Upcoming Congregational Activities and Events
Thursday, December 24: Christmas Eve Services
4:00pm Family-Oriented Service with Music
8:30pm Musical Prelude and Carol Singing
9:00pm Festive Eucharist with Music
Sunday, December 27: AWAKE, AWARE, and ALIVE will NOT meet
Wednesday, January 6: 6:30pm Epiphany Service
Sunday, January 17: 10:30am -African American Voices Gospel choir will provide music
Sunday, January 24: 10:30am -Illuminati (CGMC) will provide music
January 21-22: Trinity Institute: Sacred Conversations for Racial Justice -St. Philip’s Columbus
Sunday, January 30: Speaker Series will feature the Rt. Rev. Thomas Breidenthal, Bishop of the Diocese of Southern Ohio, speaking on ” Manna for Exodus: Reflections on Baptism and Eucharist” . The presentation will include discussion of the Open Table. We will begin at 12 noon with a light lunch, followed at 1 pm by lecture and discussion. The event will conclude at 2:30 pm. The Speaker Series is open to both congregation and the larger community.
Interim Rector Away
The Interim Rector will be on vacation from Dec. 25-31. If an emergency occurs, please call The Rev. Deacon Pam Elwell at 614- 736-1204. Pam will then get in touch with the priest on call that day. Sharing the on-call rota will be the Rev. Michael Jupin, the Rev. Bruce Smith, and the Rev. Karl Stevens.
Holiday Hours: Parish Office
The Parish Office will be closed on Thursday, December 24. The Office will also be closed December 29 through January 1. Meghan will check email and voicemail periodically during this time. In an emergency, during regular office hours (Monday-Thursday 9am-2pm) Meghan can be reached by calling the church number 614-294-3749 and pressing option 2, which will forward to her personal phone. If your (non-pastoral) emergency occurs outside of those hours, the Jr. Warden, Mike Harbin will be on call
Ponderings of the Interim Rector
In that region there were shepherds keeping their flocks by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.” Luke 2: 8-9
I would have been terrified myself, if angels had appeared in the full glory of God-I’m imagining bright light and heavenly chorus…and, like the shepherds, I would probably have felt compelled to at least go see what was up in Bethlehem. The following is adapted from a meditation by Hilary McDowell in On the Way to Bethlehem.
Once again we find ourselves with the shepherds. This time it is a grandfather talking to his grandson, whom he is training to follow in his footsteps. They stand by the sheep pen, nothing like modern sheepfolds, but the first century kind. A simple enclosure, embanked with dirt and with a gap for entering and exiting. No door, no gate.
“Grandad,” said the child, ” what if a wolf comes, or a wild cat?”
” It must pass you first, before it gets a sheep.”
The boys eyes opened wide in fear. ” But, Grandad, it might get me, and then the sheep.”
The old man’s face remained serious. ” It might, ” he said, ” so you’d better make sure it doesn’t get through the gap, eh?”
At the woeful look on the child’s face, the old man whispered gently, ” That’s what it means to be a shepherd, son.”
” So, it’s a dangerous occupation, sheep-keeping?”
“Not as terrifying as the night I first met the eternal shepherd,” he replied.
” Tell me.”
The old shepherd fixed his eyes on the hills and began, ” How would you like to be sitting, sleepless, on a dark hillside for half the night struggling to keep your eyes open? Your body is numbed with the cold and lack of sleep, your brain, too, yet you know that you are the only thing standing between your sheep and attack, perhaps even death. Suddenly the silence is shattered with deafening noise and a light so blinding you can’t even see the animals anymore.”
“I’d be scared.”
“Scared?” He grimaced. ” I was terrified and the other men, too. We didn’t wait until morning. Ran the whole way down to Bethlehem. Took the sheep with us. We had to see if it was true. If he’d really come, the Messiah, if the prophecy had been fulfilled….don’t you go trailing your livelihood after you in the night, it does the sheep no good!”
” But, Grandad, you…”
” Yes, yes, I know I did, but a thing like that doesn’t happen twice in a lifetime—God bringing the choir to give you a message!”
” And in the stable?” he asked.
