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The Stone News for October 2003
Pastor's Message for October
"Forces that threaten to negate life must be challenged by courage, which is the power of life to affirm itself in spite of life's ambiguities. This requires the exercise of a creative will that enables us to hew out a stone of hope from a mountain of despair."
Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
For the past few weeks, this powerful quote has faced me each morning. I tacked it up on my office bulletin board when I came back from Salt Lake City, where my relatives Russ and Karen DeValois were airlifted following their tragic car accident. Russ died a few days after my return.
Life is a fragile and precious gift. Sometimes it does seem that the "forces that threaten to negate life" are overpowering. Take last month - the anniversary of September 11th, a car accident, a friend's cancer diagnosis, and the ongoing crisis of Iraq. How do we reaffirm our life and hope? What enables human beings to emerge from a tragedy with greater passion and compassion?
Faith involves us in a courageous struggle to place our weight and power and creativity on the side of new life.
Courage may not look like much on the outside. We need to know the full story of a human being's life to truly appreciate when it is being manifested. A young woman recently told me how her knees were shaking when she spoke at a dinner table filled with strangers. "I just don't do that!" she exclaimed. Who would have known? At the time, I simply took her simple sentences for granted. No big deal.
Stone Church is a place where we teach our children - and each other - the many ways to "exercise a creative will." Some of us have sharp tools as we chip away at the mountain of despair. Some of us are kinda clumsy and awkward. Most of us know that we can only take on so much at a time.
One thing you and I absolutely, positively DO know ... we are never left to face the mountain alone. That too, gives us courage.
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The Peacemaking Offering will be received on World Communion Sunday, October 5. While most of the offering will be used to fund important programs worldwide, 25% will be retained locally. This year, your Church and World Board has chosen to split the local funds between the two following programs, which are bringing life, hope, and new beginnings to many people: The Antiochian Orthodox Church and "Clean Slate".
The Antiochian Orthodox Church of the Redeemer in Los Altos Hills was destroyed by arson fire on April 7, 2002. After receiving $1.5 million in insurance settlements, the church is now drawing up plans for rebuilding. Ground- breaking may occur as early as February. As we direct part of our Peacemaking Offering to the Antiochian church, we join with other neighboring churches to give a hand to a Christian congregation that happens to be largely Arab American.
"Clean Slate," the tattoo removal program of San Jose's Youth Intervention Services, offers new beginnings to youth from 14 to 25. Young men and women who have left gang life are able to have tattoos on their faces, necks, forearms, wrists and hands removed. In return, they perform 75 hours of community service, continue in their jobs or educational or training programs, and commit to regular group meetings for one year. Since its creation in 1994, the program has attracted national attention, as well as local respect. Here is a testimonial by one youth whose life has been changed by Clean Slate.
"Clean Slate is a wonderful program. I have been on the streets from LA to the SF Bay Area using and selling drugs. My tattoos were a symbol to the world of the lifestyle I lived. I was pretending to be a person I am not, and inside I felt ugly. I knew I wanted to change and when I got pregnant, I knew that I had to change for my baby. Today, I set my standards high. I want my body wiped clean of the horrible person I used to be. I thank God for the Clean Slate program." --Christina V.
"The Clean Slate program is the best thing that ever happened to my niece Christina. She was involved in one of the toughest gangs in Los Angeles. She knew she wasn't doing the right things. The Clean Slate program gave her that safety net and helped her transition into the kind of life she wanted. Her confidence grew, and we know we will always be grateful to everyone involved in the program. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts, and thank you for giving her back to us." --Christina's Aunt
Youth Members Show They Care
Stone Church young people are finding new ways to care for others.
As the children participating the "Read to Feed" program for Heifer International this summer report the number of books they have read, sponsors are giving them great support. Over $1000 has already been received with more yet to come. At $150 for one llama, that's almost a herd! We're proud of the caring shown by our readers.
Because of our 2003 Vacation Church School's focus on Habitat for Humanity, our young people are more aware of the need of many for affordable, adequate housing. Our VCS Director, Maureen Searing, and two of our students, Michael and Kendall Searing, represented Stone Church on Saturday, September 20, at the dedication of the Habitat house in Los Gatos. They presented the Kalete family, new owners of the house, with one of the birdhouses made in our VCS.
