Summer, 2013

St. Stephen’s to enter into Conversation
with Grace, Lutheran

Over the past year leaders of Grace Lutheran Church looked at the declining trends of their membership, attendance, church school, officer energy and the increasing trends of personnel and building expenses.  They have come to the understanding that they needed to do something to address their long-term decline. 

Subsequently Grace Church has held several congregational meetings which have resulted in a decision to join, in some way, with another congregation.  They have identified both area Lutheran churches as well as the churches of various other denominations as potential candidates.  Based on a number of factors including their perception of our liturgy, mission, etc., St. Stephen’s appeared on their “short list.” 

Earlier this summer the situation was discussed by Fr. James and Pastor Dan Hahn of Grace Lutheran Church.  Fr. James explained to Pastor Dan that St. Stephen’s had concerns similar to those of Grace and that the one overwhelming suggestion in our local parish questionnaire this past spring was that St. Stephen’s needed to grow. 

Father James approached the Wardens of St. Stephen’s (Scott Kilbourn & Carole Merrill-Mazurek) in June inquiring if it was acceptable to arrange a meeting with Grace.  They agreed and on July 8th leaders from Grace Church met with the lay leaders and the clergy from both churches for a conversation to see if St. Stephen’s was interested in exploring the possibilities of how our congregations might work together.  It was a very positive meeting in which the group discovered that the worship styles of both churches were very similar; both have a deep love of traditional music expressions and both value a diverse congregation, open minds, searching souls, and serving neighbors in need. Most especially, both are Christ-centered. It was suggested that our congregations are so similar that we might both benefit from collaborating in various areas:  e.g., consider worshipping together, holding bible study classes together and asking the women’s groups to meet together. 

The Wardens agreed to bring the issue to the entire vestry and on July 15th at a special meeting the vestry voted to bring the conversation to the congregation.  This special issue of the Messenger exclusively is devoted to a conversation between Grace Lutheran and St. Stephen’s Episcopal Churches.

Approved Grace Statements


In God's love we follow Jesus, welcome everyone,
and share the joy!


We the people of Grace Lutheran Church value:

  • the joy of kinship with all people
  • open minds and searching souls
  • the happy sounds of children
  • The earth, all its creatures, and the environment
  • Serving our neighbors in need
  • Advocating for those without power

We share a vision of a faith community

  • expanding and thriving
  • known for diverse people finding love, acceptance, hope, and encouragement together
  • known for ever-evolving spiritual maturity among its people
  • known for its service to the wider community
  • and where all may discern their gifts and engage them in ministry to others

1“The mission statement is a statement of the purpose of the congregation, why it exists. It guides the activities of the congregation, spells out its overall goal, provides a path, and guides decision-making.”
2"The Values Statement puts flesh on the Mission Statement. it explains why we define the mission as we do, and offers parameters for assessing our fidelity to it.”
3 “Based on the Mission and Values Statements, the Vision Statement points to the results we expect our mission to accomplish. It makes concrete what we mean by "going somewhere."

A Brief Compariso of the Episcopal and Lutheran Churches

Lutheranism started in 1530 (Augsburg Confession) when catholic priest Martin Luther announced to reform the church
and split from the Catholic Church in protest. Episcopalians split from Catholicism in 1534 (King Henry's Act of Supremacy) after the Lutherans, but both of them had very different significant reasons to leave the church.

Lutherans left the church to protest against the remission of the punishment of sins, whereas Episcopalians left the church when King Henry of England outlawed Catholicism, and declared the Anglican Church to be the official religion. Lutheranism was founded in Germany, whereas Anglicanism started in England and therefore the two churches have a different ethos.

There are around 66 million followers of Lutheranism worldwide whereas Anglicanism has 70 million adherents in 161 countries. Lutheranism dominates Germany and Scandinavia, whereas Anglicanism is found primarily in England, North America, Africa, New Zealand and Australia. Lutheran’s original language is German, and English is Anglican’s original language.

Episcopalians follow the Book of Common Prayers and Lutherans’  worship guide is the Book of Concord. Episcopalians have the Episcopal Church in the USA, whereas Lutherans’ major churches   in USA are called ELCA, which stands for Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (of which Grace Lutheran is a part) and LCMS, which stands for Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (of which Zion Lutheran on Nott Terrace is a part).

Both of the denominations have many similarities between the creeds and confession, sacred text, the trinity, nature of Christ, resurrection of God etc.

