; $95 thereafter; Both days: $165.  Reg. deadline: March 6, 2012.

It's gift-giving time, but don't we all have enough STUFF?
Why not try a CRTC Gift Certificate for your favorite church school teacher, pastor or that budding theologian in your
ousehold?  Call or email our office now!  Look at all of the courses coming up:

Register online at
or by phone at 518-462-2470. Watch our website for information on these and many ther courses available in 2010. 
Scholarships and group discounts available for most classes;
please contact us for an application.