June, 2017

Dear Friends,

As summer approaches and our attention turns outside to the garden, I am struck with how many rocks and stones there are in the gardens.  Did they multiply in the winter?  I am reminded of a good and funny story Jesus once told in the gospel of Mark.  Everyone knew how difficult it was to farm the Palestinian hill country, with its annual five- month drought, the constant swarm of insects, and the perennial problem of rocky soil.

An old Palestinian tale illustrates the frustration of Jewish farmers:  "When Allah was creating the world, he entrusted all the stones to two angels, giving each a bagful. As the angels were flying over Palestine, one of the bags broke open, and half the stones intended for the whole world, spilled onto that small area."

The point is that a conscientious farmer spent a large part of everyday clearing away stones, pulling weeds, and generally caring for the crop.  There was no free harvest. And yet, here Jesus talks about a farmer who sows his seed and then does nothing more than make sure he gets plenty of rest.  He calmly watches the whole operation grown into full ripeness, at which time he takes the sickle to it.

So what was Jesus saying to his listeners as they recovered from their laughter?  That the kingdom of God grows independently of human striving.  It enlarges apart from human doing.  I think this can be a helpful message as we head into summer vacations – that rest can be spiritual growth.

The farmer in Jesus' story does nothing more than creatively loaf, and yet the harvest comes.  The point is that spiritual growth is grace.  Growth is beyond human understanding, as it is beyond human striving.  The task at hand is to sow the seed and take up the sickle.  For those of us who like to take control of our life, and always be busy, this is not an easy lesson.

Many years ago a Fathers' Day gift from my son was a marigold plant.  The most delightful thing for me was to see him eagerly watch as the seeds he planted in a little cup of soil, grew into the plant.  I share with him that amazement.  From a tiny seed came a flower, its a miracle I'll never be able to explain to him, but a miracle we can accept and enjoy.  It is amazing, our limited role in the process.  Like the sower in Jesus’ parable, we need to plant the seed ‑ and that is sometimes back‑breaking work.  But the growing comes from God; it requires no effort on our part.

It is easy to get caught up on the busyness of life and forget to rest. It is also easy to buy in to the belief that resting means you are somehow lazy or slacking off. Even on vacation we can get caught up in doing.

This summer, try and remember to rest for a moment or a day. When you are resting, take the time to talk to God or just to sit and listen for God. We need rest and we need God. In Matthew’s Gospel Jesus reminds us to rest in him. “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest”.

Have a relaxing summer,


C. S. Lewis wrote; “I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I am helpless.  I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping.  It doesn’t change God.  It changes me.”  I have heard this passage in a number of sermons in far-flung churches over the years.  “It changes me.”  Hearing this makes me less afraid and more grateful, less critical and more trusting. 

More than anything, prayer helps me get my sense of humor back.  It brings me back to my heart, from the treacherous swamp of my mind. It brings me back to the now, to the holy moment, whether that means watching candles float on the Ganges or bending down in my front yard to study a lavish dandelion, delicate as a Spirograph drawing, that looks like its very own galaxy.  Amen amen amen!

So I pray constantly between bouts of trying to live life on life’s terms.  Help.  Thanks.  Wow.  I end most prayers with Amen, before my inevitable reentry into regular old so-called real life, because for thousands of years believers and prophets have said to.

So I do.  It’s that simple.

Excerpts from “Help.  Thanks.  Wow.  The Three Essential Prayers”
Anne Lamott


Christian Education - June 2017

Holy Spirit Kids

Our curriculum for this class (ages 1st Grade through 4th Grade) mostly depends on the lectionary cycle for its content and most generally features the Gospel lesson for the week.

Each time we meet we review the stories from the past few weeks posted in picture form on the white board and introduce the story for the current week. We read the story from a child-friendly paraphrase and discuss it, then move on to the children’s individual 4-page work sheets which reiterate the main theme and include various story-related activities. Often there is a social justice or general interest story on the back page which will incorporate the values expressed in the lesson. If time allows we continue learning with word-search puzzles or mazes, coloring sheets and more discussion.

