The Messenger is the monthly newsletter published by St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Schenectady with news, happenings, opinion, announcements, and whatever else comes along.
One of the great leaders of the Episcopal Church in a past generation, Bishop Stephen Bayne, had some sage words on the month we are now entering: “January, I have long felt, is a month without which life would be greatly improved. Annual reports, final days of reckoning with postponed business, new budgets, clearing out of files…to say nothing of Christmas bills and the like…it is a miserable, harassed, sniveling, crass, overbearing, worldly wretch of a month.”
That may be a little harsh, but I think Bishop Bayne has the right idea. Still, at least around the parish, I see some redeeming signs of life in the depths of this winter.
For one thing, the bitter cold and many feet of snow seem to bring out the best in people. Maybe because it’s harder to get out, and harder to get together, it seems better when we do. For all the busy-ness of this month, and all of the winter chill, I find the ‘being with people’ on Sunday, and other times, especially rich.
I am heartened, too, in preparing the Annual Report for the Annual Parish Meeting. I am amazed by the amount of energy and activity going on in this place, and by the remarkable generosity of spirit and time with which people give of themselves.
But maybe I value January most of all because it seems like a new beginning, and that’s something I can always use. I start into this new year resolved to be doing all that I can to build us into a genuinely supportive family of Christians, finding ways for us to be together, challenging us to connect ourselves more deeply to Christ and to each other, exploring together how best to minister to the world in Christ’s name.
January permits such resolutions. I guess I’ll be glad when the month is over, but I hope that the good things: the people, the community, the dreams of the year will carry us on as we make the snowy trek toward spring.
Christmas Eve was beautiful & grace‑filled – What a joyous Christmas it has been. More people at the Christmas Vigil (Eve) than last year. The Christmas Offering was over budget. Christmas flower offering was as large as ever. How wonderful to have everyone having a share in the Festival. Special thanks:
…to the Altar Guild and to brass polishers par excellence who polished all the brass in the church, and made Christmas Day beautiful with flower arrangements.
……. to Miranda Rand, our education director & to Allison de Kanel and all those who showed us a wonderful Christmas pageant
…to those who helped in the “Greening of the Church”
…to Susan and Doug Lohnas, our music directors, the choir members, the bell ringers and the instrumental ensemble who gifted us with glorious music and helped to make Christmas Eve joyous.
…To the lectors, chalice bearers and acolytes who made our worship possible.
…to all those who helped in the toddler and nursery rooms.
…to the ushers and to the offering counters.
…to our office helpers who worked so hard to prepare bulletins and make other arrangements.
…to Joe and Donna, our sextons, who made the church shine.
Keep it up! Let’s use the remaining days of the Christmas season to rejoice with one another as we say: ALLELUIA, CHRIST IS BORN!
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 prominent. 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 5th at 8:00 am 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 email@example.com if you would like to have your home blessed.
A Reflection for Epiphany
“[Because] In the mystery of the Word made flesh, you have caused a new light to shine in our hearts, to give the knowledge of your glory in the face of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.” Epiphany Preface
Reflection: God has caused a new light to shine in our hearts. We may not be able to see this light in ourselves, but we recognize it in other people.
Imagine this light within you.
- Is it glowing like a coal?
- Is it a rising like a candle flame?
- Does it always burn, or must it sometimes be relit?
Now imagine the face of Jesus Christ.
- Do you see Jesus as an infant in the manger, or in his mother’s arms?
- Do you see Jesus as a man, walking the dusty roads of Galilee?
- Do you see the suffering Jesus on the Cross?
- Do you see Jesus at the Resurrection?
- Do you see Jesus in a homeless beggar, sleeping under a bridge?
In whichever Jesus you imagine, where is the glory? Is it easy to see?
How can you share the light within you in your daily life? In what way do you glorify God?
January 26th – Annual Parish Meeting will be held on Sunday January 26, 2020 at 11:30am in Begley Hall. Please mark your calendars and plan to attend. Childcare will be provided.
Vestry Nominating Committee Appointed – The vestry has appointed the class of 2020 members of the vestry Theresa Fay, Denise Crates, Erin Cohen with Linda Emaelaf as chair. 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 2022
1 ‑ Warden – two year term
1 – Clerk (Secretary) – One Year Term
Requirements for Vestry Membership – Basically there are only three 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.
Every Member Canvass Report: We have 52 pledges for $ 149,430
This includes: 8 remaining the same
8 new pledges
7 decreased pledges
29 increased pledges
10 pledges from last year have not been received.
