October, 2017

Blessing of the Animals and St. Francis of Assisi

On October 4th we celebrate the life and work of St. Francis. He is probably better known for preaching to birds than for the poverty he embraced in his passion to be like Christ.  Yet, Francis' love of God's creation has given his statue a place in many church and home gardens.doggies

No mere nature lover, Francis saw in nature's paradoxes and mysteries a revelation of the presence of God.  He marveled at the simplicity and obedience of the birds, fishes, rabbits, doves, the falcon who wakened him for Matins, the famous wolf of Gubbio who gave his pledge of peace to Francis and kept it.

Because of St. Francis' connection to God's creation, and especially to animals, a tradition arose in England whereby the parish priest would bless the villagers' animals on St. Francis' Day.  For many years St. Stephen's has continued this tradition.  Here's how it will work:

On Sunday, October 1st at 1pm the congregation and any animals (on leashes if appropriate) will gather on the parish front lawn. WE WILL REMAIN OUTSIDE DURING THE ENTIRE SERVICE.  The rector will begin a brief worship service and then will bless each animal saying:  "O God, who has made all things for yourself, bless, we pray you, this animal; that it may be a source of love and joy to those with whom it dwells."

It’s quite a sight!

Dear Friends,

There's something about money that really gets to people.  Why does the church talk so frequently about money?

The answer, I believe, is because Jesus frequently talked about money. Sixteen of his 38 parables were about money or possessions; one tenth of all gospel verses are about money or possessions.  There are 500 verses in Scripture that deal with prayer, and a few less that deal with faith, yet more than 1,000 verses deal with money and material goods.  Therefore, the article concludes, it is no wonder that the church, when it is faithful to the gospel, follows in that tradition and talks about money.

I believe that Jesus was right when he said: "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."

During the third week this month you will receive a summary of next year's budget.  The annual budget is no great mystery.  We spend much of our money each year on staff, on people who work with people.  This is not 'overhead'.  You cannot run a church with an office, a computer and FrJames a phone.  As our church grows, one of the most crucial things we can do is to provide people with education, music, pastoral care, administration, and worship leadership, to build, nurture and lead the church of Jesus Christ.

In addition, we spend money on space, the maintenance and upkeep of buildings to house the activities of the church.  We spend a relatively small amount on the tools of ministry:  scissors and paste, choir robes, and Church School material.  And we give some of our money away to ministries near and far so that we may join with others in support of such things as a Jail Ministry, the Schenectady Inner City Ministry, and the outreach of our denomination in every part of the world.

The vestry is dealing with increased costs to the church in 2018 coupled with loss of past pledges due to relocation or retirement.  We will need to increase the budget for next year.  That increase is also due to our congregation's growth, both in programs and people.  As we grow, we count on the stewardship of our new members as well as that of those who have undergirded the work of the church in the past, to help us be the church we need, want, and can be.

That's why the church talks about money.  That is why your church is asking you to increase your pledge of time, talent and treasure.  And God knows, it will mean sacrifice.  Some people give out of their abundance: they give stock, they take from their investments; and it has no effect whatsoever on how they live from day to day.  Jesus did not criticize that, for there are all sorts of ways to be a good steward.  But some have no abundance.  They give out of what they have to live on.  Their giving to the church and other organizations affects what they have to spend on food, clothes, housing, and travel.  They make a real sacrifice and they do it lovingly and thankfully.

Fr. James+

Special “Listening for God” Meeting with Tracy OrmsbeeTracy
Saturday, October 7, 10:30 am to 12 noon

Oftentimes, it is in reflecting on our spiritual journeys that we discover footprints of God along the way. As many of you know, Tracy Ormsbee recently moved to become the publisher of Adirondack Explorer. On Saturday, October 7, she will return to St. Stephen’s for a special “Listening for God” meeting.  Tracy was faced with “one of the most difficult life/career decisions". She will describe the clear messages she received from God along the way that ultimately led to the right choice.

Everyone is invited to this special time with Tracy. Participation in previous “Listening for God” meetings is not required. We will meet in the library.  Questions?  Contact Dennie at denniebennett07@gmail.com.

Adult Education

Wednesday Bible Study: Hebrew Scriptures Overview

This course is a survey of the stories of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament), while discussing some of the scholarly issues surrounding each part of the Old Testament (such as the JEDP theory). The videos take account of new research in the field of biblical studies. Class

These classes are presented as a survey, not a theology. So don't expect it to stand up for any particular theological perspective (you will be given the tools to do that on your own). It is a useful introductory-level course for students starting out in biblical study.

Classes are held on Wednesday evenings from 7:30 to 8:30 in the Conference room.  If you would like to attend these classes please email Fr. James james.ross.mcd@gmail.com.

Sunday Morning Adult Education Classes

This year we make  a comparison of the main  religions of the world in an attempt to discern commonalities, general patterns, and associations with cultural and ecological features. This course is intended to help you better understand your neighbors AND to strengthen your own faith through viewing well-produced videos and participating in constructive conversation.  The first half of the month will be an examination of Hinduism, the second half of Buddhism. Classes are held on Sunday Mornings from 9-10 in the Conference Room.

Tuesday Morning Seminar

This year-long seminar will attempt a systematic comparison of the doctrines and practices of the world's religions. Religious belief has been innate to humans everywhere and in every age, from the time of the Neanderthals to the 21st century. It's also one of the strongest motivators of human behavior and has a profound impact on all aspects of our culture—our spiritual beliefs, our rituals, our politics, and the very foundations of our democracy.  Classes are held on Tuesday Mornings from 10:30 to noon in the Conference room.  If you would like to attend these classes, please email Fr. James james.ross.mcd@gmail.com.

