February, 2018


Lent, the annual celebration of the death and resurrection of Christ, is an intense period of Christian teaching and training.  In earlier centuries, the season provided the background for the preparation of the catechumens (new converts) for baptism on Easter morning.

The catechumens were later joined in their studies by professional Christians seeking continued study and spiritual renewal.  By the third century, Lent also was a time when Christians who had lapsed in the faith could prepare for reuniting with the body of Christ on Maundy Thursday (Great Thursday).  Their journey began on Ash Wednesday when ashes gathered from the burnt palms of the previous year's Palm Sunday were placed on the confessor's forehead as a sign of repentance and total dependence on God.  Thus, Lent has become a time for all Christians - new converts, committed followers, and renewed believers, to reflect on their baptism in the light of Christ's baptism and temptation.

Lent is a time for spiritual preparation; a time for discipline; a time to 'repent' or 'turn around' as the Greek words "metania" implies.  The spirit of Lent is to take on anew all that it means to belong to Christ.

Lent is a way of growing into Easter.

Dear Friends,

The weeks before Lent are a good time to decide what your Lenten discipline will be this year.  As I was growing up in church the emphasis was on giving up something for Lent.  One problem Fr. Jameswith this is that we often get so caught up in trying to keep our Lenten denial, that we lose track of the true reason we are doing it.  Another problem is that we can perform the denial for the praise of others, and thus rob ourselves of that which we seek:  true intimacy with God.

There is another way to observe a holy Lent. Instead of giving up, we can take on such activities as weekday Eucharist's or participation in a Lenten study group.  At Saint Stephen's we offer many Lenten opportunities, including a Sunday evening study series and simple supper.  Increasing the amount of time spent in reading the Bible and other religious books, in meditation and prayer, and in doing extra work to help the poor and needy are all worthwhile forms of Lenten discipline.  There is still time to join the Theology Seminar on Tuesday mornings or to start coming to the Adult education hour on Sunday Mornings.

Taking on additional activities during Lent is an excellent way to prepare for Christ's resurrection, because these are the very activities which were such an important part of Jesus' ministry.  How many times in the Gospels can you remember Jesus urging his disciples to give up something?  But think of the times Jesus urges his followers to feed the hungry and tend to the needy.

Up to a point Ash Wednesday is supposed to make us uncomfortable as we contemplate our sinful condition.  However, this stark, penitential day, the first of the 40 days of Lent, does not have to be the beginning of a time of negativity, when we dwell on denial.  I am urging you today to consider taking on a spiritual activity, rather than giving up something.  The difference between giving up and taking on is that taking on an activity is a creative act; giving up something is not.  But don't think that taking on something for Lent is easier or requires less pain than giving up something.  Taking on an activity is every bit as much a discipline as self-denial, but is more like the mother's joy at birth which overshadows the pains that precede it.

So Lent is not only a time for us to remember the shortness and frailty of human life, a time reflecting on our tendency to sin; it is also a time of spiritual refreshment and new commitment to Christ.  We shall not be unduly depressed, for we are children of God, in Christ.  Lent is a time when all we are called to do is to be who we are created to be.  We need only be human, a simple matter of being in relationship with God and other human beings.
Wishing you a holy Lent,


Episcopal Relief & Developmentmediations

Part of our Lenten outreach this year will be for Episcopal Relief & Development, the compassionate response of The Episcopal Church to human suffering in almost 40 countries

worldwide.  The four core areas of their work are alleviating hunger, creating economic opportunities, promoting health and responding to disasters, with priorities based on early childhood development, elimination of gender-based violence, and resilience & climate change.

Last September many parishioners sent donations to Episcopal Relief & Development after the devastating 2017 hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.  Check the bulletin board across from the parish library for updates on their continued hurricane response and recovery – in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Texas and Florida.

During Lent last year we raised money to purchase farm animals and pay for agricultural training, to help families have another source of nutrition and generate other forms of income and to learn techniques to increase overall food production.  Watch for an announcement on the program we will be supporting this year.

In the nave extension are this year’s Episcopal Relief & Development Lenten Meditations booklets as well as Hope Chests for your donations.   Please use them!

