December, 2016

A Message from Various Schenectady Clergy

We, who are leaders in various faith communities in the Schenectady area, call on all residents of our area to show respect and understanding during these days of political transition. We affirm the sanctity that exists in all people and encourage others to do the same. May those who feel afraid because of their gender, religion, race, sexual orientation, country of origin or their political views be reassured that the freedoms clearly stated in the Constitution will not yield to emotions of this political climate.  May those who are empowered by the election act with conscientious dignity.

We are a people rooted in faith. As a part of our traditions and religious identities, we acknowledge and celebrate the freedom and dignity of all persons. This affirmation is echoed in the highest ideals of our country’s Constitution.

We call upon those in position of civic and moral leadership to model sincere and upright conduct; both in public and in private. We implore all to be respectful to one another. As Americans, we value the guiding principle of freedom of speech, but we call on all of us to use it with wisdom and forbearance. We expect that all citizens will be respectful of the laws of this country. We deplore the use of bigotry, racism, sexism or discrimination of any sorts in our community.  We encourage all people to openly denounce incendiary speech, rooted in hatred.

May we all be blessed with listening hearts, and step into a tomorrow together with a commitment to hear one another.

Rabbi Matt Cutler, Congregation Gates of Heaven;
Rev. Bill Levering, First Reformed Church;
Imam  Genghis Khan, Schenectady County Jail;
Father James McDonald, St. Stephen’s Church;
Gurpreet Singh, American Sikhs for Humanity; 
Rev. Horace Sanders, Jr., Mt Olivet Missionary Baptist Church;
Jamshaid Minhas, Islamic Center of the Capital District;
Father Robert Longobucco, St. Kateria Tekawitha Parish;
Rev. Viki Brooks, Union College;
Rabbi Ted Lichtenfeld, Congregation Agudat Achim;
Rev. Peter JB Carman, Emanuel Friedens Church; 
Rev. Stacey Midge, First Reformed Church;
Rev. Phillip Grigsby, SICM;
Rev. Jason Fulkerson, Niskayuna Reformed Church;
Rev. Alan Kinney, Easter Parkway Methodist Church;
Rev. Sara Baron, First Methodist;
Rev. Robert Long, Schenectady Interfaith

Dear Friends, Fr. James

Everyone loves a baby. Just go to a doctor's office or even to the mall and watch how a baby can capture the attention of people. Not many people can remain glum when a baby smiles or laughs. I was at a party the other night and there was a baby there; throughout the evening she was almost always the center of attention. Now, a baby is many things, but a baby is primarily a sign and symbol of hope. We look at a baby and say to ourselves, "Will this be the one to discover a cure for cancer, or to solve the problem of world hunger?" "Will this child grow up to make a useful contribution to her family or community?" These days parents may have no small amount of anxiety about all of the problems that the child will encounter throughout life. The economy can no longer promise increased prosperity to the next generation. Yet people continue to have children. Indeed, people continue to choose to have children.

Last week I read a story of a baby of color born to a young woman addicted to crack cocaine and abandoned by mistake in a cardboard box in an alley. Discovered in the nick of time by garbage collectors, Isaiah was raised by a white social worker and her husband and had many of the social and developmental problems common to 'crack babies'. He was not an easy child, but there was something about him that was very captivating. Then, when the birth mother having cleaned up her life, realized that her baby had not died in the alley, went to court to regain custody. She did win custody, but the child was inconsolable and to everyone's surprise the mother gave the child back, at least temporarily, to the only parents he had known.

One particular scene stands out in my mind: the teenage daughter of Isaiah's adoptive family is playing with him one day and she places her white hand on his black one and says, "Look Isaiah, what's different about our hands?" Isaiah looks at her and then replies, in simple innocence "Mine's smaller!"

Any parent will tell you that the arrival of a baby, no matter how loved and how well planned has the potential to turn a household upside-down. The baby changes their lives forever. No longer is there privacy and things like 'sleeping in'. There are many things to consider. You can't ask a neighbor to look in on your baby like they can your cat or your goldfish! Yet, despite all of the changes needed for a baby people make them willingly and more than once!

At Christmas, with the birth of the Christ child we would do well to act in the same way. We know it will change our lives forever; if it doesn't it should! At Christmas we expect Emmanuel who is, and who was and who will be, "God with us". But in the midst of our expectations let us not forget that God is out to get us; God is out to transform our lives, God is out to change us. Even if it is just a tiny little bit, may this Christmas be one of those experiences which change us forever.


Advent Intergenerational: December 4th @ 9am

“One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts.” Psalm 145:4
Throughout biblical tradition and the majority of history, communities of faith included people of all ages together in corporate worship, education and ministry. The church was not just multigenerational; it was intergenerational, with the whole church together as one family and people of all ages learning from one another in common life. That is what we will do on Dec. 4th. It will be a combined coffee hour/group event.

What is intergenerational?

How will it work?

  • On the second Sunday of Advent (Dec. 4th) all generations from both Sunday services will meet in Begley Hall from 9-10 am.
  • After getting coffee/tea and special refreshments, we will sit at a table – one younger family and other ‘older’ ones.
  • On each table will be everything needed to make a Jesse Tree ornaments with the adults’ help. Very clear instruction will be provided.
  • After each ornament is made, a child will place it on the Jesse tree.