“Just a baby and his parents. The animals got a drink though. For that we were grateful.”
“Were you disappointed?”
” Well, the angels said he was the one. So we just had to have faith, didn’t we? Years after, we heard what happened to him. Terrible it was, an awful death. But it was then we knew it was true. He called himself the shepherd, that baby, when he’d grown. A shepherd doesn’t stop at anything to save his sheep. We know. Yes, it was him alright. We were right to believe. No, we haven’t been disappointed.”
So, we just had to have faith, didn’t we? God still calls us to that mystifying faith, faith in what is not yet seen or revealed. Faith that God’s joy and peace will always trump darkness, violence, and injustice. May God grant us grace to believe in God’s promises as revealed in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
AWAKE, AWARE, ALIVE
AWAKE and AWARE will NOT met this Sunday, December 27. Both will resume on Sunday, January 10.
ALIVE, the after church meeting, will resume on Sunday, January 17. We will be going over points from Bishop John Shelby Spong’s book, ‘Re-Claiming the Bible for the Non-Religious.’
Wednesday Midday Prayer
Midday Prayer will NOT meet on December 30. We will resume on January 6 at 12:30pm, all are welcome!
From the Finance Committee regarding YEAR – END CONTRIBUTIONS
Please make sure that any 2015 contributions are post marked on or before December 31st, placed in the offering plate on Sunday, December 27th , or hand-delivered to the church office by making arrangements with the Parish Administrator in advance.
The IRS requires that all pledges or donations collected on the first Sunday in January (whether they are intended for your 2015 OR 2016 pledge AND regardless of the check date) be reported as 2016 contributions for income tax purposes. If you have any questions about this, please contact Wayne Sheppard
In support of St. Stephen’s commitment to diversity, the Diocese has agreed to sponsor an Anti-Racism workshop at St. Stephen’s on Sat., Feb. 13th, from 9am-4 pm. The workshop will be facilitated by Debby Stokes (St. Philip’s) and Faith Perrizo. Registration for the event can be found at: http://diosohio.org/events/event/anti-racism-training-6/
Absalom Jones Celebration: The Most Rev. Michael Curry
Our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, will be part of the Absalom Jones celebration on Sat., Feb. 6th, at St. Philip’s Church in Columbus. The Rev. Absalom Jones was the first African- American to be priested in the U.S. in 1804. Although the event is free, St. Philip’s is asking for registrations so they know how many for lunch. Please go to the St. Philip’s website to register (scroll down to the bottom and click on More under the Absalom Jones event.
Mark Your Calendars Now!
St. Stephen’s is partnering with St. Philip’s Episcopal Church to sponsor the Trinity Institute Jan. 21-23. The topic for 2016 is Listening For a Change: Sacred Conversations for Racial Justice. Information about times of the several different presentations will be sent out after the first of the year, as well as a registration link. Speakers for this years conference include: Nicholas Kristof ( NY Times columnist), Anna Deavere Smith ( playwrite, professor, actor), Emilie Townes ( dean of Vanderbuilt Divinity School), the Most Rev. Michael Curry ( Presiding Bishop), Michele Norris, the Rev. Kelly Brown Douglas, and Victor Rios.
Book Club News: January 2016 Plans
The first Book Club meeting of 2016 will be on Wednesday, January 13 starting at 6:30 PM at Kaethe Sandman/Pete Anderson’s home. As in 2015, Book Club will meet on the second Wednesday of each month in 2016, so mark your calendar for the year and plan to join in the fun! At the January meeting we will be planning books for the year. Each person attending is asked to suggest one or two book titles for book club discussion. The only 2 rules are 1) you must already have read the book you are recommending, so that you know it will provide a good basis for discussion, and 2) the book must either be available for purchase in paperback or available in large quantity of readily obtainable copies at the local library. All types of books, fiction and non-fiction, are welcome. Do plan to attend to help select the reading list for the year. Even if your book is not selected for book club discussion, it will go on a list of recommendations for the entire group.
For the January meeting, please kindly contact Kaethe in advance to let her know if you plan to attend. We will share a potluck dinner. You are invited to bring a main dish, side dish, bread, dessert or beverage to share. Everyone is welcome!