We invite you to share in the 2018 Lenten email series from Episcopal Relief & Development.  Each day during Lent you will receive a daily reflection, co-authored by a group of faith leaders from across the church. During this season of reflection on our Christian faith, their writings will enhance your spiritual journey as they both inspire and challenge you. Each daily meditation is presented in both English and Spanish.

ERD sign-up for Lenten reflections

Lenten Study: The Last Days of Jesus

This five-week course can be approached in several different ways.  It can be a daily class bible study, an in-depth study of the last chapters of the Gospel of Mark, or a series of informative videos with no other commitment.  It uses videos that delve into recent discoveries about the events leading up to the crucifixion and sheds new light on the unanswered questions that still surround this defining moment in world history.  The Last Days of Jesus includes insightful interviews with expert historians.  According to the Gospels, Jesus was crucified, resurrected and ascended into heaven.  But how much is legend and how much is truth?  This course is a fascinating journey back to ancient Jerusalem.  We will investigate the disappearance of Jesus Christ after his death and attempt to gain new insight hidden within the diverse accounts of his resurrection that may ultimately shed new light on the mystery of Easter.

We will meet in the Conference Room at 5pm for the video and presentations and then retire to Begley Hall for a light soup and bread supper prepared by the participants. This series begins on February 18th and will continue for five Sunday evenings.

Fridays in Lent - Stations of the Cross: 

'Station' is any place in the church where, during a solemn procession, there is pause for a prayer.  During Lent there is a practice in which fourteen 'stations' are visited in turn, with a pause for a reading a versicle and response, a prayer, and a time for meditation.  In this case, the 'stations' are fourteen pictures depicting incidents in the narrative of Christ's passion, from Pilate's house to the entombment.  These pictures will be placed around the church on Fridays, and booklets which lead the participant through each station can be found on the table in the back of the church.  Please call the parish office if you wish to experience this tradition.


Making a confession in preparation for Easter is a long-standing tradition for many in the Church.  This is an individual confession to a priest.  The service of Reconciliation of a Penitent in the Book of Common Prayer provides an excellent form for personal self-examination, confession and reception of God's forgiveness.  If anyone is interested in participating in this rite as we move toward Easter, please feel free to contact the rector.  A short brochure describing this sacrament can be found on the Welcome Table in the Nave Extension.

At Home throughout Lent:

Set a concrete goal to spend approximately 10 minutes everyday to reflect, pray, and make decisions to move in new directions.  Instead of saying, "I'm going to spend time reflecting daily," say "At 6:00 a.m., Monday through Saturday, I will sit down at my desk for 10 minutes to read and reflect."

Use a daily Lenten devotional.

To help make this Lenten season especially meaningful for you, St. Stephen's will have available Forward Day By Day and a new booklet from Episcopal Relief and Development called, Countdown to the Cross.  Both are available in the Nave Extension.

Lead daily evening Lenten devotions with your family.  Share your learnings during Lent with friends

Focus on taking action.
Engage in acts of mercy and charity.
Make a gift in compassion for hungry people living in poverty by using a Hope Chest to collect weekly offerings

Christian Education

God’s various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit.  God’s various ministries are carried out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit.  God’s various expressions of power are in action everywhere; but God himself is behind it all. 
(1 Corinthians 12:4-6 MSG)

Some years ago, I attended a workshop on small church ministry at the annual APCE (Association of Presbyterian Church Educators) conference.  Going through some papers recently in one of my onslaughts on the ever-mounting pile of bits and pieces I save for future reference, I found this and thought to use it here as a respite from my monthly reiteration of what’s happening in our classrooms.

Here are some excerpts from A Litany on Small Church Ministry written by Lisa Salita, a seminary student. 

There are small churches that need revitalization and encouragement and help in finding a new vision and there are small churches that know who they are, who they serve and who they are called to be.

There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.  (Philippians 1:6)

The small church is like a family – joys, concerns, illnesses and needs are known and tended to.  Members know and take care of each other.  Meals are delivered and garden harvests are shared.