Lutherans believe in the Apostles’ Creed, The Nicene Creed, Formula of Concord, Augsburg Confession and the Athanasian Creed, whereas Episcopalians believe in the Apostles’ Creed and The Nicene Creed. Episcopalians’ authority is based upon the scriptures, tradition and reason, whereas Lutherans’ basis for authority is the Bible only.

The idea of episcopal succession (the method whereby the ministry of the Christian Church is held to be derived from the apostles by a continuous succession of bishops*) perhaps is the biggest doctrinal difference between Lutherans and Episcopalians, although the picture is complicated.

Episcopalians historically have not agreed on just how important episcopal succession is, but it has helped to keep us together in spite of our disagreements. We are reluctant (and have been since the seventeenth century) to enter into a full communion agreement with any denomination that lacks the historic succession of bishops (of course the Roman Communion claims that we lack it, but naturally we disagree). The ECUSA/ELCA agreement allows for full communion with a non-episcopal church (or rather a church whose bishops, like Methodist bishops, lack a specifically episcopal succession but are simply presbyters chosen for a special office), but only temporarily--since bishops from both churches are to be involved in all future consecrations in either church, eventually their bishops will have the same succession that ours do.

Just like us, the Lutherans are divided - in their case, as to whether there is anything wrong with accepting episcopal succession. No Lutherans think that episcopacy is wrong per se, but the more staunchly Protestant ones think that making it a condition of full communion constitutes a denial that the Word of God is sufficient. The agreement had to be modified to accommodate their concerns.

Paradoxically, some Lutherans were also concerned that Episcopalians did not believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. This shows just how complicated our history has been. In the later 16th century, we were essentially "Reformed" in our theology, and our "Thirty-Nine Articles" reflect this. But in the course of the Puritan controversy (the Puritans being Episcopalians who wanted to move closer to continental Reformed churches), we came to rediscover the more Catholic aspects of our heritage. So while in the late sixteenth century our criticisms of the Lutherans would have focused on the ways (such as the corporeal presence of Christ in the Eucharist or the retention of auricular confession) in which they were closer to "Rome" than we were, by the late seventeenth century the position was reversed, and the then-dominant High Church wing of Anglicanism (having kicked out the Puritans in 1662) was able to look down on all continental Protestantism (Lutheran and Reformed alike) as having departed from the ancient Catholic Faith.

That means that suspicious confessional Lutherans can look at our insistence on episcopacy and reject us as too Catholic, and then look at our Articles of Religion and condemn us as too Reformed!

Historically, Lutherans have also insisted more strongly on the doctrine of justification by faith alone than we have, or rather have defined it more carefully.

On the whole, though, we're very similar. We are, on the whole, the two Protestant traditions that are closest to Catholicism.

* Episcopalians attach great important to the theory of the apostolic succession. They insist that the apostles ordained bishops, these in turn ordained their successors, and so down through the centuries, so that the present-day bishops are the successors of the apostles through an unbroken chain. Though the theory cannot be found in Scripture, this has been the tradition among the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, and (interestingly, the Swedish Lutherans. Episcopalians hold that only bishops who have received their authority in this way can properly ordain ministers and that without such Episcopal ordination a minister cannot validly perform the sacraments.

~James McDonald

Points to RememberAs We Begin this Conversation

1. Think of it as a sharing of communities not necessarily a merger. Sharing means keeping the traditions of Grace Lutheran Church and St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church intact especially the unique liturgies of both. Sharing means cooperating and beginning this cooperation in small steps.

2. This is a slow process and will take place over a length of time. It is organic and comes from the grassroots rather than being imposed from the top

3. The church leaders do not have a blueprint for this process. There are, however, several examples of mutual cooperation between Episcopalian and Lutheran Churches in other dioceses and each of them are different. Each church can discover its own wishes through meeting and sharing fun times together.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will we keep our church building?

Absolutely, our wardens made it very clear to the Lutherans that just having completed a $2.5 million addition to the church, we would not consider leaving.

How would Sunday worship work?

St.  Stephen’s would definitely continue the 8:00 Eucharist as usual.  What would happen after that would have to be decided.  Several scenarios have been suggested: a 9am Lutheran Eucharist followed by a 10:30am Episcopal Eucharist; a 10am joint Eucharist?  10am alternating Lutheran, and Episcopal services?  What ideas might you have if we pursue this conversation further?

How would having different clergy work?

