Standing with our Jewish friends in love.

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We have all heard yesterday's terrible news from Pittsburgh, where a gunman, fueled by hate and rage, murdered eleven people in the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.

All of the faith communities in Armonk are brothers and sisters together - we are all children of God. I and my fellow clergy have been in close contact throughout yesterday and today to offer our love and prayerful support to each other and especially to Congregation B'Nai Yisrael (CBY) here in Armonk.

In my sermon yesterday morning, I spoke of the measures that CBY has had to take over the past few months to ensure the safety of their congregants. Yesterday's attack in Pittsburgh has, of course, intensified that sense of apprehension and concern.

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These are dark days for our country, where we are seeing - yet again - a fracturing of our society, as a fault line opens up. Whenever our society fractures, as it has done many times before, our instinctive reaction is to rush to one side of that divide, or to the other. In my sermon this morning, I offered a vision of an alternative place to that, which is actually the place that God calls us to be: bridging the chasm so that the fault-line can be healed and people can be brought back into reconciliation with each other.

One way we can support each other at this time - by being those bridges of hope - is offered to us by our Jewish friends in this neighborhood. I invite you to join me, and members of Hillside Church, St Patrick's Church, St. Nersess' Seminary and Congregation B'Nai Yisrael in a Memorial Service on Monday, October 29 at 7:00pm at Temple Shaaray Tefila, 89 Baldwin Rd, Bedford Corners, NY 10549.

These are troubling and uncertain times in our world, but please know that God always keeps us under the shadow of his wing.

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Rev. Nils Chittenden, Rector

Youth Group volunteers at Mobile Food Pantry

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On Saturday April 14th, members of the St. Stephen's Youth Group, along with Trina Fontaine, volunteered at the Mobile Food Pantry, which was parked at the Boys and Girls Clubs in Mount Kisco, to help give out fresh fruits and vegetables to people who are in need. After a successful morning handing out food, the students walked over to the local diner. While they waited for the food, we shared our thoughts about the morning. 

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"It feels good knowing that even doing the littlest thing for the community helps" said Valentina. "I love helping people and it is so rewarding to see smiles on their faces" added Meagan.  While handing out food Daniel realized that the families may not have had enough to eat but was grateful this helped them. The students also found out they helped approximately 300 people, something Kristin is really proud of. Antonella found the gratitude people showed very heartwarming.  The Youth Group truly enjoyed volunteering and are looking forward to doing it again in the future.

St. Stephen's Hosts the Homeless

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During Holy Week St. Stephen's welcomed 15-20 homeless men and women each night, guests of the Emergency Shelter Partnership (ESP). Although St. Stephen's was the physical location of this shelter, we did this in full partnership with four other houses of worship in Armonk: Hillside Church, Congregation B'Nai Yisrael and St. Nersess Armenian Seminary.

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Through the coldest months of the year, ESP coordinates with local houses of worship to volunteer for a week-long period where ESP's guests can have dinner, sleep, breakfast and a brown-bag lunch. Founded by Mel Berger over thirteen years ago, as a response to homeless people dying of cold exposure, this vital program has saved lives in northern Westchester and offers hospitality and dignity to those who are suffering. As the card from one of our guests this week says, ESP makes a difficult situation a bit more tolerable. Not only that, but our volunteers, including our youth, have learnt more about homelessness, and about our Christian calling to serve others in response to Christ's call to love one another as he has loved us. That we were privileged to serve with ESP during this special time of Holy Week and Easter is a serendipity.

Food Pantry Deliveries

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St. Stephen's volunteers support the Mount Kisco Interfaith Food Pantry by making weekly deliveries for housebound clients of the Pantry. Annlee Milani and Sue Brown, pictured,  head out on the one hour mission to deliver to the few who can’t make the trip to the pantry. We welcome volunteers to this Tuesday afternoon outreach!

Youth Group Bake Sale at Frosty Fair

 

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Our Youth Group produced many beautiful and tasty treats for the Frosty Day bake sale, yielding $241 in proceeds, to benefit those affected by Hurricane Harvey. Thank you to all contributors of baked goods, and to our sprightly Youth Group, who devoted their day to the effort. A special shout out goes to stand out sellers Dale, Calvin and Abby, who took the sale to the customers, heading outdoors to hawk their treats! 

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Extraordinary Ventures New York was a popular stop in the Frosty Fair, selling handmade scented candles and bracelets, seasonally packaged. The wares were produced and sold by adults with autism.

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Kelly Skaggs Florals set up a lovely table selling seasonal flowers and wreaths. Office staff can attest the paperwhites are already scenting the air, and wreaths are adding their Christmasy welcome.

A Successful Cemetery Tour!

Our Second Annual Cemetery Tour, enacting the lives of twelve people interred at St. Stephen's, was a great success! It took three staggered performances to handle the attendance.

 Ed Woodyard as Nehemiah Searles

Ed Woodyard as Nehemiah Searles

   
  
   
  
    Kudos to the cast of the cemetery tour, and to George Pouder, who researched the history and Dakota Martin (center), who directed.    
  
