January 2018

The Epiphany of Our Lord

The name "Epiphany" is derived from a Greek word meaning "manifestation" or "appearing." It is also called "The Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles."  This phrase is a reference to the story of the Wise Men from the East.

A Christian observance on January 6 is found as early as the end of the second century in Egypt.  The feast combined commemorations of the visit of the Magi, led by the star of Bethlehem; the Baptism of Jesus in the waters of the River Jordan; and Jesus' first recorded miracle, the changing of water into wine at the marriage of Cana of Galilee ‑‑ all thought of as manifestations of the incarnate Lord.

The Epiphany is still the primary Feast of the Incarnation in Eastern Churches, and the threefold emphasis is still windowprominent.  In the West, however, including the Episcopal Church, the story of the Wise Men has tended to overshadow the other two events.  Modern lectionary reform, reflected in the Book of Common Prayer, has recovered the primitive trilogy, by setting the event of the Baptism as the theme of the First Sunday after January 6th.

Our celebration of Epiphany at St. Stephen's will take place on Sunday, January 7th at 8:00 a.m. and 10:15 a.m. with Eucharist and renewal of our Baptismal vows.

Household Blessing for Epiphany

A custom from Eastern Europe that is presently being recovered in North America is the practice of blessing homes on Epiphany.  Members of the household go from room to room expressing thanks to God for each room and asking God to bless the room and its intended use.  Some small symbol of the blessing may be carried to leave in each room: a candle, a cross, "gifts" of the Magi.

The procession ends outside the front door where the door's lintel is marked in chalk with the year and the initials C,M,B ‑ each separated by a cross ‑ recalling the traditional names of the Magi: Casper, Melchior and Balthasar.  The members of the household are then invited to add their own initials.  Also at this time it is appropriate to pledge volunteer time or other gifts for Bethesda House or some local homeless shelter as signs of our thankfulness to God.  The ritual ends with a celebration of the Eucharist.

Please talk to the rector (518-522-3906) or email at james.ross.mcd@gmail.com if you would like to have your home blessed.

The Epiphany of Our Lord Celebrationkings

Join us on Sunday, January 7th after the 10:15 service to celebrate the Epiphany of Our Lord.  We will have a potluck lunch with cake for dessert that may include three special coins!  We will have song sheets to sing with and some costumes for our kings.  Be on the lookout for the sign-up sheet to bring something yummy to share (main or side dishes) and to help set up or clean up.  If you have any questions please contact Stephanie Grimason at sgrimason@hotmail.com.

Community Outreach

The community outreach committee would like to thank the parish once again for your amazing generosity!  We will be able to provide warm gloves, hats and mittens to the students who need them most this month, as well as coats for children and adults.  Along with these winter items we will be dropping off the donated school supplies that are desperately needed.  

Thank you also for the many beautiful children’s books brought during Advent.  The ones for the youngest children will be taken to the SICM food pantry; the books for school-aged children will be added to the collection to be given out during the SICM’s summer lunch program.

At the Feast of the Epiphany on January 7, we will bring forward some of these donated items during the Offertory.

Thank you for all of your help!

Episcopal Church Women – ECW

In September of 2014, two Sisters of the Community of St. Joseph opened St. Joseph’s Place on Albany Street, to serve as a drop-in center for people in the Hamilton Hill neighborhood.

On January 22, we will provide lunches for the visitors at St. Joseph’s.  Please sign up to help make sandwiches on Sunday the 21st after the second coffee hour.

Nominating Committee for Vestry Positions

The vestry has appointed the Vestry Class of 2019 as the nominating committee. They are securing the nominations for the positions vacant for next year. In addition, nominations will continue to be made from the floor of the Annual Meeting of the parish.  The elected offices are:

3 ‑ three-year terms for the vestry class of 2020
1 ‑ Warden – one-year term
1 ‑ Warden – two-year term
1 – Clerk (Secretary) – one-year term

Requirements for Vestry Membership:

(1) being a baptized member of the parish church. This can be accomplished through baptism at St. Stephen’s or through a transfer from another Episcopal Church.

(2) having been regular in attendance of Sunday Eucharists. 

(3) having been faithful in working, praying, and giving for the spread of the Kingdom of God.  This includes giving of Time, Talent, and Treasure.

January 28th  - Annual Parish Meeting

Our annual meeting will be held on Sunday January 28, 2018 at 11:30am in Begley Hall.  Please mark your calendars and plan to attend.  Childcare will be provided.