What is a Jesse Tree? It is a small, leafless tree decorated with symbols portraying Jesus' spiritual heritage. It is a kind of family tree which was suggested by Isaiah's prophecy: "there shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse and a branch shall grow out of his roots."

Jesse was the father of King David. King David is one of Jesus' ancestors. The prophet Samuel to establish a royal family anointed David King. A thousand years later Jesus was born in this royal line of David in Bethlehem, the ancient of City of David. The Jesse Tree is composed of ornaments which remind us of the promise of salvation made by God at the fall of Adam and Eve and the ancestors of Jesus from Adam to Our Lady and events in salvation history. They also remind us of the Jewish symbols and types of Christ and the Church.

Christian EducationPageant

“Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 1:18

On Sunday, December 18, our church school children will give Father James a break from preaching – the children’s annual Christmas program will take the place of the sermon.

The younger children will present a narrated Christmas story dressed as angels, kings, shepherds, Mary and Joseph etc. They will rehearse each week during class time, starting on November 27.  Students will have a better understanding of what they are doing and where they will stand if they attend as many rehearsals as possible.

pageantSunday Friends students have been rehearsing and perfecting a Christmas skit since early fall – they are excited to show off their acting skills!

Our December schedule is as follows:

December 4: Holy Spirit Kids choose parts, rehearse in classroom; Sunday Friends rehearse in the church during coffee hour
December 11: Holy Spirit Kids choose costumes, rehearse in Begley Hall; Sunday Friends finalize costumes and rehearse in the church
December 17 (Saturday): 11:00am until 12:30: Dress Rehearsal for all students in church, lunch to follow
December 18: Students report to classrooms at 10:00, dress and line up to process with the choir
December 24 (Christmas Eve, Saturday): 4:00pm Holy Spirit Kids choose figures to place in the crèche, process with choir and place their figures, return to sit with their parents (students should plan to arrive at church no later than 3:50)
December 25 (Christmas Day): no classes

May the Holy Spirit bring you peace. Merry Christmas!

Ms. Miranda
Miranda Rand, Christian Education Director
393-5047 home; 229-5105 cell (text or voice message)

Spirituality: Listening for God

Over the past several months, we have been discovering different practices that help to open our eyes, ears and heart to God’s voice. One way is to listen to our journeys and the paths we’ve taken.  Our stories hold clues. As Suzanne Farnham points out “there are stories from our lives through which God is trying to tell us things we need to know.  We need to ‘read our own history, to see the turning points, the moments of change, the unfolding of God’s plan for us at each new step of the way’(deWahl)”.  Our small group, “Listening for God,” will meet again on Saturday, December 3 from 10:30 am – 12 Noon.  Contact me with questions!   

A Prayer for Reflection: God’s Time

God’s time,
that comes to mind
I am impatient,
.....waiting for something I want to happen.

I pray, “……….in God’s time.”
I tap my fingers.
I want to move; I want it to happen!

God’s time,
I guess I’m learning, little by little.
Why does it take so long?
.....A lifetime!


– The Reverend Patricia Daniels Pierce, Women’s Uncommon Prayers. 

Dennie Bennett+, Assisting Priest

Adult Education

Wednesday Evening Bible Study:


November 30 - Roman Rule in Galilee and Judea  - This class examines how Judaism and Roman rule, Pax Romana or "Roman peace," shaped Jesus' life.

December 7 - John the Baptist & Jesus of Nazareth  - This class appearance of Jesus’ cousin, John and then traces the ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus.

December 14 - Paul & his ministry in the Aegean Basin  - This class explores the period after the crucifixion of Jesus and traces the beginnings of the Jesus Movement, in those early years before it was called Christianity.

December 21 - The Gospels  - This class follows the story of the first attempts to write the life of Jesus-the Gospels.

Classes are held on Wednesday evenings from 7:30 to 9:00 in the Conference room.  If you would like to attend these classes please email Fr. James

Sunday Morning Forum:

God in America

This course will trace the sweeping and dramatic story of religious life in America examining more than 500 years of American religious history from the voyage of Christopher Columbus to the 2008 presidential election. It examines this history as it has played out in public life exploring the complex interaction between religion and democracy in the United States; the origins of the American concept of religious liberty; the dynamics of the ever-evolving American religious marketplace; and the vital role played by religious ideas and institutions in many social reform movements in the country's history.

Classes are held on Sunday Mornings from 9-10 in the Conference Room.

Christmas Services

Saturday, December 24th:
9:00 a.m. Morning Prayer
4:00 p.m.  Family Eucharist
7:30 p.m.  Festive Candlelight Baptism and Eucharist
Sunday, December 25th:
9:30 Morning Prayer
10:00 a.m. Eucharist
Holy Name
Sunday, January 1st :
7:30 a.m. Morning Prayer
10:00 a.m. Eucharist
Sunday, January 8th:
9:30 a.m. Morning Prayer
8:00 a.m.  Eucharist
10:15 a.m. Choral Eucharist

Every Member Canvass

The Every Member Canvass for 2017 pledges is quickly drawing to a close.  If you have not returned your pledge cards to the parish office, please place them in the offering plate during the Eucharist on Sunday, Dec. 11th or please send them to the church office.

