Cub Scouts "Blue and Gold Dinner"

The Cub Scout award ceremony known as the Blue and Gold Dinner was held in April.  The Webelos (the oldest Cub Scouts -- 5th graders) "crossed over" to become Boy Scouts. The Boy Scout troop received three new boys this year.

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The Weblos literally cross over a bridge and are greeted by the senior Boy Scouts in leadership positions. They receive a Boy Scout Handbook to take with them over the bridge. It is like a "bible" to a scout, providing guidance and serving as a record for all his scouting career.

When the former Webelos are greeted on the other side by the troop they are given a Troop 94 neckerchief. 

Father Nils and Don Gregg handed out other Cub Scout awards earned over the course of the year.

Christmas Cookie Baking

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Our annual Christmas cookie bake-a-thon took place in early December, with many children from the parish taking part. They joined together to bake a variety of cookies, in addition to decorating two gingerbread houses. The cookies were presented to the parish after our Christmas Pageant. Thank you to our many industrious bakers!

Veterans Day dedication of two Civil War soldiers' new markers

On Veterans Day, two new grave markers were dedicated to two Civil War veterans resting in St. Stephen's cemetery.. The markers were granted by the Veterans Administration thanks to the dedication and research of George Pouder. Below are their eulogies, which were researched and delivered by George Pouder at the gravesides.

Eulogy for Albert Ransom

Albert Ransom was 19 when he enlisted, and had already fought along with his 120th Infantry at Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville and Gettysburg before he was captured at the Battle of The Wilderness.

He was held in an open field, the notorious cattle pen of Andersonville, Georgia. No buildings sheltered the captured Union soldiers in Andersonville, the water was polluted, the rations were meager and contaminated and their Confederate guards were trigger happy. The camp was planned to hold 10,000 prisoners, held 31,000 and eventually was overflowing with 45,000 . 13,000 Union prisoners died of starvation, exposure, infections of their wounds, dysentery, and lack of medical care.

Civil war soldiers (as well as some soldiers in other wars) frequently carried pocket editions of the Bible. The book was usually placed in the jacket pocket over the heart to protect it from bullets or shrapnel. Museums often display soldiers’ Bibles that had effectively stopped a bullet and saved a life.

I like to think that Albert was comforted by reading the psalms during his captivity. A line in Psalm 79 might have been his favorite.......
"let the sighing of the prisoners come before you and preserve those appointed to die”.

Yes, the sorrowful sighing of the prisoners. Ransom survived seven months imprisonment and then spent another seven months recuperating in a Philadelphia army hospital. He had persevered, but came home so tormented by his experience that he was unable to recall his time in Andersonville, or the regiment in which he had served.

Today we would call it PTSD.

He slept in obscurity in this unmarked grave for 110 years before he received the gravestone that he earned so dearly and we now see. Father Nils found an old cemetery map that showed the Ransom plot. Documenting his eligibility for a V.A. gravestone revealed many new facts about his life. They clearly portray a captive who suffered more than any other soldier in this cemetery. Without doubt, he is one of the most heroic of the Civil War veterans buried here.

Today we dedicate the army’s gravestone, a tribute to Corporal Albert Ransom, recognized at last. He takes his place, front and center, along with our 23 North Castle Civil War soldiers at peaceful rest in their churchyard bivouac.

Euology for William Freeland

Private William Freeland, farmer, came from a patriotic family. His older brother, John, answered President Lincoln’s appeal for volunteers in 1862. When his term expired in 1864 John reenlisted in his 5th New York Heavy Artillery.  William, 22, then decided to sign up to serve alongside his brother.

Their widowed mother, Maria, had depended on Billy’s help on the farm; now she would be left alone to raise her two young daughters, Sarah and Anne.

The soldiers have no relatives that could be located, so the U.S. Army honor guard presented the flag to George Pouder, who gave it to the St. Stephen's.

The soldiers have no relatives that could be located, so the U.S. Army honor guard presented the flag to George Pouder, who gave it to the St. Stephen's.

John survived the war but William died of typhoid in Harpers Ferry just seven months later. The army sent his body back to Armonk and Maria buried him here next to his father on November 4, 1864. She was given his only possessions, a small note book, a greenback dollar and the Bible he had carried in his pocket. Maria bought a gravestone for him and requested that it be engraved with two crossed cannon to proudly commemorate his service in the artillery. We have preserved his mother’s tribute to her son at the foot of his 2016 replacement.
It is comforting to know that after Billy died Maria was awarded a U.S. government mother’s pension that she received until her death in 1891.

At some unknown date Billy’s gravestone toppled forward and lay face down. After his mom died people soon forgot that a Civil War soldier was buried here. Bill seldom got his flag on Memorial Day.