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Kudos to the cast of the cemetery tour, and to George Pouder, who researched the history and Dakota Martin (center), who directed.

A Thank You from our 175th Anniversary Committee Chair

Dear St. Stephen's Family,

The spectacular concert this past Sunday brought us exquisite music under James's direction, and the Paul Mealor composition was a dream come true for Father Nils and for us...no wonder he was so enthusiastic. This was also a Finale Plus for St. Stephen's 175th Anniversary year

   
  
   
  
  Above: Chair of St. Stephen's 175th Anniversary Committee Meg Gregg is presented with a thank you gift from the parish for her excellent work spearheading our year long celebration.   
  
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Above: Chair of St. Stephen's 175th Anniversary Committee Meg Gregg is presented with a thank you gift from the parish for her excellent work spearheading our year long celebration.

So many of you contributed your energy, enthusiasm and the precious commodity of time for our successful celebration. In addition to our two special church services, we enjoyed organ recitals and other musical events with receptions, parish teas and lunches, a square dance and history exhibit, cemetery tour, Dave Barry reception and talk.  We reached out to the larger community and brought them into our beautiful church. Thank you, thank you.  

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A special note of appreciation to the 175th committee members who met faithfully for almost two years, always with good ideas, great local contacts, and hard work: Carol Mortell, Paul Lashmet, Michael Ramsey, Claire Turner,  Ed Woodyard, Charity Lunder and our "can do" Rector, Father Nils.

 

Meg Gregg

Chair (retiring), 175th Anniversary Year Committee

Choral Concert presents Vivaldi Gloria and new Paul Mealor piece

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The culmination of St. Stephen's 175th anniversary year was a beautiful Choral Concert of Vivaldi's Gloria and other music. Though it was a night of torrential rain, the church was packed full.  We were lucky to hear the début of an astonishingly lovely new piece specially commissioned for the event -- "How Lovely is Your Dwelling Place" by Paul Mealor, honoring both St. Stephen's and Armonk in our joint 175th anniversary.

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Many thanks to the St. Stephen's Chorale, organist Terence Flanagan, and above all to our Music Director, James Turner, whose unflagging efforts have made our church central to music in Armonk.  

The reception following the concert resembled a town party, with community members of all sorts come together. Due to the fun and hubbub, there are no photos! Many thanks to Claire Turner and the young Turner helpers for arranging the very successful gathering!

 

St. Stephen's celebrates 175 years!

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On October 8, St. Stephen's 175th anniversary service filled the church with parishioners and friends! It was a lovely day, the culmination of a year of events celebrating not only our 175th anniversary, but the town of Armonk's as well. Above, Father Nils (XVIII Rector) is joined by Father Harry Abernathy (XVI Rector), who preached the sermon, and sported a stole made for him by a St. Stephen's Sunday School class of the mid 1990s.

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 Kelly Skaggs provided a stunning autumnal flower arrangement for the altar.

Kelly Skaggs provided a stunning autumnal flower arrangement for the altar.

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 Father Harry delivered the sermon "Where Do We Go from Here", which can be found  at this link.

Father Harry delivered the sermon "Where Do We Go from Here", which can be found at this link.

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There was a delicious parish lunch after the service, catered by La Mer Seafood.

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A Letter of Reminiscence from Marilou Benz Harrison, a former parishioner

St. Stephen's recently received a donation toward the refurbished organ, along with a letter of reminiscence, from Marilou Benz Harrison, a former parishioner. We thought the parish would enjoy it, so with Marilou's permission we are sharing the letter:

 

St. Stephen's has loomed large in my life for as long as I can remember. My family started going there during WWII as it was geographically "the closest non Catholic church" during gas rationing. Neither of my parents had been raised Episcopalian - instead a Congregationalist and a Lutheran. But they grew up in the NW and here they were living in a small town in the east. Certainly they became lifelong, loyal and very active members of the congregation. I will remember Sunday School, Confirmation and singing in the choir along with my father (Luke Benz) and stepmother (Pauline Murrah Benz). Mom always taught Sunday School taking on the Middle School age classes - the ones no one else wanted to teach. Our family activities revolved around the church, especially on holidays.

When we first started attending St. Stephen's, the church had a small pump organ. Then right around 1940 there was a big sale (auction?) to raise money for an electric organ. My mother (Margaret Benz) walked the 4+ miles from our house to the sale location leading our burro, Bonita. She was sold as part of the effort to raise funds for that organ.   I think it was Aunt Margery Curry who said she could hear Bonita braying when bass notes were played on that organ. One of my father's brothers was an accomplished musician and played a large church organ in Yakima, Washington. I think Dad envied his brother's skills and the instrument on which he played. By the way, that original pump organ still exists. Dad acquired and rebuilt it. The bellows had been destroyed by mice feeding on the rice used at weddings over the years that had found its way inside the organ. For many years it was in our living room where Dad played it. Now it's a my brother Mark Benz's farm in Vermont. With the assistance of at least one grandson, he rebuilt it again and it is still played.