36 pledge cards sent this year to non-pledgers last year
Last year at the time of the Annual Meeting we had:
61 pledges for $ 147,450
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.
Inquirer’s Classes are a basic five-week course which is held in an informal atmosphere and taught by the rector. For those who are new to the Episcopal Church, or looking for a new spiritual home, this course will provide an introduction to the Church ‑‑ its history, beliefs, worship, and work in the world. Or, if you were confirmed earlier in life, and wish to renew your commitment at an adult level, consider this course as a part of your continuing Christian education. The course is required for all who wish to be confirmed or received into the church.
These classes are held on Sundays at noon on January 5, 12, 19 and February 2 in the rector’s office.
ADULT EDUCATION: Sunday Morning Forum: Living the Questions – This course brings together over thirty highly acclaimed scholars, theologians and other experts in a video exploration of an open, inclusive, broad-minded Christianity. Themes that will be covered include: Taking the Bible Seriously; Thinking Theologically; Stories of Creation; The Lives of Jesus and A Passion for Christ: Paul. By living the questions we explore our own path of discovery, growth, and gratitude for the wonder of it all. Each class begins by viewing a video featuring several acclaimed scholars, theologians and other experts and concludes by having a class discussion about that week’s theme. Classes are held on Sunday Mornings from 9-10 in the Conference Room.
Jan. 5 – Restoring Relationships
Jan. 12 – The Prophetic Jesus
Jan. 19 – 10 Evil Suffering and a God of Love
Jan. 26 – The Myth of Redemptive Violence
ADULT EDUCATION: Wednesday Evening Bible Study: Great Figures of the New Testament – Over the year this course examines a different biblical figure each week. We will begin by watching a presentation by Professor Amy-Jill Levine of the Vanderbilt University Divinity School. We will conclude with a class discussion about that week’s figure. Classes are held on Wednesday evenings from 7:30 to 8:30 in the Conference room. Contact the rector at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to attend.
Jan. 8 – The Herodians
Jan. 15 – Judas Iscariot
Jan. 22 – Pontius Pilate
Jan. 29 – James
ADULT EDUCATION: Thursday Morning Seminar: The Liturgical Cantata Project
Each week we examine the cantata that Bach wrote for the coming Sunday. Especially, we 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. Classes are held on Thursday mornings from 10:30am – noon in the Conference room. Contact the rector at email@example.com if you would like to attend.
Jan. 9 – 1 Epiphany BWV 154
Jan. 16 – 2 Epiphany BWV 155
Jan. 23 – 3 Epiphany BWV 73
Jan. 30 – 4 Epiphany BWV 81
ADULT EDUCATION: Tuesday Morning Seminar: Science and Philosophy/Theology – Two crucial forces, science and philosophy/theology, helped shape Western civilization and continue to interact in our daily lives. What is the nature of their relationship? When do they conflict, and how do they influence each other in pursuit of knowledge and truth? Contrary to prevailing notions that they must perpetually clash, science and philosophy/theology have actually been partners in an age-old adventure. This course covers both the historical sweep and philosophical/theological flashpoints of this epic interaction. Classes are held on Tuesday mornings from 10:30am – 12:00pm in the Conference room. Contact the rector at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to attend.
Jan. 7 – Aristotle on Friendship
Jan. 14 – Aristotle on the Perfect Life
Jan. 21 – The Stoics, and the Rule of Law
Jan. 28 – The Stoic Bridge to Christianity
Jam Money Jar – Thanks to all who put a few dollars into the jam money jar. I just sent $193 to SiCM to benefit the Food Pantry. There are lots of families in Schenectady who just don’t have enough food. It’s my pleasure to grow much of the fruit in that jam, and it’s your (and my) pleasure to spread it on our toast and in our peanut butter & jam sandwiches and to donate to SiCM, Chris Jones
Community Outreach – Thank you so much for all the items and money donated for Safe, Inc. during December. Wedelivered over 20 full bags of socks and underwear, towels and washcloths, toiletries, two flannel shirts, one backpack – and a box of chocolates! We’ll publish the total monetary donations after the end of the year.
Thank you also for the donations of soap and toilet paper for the SiCM Food Pantry during
December. Since January is National Soup Month, we will be collecting canned soups for the
pantry during January.
Monthly delivery of sandwiches to St. Joseph’s Place will resume in January. Please sign up in
the nave extension, where you will also find guidelines for ordering and delivery.