Father Nils submitted the documentation and applied for a veteran’s gravestone for Freeland. The VA rejected the request because “the veteran already had a stone,” even though it was face down, had broken and could not be read. The application was resubmitted along with more data and the additional photos that persuaded the VA to approve the stone you see before you. It will be dedicated today.

Finally, here is closure for an American family’s tragedy. It is exactly 152 years ago this week since Billy came back home to North Castle to rest .

His artillery comrades Privates Ferris, Raymond, Riley, Mathers and two Stilsons surround him and share their last encampment.

Cemetery Tour a success!

Our first ever Cemetery Tour was a great success. Local actors played the parts of people who rest in the cemetery, and the various characters gave an overview of the history of the town and the people who've lived here. Kudos to all who joined in this effort, with special thanks to George Pouder, who did so much research into the history, and Pamela Sellers, who spearheaded the event.

A pastoral message about the election from Father Nils

Although I am a US resident, I am not a citizen, so I wasn't able to vote yesterday. If I'd had a vote I would have had no difficulty whatsoever in deciding how to use it. 

That having been said, I am a parish priest and I believe that it is important that I recognize that in our congregation and our community are people who voted for Donald Trump or for Hillary Clinton or for neither and did so motivated by the best of intentions for the common good of our country and world and who wish to see justice and righteousness prevail and people flourish. It is my earnest hope and prayer that, whether in victory or in defeat, you will be magnanimous, gracious and kind to your fellow human beings, many of whom may feel uncertain about what happens next.

And what does happen next? We have to ask this question because, whichever candidate we voted for, this election campaign and its outcome are - and have been throughout -  very far removed from normality. Uncertainty is the new certainty, and that is unsettling for everyone, of whatever political stripes.

At a time like this, more than ever, the Church needs to be true to the essence of its calling, and to recognize that every single person on earth - including all those for whom we may have the lowest regard - is made in the very image and likeness of God and is infinitely precious to him. 

Jesus Christ - the embodiment of the Word of God - is the same yesterday, today, tomorrow and for ever. Whatever happens, that is one thing that will never, ever change - no matter what.

So what happens next? We carry on being Christians. We carry on living the Way of Christ, which means that we love God, we love our neighbor as ourselves, which means that we forgive seventy times seven (a metaphor for infinity), that we remember that only the one without sin may cast the first stone, that we do not repay evil with evil, that we feed the hungry, that we care for the sick, that we clothe the naked, that we house the homeless, that we welcome the stranger in our land, that we do not judge others, that we visit those in prison and that we love others in the same way that God loves us - without condition, reservation or partiality.

In the words of Mother Julian of Norwich, "All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well".

Historic Cemetery Tour Saturday, November 5 at 4pm

The historic research has been done, the scripts are written and the actors are ready.  St. Stephen's is holding our first ever cemetery tour on Saturday, November 5 at 4pm. You will hear the stories of characters whose lives encompass the history of Armonk and St. Stephen's. Don't miss the excursion into our town's past!

Tickets can be purchased at the door, or on the home page of our web site.

Father Nils will speak on "The Evolution of Sacred Music" at St. Mary's

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On Sunday, October 23 at 5:30pm, Father Nils will speak on The Evolution of Sacred Music at St. Mary's Church . St. Mary's, built by farmers in the nineteenth century, is located at 197 Hickory Kingdom Road at the intersection with Middle Patent Road in Bedford

Nils' talk will show how music in the Christian Church has come a long way in two thousand years. After centuries of monophony (one line of music), there was a huge explosion of development about a thousand years ago, leading to the emergence of polyphony (several lines of music sung simultaneously). The evolution of church music hasn't stopped since. Music is perhaps the greatest of universal languages and has the capacity to bring people very close to God's presence. Indeed, St. Augustine famously said that 'he who sings, prays twice.' Nils' talk will be a whistle-stop tour of the development of church music, with illustrations from recorded music. All are welcome.
 

By County Proclamation, October 9, 2016 is St. Stephen's Episcopal Church Recognition Day

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"Formed in 1842 when a local farmer donated a quarter acre of land to build the church, St. Stephen's Episcopal Church has served the body of Christ and the community of Armonk for one hundred and seventy-five years...

 

"Upon the renovation of the interior of the sanctuary and gathering with the faithful to celebrate their 175th anniversary, Rev. Nils Chittenden and all the congregants of St. Stephen's Episcopal Church are truly deserving of our reverence and appreciation for carrying out their noble mission of serving God and the community."
 