So far we have received 51 pledges for $131,188.  The parish extends its gratitude to those who have worked so diligently on the canvass, especially to the Finance Committee of the vestry.


Advent will begin 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.

Cleaning and Greening of the Church


Help prepare the church for Christmas. On Sunday morning, December 18th, beginning after you get your coffee at 11:30, we will meet in the Church to hang the greens, and generally prepare the church for our celebration of Christ's birth.


Christmas caroling

Come join us on Saturday, December 10, to sing carols for residents of the Baptist Health Nursing & Rehabilitation Center.  We will meet at 4:00 PM in the lobby of the Center, 297 Ballston Ave (route 50) in Scotia.  Song sheets/booklets will be provided.  

Family Friendly Event

Come join us on Friday, December 16th from 6-8 for a family friendly holiday event. We will have games, crafts, cookies to make and decorate. Pizza will be provided, including a gluten free option, we just ask that you bring a side to share and something to drink.  If you have any questions please contact Stephanie Grimason at We hope you can join us for an evening of music, good tidings and lots of cheer!

Child Care Christmas Eve

The nursery will be open at the 4:00 p.m. service. 
Toddlers are invited to share the church service experience with their families, but it can be a long time for some to be still.


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.


Home Blessing Prayer for Lighting a Candle on the Advent Wreath

Lord God,
          You who sent into the world Your Beloved Son 
          as a light that shines in the darkness, 
          invest this wreath, our Advent symbol,
with the power of Your energy and light.
With each of these candles that is lighted,
          may we rekindle within ourselves the desire
          to prepare a way for the birth of Christ. 
With each new candle that is lighted,
          may the flame of Christ's coming
          grow brighter and brighter
          so that this Christmas may see
          a fresh and ever-green coming of the Lord of Light
          into each of our hearts
          and into our whole world. (candle is lighted)

We pray, then, that the richness of God's blessing 
          rest upon this Advent wreath, 
          upon our home and upon each of us 
          as we light this candle 
          in the name of the Father, 
          and of the Son 
          and of the Holy Spirit.


Giving tree

Our holiday giving tree will be collecting donations of personal items that are needed in local schools. Please take a tag from the tree and return by December 18th.  The items needed are listed below.  As always, a cash donation will help purchase items as well.

Deodorant             Boxes of Saltine crackers
Shampoo               Ziploc snack-size bags
Body wash            Personal size packages of tissues
Conditioner           Sweat pants, all sizes
Toothbrushes         Toothpaste
Teenage skin wash – Shop Rite brand
Women’s underwear (size 6 and up for middle school)
Boys’ and girls’ underwear (for elementary school)       

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Vicki Hoshko at   or Erin Cohen at .


During this time of holidays and giving thanks for our many blessings we want to tell you all how thankful we are for all you do for SICM and the community – your support for

The Food Pantry – your weekly donations of food  
The yarn and other knitting supplies for Tuesday Sit & Knit
The hours you give for Summer Lunch
The dollars you mail to the SICM office
Your attendance at the Harvest For the Pantry Dinner

Theresa and Marti

Editor's note: Our thanks to Eunice who has been one of our SICM reps for quite a few years. Thanks for all you've done, Eunice. And our welcome to Theresa Fay, who has taken on this job. Good luck and thanks for doing this, Theresa. SICM continues to be an important part of the mission in Schenectady of St. Stephen's Church.

See SICM at

The Shop

WE have a fine selection of advent calendars and of course advent candles for you. To make room for holiday treasures which will be coming soon, the shelves are full of half-off items.  Stop by and say hello to  Claudia, Sara, June, Louise and Marilyn. 

Many Blessings of Thanks to all of you for your continued support of the Shop At St. Stephens. 

Greening of the Church - Sunday, Dec. 18, 11:30

St. Stephen's Episcopal Church

Church Staff
The Rev. Dr. James R. McDonald, Rector, 
Rev. Dennie Bennett, Assisting Priest,
The Rev. Patricia L. Jones, Deacon, 
Miranda Rand, Christian Education Director, 
Susan Lohnas, Organist,
Douglas Lohnas, Choir Director, 
Lisa Zebrowski, Nursery Manager,
Laura Bynon and Chris Quinn, Nursery School 
Joe and Donna White, Custodians 

The Vestry
Sr. Warden, Brian Riordon
Jr. Warden, Jim Syta
Clerk: Tracy Ormsbee
Treasurer: Denise Crates

Vestry Class of 2016
Travis Reedy
Richey Woodzell
Joe Palko

Vestry Class of 2017
Joanne Frank
Peter Nelson
Elissa Prout

Vestry  Class of 2018
Linda Emaelaf
Liz Varno
Mary Alexander

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
Facebook Page:
The Messenger is published September - June. 
Please submit articles to editor Chris Jones by the 25th of the Month before.