The "Annual Report" is a printed record of what we have been doing in the year 2017. It's for the archives, but more than that. It's for people (sometimes prospective members) who want to know what kind of peole we are at St. Stephen's, what our ministry is, what we've been doing. People may also want to know very practical things, like what the financial basis of the church is and how many people attend services. Our hope is that all of our groups and organizations will write about what they do, how they function, and how they support each other in the life of the parish.

This year, all articles to be included in the Annual Report should be sent to Richey Woodzell. She will proof read them, looking for all those spelling, punctuation, and sentence structure problems that we all make. She will forward them to Chris Jones, who will assemble them and print them so they will be available at the meeting.

Annual Reports for recent years are available on our website.

Please get them in by the 23rd of the month.

Education for Adults

Inquirers’ Classes

This course is an introduction to the Episcopal Church in the United States.  These four classes give an overview of how Episcopalians fit into the complex of protestant and catholic churches.  The National Episcopal Church, the Diocese of Albany, the congregation of St. Stephen’s and the relationship among all three will be explored.  Frank discussions include both the wonderful things about our Church, and also some not-so-wonderful things. This course 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. Classes will be held on Sunday afternoons at noon during the month of February in the rector’s office.  Please talk to the rector (518-522-3906) or email at james.ross.mcd@gmail.com if you would like to attend.

Sunday Morning Forum: Christianity & Religions of the World

We continue our 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 will help you better understand your neighbors AND 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 Shintoism. Classes are held on Sunday Mornings from 9-10 in the Conference Room.

Wednesday Evening Bible Study: Shalom: The Biblical Concept of Peaceclass

Peacemaking is a central focus for study, reflection and action in the church today.  This course begins with an in‑depth examination of the Hebrew 'shalom' in the Old Testament and the Greek 'eirene' in the New Testament and then explores the implications of this study for a broad range of contemporary issues.  The aim of the course is to develop a theological understanding of peace that is biblical in its formation and contemporary in its application.  Classes are held on Wednesday evenings in January from 7:30 to 9:00 in the Conference room.  If you would like to attend these classes please email Fr. James james.ross.mcd@gmail.com.  Also, a sign-up sheet can be found in the Nave Extension.

Education for Youth

Looking back and looking forward…

First, looking back, I’d like to say “thank you” to all the students in the Holy Spirit Kids’ class who worked so hard at the practice session and performed so perfectly on the “day of” our annual pageant and to those parents and other adults who assisted with costuming, stage management and transportation. Vera Crates and Claire Syta of the Sunday Friends class were extraordinarily helpful as was Jim Syta who stepped in as the narrator at the last minute and Allison de Kanel, who worked with me as advisor extraordinaire!

And looking forward – we will be back to regular sessions on January 7.

Holy Spirit Kids’ class will continue to use lessons based on the lectionary series so that the scriptures the  students hear read in church and in Fr. James’ children’s message are complemented in the classroom with age-appropriate learning. Sunday Friends will continue studying the Old Testament characters through the video series Re:form Ancestors.

On February 10th from 10am until 12 noon we will have the first of two service project dates with the Regional Food Bank on Albany Shaker Road in Latham. All ages are welcome. The food bank is a terrific place to volunteer – the work is easy and well organized and the staff works right alongside us. This will be our third year volunteering at the food bank.

Happy New Year!

Ms. Miranda

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

When to Call Your Clergy

Many people have the idea that the only time they should call their priest or deacon is when someone is critically ill or when there is a death in the family, and some don't even do that.  Here are ten occasions when you should have no hesitation in picking up the phone to call James, Pat or Dennie.

1.  Before going to the hospital. It makes no difference whether you are going to the hospital for major surgery or for a routine checkup - call before you go.

2.  When alcohol or drugs become a problem for you or for someone you love. The alcoholic or drug dependent person is not a hopeless sinner - he or she is a person with a disease who needs treatment.  There are no easy answers to chemical dependency, but the clergy can help you to understand these problems or to assist families and individuals in locating help.

3.  Before you engage a lawyer. This does not mean before you get an attorney for any purpose, but before engaging one when a husband and wife are considering separation.  If you take the Christian view of marriage seriously, you will wish to talk through your situation with clergy or other pastoral counselor before matters proceed to the point of seeking legal counsel.

4.  When a baby is born. When a new member of our family is born, James or Pat would like to call while the mother is still in the hospital.  This is a good opportunity to rejoice with the family and to ask God's blessing upon the child.

5.  When you would like to talk or pray about a difficult decision. The big decisions in life are so important that they should be "talked out and prayed through".  Your work, perhaps getting married, a change in jobs - are all included.

6.  When you know someone in need of spiritual help. It is part of our Christian responsibility to be alert to the needs of others.  If you know of someone who needs help, do not hesitate to call.  Together, we may be able to find a way to minister to those in need.

