To Know Christ and Make Him Known in Word and Deed
At St. Stephen’s, our mission statement proclaims that we are alive as a parish to share the good news of God-among-us. Throughout our website, you will see the Christian Formation programs offered at St. Stephen’s.
St. Stephen’s traditionally ends its program year the last Sunday before Memorial Day weekend and looks forward to our “Kick-off Sunday” the Sunday following Labor Day weekend. We invite you to join us for Sunday morning, one of our weekday programs, or during a special offering as we broaden our knowledge and grow together in faith. It is an important way to take part in “knowing Christ and making Him known in Word and Deed.”
For more information about any of our formation programs contact email@example.com or (570) 825-6653.
Bible Study has returned and is on Sunday mornings at 9:15 in the conference room. Additional schedules and places to be announced.
10:30 AM Second Floor classroom of the Parish House. The children and teachers will join the congregation for the celebration of the Eucharist.
Sunday September 15th – Church School begins with a Sundae kick -off, stories, crafts and a snack of ice cream with all the toppings. Adults will get to try some too during coffee hour when various ministries will be available to sign up for or to simply learn about.
Initiation into the Christian faith begins in the waters of our baptism, for it is from this space that our common life flows. Because the Episcopal Church has a deep sense of Catholicity alongside an understanding of the Reformation, it is often seen as a “bridge” church and as such, many come through our doors from myriad traditions: Southern Baptist, Quaker, Congregationalist, Lutheran, and Roman Catholic, to name a few.
It is for this reason that the Episcopal Church has several rites of entrance into this branch of the Body of Christ. Baptism is primary among them, but depending upon the tradition that one has experienced, the following rites are regularly celebrated.
• Baptism, a sacramental rite that spiritually cleanses and welcomes new members into the community of Jesus Christ. Adult baptism often takes place at the Easter Vigil service (the Saturday night before Easter).
• Confirmation, a sacramental rite in which a person who has been baptized into the Christian church is confirmed as a member by the bishop.
• Reception, a ceremony celebrated by the bishop, in which someone who has been confirmed in other historic communions is received as a member of the Episcopal church.
• Reaffirmation, a ceremony in which those who have been baptized reaffirm their baptismal vows.
Why do you use incense?
In the ancient world, incense was the equivalent of modern air freshener. When an important guest was coming to visit, one would burn incense in one’s home to purify the air and eliminate foul odors. Since we believe that Jesus Christ comes into our midst during the celebration of the Eucharist, we cense the altar, the ministers, and congregation as a symbolic purification in anticipation of his arrival. Also, the rising smoke of the incense is sometimes said to symbolize prayer rising to heaven. At the most basic level, however, it just smells nice. Anglo-Catholic worship engages us through all our senses, so that we come to associate the joy of worship and the comfort of prayer with the pleasant aroma of an incense-filled church.
Why do you pray out of a book?
It is sometimes alleged that prayers read from a book are less sincere than spontaneous prayers “from the heart.” But this criticism misses the point. As the title of The Book of Common Prayer implies, these prayers are “common” prayer – that is, the corporate prayer of the congregation and of the entire universal Church. The Anglican spiritual tradition certainly encourages us to pray in our own words, as we are led by the Holy Spirit, in our private devotions, or as bidden during Prayers of the People, But what we find in the Prayer Book are not private prayers, but rather corporate liturgical prayers. They distill centuries of spiritual wisdom, embodying the thoughts, sentiments, and aspirations of the generations of faithful Christians who have gone before us. Reading these prayers and making them our own can only enrich our personal prayer lives.
Why all those fancy robes?
In the Anglican tradition, they are called not “robes” but “vestments.” At one level, their purpose is similar to that of ceremonial dress uniforms in the military: they signify a rank and a function. When the Sacred Ministers and servers put on the sacred vestments, they are stepping into a defined liturgical role. So far as possible, the vestments serve to obscure the idiosyncratic features of individual personalities that call attention to themselves and distract the congregation from prayer and worship. For example, the chasuble worn by the priest helps the congregation to see not Fr. So-and-So with all his annoying quirks and foibles but rather the celebrant of the Mass. At another level, the wearing of sacred vestments serves as a reminder that the ministers of the Mass are engaged in no ordinary mundane activity but rather are treading on holy ground and handling holy things.
Why all the ritual and ceremony?
It is a common misconception that rituals are by definition empty and meaningless, that they involve “just going through the motions.” Anthropologists and sociologists have discovered that ritual is intrinsic to being human. We rely on countless rituals to bring meaning and order into every aspect of our lives. The classic example of an everyday ritual is a handshake, which not only signifies but also actualizes the friendship that it symbolizes. (If you doubt this, then consider the impact of refusing to shake someone’s hand!) Episcopal worship engages us in the fullness of who we are as human beings; and that means that it engages us by means of ritual: processions, bows, signs of the cross, and so forth. Yes, rituals can become empty when we perform them absent mindedly without paying attention to their meaning. The solution, however, is not to jettison the rituals but rather to revivify them by performing them thoughtfully and prayerfully.
Why does the service take so long?
Our 10:30 AM Sunday Choral Eucharist typically lasts an hour and a half. Services in some other churches – such as Eastern Orthodox or Pentecostal Churches – often last much longer. Still, our liturgy is longer than in many other churches, whose services do not exceed one hour. On balance, the length of our service is probably typical for Episcopal parishes using Rite II and a choral setting. Suffice it to say that any worthwhile activity is worth the time it takes. Many people have no problem sitting in a cinema for two hours to watch a film, or in a stadium for three hours to watch a game of baseball or football. Many worshipers report that during the liturgy they lose all track of time, so caught up are they in the praises of God. That’s the ideal we’re aiming for.