February, 2021

From the Rector

Dear Family and Friends,
For me, Ash Wednesday is one of the spiritually/pastorally moving services of the year. In a year when we’ve already forgone Holy Week, Easter, and the whole Christmas cycle, it could be just another loss. But it doesn’t have to be.

Ashes blessed for use on Ash Wednesday are a sign of penitence and a reminder of mortality. The Hebrew scriptures frequently mention the use of ashes as an expression of humiliation and sorrow. Ashes for use on Ash Wednesday are made from burned palms from previous Palm Sunday services. Ashes are imposed on the penitent’s forehead with the words, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

However, as COVID-19 cases continue to soar, churches are left with the task of reenvisioning these liturgical markers while keeping faithful to their importance and meaning in the community of faith. This Ash Wednesday I am suggesting that St. Stephen’s members impose their own ashes. Before February 17th in the USPS mail, you will receive a small packet of ashes and a bulletin for Ash Wednesday. On that day you will receive a link to a pre-recorded service at the church. At a designated time I will invite you to put ashes on your foreheads and, if appropriate, those of your family. In this way the whole scattered church can participate in the prayer and in the ritual act.
On Ash Wednesday we are called, with the grainy push of ash to our skin, to begin a season of truth-finding and heart-searching – especially in the midst of this pandemic.

Be of good courage. We are in this together, and we will be together again soon.
God bless you and may God be with us in the days ahead.


In February

Make 2021 Lent Meaningful

Lent is one of the oldest observances in the annual Christian calendar. Like all Christian celebrations, Lent has changed over the years, but its purpose has remained the same: selfexamination and penitence, demonstrated by self-denial and acts of compassion, in preparation for the celebration of Easter. Here are some suggestions for making your Lenten observance meaningful and enriching. Put Lent on your daily activity calendar. This year the Lent season starts on Feb. 17 (Ash Wednesday) and ends with Easter.

Set a concrete goal to spend approximately 10 minutes every day to reflect, pray, and make decisions to move in new directions. Instead of saying, “I’m going to spend time reflecting daily,” say “At 6:00am, 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, which is available in the church or can be delivered to you, and Episcopal Relief & Development’s online 2021 Lenten Meditations.

Join others in Lent via the computer.Participate in the Lenten activities through St. Stephen’s: Stations of the Cross on PowerPoint and a Lenten retreat via Zoom to be announced.

Lead daily evening Lenten devotions with your family. Share your learnings during Lent with friends – safely, of course.

Focus on taking action. Engage in acts of mercy and charity. Make a gift in compassion for hungry people living in poverty. Through your giving, you can be the hands, feet, and heart of Christ for a hungry world. Your giving helps Episcopal Relief and Development to find longterm solutions to people who are hungry, while caring for the immediate problem of hunger.


Book Club
Book club will meet on ZOOM on February 9th at 12:30pm . We are reading a book of our own choice this month . I will send out an email the day before with the zoom connection . If you are new and would like to join us please contact Vicki Hoshko.

Press Releases from Episcopal Relief & Development
January 26, 2021
Episcopal Relief & Development has received a $188,436 three-year grant from the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women (UN Trust Fund), in partnership and with funding through the European Union and United Nations Spotlight Initiative. The grant will focus on strengthening the organization’s existing program partnership with the Episcopal Church of Liberia Relief & Development (ECLRD) to address violence against women and girls in the
context of the COVID-19 pandemic. If you’d like to read more, visit

January 19, 2021
In response to the unprecedented events of the past year, Episcopal Relief &
Development’s 2021 Lenten Meditations share deeply personal reflections on the theme of lament from a diverse group of writers. Many of the authors share experiences related to a variety of issues including disease, violence, racial injustice and poverty. “2020 was a deeply challenging year for many, filled with losses,” said Sean McConnell, Senior Director, Engagement, Episcopal Relief & Development. “We hope our supporters will use the 2021 Lenten Meditations to guide them through the four steps of lament and to help them heal
and grow.”

The meditations follow the “Four Steps of Lament” outlined by author and speaker Heidi Weaver:
● Rest, to take sabbath time to simply be present to our current situation
● Reflect on that which has been lost
● Repent for the sufferings and loss we have caused or overlooked
● make Restitution and be Restored to God and to one another
The authors of the meditations are all leaders in The Episcopal Church and represent diverse perspectives, ministries and backgrounds. The 2021 meditations are available online to download, instead of being printed in a booklet as in past years.