7.  When there is a death in the family. No matter what the hour of day or night the clergy should be called at once.  Their task is to bring you to strong consolation offered by our Christian faith and to counsel with you concerning arrangements for the funeral.

8.  When you are spiritually depressed. Remember, help is available!  The finest Christians have all gone through their dark night of the soul.  Don't try to fight it through alone.  If God seems far off and religion has lost its reality, you are not the first person to feel that way.  Don't struggle with spiritual depression by yourself.

9.  Before anyone enters the armed forces or leaves for college.  Not only will the clergy want to know their address away from home, but would like to opportunity to make a personal visit to assure them of the concern of their home parish while they are away.

10. When you want to share a thanksgiving. When a parishioner wants to share a thanksgiving for all God's gracious gifts, the clergy will be delighted to share this with you.

Parish office - 518-346-6241
James – 518-522-3906
Dennie – 315-945-9929
Pat - 518-372-5836

Dear Friends,

Several years ago I had the task of ensuring there was an organist on Sunday mornings until the vestry could hire a permanent organist.  I contacted a person from the local American Guild of Organists who kept the list of available substitute organists.  Over several months we had a variety of very good musicians; however, most of them told me that our organ needed work.  They used technical terms about what they thought was needed, and I understood very little of it, but I registered their concern.

The vestry has been dealing with what to do about an aging pipe organ, and we discovered that the congregation has several options: 1) we could refurbish the existing pipe organ; if we didn’t  do this, eventually, 2) we could replace the pipe organ with an electronic substitute; 3) we could purchase an entirely new pipe organ; or 4) make do with a compromised instrument, i.e. do nothing.

I have known congregations who traded in an aging pipe organ for an electronic substitute.  I think that this could be much like tossing out an heirloom gold watch bequeathed by your grandfather and replacing it with a plastic digital watch. Most pipe organs, even those that are in greatest need of repair, have parts of considerable value. The pipes, casework, console shell, and many other organ components never wear out. By replacing control mechanisms, revoicing, and perhaps adding a few ranks of pipes, skilled pipe organ craftsmen can almost always transform an older pipe organ into an instrument far superior to electronic substitutes. Like antique furniture, a well-maintained pipe organ can appreciate in monetary value as it ages.

This makes rebuilding an aging pipe organ desirable because it allows our church to preserve an asset with relatively less financial outlay than replacing it. Rebuilding costs are especially minimal when the bulk of the rehab involves simply installing or upgrading the internal electric controls of the pipe organ.

Good stewardship by St. Stephen’s Church organ committee has entailed getting opinions from several professional organ builders on what the real costs would be of refurbishing our current organ and the residual value of the instrument in its current condition.  The opinions of several experts familiar with authentic pipe organs have been solicited, and I am convinced that the organ committee is on the right track.
Especially, I want thank Susan Lohnas, our organist, for all the time she has already spent in contacting organ builders and giving us her guidance in beginning such an exploration.  We are blessed with her insight and experience.  It is also fortuitous that she had led a similar project in a previous church!

Later this month you will learn more about the scope of an organ refurbishing project.  You will be invited to prayerfully consider participating in this effort to help in “pulling out all the stops.” I am grateful to you for your prayer and support in any possible way you may feel called and are able to respond.


Vestry News: Q3-Q4 2017
Dan Ruscitto

It’s been long overdue, but here is a summary of vestry meetings over this past fall. Here are some highlights:

  • The vestry would like to thank Richey Woodzell for going through past minutes.  Richey was able to find the original minutes when the City of Schenectady gave permission for St Stephen’s to install two Episcopal Church street signs. With this information, Fr. James was able to order a replacement for the sign at the corner of Union and Garner.  Thanks, Richey!!!
  • Pledges for 2018 came in at $141,708, close to the $150,000 goal and over what was budgeted!!!
  • Donations from Thanksgiving service came in at $335 and will be donated to SICM.
  • Volunteers are needed for nominations:  Jr Warden, Sr Warden, 3 Vestry members.