Be good friends who love deeply… Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant… be inventive in hospitality.  (Romans 12:13, 16)

The staff of a small church wear many hats – preacher, pastor, teacher, secretary, plumber.  The tasks are many and varied but the calling is a gift for one who appreciates the church’s unique identify with its strengths and weaknesses and who finds ‘this is truly my home; these people are my family.’

Every time you cross my mind, I break out in exclamations of thanks to God.  Each exclamation is a trigger to prayer.  I find myself praying for you with a glad heart.  I am so pleased that you have continued on in this with us, believing and proclaiming God’s Message, from the day you heard it right up to the present.  (Philippians 1:3-4)

In my role in the denomination to which I am called to preach (Reformed Church in America), and in the one in which I am called to teach (The Episcopal Church), I find this litany resonating in every fiber of my being. As an itinerant lay preacher, I am often called to small church pulpits; as a Christian educator I have also been called to work in small to mid-sized churches.  I cannot say enough about the genuine warmth and friendship which emanates from these congregations; it is remarkable and soul charging – and greatly appreciated.

Miranda Rand. Christian Education Director
(518-393-5047 home; 518-229-5105 cell)

ROXBURY FARM CSA (Community Supported Agriculture)

Are you interested in fresh, local organic produce delivered weekly to St. Stephen’s?  If so, Roxbury Farm still has openings for members.  You may obtain information and enrollment forms on the farm’s website, http://www.roxburyfarm.com , in the nave extension, or from Richey Woodzell. 

From their website: 

Roxbury Farm is a community supported farm; a partnership between the farmers and the customers.  Through this partnership we can work together to create a food system that works for everyone.   Our customers know where their food comes from and who grows their food.  They have a direct relationship with the farmers and the land.  Our customers trust us to farm in a regenerative way and to produce the freshest and highest quality food possible at a fair price.  

We have a guaranteed market for our products and we receive a fair price.  This allows us to pay better wages to people working on the farm, use regenerative farming practices, raise our livestock humanely, and to share our farming knowledge with other farmers.  We want our farm to be here for our customers for generations to come.    
The customer/farmer partnership reduces waste in the food system.  We only grow what our customers need.  We can deliver tomatoes and potatoes of all sizes instead of perfectly round tomatoes and potatoes all of the same size.  All our CSA distribution sites are connected to a food pantry or food bank.  All produce that remains at the end of a pick-up is donated in order to provide access to fresh produce to all members of the community.  Each year this partnership donates $100,000 worth of produce to Hudson Valley and NYC food pantries. 

All of the vegetables are grown at Roxbury Farm, a 400-acre family farm in Kinderhook, NY, using organic and sustainable practices.  The produce includes lettuces and many varieties of greens, tomatoes, corn, green beans, snap peas, summer and winter squash, potatoes and herbs, to name just a few.

A full share provides 15-20 pounds of vegetables per week for 24 weeks, enough for 2 adults on a vegetable-based diet.  The cost is $627, which can be paid in installments.  There is also a 3-hour work requirement per share, which is usually done by opening or closing the site a couple times.  For an additional $75, you may purchase a fruit share, and for $125, you may sign up for the winter share, which is three 30-lb. boxes of root crops, winter squash and cabbage, delivered in December, January and February.  CSA members may also purchase pastured pork and grass-fed lamb and beef raised on the farm, as well as chicken through Yundwell Pastured Poultry.  The meat products are certified Animal Welfare Approved for humane animal husbandry.

You can sign up for delivery at the Schenectady site at St. Stephen’s or the Glenville site at Immaculate Conception Church, Route 50.  Pick-ups are Tuesdays, June 5 – November 13, 4-6:30 p.m.

If a whole share is too much, consider a half-share – find someone to split a share with you!
Or buy a full share and donate the other half to the SICM pantry!

We have invited one or more of the farmers to give a presentation at St. Stephen’s soon. 
Watch for the date & time and bring a friend!

Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supperpancakes

Don't miss the traditional Pancake Supper on Tuesday, February 13th from 5-7pm at St. Stephen's marking the last time for festivities before Lent begins, on Wednesday!

Menu includes pancakes, sausages and a beverage.  The price includes all you can eat!

Bring your family, your friends and your appetite!  Volunteers are needed to help cook, serve and clean up.