Vestry update

At the meeting of the Vestry on September 19th, these were the principal discussions and decisions:

  1.  The contract for work to strengthen the foundations in the basement of the sanctuary has been awarded to Piermont Design Co. of Peekskill. This work will commence in late September and is to allow for the increased load of the organ when it is installed on the sanctuary floor, and for the weight of the font in its new location at the back of the church.
  2. Work on our organ will commence shortly at the organ builder's base in New Jersey, with the target date of the organ being back in our sanctuary by Christmas.
  3. Essential tree work has been completed in the cemetery, to be followed soon by essential grading and reseeding work in a number of places where older graves have subsided.
  4. We have received notice from the Town of North Castle that we are required to install an enclosure around our dumpster. This work is now taking place and will be completed by the end of September.
  5. We are seeking estimates for the weeding and mulching of all the flower beds around the church.
  6. To date this year, St. Stephen's has made donations and grants to the Mt Kisco Food Pantry of $3,433.
  7. Treasures has recently installed a cash register, and all NY Sales Tax is now being automatically calculated and collected on top of the ticket price.
  8. The response to the collection of school supplies for the Chiro Mission was so outstanding that the shipping costs are considerably higher than last year. We need to explore ways to maximize the value of donations, and explore the most cost-effective shipping options.
  9. We have a new website, which had a 'soft launch' a month ago and now has the functionality for online ticketing for events, donations, and Google Apps for non-profits.
  10. This year's pledge drive will be billed (as last year) 'Step Up Sunday' and will be on Sunday, November 20th. Mailing will go out in the preceding weeks.

Plans for the Launch of our 175th Anniversary

175th ANNIVERSARY: We need your RSVP for our October 9 kickoff to St. Stephen's 175th Anniversary. This is an important milestone for our church and for the town of Armonk, which was established at the same time. Our Parish Tea organizers, Nan Bircham, Sue Brown, Annlee Milani and Peggy Corey are coordinating a tea reception after the service, and need to know numbers. They will need volunteers for setting up and for food contributions. It will be a wonderful day, and we hope all can come!  Mail in your forms, or email us at office@ststephensarmonk.org and tell how many will attend the service and how many will stay for the tea. Let Renate Golden know if you can contribute to the tea at rennieg@optonline.net.

Spiritual Life inventory

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The entire parish has been asked to take a simple 20 minute survey online as part of our Renewal Works effort to examine where God is leading us.  There is no thoughtful writing required, no reflective essays, not even a sentence! It's purely checking off boxes. If needed, Charity can help you take the survey in the parish office on the PC there. If you haven't taken it yet, click here for the survey.
 
Please let all the members of your family that are connected with St. Stephen's in any way know about this inventory: everyone from middle-school upwards can take part.

Thank you, Michael, for our ramp!

Thanks to Michael Ramsey, St. Stephen's now has a fully functioning handicap ramp again! Although we've had a ramp since the 1990s, it had fallen into disrepair and become dangerous and could not be used. Michael Ramsey, a life-long member of this parish and a senior at Byram Hills High School, decided to reconstruct the ramp for his Eagle Scout project. 

Michael rallied around him his family, including mother Kathie (who is Chair of the Scout Troop Committee) and father Craig, and raised almost $7,000 from the parish and the community to reconstruct the ramp: new decking, new railings and new fascias. 

Not only does the ramp function well again, but it looks really great! Thank you, Michael!

The parish dedicated and blessed the ramp Sunday, September 11th, as part of morning worship.

A great day unveiling our renovations!

St. Stephen's unveiled its fully refurbished sanctuary interior this past Sunday, September 11th. Every single square inch of the interior has been renovated, with all of the old plaster cracks mended, all of the wall surfaces strengthened for new plaster, and new paint everywhere. There have also been some liturgical re-orderings: the old altar rail from the 1960s has been replaced with a brand-new one, there is a new altar hanging, and the font has been relocated to the back of the church, which is traditionally the location for a font in church (signifying that baptism is the first part of the Christian journey). 

As well as worshipping in our newly-renovated sanctuary for the first time since February this year, we also blessed the backpacks and brains of our scholars and grade-school teachers.

St. Stephen's on the path to renewal!

Starting this fall, St. Stephen's will begin an inspiring program called "Renewal Works". This nationally accredited program calls on us to discern where God is calling us, and will help us to focus on our spiritual vitality.  Neal Baumann  has agreed to facilitate the "Renewal Team", which consists of Charity Lunder, Ray Pouder, Caroline Eickelbeck, Robert Lunder, Renate Golden, Dawn Carroll, Sue Brown, Doug Campbell, Annlee Milani and Father Nils.  

Renewal Works is a way to learn more as a parish about where God is calling us. This process will yield steps to help us to better organize staffing, buildings, programs and worship toward our goals. 

The first parish-wide step of the process will take place on Sunday 18 September. The sermon will be replaced with an introduction to Renewal Works, and a description of the Spiritual Life Inventory, a critical part of the process.

Renewal Works is a way to learn more as a parish about where God is calling us.

Members will be receiving a letter from Neal Baumann in the next few days, describing the program in further detail.  Please look for this email, and join us on September 18th at 10am!