A special banner, also made by the VCS students, this time under the direction of Debra Crim, is being sent to the family receiving the house on which our senior highs worked on their Mission Trip.
Finally, our church school students are helping to welcome the Rotating Shelter guests into our own church. In the summer they made placemats, and in a rotation workshop, they will prepare snacks.
We hope our young people will continue to discover new ways to care for others.
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Session meeting September 9th, 2003
Session was led in reflection by Rev. Rebecca Kuiken. Brian Sholes was interviewed and welcomed into membership. The clerk's report included transfer of membership of Marjorie Shepard to Bidwell Presbyterian Church (USA) of Chico. Katie Senegaglia was removed from the membership rolls as per her request. Members of boards and committees were co-opted. Moderators Carol Martin, Deacons, and Bruce Raby, P & A, supported a proposal to increase youth members on the Deacon board; the motion passed to add one to three youth positions. The proposal will be voted on at a congregational meeting in the future. Deacons are moving the Senior Picnic from a fall event to a spring event in April or May. Fall and winter will include Parents Day Out and the Senior Tea. Deacons have arranged for the reception for Lucik Aprahamian, new director of Music Ministry. Chris Nilson, Budget and Finance Committee Moderator, indicated pledging is not as good as expected. Budgets for boards and committees will decrease accordingly during the year. Many members have not paid the per capita fee as indicated in the envelope boxes. Reminders may be necessary for the congregation.
The Buildings and Grounds Board will conduct Work Day on October 11, 2003. Volunteers are needed. Many different kinds of jobs are available. Since we have limited custodial help, this is a wonderful opportunity to make the church shine for the upcoming holiday events. To volunteer, call Jerry Pearson.
Session closed with prayer requests and the Lord's Prayer. Afterwards, Rebecca reminded us that October is Clergy Appreciation Month. She is looking for a card that says, "Thank you to you and your husband." So far, a search of local card shops has produced no such sentiment!
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The Deacons have been "doing" a lot, lately! Last month, we helped with the reception for Lucik Aprahamian (our new director of music), made our regular visits to all of Stone's homebound members (taking home communion to some), and fulfilled many requests for transportation, meals, etc., through our Ripples program.
We're also busily planning two upcoming Deacon events, the Senior Tea and Parents' Day Out.
Scheduled this year for November 30, the Senior Tea is always a popular event, with wonderful food, world-class entertainment, and good fellowship. This year's event will most definitely be FUN since Derk Johnson is organizing it!
Parents' Day Out will take place on December 6, from 9 am to 2 pm. This day is meant to be a "gift to the parents of the church from the Deacons" so they can shop for their children's presents (without them!), run errands (alone!), or simply have some much-needed, quiet adult time. Cham Yean, this year's organizer, has lots of wonderful activities, as well as a nutritious lunch, planned for the little ones.
Please note that the Senior Picnic, often held in the fall, has been moved to a late spring timeframe; this event has always been difficult to plan during our busy fall season. Stay tuned for more details and the exact date -- it looks to be a spectacular event because Caprice Scarborough, the event's organizer, has some incredibly creative ideas up her sleeve! And finally, the Deacons need YOUR help. We have been overwhelmed by Ripples requests lately, especially for transportation (to doctors, dentists, etc.) during regular business hours on weekdays. Because most of the current Deacons have weekday jobs, we are struggling to fulfill these requests. If you are available during the day, please call Emily Meacham, Ripples Coordinator.
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Budget & Finance
Have you wondered where contributions to Stone Church are banked and invested, and whether the institutions we use uphold our values? The Budget and Finance Board investigated this recently.
Depending on its source and when it will be needed, Stone Church money goes into one of four accounts: Bank of America, Schwab, Presbyterian Foundation and Synod of the Pacific.
Our regular checking account is with Bank of America. Enough is deposited there, from regular pledge income and the like, to manage ongoing expenses.
We use Schwab mostly for handling occasional gifts of stock to the church. Stock is sold immediately, and the proceeds placed in our checking account or one of the savings accounts discussed below, as they are not subject to market volatility. The Schwab account also has money market funds and about $8,500 in long term bonds bought years ago, when interest rates were much higher. Its July 31 balance was about $9,300.