Ash Wednesday Service

Ash Wednesday is February 14th  with the Imposition of Ashes and Eucharist as follows:

12:30 noon
7:30 p.m.


Services will be held at various times so that each Christian can observe the beginning of this penitential period which leads us into our celebration on Easter Day. Barring illness, every Christian certainly will be in church on Ash Wednesday to begin his/her disciplined preparation for a meaningful celebration of Easter.


chaplainOn February 3rd the Episcopal Church commemorates the deaths of the four Dorchester chaplains. 

With Nazi submarines sinking ships faster than the Allied forces could replace them, the troop ship SS Dorchester steamed out of New York harbor with 902 men headed for Greenland.  Among those leaving anxious families behind were four chaplains, Methodist preacher George Fox, Rabbi Alexander Goode, Catholic priest John Washington, and Reformed Church minister Clark Poling.  The Rev. Poling was a pastor of 1st Reformed Church in Schenectady before he joined the navy.

On the night of February 3, 1943, the U.S.A.T. Dorchester was torpedoed off Greenland. Some 150 miles from their destination, submarine U‑456 caught the Dorchester in its cross hairs.  Within moments of the torpedo's impact, stunned men were pouring out from their bunks as the ship began listing.  With power cut off, the escort vessels, unaware of the unfolding tragedy, pushed on in the darkness.  On board, chaos reigned as panicky men came up from the hold without life jackets and leapt into overcrowded lifeboats.

As the four chaplains arrived on the steeply sloping deck they began guiding the men to their boat stations.  They opened a storage locker, distributed life jackets, and coaxed the men over the side.  When Petty Officer John Mahoney turned back to retrieve his gloves, Rabbi Goode responded, "Never mind. I have two pairs."  Only later did Mahoney realize that the Rabbi was not conveniently carrying an extra pair; he was giving up his own.

In the icy, oil‑smeared water, Pvt. William Bednar heard the chaplains preaching courage and found the strength to swim out from under the ship until he reached a life raft.  Still on board, Grady Clark watched in awe as the chaplains handed out the last life jacket and then, with ultimate selflessness, gave away their own.  As Clark slipped into the waters he looked back at an unforgettable sight:  the four chaplains standing‑‑their arms linked‑‑praying, in Latin, Hebrew, and English.  Other men, now serene, joined them in a huddle as the Dorchester slid beneath the sea.  "It was the finest thing I have ever seen or hope to see this side of heaven," said John Ladd, another of the 230 survivors.  ("Social Psychology, 5th ed.," David G. Myers, McGraw Hill, 1996)

Although good men were lost that night, more than 200 were saved, thanks in many ways to the four chaplains.

Each year the American Legion commemorate their sacrifice with Four  Chaplain's Sunday. In this spirit, the legion's message is "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."

There is a Chapel commemorating the life and death of The Rev. Poling in the 1st Reformed Church.

OTH Gang Project

On Tuesday January 9th with the arrival of new Episcopal Church welcome signs and a break in the weather, the Over the Hill Gang replaced the weather beaten sign at the corner of Union and Garner Avenue.    The other new sign will replace the one up on Nott Street once we can remove the rusted on bolts from the old sign.   The photos show the before and after results of our work with George taking down the old sign and George and Austin smiling once the new one's in place.

Thanks Ron Stefansky for the article & photos! And they already did the second sign.

Old sign
Old sign down...
new sign
New sign up!


Denise, our Treasurer and now member of the vestry. Thanks for your service, Denise.
Jim Syta, stepping down as Warden. Thanks for taking on this leadership role, Jim.
Bruce and Jane, now celebrating 65 years of marriage. They've been in the choir almost that long. I'm sure they hold that record.

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, Dan Ruscitto; Jr. Warden, Linda Emaelaf
Clerk: Elissa Prout; Treasurer: Denise Crates

Vestry  Class of 2018
Liz Varno, Mary Alexander, Jean Stefanski

Vestry Class of 2019
Stephanie Grimason, Mary Ann Harrington, Jamie Cooke

Vestry Class of 2020
Theresa Fay, Denise Crates

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.