 

In 1960 Lee and I were married at St. Stephen's. In 1967 my mother's memorial service was there. My Dad's was there in 1976 and four years later Pi's was too. Dad and Pi sang in the choir. The cut through the wall between the choir loft and the altar was originally called "Luke's Lookout ". He was active in making that happen as for years he had been frustrated at not being able to see what was happening on the main stage. For many years he served on the Vestry, most of them as Treasurer. Pi and Dave gave the funds to build the columbarium behind the church as a Memorial to their parents. Even though we live in Denver, Colorado, all three of our children were baptized at St. Stephen's. My older daughter was married there. Certainly St. Stephen's has historically had and continues to have great meaning to me.

May this new organ ring out the sounds of praise and thanksgiving for many years to come!

Welcome to our Summer Intern

St. Stephen's is welcoming a summer intern, Ella Skaggs, who will work at Treasures Thrift Shop and in the Parish Office.  She will also be interning for the North Castle Historical Society, helping out with general tasks and with the docent program at their Smith's Tavern complex. When you see her at Sunday worship, please introduce yourself.

"My name is Ella Skaggs and I am 15. I live in Missouri. I love to swim, play my violin, cook and play piano. I have swum for 6 years competitively for a local club. I have played violin for 5 years and I have played piano since I was six. I go to North Kansas City High School and am the fourth generation that has gone there. I am in speech and debate at school. At church (First Baptist Church of North Kansas City) I work with our kids program. This August I will be teaching bible drills at my church to the younger kids. I really love watching the younger kids build that relationship with God and I want to help them build a spiritual bond. I love spending time with my family and friends. I really enjoy going to my grandparents' house and playing cards (I could beat anyone in a game of royal rummy)."

The Lowdown on the Hoedown

A Message from Meg Gregg, Chair of the 175th Anniversary Committee: A big congratulations to Paul Lashmet on organizing the successful Square Dance at the Quaker Meeting House!  Paul contacted and made arrangements for the caller, for the delicious barbecue dinner and for the shuttle service. He even bought the wine! Ed Woodyard was also central to pulling of this wonderful event.

photos by Steve Hillebrand

The  exhibit at Smith Tavern about the history of St. Stephen's is really very special, and parishioners should be sure to view it. The Tavern is open Wednesday and Sunday from 2 to 4pm.

Daniel's Story

Claire Turner writes: Our very reticent son has finally put pen to paper about his cancer journey (for a school assignment we almost didn't see).  What he says below applies very much to the "community of St Stephen's" as well as the "community of Somers". This letter also coincides with our participation with the Relay for Life!  

The Turner family will be participating for the fourth year, as team Daniel Strong, in the Somers Relay for Life event on June 16th, 2017 in support of the American Cancer Society.  

We would love to have you join us to walk some laps any time from 7pm until 6am.   Please go to this link where you can read Dan's story and sign up to join the team or make a donation.

'Together' by Dan Turner

 No one wants to get cancer. It's a tough thing to deal with, especially alone.

On September 1st, 2013, I was diagnosed with Leukemia. It was a shock to me, a shock to my family, a shock to my community. I was in England on vacation at the time when I got sick, so I had to have treatment there for 6 weeks before I could fly home. It was scary. The place was unknown to me, and I had to take all sorts of medicines that began to take a toll on me.

There would be times when I wished I could just go home. To see my friends, my cats, to just sleep in my own bed for a night. But I was stuck there until it was safe for me to fly home.

My mom shared that I was diagnosed with cancer on Facebook, so everyone knew why I wasn't going to be home for a while, and know how I was doing. Shortly after, I began getting letters, messages, gifts, and food from people in Somers, the town I live in (They sent food because I was taking a drug that made me extremely hungry. I would eat pretty much everything in sight.) but most importantly, they sent hope, happiness, care, and love. They would wish for me to get better quickly in their letters, send me gifts to cheer me up. I got letters from school. I got letters from my baseball team. I got letters from my church. I even got letters from people I didn't know, but had heard my story. Even though I was thousands of miles away from Somers, they all seemed to be backing me up.

They kept me going. I could've been sad, mad, wondering why this had to happen to me. But I didn't. I stayed happy, positive, because everyone was there to cheer me up (even though they weren't actually there). It happened to me for a reason. God knew I was strong enough, and knew that I was definitely strong enough with the power of my community to help me through.

People would pray that I would stay positive and happy, and that I would get to go back home soon.

After the six weeks, I got to fly back home, where I would continue my treatment. I missed everyone so much, especially my friends. Everyone missed me, too. When I finally got home, I had posters on my doorstep, from my neighbors, and my friends. Every night a different family would bring my family dinner.

I was elated to be home, to see my cats, to sleep in my bed. But most importantly, my friends, and the whole community of Somers. I wasn't alone. During the whole journey, they were there for me.

Now, four years later, and 6 months done with treatment, I can easily say that I believe people in my community will always be there to help me.