With the Lutheran-Episcopal agreement by the national churches they now hold a mutual recognition of ordained ministers of each church body, which means that a Lutheran pastor could celebrate the Eucharist in an Episcopal Church and an Episcopal priest could celebrate in a Luther Church. All of this would come with the approval of the Lutheran (NY) Synod and the Diocese of Albany. 

Pastor Dan Hahn of Grace would continue as that church’s pastor and I would continue as the rector of St. Stephen’s.  However, there would be co-operation in preaching and leading classes.
Each of us would continue to give pastoral care to our respective congregations. St. Stephen’s would provide an office for Pastor Dan.  You would see both of us around the buildings.

What about governance?  Would we still have the vestry?

Yes, we would be two separate congregations with the Lutheran church council meeting separately from our vestry.  However, it has been suggested that representatives from each congregation sit on the other’s governance body.

How would we work the finances?

We would have two different operating budgets, with two different pledge campaigns.  However, building costs would be shared in some way and perhaps staff expense would also be shared.

What does the Diocese of Albany have to say about this?

In the middle of July Fr. James met with Bishop Love to discuss this issue.  The Bishop supports ecumenical cooperation, the possibility of Grace being at St. Stephen’s and possible joint worship services with Grace. 

Types of Ecumenical Shared Ministries

Our decision could be either of the following, a combination of the following or doing nothing!

Federated Congregation:  A federated congregation is one congregation related to two or more church bodies in a relationship of full communion. Such a federated congregation is recognized by the parent church bodies as related to them. Such an ecumenical-shared congregation may be planned as an ecumenical congregation from its inception or it may result from the consolidation (merger) of two or more established congregations of separate church bodies.

Union Congregation; A union congregation involves two separate congregations functioning together. Each of the separate congregations is related to their respective parent church body.

Related ministries: Some patterns of ministry may be envisioned that do not constitute recognized congregations of the participating church bodies.

Yoked Field Ministries:    One pastor may serve two or more congregations that may include congregations of different church bodies. The congregations remain essentially independent except for the shared pastoral leadership, though there may be areas of cooperation.

Cooperative Ministries:    Two or more congregations of different church bodies may share some areas of ministry while remaining essentially independent. Usually these hold separate worship services and retain separate pastors, though there may be a joint committee that coordinates cooperative endeavors.

Cluster of Congregations: Several congregations of two or more church bodies may share a team of two or more pastors or lay workers of different churches to do special ministry services, such as care for the aging or youth. In this model the cluster owns the program that is done together but does not interfere with other aspects of partner congregation's ministry.

From the Rector

Dear Church Family,

As you have read in the special edition of the Messenger, the vestry has voted to take the conversation with Grace Lutheran Church to our congregation.  This is just the beginning beginning of a conversation – absolutely no decisions will be made until the idea of coming joining together with the Lutherans is fully discussed.

On the other hand, as your rector, I would like to share my ideas about this conversation.  I would be in favor of ‘coming together’ with the congregation of Grace Lutheran and I have at least five reasons for wanting to continue this conversation.

The most practical reason is that both congregations are stretched when it comes to financing the operation of a church.  Grace has been using its endowment to make ends meet.  On a much smaller scale St. Stephen’s has also used endowment money to balance our annual budget through the Smith-Green Fund.  However, if only one or two of our biggest givers could not make a pledge for next year, we would be in a dire financial situation!  On the other hand, the two congregations sharing the expenses of one building could be very workable.

Second, both congregations find that they do not have the ‘critical mass’ to grow.  What I mean is that new people looking for a church home want to belong to something that is on-going and exciting: especially well attended worship services and a fully functioning church school.  Separately, both Grace and St. Stephen’s do not have what it takes to attract new people; together we just might.

Third, most people who are looking for a church home are not interested in what denomination the church is affiliated.  In fact the divisions among different churches serve as a deterrent to most young people.  Think what a statement we would be making if we were an Episcopal Lutheran congregation.  There is nothing like it in the capital region.  By showing that we are a congregation that goes beyond our differences, we could be a strong Christian witness to the larger community.

Fourth, coming together with Grace Lutheran congregation is a good match with our congregation.  Elsewhere in this Messenger you can read the mission, values and vision of Grace’s congregation.  St. Stephen’s could have written those! Also, the liturgy of the Lutheran Church is very, very similar to ours.  I am not suggesting that we will ‘merge’ our worship services, but it helps that we are both sacramentally minded and Eucharistically based.  Just for the fun of it, I urge you to attend a Lutheran Sunday Eucharist and see if you agree. 