The Presbyterian Foundation holds money invested for longer terms, such as the Peter Holt Fund and similar memorials and bequests. On June 30, we had about $47,000 total in two of the Foundation's New Covenant mutual funds. Both are diversified, balanced funds holding a mixture of stocks and bonds. They have investment growth potential, but without the extreme swings we've seen in the markets since early 2000. All Foundation funds observe PCUSA Mission Responsibility Through Investing principles, so companies must pass several ethical screens before the funds will buy into them. For example, tobacco firms are excluded, while businesses that hire and promote women and minorities are considered favorably.
Lastly, our account with the Synod of the Pacific is used mainly for capital campaign funds. Our July 31 balance of just over $100,000 was invested in a money market account that currently pays about two percent per year. To aid member churches in their projects, the Synod also holds a $5 million line of credit. When we must borrow, the money will come from this line of credit.
The Budget and Finance Board found our core values substantially honored by the businesses managing our money.
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Men's Book Club
All men in the church are invited to participate in the Men's Book Club. We meet in each other's homes approximately every other month for refreshments and informal, sociable discussion. The books we choose reflect the varied interests of our participants. May we add you to our e-mail notification list? If so, or if you would like more information, contact Bill Gum or Bill Ribble. Upcoming Meetings:
Oct. 20: The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown. The Library waiting list is long, but you can buy it now in paperback. We will be meeting at 7:30 pm at the home of Art Holtz.
Dec. 15: East of Eden by John Steinbeck. We will meet at the home of Jeff Senegaglia.
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National PW Fall Thank Offering What women care about most is reflected in the projects funded by the Thank Offering taken in the fall by Presbyterian Women across the nation. Projects to be funded are chosen according to whether they meet a crucial need for persons who are hurting and provide some form of aid to the person directly served. Women's offerings have funded projects since 1888.
The 2002 Thank Offering gathered more than $958,000 and will be used to support 26 projects in the United States and 32 projects overseas. A $20,000 grant was made to F.I.R.M (Fresno Interfaith Refugee Ministries) to help with mental health services to Slavic refugees.
Thank Offering Lunch at Stone
The Presbyterian Women's Thank Offering will be highlighted at a fall luncheon at Stone Church. The Rev. Sharon Stanley, executive director of F.I.R.M., will speak about the project funded this year, as well as about Southeast Asia, from which she will have just returned. Rev. Stanley was a widely praised preacher at the 2000 Churchwide PW Gathering. The Thank Offering from the Presbyterian Women of Stone Church will be collected and dedicated at this lunch.
The Thank Offering Lunch will take place on Nov. 15 at 10:30 am in the Social Hall of Stone Church. Lunch will be served at noon and is $7.50 per person. The deadline for reservations is Nov. 7. Contact Diana Lim. Childcare is available if reserved in advance.
PW October Meetings
Here are the details for the PW meetings in October.
Amethyst Circle: Meets at 1:00 pm, October 1, in the church library. Emerald Circle: Meets at 10:00 am, October 2, at the home of Margaret Brown. Sapphire Circle: Meets at 7:30 pm, October 13, at the home of Dulcie Janzen. Focus Group: Meets at 9:30 am, October 14, at the home of June Tablak. Book Club II: Meets at 2:30 pm, October 27, at the home of Alice Thorn. Lunch Bunch: Meets at 11:30 am, October 14, at the Taiwan Restaurant, Willow Glen.
Bible Study by Marge Palmer: Meets at 9:30 am, October 23, in the church library.
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Sunday Morning Adult Study
11 a.m. - Noon
The Bible From Scratch: the Old Testment for Beginners
October 5, 12 and 19 led by Barbara and Dale Bracey
November 2, 9, 16 and 23 led by Marge Palmer
Do you think everyone else in the church knows more about the Bible than you do? Have you ever been instructed to look up a Bible passage and you weren't quite sure where to look? Have you ever considered attending an Adult Study class at Stone, but thought of many reasons not to go because you were sure you would feel out of place? Do you need an overview of the whole Bible and some basic tools and skills for Bible study? Perhaps you are a young parent who has not had the time to open the Bible, let alone study it. Perhaps you are a new member at Stone who has never attended Adult Study here; then this is the Bible study for you.