February Anniversaries
Birthday: Dan Schuldt (2/2), Patrica Jones (2/8), Donald Regula (2/12), Marilyn Causey (2/14), James Christian (2/18), Jane Tatge (2/18), Mary Alexander (2/19), Christine Nelson (2/19), Teddy Ruscitto (2/19), Joan Halstead (2/25), Liz Pratico (2/28)
Baptism: Leah Christian (2/15), Matilda Cooke (2/16), Donald Regula (2/28)
Wedding: Paul & Allison de Kanel (2/7), Christine & Keith Nelson (2/10), Jamie & Kati Cooke (2/20), Lisa & James McDonald (2/20)

Christian Education

January was a month that required great flexibility by all of our wonderful families. We ended up meeting in person on and off, but were mainly virtual due to a revolving door of quarantining and COVID testing. We were still able to make lunches for Street Soldiers Schenectady at the beginning of the month, and plan to do so again on February 7 at 11:00 (we welcome help from
any or all for this event – email if you’d like more information or want to join!). Making these lunches has been a highlight of our times together, for sure. Whether in person or on Zoom the kids and I have had wonderful conversations and learned from the Bible stories we have
read, from both the Old and the New Testament. We discussed the many trips taken throughout the Christmas story and how those trips are much different than ones we take nowadays. (Some of the kiddos were appalled to hear there were no bathrooms or rest stops for the weary travelers!) We also talked about Samuel, and how we can listen for God’s voice or presence in our life. Last week we watched a video on Jonah and the Whale and talked about how it’s never too late to make a “u turn” and make better decisions or say I’m sorry.

Coming up in the month of February we will continue to meet weekly (stay tuned for in person vs. zoom decisions) until February break, when we will take a quick pause. This month we will be talking about prayer, and focusing on the beginning of the Lenten season, leading up to Easter.

Sunday School Class Schedule: 2/7, 2/28
Street Soldier’s Lunch Making: 2/7 @ 11 am
Family Event: Stay tuned – hoping to plan a sledding or snowman building event if the weather cooperates.

Adult Education

Tuesday Morning Seminar: Great Ideas of Philosophy

February 2 William James’s Pragmatism. Working in the realm of common sense, James directed the attention of philosophy and science to that ultimate arena of confirmation in which our deepest and most enduring interests are found.
February 9 Wittgenstein and the Discursive Turn Meaning arises from conventions that presuppose not only a social world but a world in which we share the interests and aspirations of others.
February 23 Alan Turing in the Forest of Wisdom Turing is famous for breaking Germany’s famed World War II Enigma code, but, as a founder of modern computational science, he also wrote influentially about the possibilities of breaking the mind’s code.

Zoom classes are held on Tuesday mornings from 10:30am – noon and are open to all. Please email the rector for the link.

Thursday Morning Project: The Liturgical Cantata Project

Each week we examine the cantata that Bach wrote for the coming Sunday. Especially, we will explore the relationship of text and music. This course is intended for music lovers who wish to learn more about this great canon of works and for students exploring the context, structure and inventive processes they exemplify.

February 4 5 Epiphany – Sexagesimae BWV 126
February 11 Last Epiphany – Estomihi BWV 127
February 25 1 Lent- St John Passion Arrest (1–5) (John 18:1–11)

Zoom classes are held on Thursday mornings from 10:30am – noon and are open to all. Please email the rector for the link.

Wednesday Morning Bible Study: Introduction to the Hebrew Scriptures

This course is an introduction to the Old Testament and tells the epic story of the Jews and the creation of the world’s first and most profoundly influential monotheistic religion. The stories of the patriarch Abraham, the liberator Moses, the poet-king David and his son Solomon all come to life in the dramatic tale of loss and triumph that shaped humanity’s basic moral struggle for
more than three millennia.

February 3 Isaac
February 10 The Jacob Saga
February 24 Folklore Analysis and Type Scenes

Zoom classes are held on Wednesday mornings from 10:30am – noon and are open to all. Please email the rector for the link.

St. Stephen’s Church
The Rev. Dr. James R. McDonald, Rector, The Rev. Dennie Bennett,
Assisting Priest, The Rev. Patricia L. Jones, Deacon Emeritus, Allison de Kanel, Lay Reader
Susan Lohnas, Organist, Douglas Lohnas, Choir Director,
Laura Bynon and Chris Quinn, Nursery School
Bethany Schuldt, Christian Education Director, Office Manager
Joe and Donna White, Custodians
Sr. Warden, Budd Mazurek; Jr. Warden, Doreen May; Clerk: Tammy Ruscitto; Treasurer, Denise Crates
Vestry Class of 2021 Dan Schuldt, Jean Stefanski
Vestry Class of 2022 Vicki Hoshko, Carole Merrill-Mazurek
Vestry Class of 2023 Erin Cohen, Denise Crates, Tammy Ruscitto.
Our office is located at 1229 Baker Avenue.
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