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.

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.

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.

St. Stephen's part of Landmark Conservancy Sacred Sites open house

On May 20th and 21st, St. Stephen’s, the church that founded the hamlet of Armonk in 1842, will participate in The New York Landmarks Conservancy’s Sacred Sites Open House weekend. Our church will be open for tours on Saturday, May 20th from 10am – 3pm and on Sunday, May 21st from 12 noon – 3pm. There will also be demonstrations of our new organ, installed just this month, on the hour.

Prior to 1842, many Christians in the Episcopal tradition in North Castle had to travel to Mount Kisco or Bedford for services, and wanted their own place of worship. A farmer in the Mile Square area of North Castle, Elisha Sutton, donated a quarter-acre to allow the building of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, which was founded through the leadership of the Reverend Robert Harris of Grace Church, White Plains. In around 1850, when Elisha Sutton died, St. Stephen’s acquired the other fourteen acres of his farm (largely occupying what is now Armonk Square) and parceled it into lots for sale. Thus they created the first subdivision in the area, effectively establishing modern-day Armonk.

The church was built in the Greek Revival style popular at the time, and then enlarged in 1889, with the addition being in the Neo-Gothic style. Stained glass windows were added throughout the second half of the nineteenth century, including two as a memorial to John Wesley, who died in 1861 aged 22, and who was the son of the co-founder of the New York Times.

St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church is at the heart of the Bedford Road Historic District, placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. We will be one of dozens of religious institutions throughout New York State participating in the Open House weekend May 20th and 21st.

Since 1986 The New York Landmarks Conservancy’s Sacred Sites program has supported more than 750 religious institutions throughout the state which have received over $9.3 million in matching grants. Sacred Sites is the country’s oldest and largest statewide grant program to help landmark religious properties. In recent years, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church received a grant from the Sacred Sites program to renovate the impressive Doric columns on our recessed portico.

For additional information on the Sacred Sites Open House Weekend, contact the New York Landmarks Conservancy at 212-995-5260 or sacredsites@nylandmarks.org

"An Evening with Dave Barry" was a great success!

What a wonderful evening it was, when Dave Barry returned to Armonk, and gave a talk in the North Castle Library's auditorium after a reception in the Magazine Room. The event was sponsored by St. Stephen's and provided a very entertaining chance to hear about Armonk of old from a hometown boy who's gone on to great success as a humorist, including winning a Pulitzer Prize for Commentary. Dave's childhood friend Barbara DiGiacinto gave a wonderful introduction, describing the bucolic Armonk of the 1950s and 60s, a small town with rural character and stores run by local proprietors. Dave Barry was a witty raconteur and a very friendly and approachable guest. Many old time Armonk residents came, bringing memories and in one case,an old yearbook. He even let a skeptic check whether his full head of hair was genuine. Dave's talk in Whippoorwill Hall painted a vivid and very funny picture of our town in another era. He also gave insight into why Miami is a gold mine for a humorist. The sellout crowd in the hall was enveloped in a warm feeling of nostalgia, and appreciation for old Armonk. This event wouldn't have happened without the generous assistance of Barbara DiGiacinto, the inspiration of Ed Woodyard, the lavish donations of flowers and catering from local businesses, the work of St. Stephen's 175th Anniversary Committee, headed by Meg Gregg, and leadership from Laura Desmarais, Lena Cavanna, Pamela Sellers, Paul Lashmet and of course Father Nils. Thanks to everyone who contributed and above all, thank you to Dave Barry for his generosity.  

What a wonderful evening it was, when Dave Barry returned to Armonk, and gave a talk in the North Castle Library's auditorium after a reception in the Magazine Room. The event was sponsored by St. Stephen's and provided a very entertaining chance to hear about Armonk of old from a hometown boy who's gone on to great success as a humorist, including winning a Pulitzer Prize for Commentary.

Dave's childhood friend Barbara DiGiacinto gave a wonderful introduction, describing the bucolic Armonk of the 1950s and 60s, a small town with rural character and stores run by local proprietors.


Dave Barry was a witty raconteur and a very friendly and approachable guest. Many old time Armonk residents came, bringing memories and in one case,an old yearbook. He even let a skeptic check whether his full head of hair was genuine. Dave's talk in Whippoorwill Hall painted a vivid and very funny picture of our town in another era. He also gave insight into why Miami is a gold mine for a humorist. The sellout crowd in the hall was enveloped in a warm feeling of nostalgia, and appreciation for old Armonk.

This event wouldn't have happened without the generous assistance of Barbara DiGiacinto, the inspiration of Ed Woodyard, the lavish donations of flowers and catering from local businesses, the work of St. Stephen's 175th Anniversary Committee, headed by Meg Gregg, and leadership from Laura Desmarais, Lena Cavanna, Pamela Sellers, Paul Lashmet and of course Father Nils. Thanks to everyone who contributed and above all, thank you to Dave Barry for his generosity.

 

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.