The study will be led by retired pastors who are part of the Stone Church family and worship here regularly: Marge Palmer and Dale and Barbara Bracey. Each is deeply committed to adult education and a wonderful teacher.
We understand that young parents find it difficult to spend an additional hour at Stone on Sunday morning; therefore, infant and child care will be available during the class time.
Sign-ups can be made after the Sunday morning Worship service or by a call to the Church Office. The study book, The Bible from Scratch: the Old Testament for Beginners, will be available for purchase at a cost not to exceed $10.
Ranting and Resisting with the Prophets
September 21 - October 26 led by Diana Gibson
We will explore and expose the troubling, passionate, and prophetic word in the Hebrew scriptures, focusing particularly on the books of Isaiah and Jeremiah, seeking to hear how the prophets speak most relevantly to our world today. We will study the Bible in the hope that the Bible will change us, teaching us to see God's dream (and nightmare) in our everyday lives. There will be homework - a daily discipline of reading and interacting with a small text from the scripture.
The Rev. Dr. Diana Gibson has been a Presbyterian pastor for 25 years and served First Presbyterian Church in Palo Alto for 16 years, from 1984 - 2000. She recently completed her Doctorate of Ministry in which she worked with Old Testament theologian Walter Brueggemann at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia.
Marcus Borg: The God We Never Knew
November 2 - December 14 led by Pat Magee
Marcus Borg, a distinguished scholar who has devoted himself to studies of the "historical Jesus," has written from his own experiences as a Christian and, informed by a lifetime of scholarship, about our need to develop a personal relationship to God. In clear, precise, down-to-earth language, he explains difficult concepts while outlining a reasoned, convincing approach to Christian faith. The God We Never Knew can liberate us from magical thinking and narrow-minded literalism and points the way to a continuing, ever-deepening relationship to God.
Participants will be expected to read one chapter a week in preparation for the class discussion. Books will be available for sale beginning September 28.
Future Adult Study Classes
Here are some future adult study classes:
January - February: Sermon Feedback, discussions with the Pastors
March - April: Richard Keady, SJSU Religion professor - Death, Dying and Religions
May - June: Walter Hudson - Topic to be announced later
*Infant and child care are available during Adult Study, upon request. Please let us know your needs when you sign up for a class. Sign-ups can be made after the worship services or by calling the church office.
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Church School News
Our church is providing a good educational program on Sundays: our growing Preschool class, the active Rotation Workshop groups learning about Moses from birth through the presentation of the Ten Commandments, and our Middle Schoolers getting to know those who were the church before us. Isn't that enough?
In reality, what we provide for the young people while they're here on Sundays can only support what parents are doing at home. Parents are a child's primary Christian educators, and the church needs to help equip them to do that well. One of the ways parents can do this is by reading the same stories at home. The two children's Bibles we have available are good resources. The stories often lead to good discussions of how God cares for us in similar ways.
Another way parents can help their children learn what it means to be Christian is to help them learn to give and help others. Church school students are receiving new youth offering envelopes. They will need help at home, however, to learn to use them regularly.
Finally, parents will be better prepared to share their faith if they've had opportunities to study the Bible and grow in their own understanding. The Adult Ed. Classes provide a good way to do that, either exploring the prophets with Diana Gibson or learning "The Bible from Scratch" with the Braceys and Marge Palmer.
Sharing our faith with our children is very important to this church, and we want to support parents so that together we can do that well.
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Inquiring minds might wonder what we were saying recently when we sang "Here I raise my Ebenezer" (in verse 2 of "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing").
In Hebrew, "Ebenezer" means "stone of help." 1 Samuel 4 tells of the ark of God being captured by the Philistines. Later the Israelites defeated the enemy, and Samuel took a stone and set it up as a memorial of the occasion. He called it Ebenezer, saying, "Hitherto hath the Lord helped us." (1 Samuel 7:12) When this hymn was written in about 1758, churchgoers must have been more familiar with the word. The meaning of "Ebenezer" and many other puzzling terms may be found in Bible dictionaries located at 220.3 in our church library.