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!

Help the Chiro Mission to help refugees.

Here at St. Stephen's, we're in the midst of our annual drive for school supplies for the Chiro Mission.

As you shop for back to school, please remember we are collecting supplies for the Chiro Mission in the Dominican Republic. These Haitian refugees don't receive funding for supplies, and are short of all essentials.

They are especially in need of:

  • School supplies, new or lightly used (pencils, pens, notebooks, rulers, calculators, crayons, glue sticks, erasers, backpacks) 
  • Electronics, new or used (laptops, tablets, smart phones) 
  • There is a collection bin in the parish hall. Thank you all for your annual generosity to the Chiro Mission. 

 

Help those flooded on the Gulf Coast

Episcopal Relief & Development is supporting diocesan leaders along the Gulf Coast to coordinate flood response efforts after several days of heavy rainfall across the region. According to FEMA, the slow-moving storm brought 10-20 inches of rain to the area, 40,000 homes are impacted, and flooding continues. Louisiana and Mississippi are both under a state of emergency. Read more

 The Lousiana National Guard assists in the relief efforts.

The Lousiana National Guard assists in the relief efforts.

To Donate to Episcopal Relief efforts in the area, click here

 

Anthony Newman performs Bach's Goldberg Variations

Described by Wynton Marsalis as "The High Priest of Bach", and by Time Magazine as "The High Priest of the Harpsichord," Newman continues his 50 year career as America's leading organist, harpsichordist and Bach specialist. Newman has recorded more than 170 CDs and has appeared at the Lincoln Center more than sixty times, collaborating with many of the greats of music, including Leonard Bernstein, James Levine, Itzhak Perlman, Lorin Mazel & Mstislav Rostropovich.

Join us at St. Matthew's Episcopal Church in Bedford on Saturday, September 10th at 7pm.