Church SchoolMiranda

“Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe and stronger than you seem and smarter than you think”. Winnie the Pooh

This quote from Winnie the Pooh is one of my favorites. To me, these simple words speak truth to an infinite number of situations in life and if I could instill one thing in my students it would be this… “You are smarter than you think!” 

Learning your way through the bible can be confusing – it takes a lot of practice to know how to look things up using the indexes. Bible stories were written a very long time ago about things that happened to people who lived a very long time ago – it is hard for students to appreciate that and to make a connection.

Understanding this I spend time each year reviewing curricula to see how their material fits my teaching style and the students’ abilities and maturation level. This year I have settled on two that I think work well.

Spark: Activate Faith is designed for elementary age children. It presents Bible stories through a bible written in age-appropriate language and a learner leaflet that is designed to help the children understand the story with rebus puzzles, information about the culture of Jesus’ time and historical/geographical facts about the setting.

Each week’s story follows the lectionary cycle so the students are hearing Deacon Pat read the story before they come out and often it is reinforced by Father James in his children’s messages. We have used this curriculum in the Holy Spirit Kids classroom for several years now and it continues to work well for us.

New this year is the curriculum for the Sunday Friends students. Spark Ancestors uses a video and a workbook. Each week the curriculum explores a different ancestor from the Old Testament starting with Adam and Eve. The video presents the Ancestor as a loveable character who wants to please God but keeps messing up and the workbook uses a cartoon format to help the student understand the story and relate it to their own strengths and weaknesses.

In future issues of The Messenger and in individual emails to parents I will list dates for service projects and Christmas Pageant rehearsals.

 In the meantime, enjoy the beautiful weather and all the fun activities that the Northeast has to offer at this colorful time of year.

Miranda Rand, Christian Education Director
518-393-5047 home
518-229-5105 cell

A Prayer for Young Persons

God our Father, you see your children growing up in an unsteady and confusing world: Show them that your ways give more life than the ways of the world, and that following you is better than chasing after selfish goals. Help them to take failure, not as a measure of their worth, but as a chance for a new start. Give them strength to hold their faith in you, and to keep alive their joy in your creation; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Over-the-Hill Gang at work.

George Door Door
The photos show George, Jerry and Sal in action. They are just a few of the Over The Hill Gang members who are working on projects around the church. Thanks to Ron for the photos.

Hurricane Relief 

Episcopal Relief & Development is working with dioceses in the areas affected by the recent hurricanes – in the southern states as well as the Caribbean.  You may donate to their efforts online at http://www.episcopalrelief.org/ or use the flyer in the Sunday bulletin.  I will try to post the latest updates on the bulletin board in the hall.  Thank you. 

Richey Woodzell

Church World Service is collecting emergency cleanup buckets, hygiene kits and school kits for recovery efforts in the South.  St. Stephen’s will serve as the regional drop-off site until October 20.  If you wish to assemble a bucket or kit, you may find instructions on the table in the nave extension or at cwskits.org.  The estimated cost of assembly is $15/hygiene kit or school kit and $75/emergency cleanup bucket.  Or you may contribute to the cost of processing a kit:  $2/kit or $3/bucket.  Mark CWS on your donation, and the church will send a check for the total collected. 

Home Communion

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.

Communion Classes

The prayerbook stresses that baptism is the beginning of full membeCommunion Classrship in the Church.  Since all baptized Christians are welcome at the altar, discretion is left to parents as to when they want their child to begin receiving communion.  Criteria for Confirmation involve the moment when a person is both old enough and prepared enough to know the implications of making a voluntary, public and personal acceptance of the vows made earlier at Baptism on his/her behalf.

Classes for parents and children who are planning to prepare for reception to the Holy Communion, and those who have already begun receiving but who want further preparation, will meet on two Thursdays: October 19th in the parish hall from 4:45 pm to 6:15 pm and October 26th in the church from 4:45 pm to 5:30 pm.   Parents are needed to help on October 19th.

Those parents wishing their children to take communion for the first time could plan to do so on All Saints Sunday, November 5th at the 10:15 am Eucharist. 

New Members’ Classes

Want to Become a Member?  On Sunday, October 8th the rector will begin a series of four Inquirers’ classes.  Participants would not be making a commitment of any sort by attending the classes.  They are intended to give you an overview of how Episcopalians fit into the complex of protestant and catholic churches.  We will be talking about the National Episcopal Church, our own Diocese of Albany, our own parish of St. Stephen’s and the relationship among all three. 

Fr. James takes the decision to join a church very seriously.  Therefore it is incumbent upon him to let you know the truth: both what he thinks are wonderful things about our church, and also some not-so-wonderful things.  There is always candid and open discussion.

The classes will be held in an informal atmosphere.  It is required for all adults who wish to be confirmed or received into the church, but is open to all members of the Parish Family.

We will meet on Sunday afternoons between Noon and 1:00 p.m. from October 8th through October 29th.  Participants will meet in the parish office, the aluminum sided house on Baker Avenue.  There is limited parking in the office driveway.

Most people who attended the classes have enjoyed them, even if they did not decide to take the important step into formal membership into the congregation.

Vacations! Summer's Memories...

9/11 Memorial
Abby, Veronica, Marshall
Trinity WallStreet
Trinity, Wall Street. The same books we have back at St. Stephen's!
Trinity, Wall Street. Alexander Hamilton buried there.

Conway, NH
Dan, Bethany
Sam, Madeleine

Ogunquit, Maine
Sam, Madeleine
Monhegan Island
Family gathering
Tom, Dennie, etc.

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. Chris Jones is the publisher.