All of the story materials are filed in a basket at the far left-hand side of the counter, adjacent to the window. They are available for parents to review or ask questions about on Sunday mornings (I am usually in the classroom 15-20 minutes before the 10:15 service) and during the week by appointment.

Sunday Friends

This is a class geared to the interest and understanding of students Grades 5 and up. We work out of the Augsburg Fortress curriculum “Witness” which includes individual Learner Resource workbooks and a Leader Guide. As is the case in the younger kids’ classroom, all the lesson materials are stored in a basket at the far left-hand end of the counter and are available for parental review and discussion. The curriculum is based loosely on the lectionary cycle.

In order to follow the order of the readings set out for the current cycle and avoid ordering material unnecessarily I have augmented a few Sundays with stand alone lesson plans for youth downloaded from the Presbyterian website The Thoughtful Christian. In April we worked with 2 sessions on the Micah 6 passage that I mentioned in my last monthly article and in May studied Consumerism (a discussion on youthful attitudes towards spending and featuring the story of Jesus encounter with the money-changers in the Temple found in John 2:13-16); and The Ten Commandments, a discussion comparing Moses’ mountain-top receipt of the rules set out by God for the Israelites and Jesus’ mountain-top delivery of the Beatitudes to the crowds gathered at Capernaum.

June 5 will be our last session for the season as Sunday Friends meets during the Fellowship Hour after the 10:15 service and June 11 is the date set aside for the Parish Picnic which is scheduled during the time normally set aside for post-service fellowship.

Miranda Rand, Christian Education Director
518-393-5047 home
518-229-5105 cell (voice mail or text)

The Bell Choir

Parish Profiles: Belardo

An occasional series of interviews with members of the congregation edited by Miranda Rand.

This edition features long-time members Salvatore and Diana Belardo.

Q: Please tell us something about yourselves: Where you grew up, where you went to school or college, where you met, how long you have been married…?

A: Sal and Diana were married June 12, 1966 at St. Stephen’s Episcopal by its first rector, Father Tom Moss. Sal grew up in Albany where he attended school. Diana moved to Schenectady when she was three years old and graduated from Linton High School; they met at Hudson Valley Community College where Sal studied Mechanical Engineering and Diana studied Banking.  Sal continued his education at RIT in Rochester, NY, earning a BE degree then continued at UAlbany for his MBA. Sal completed his education at RPI with both a MS and a PhD in Management Science. 

Q: You are both retired – for those who do not know you well, please tell us where you worked and what you did – what in your work gave you a sense of accomplishment?  

A: Diana worked most of her career for Key Bank as a Banking Officer. She enjoyed working with (and helping) “her” customers who became like family to her. At the conclusion of her career at Key Bank Diana became Director of Finance at the International Center for Leadership in Education.

Sal began his career at Eastman Kodak in Rochester, NY as a mechanical engineer working in proprietary products. In 2006 he retired from the University of Albany after teaching Information Systems in the Business Administration Department for over 30 years. His department was ranked one of the highest in the nation. He also taught in programs around the world, traveling to Italy, Switzerland, Mexico, Denmark, Germany and Argentina. His students now hold positions as CEOs, managers in Finance and owners of major corporations.

Q: How long have you worshiped at St. Stephen’s Episcopal? In what ways have you been involved over the years?

A: Diana began attending services in 1963, transferring from St. George’s Episcopal in the Stockade where she was baptized and confirmed. Sal grew up Protestant. Sal and Diana have both served on the Vestry, taught Sunday school, co-chaired BBQs and fund raisers. Sal is currently a member of the “Over the Hill” gang while Diana enjoys counting. Diana has served as Assistant Treasurer and was a trustee of the Endowment Fund. They both usher whenever their schedule allows. They call themselves “very committed” to St. Stephen’s.

Q: Outside your volunteer work at St. Stephen’s, please tell us if you are involved in the wider community and if so in what capacity?

A: Sal volunteers at the SICM Food Pantry on Wednesday mornings where he meets people from all walks of life. Diana served for many years on the Board of Directors of the Epilepsy Foundation of Northeastern New York.

Q: What are your hobbies? What do you enjoy doing in your spare time? Do you have family and do they live in the area?