September Notes:

Committees: Fr. James informed the vestry that the problem with bats appears to be resolved. However, an increase in rodent activity has been observed and the pest service was notified.  The vestry was informed that the Finance Committee planned to meet and discuss the 2018 budget prior to sending out the Every Member Canvass pledge cards.  Susan Lohnas procured a second bid for organ refurbishment, and the “Pull Out All the Stops” committee plans to begin the ‘organ refurbishment’ campaign at the January Annual Meeting.
Rector’s Report:  Enrollment at ‘First Friends’ nursery school is down for the 2017-2018 school year. The school expects to break even financially, and Fr. James urged its importance to the congregation beyond any profit it may or may not make.  Recruitment efforts will continue.  
Fr. James reviewed the summer operation of the parish and passed around a letter from SICM thanking the congregation for using the kitchen for the Summer Lunch Program.  The Roxbury Farm food distribution on Tuesdays has worked out well and the farm would like to continue using Begley Hall in the future.  Fr. James reported that summer worship went well while he was on vacation.  He came back for one funeral in July.  Overall, taking his vacation all at once was successful, and he intends to do the same next year, as allowed by the Personnel Policy of the parish.
Warden’s Report:  Several parishioners have voiced concern over the smell of gas coming out of the kitchen.  National Grid was notified.

October Notes:

A quorum was not met and so the vestry was unable to accept reports or vote during the October meeting.
Committees:  October 22nd was the planned kick-off for the Every Member Canvass.  The Finance Committee planned to meet on October 16th to finalize the proposed budget and discuss SICM support and the assessment payment.  The “Pull Out All the Stops” task force has decided to set a high goal for organ refurbishment at $70,000 and see what happens.
Rector’s Report:  Two anonymous donations of chimes were received; however, we do not have 3 full octaves of chimes.  The worship committee met the previous week to make plans for Christmas services.
Warden’s Report:  no wardens present.

November Notes:

Minutes from September and October were approved along with the financials from October.
Committees:  Snow removal contract will be the same as past years.  Door closures have been installed in the rest-rooms.  Church doors have been varnished.  National Grid determined the gas smell to be coming from the stove in the kitchen due to a pilot light.  The Over-the-Hill Gang (OTHG) plans on replacing the pilot light once a part is received.  The vestry reiterated that if problems arise around the facility, we will contact the OTHG first and they can advise whether professionals are needed.  The Finance Committee reported that 46 pledges were received for a total of $123,196:  23 pledges increased, 13 stayed the same, 5 decreased, with 5 new pledges.  15 pledge cards had not yet been returned and Fr. James planned to send out ~30 letters to those who had not pledged yet.  The Nomination Committee is the Middle Class of vestry members and need to nominate a Junior Warden, a Senior Warden, and 3 new vestry members.  The Outreach Committee discussed coat racks for Deacon Pat’s work, donating hats and gloves for Oneida School students, and donations of new and gently-used books for SICM.  A family night cookie decorating party was planned in mid-December.
Rector’s Report:  Fr. James reported that most of his time has been spent with Confirmation, a school year-long program of 6 students in grade 8 and above.  Many outreach and interfaith field trips are planned and the class will conclude in May.

December Notes:

Committees:  Snow removal bid came in same as previous year and was accepted.  One visit so far in 2017.  The Finance Committee reported that pledges for 2018 came in at $141,708, close to the $150,000 goal and over what was budgeted for!  Donations from Thanksgiving service came in at $335 and will be donated to SICM.  Volunteers are needed for nominations:  Jr Warden, Sr Warden, 3 Vestry members.  Episcopal Church signs (double-sided with white lettering) were ordered for $220 each plus shipping.
Rector’s Report:  Fr. James is busy getting ready for Christmas!!!

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.

Altar Needlepoint Kneelers

In 1990s several women of the congregation suggested that new altar rail kneelers could be needle pointed with Christian symbols. Father James also suggested the kneelers be distinctively Schenectady/Niskayuna oriented and various subjects and ideas were discussed.

In 1991 the congregation asked a needlework designer, Mrs. Barbara Cohen, to meet with the women and discuss subjects, scenes wording for the center kneeler, borders, number of kneelers, sizes, colors. etc. Mrs. Cohen agreed to research the subjects for six local scenes, paint all of the 11 canvasses for the 31 feet of kneeling step, and select all the woolens for each canvas. By January 1992 they were ready to be worked.

Each canvas has a story. The center kneeler, longest and with wording that would be read from the aisle,was chosen to showcase the Agnus Dei as in the carving on the face of the altar. Mrs. Cohen photographed our old white chasuble with the lamb embroidered on it, obtained the national and diocesan Episcopals shields and proceeded to draw and then paint her design. The border of the stained glass windows, with its stylized flowers, was used for the side ends and risers on all the kneelers.

Six kneelers are important scenes from the history of Niskayuna and Schenectady. Between each scene is a kneeler that depicts a cross. Thus, scenes from our community are surrounded by the cross of Christ.

More about the kneelers.


Advent wreath
George and Pat
Asking a blessing
Doing the creche
Christmas Eve candle-light
Window, Christmas Eve

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.