Finally, I have personal reasons for being very excited by this conversation between Grace and St. Stephen’s.  I went to a Lutheran kindergarten school when I was five years old and my first memories of worship are going to Lutheran chapel.  Later in life, I lived in Lutheran seminary housing and studied with Lutherans for some of my theology classes.  In fact my next door neighbor (a Lutheran seminarian) and I had a tutorial on the similarities and differences of Lutheran and Anglican theology.  Our professor was Dr. Carl Braaten, one of the leading theologians and teachers in the Lutheran church for the past 50 years.  And I was proud to be one of only two delegates from the Diocese of Albany at the General Convention in 2000 who voted for full communion with the Lutheran Church.

At this point we are in the talking stage with Grace.  The vestry and I need to hear from all of our members at St. Stephen’s.  I look forward to hearing from you in the near future.


Adult Education

Sunday Morning Adult Education

A Reformation Overview

The Reformation dramatically changed the course of Christian history and western civilization. The issues they faced then still confront us today. This course will bring the reformation alive and introduce the key reformers and major turning points.  Of course, special emphasis will be on the Anglican and Lutheran reformations.

The six classes are based on dramatic footage edited into dynamic half hours with introductions and transitions added from the very places where the momentous events originally took place.  Discussion after each video will explore how each reformer has affected our faith today.

Sept. 15 - John Wycliffe.  Called the "Morningstar" of the Reformation, this courageous forerunner paved the way for monumental changes--the Bible in English.

Sept. 22 - John Hus. Carrying forth John Wycliffe's ground breaking work, his passionate calls for reform brought him before the Council of Constance where he was betrayed by false accusations and was burned at the stake.

Sept. 29 – Oct. 13 - Martin Luther. Seeking the quiet solitude of the monastery, this guilt‑burdened monk discovered justification by faith and the freedom of the Gospel.

Oct. 20 - Ulrich Zwingii and John Calvin.  Leading the Reformation in Switzerland, these two scholars had to interpret the newly recovered dimensions of the Gospel in the midst of change, chaos and opposition

Oct. 27 – Nov. 10 Thomas Cranmer and the English Reformation – Henry VIII’s often misunderstood break with papal authority initiates the shaping of classical Anglicanism.

Nov. 17 Meno Simons and the Anabaptists. Called "the Radicals," they were opposed by just about everyone---Catholics, Protestants, and political leaders, but their legacy endures to this day.

Nov. 24 - William Tyndale. A hunted fugitive, this humble, young scholar translated and circulated the bible in English.

All classes are held on Sunday mornings between 9am and 10am in the Conference Room.
The rector will be the discussion leader.

Birthdays and Anniversaries

July 10 Doreen May
Judy Versocki
  12 Gillian Woodcock
James McDonald
  15 Andrea Worthington
  16 Austin Spang
  17 Jean Verscocki
  21 Christopher Jones
  24 Thomas Kirby
Brian Riordon
  25 Oto Jones
George Woodzell
  31 Molly Ormsbee
August 7 Suzanne Taylor
  9 Emily Fronk
  16 Ganon Riordon
  19 Bessie Nelson
Angela Strong
  24 Daniel Koch
  26 Richey Woodzell
  29 Glenn Kaler
July 3 Tim & Laura Huggett
  6 Stan & Claudia Jakubowski
  10 Robert & Shirley Voelker
  19 Richard & Carolyn Morin
August 13 Donald & Marilyn Humphrey
  25 Ronald & Mary Michelson
  26 Bill & Joanne Frank
  28 David & Suzanne Taylor

St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church

1935 The Plaza, Schenectady, New York   12309

 Church Staff
The Rev. Dr. James R. McDonald, Rector, 370-3573
The Rev. Patricia L. Jones, Deacon,
Miranda Rand, Christian Education Director,
Robert Acosta, Director of Music,
Cathleen Knauf, Administrative Assistant,

The Vestry
Sr. Warden, Scott Kilbourn
Jr. Warden, Carole Merrill-Mazurek
Class of 2013:
 Erin Cohen
Brian Riordon
Peter Nelson
 Treasurer: Denise Crates
Class of 2014:
Joe Palko
Stan Jakubowski
Class of 2015:
Jack Feyrer
Bill Frank
Jim Syta

   The Church Office  
Our office is located at 1229 Baker Avenue.
The telephone number is (518) 346-6241
If we are unable to answer your call, please leave a message.
We will call you back as soon as possible.
The Rector's email is:
Our website is
The Messenger is published September - June.
Please submit articles to Cathleen Knauf -