Mark your calendars for another MoonBee for The MoonCatcher Project in Begley Hall, on
Saturday February 1, 12-2 p.m. Come help make reusable menstrual pads for girls in Africa,
India and South America, giving them the opportunity to stay in school. If you use a sewing
machine, bring it! If not, there are jobs for everyone. All are welcome. Richey Woodzell
For the Holidays; the Self-Care Gift
The following was adapted from an article in the New York times, 12/17/2019 by Tara Parker-Pope based on a book by Haemin Sunim.
The obvious forms of self-care are exercising, eating well and getting enough sleep. But self-care also means taking time for yourself to manage stress and practicing self-compassion, along with mindfulness and meditation techniques. Most of us already know that self-care is good for us. Research shows that people who practice self-care have better quality of life, are admitted less frequently to a hospital, and live longer than those who report poor self-care.
While self-care is a simple concept, it can be remarkably difficult to enact! It may feel selfish or too time-consuming to focus on your own needs, and many of us don’t know where or how to start. Here is a simple five-step plan to give yourself the gift of self-care this holiday season.
Breathe – Start by just taking a deep breath. Become mindful of your breathing. You’ll notice that when you begin, your breathing is shorter and more shallow, but as you continue, your breathing becomes deeper. Take just a few minutes each day to focus on your breathing. As breathing becomes much deeper, pay attention to it, and try to feel more centered and calm.
Accept – Acceptance – of ourselves, our feelings and of life’s imperfections. The path to self-care starts with acceptance, especially of our struggles. If we accept the struggling self, our state of mind will soon undergo a change. When we regard our difficult emotions as a problem and try to overcome them, we only struggle more. In contrast, when we accept them, strangely enough our mind stops struggling and. suddenly grows quiet. Rather than trying to change or control difficult
emotions from the inside, allow them to be there, and your mind will rest.”
Write – Begin to practice acceptance through a simple writing exercise. Write down the things in your life that are weighing on you, and the things you need to do. Rather than trying to carry those heavy burdens in your heart or your head, you see clearly on paper what it is you need to do. Whether the issue is work, family demands or holiday stress, the goal is to leave it all on the paper. Now go to bed, and when you wake up, choose the easiest task on the list to complete.
Talk – Never underestimate the value of meaningful conversation for your well-being. Make time on a regular basis for a close, nonjudgmental friend. If you feel frustrated or angry, look for a close friend and buy them coffee or lunch or dinner. Choose someone who will listen without any kind of judgment. Talking through your feelings will give you insights into your own needs. You already know the answer. It’s just that you haven’t had the opportunity to clearly relive the story. Once the story is released, you can see it more objectively, and you will know what it is you need to do.
Walk – An easy way to care for yourself is to take walk. Just walking can distract your mind and create space between you and whatever is causing stress. Walking can be an incredible resource for healing. When you sit around thinking about upsetting things, it will not help you. If you start walking, our physical energy changes and rather than dwelling on that story, you pay attention to nature – a tree trunk, a rock. You begin to see things more objectively, and oftentimes that stress within your body will be released.
MLK Coalition 34th Anniversary Celebration – will be held on Sunday, January 19, 2020 at SUNY Schenectady in the Carl B. Taylor Auditorium in Begley Hall. The program speaker, Congressman Antonio Delgado.
The “History Quilt” – Starting in February, the Fabricators and Yarners will be displaying blocks for the “History Quilt” with a small explanation of each block.
If anyone of the congregation has a remembrance or short story about the church or its outreach, we would like to hear from you. …….Fabricators and Yarners
St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church
The Rev. Dr. James R. McDonald, Rector,
The Rev. Dennie Bennett, Assisting Priest,
The Rev. Patricia L. Jones, Deacon,
Allison de Kanel, Lay Reader
Miranda Rand, Christian Education Director,
Susan Lohnas, Organist, Douglas Lohnas, Choir Director,
Laura Bynon and Chris Quinn, Nursery School
Pat Laviana, Sunday morning nursery
Joe and Donna White, Custodians
Sr. Warden, Linda Emaelaf; Jr. Warden, Liz Varno
Clerk: Elissa Prout; Treasurer: Denise Crates
Vestry Class of 2019
Stephanie Grimason, Mary Ann Harrington, Jamie Cooke
Vestry Class of 2020
Theresa Fay, Denise Crates, Erin Cohen
Vestry Class of 2021
Dan Schuldt, Jean Stefanski, Doreen May
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:
Our website is
The Messenger is published September – June.