A: Sal and Diana travel widely in both the USA and around the world, teaching and visiting friends. When they are home they enjoy reading, cooking and gardening. They have two grown sons and three grandchildren. “Unfortunately,” says Diana, neither of them lives nearby. Anthony resides “North” in London, Ontario; David and the grandchildren reside “South” in Ashburn, Virginia. The upside is that this provides further incentives to travel!

The Annual Tag Sale

Saturday September 30, 2017 from 9 to 2. 

We will hold the usual bag sale at 1 p.m.

Doreen May will be accepting items most Tuesday evenings this summer after 6 p.m.  If you need something picked up at home please give me a call at 505-1913 and we will help make arrangements.  Theresa Fay can also answer questions about the event.

Items we will not be accepting are computers, TVs, clothes, punch bowls, promo mugs, vases, skis.  We are still accepting dishware, linens, craft supplies, toys and games, stuffed animals, books, CDs, VCR tapes, DVDs and records, small electronics, Holiday decor, kitchen supplies, furniture and some sports equipment.

I'll be posting signup lists in early September for setup the week before the event and of course the day of the sale for our outstanding sales force!!!



Summer Lunch time is fast approaching!  We are looking for folks who like to help assemble lunch bags in a hurry – about 100 in 15 or 20 minutes, then hand them out to hungry kids.  There will also be boxes of books for the kids, some may need help picking out what to take.  THANKS to all who have donated books.

The Food Pantry need continues – for food and money donations, and also for volunteers to help stock the shelves and especially at the windows.  During the summer if your garden produces more than you can eat the Pantry welcomes donations of fresh fruit and vegetables.  They are open every morning except Tuesday.

Theresa and Marti

More SICM news at http://sicm.us/

Classified Ads

|All members of St. Stephen's are invited to submit a "classified ad" to be included in the next issue of the Messenger. As long as it's short and not political, we will (probably) print it.

Ads in the Messenger are totally awesome! Last month, I placed an ad for, like, empty milk or juice cartons, and I got, like, a whole bunch! So thank you to everyone who, like, brought in some. In the fall, I’ll get, like, some more chestnut seeds, so I can still, like, use more cartons. So far, I have, like, ten toatally awesome little chestnut trees sprouting. Awesome!  George W. I placed an ad asking for help to find a home for my old computer and printer. Joe P. responded. He picked it up (it was really heavy) and took it to the Elfuns at GE. They will either find a home for it, or recycle it for parts. Thanks, Joe! Chris J.
Do you have a personal or business website or BLOG on the internet? We list them on the "links" page of the St. Stephen's website. We would like to list yours, if you have one. Chris J. Years ago Dominick, ten years old at the time, took home a fledgling peach tree which I had grown from a peach pit in my back yard. It didn’t survive that first winter, so he took another one the next year. After several years (it might take four or five) he got a harvest. “They weren’t very big, but they were good” he said. I have a couple more trees, just up this spring. Any takers?  Chris J.
Anuone remember Dom?

The Calendar

We're winding down for the summer, so there won't be a detailed calendar in this space. Instead, just a few reminders...

 One Sunday service at 9 am begins June 11 and continues thru Labor Day.

Thank you to the Altar Guild for hosting the June 11 volunteer recognition brunch!  Sign up in the nave extension to bring something for a mid-morning meal (breakfast dish, fruit, pastry, etc.) after the 9 a.m. service.  Come and help us to say “Thank you” to our many volunteers, with a special "Thank you" to June Russell for her 37 years of faithful service as directress of the Altar Guild! 

The Book Club meets Tuesday June 13, 7:00 P.M. All are welcome.

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, Jim Syta; Jr. Warden, Claudia Jakubowski
Clerk: to be appointed; Treasurer: Denise Crates

Vestry Class of 2017
Joanne Frank, Peter Nelson, Elissa Prout

Vestry  Class of 2018
Linda Emaelaf, Liz Varno, Mary Alexander

Vestry Class of 2019
Stephanie Grimason, Mary Ann Harrington, Daniel Ruscitto

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: james.ross.mcd@gmail.com Our website is http://www.saintstephenschenectady.org/
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/SaintStephensSchenectady
The Messenger is published September - June.