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The Stone News for May 2004
This past Sunday, the Social Hall was filled with people talking animatedly. Some were looking at the final renovation plans that had been submitted to the City of San Jose and are on view on a table in the Social Hall. Some were gathered with friends, sharing the news of the day. Some were drinking coffee and munching a cookie plucked from the tables outside, listening to others talk. One might have said that there was a din, "a welter of discordant sound," (Mr. Webster). But it was more like a chorus.
I hated to call a halt to the conversation because it was a sacred act, this sharing. Regardless of the specific words that were spoken, what was really being said was, "You matter, we matter, this church matters, this is a special opportunity for sacred fellowship so let's savor and enjoy it." Music to my ears, this sacred chatter.
Still, I did ask for quiet amid the animated conversations so we could start our first quarterly "Speak Out Forum" at Stone Church. Some 40 to 50 people then quickly assembled in chairs and in standing places to share ideas, to express concerns, to offer thanks, and to ask questions. The Session Board Moderators, the Moderator of Deacons, a Co-Moderator of the Facilities Task Force, and the Pastors were there.
The conversation was lively! We covered a range of topics. The most energy was evident and the most time was taken talking about three subjects: building up the ministry with families at Stone Church, developing a Stone Church approach to evangelism (sharing the Good News and welcoming others to our fellowship), and becoming more involved in social justice issues. There was not unanimity of opinion, but there was enthusiasm, active listening, and respect.
The next "Speak Out Forum" is scheduled for Sunday, July 11th, at 11:00 am. I hope that you will join us in this sacred conversation.
May God continue to Bless us with opportunities to speak out and to listen as we dream and plan for the future of this beloved congregation.
Jesus' followers, many who had fled on the day of his crucifixion, had bit by bit become aware of his resurrection. They gathered together fifty days afterward. In Acts 2, we hear how the Spirit of God descended upon them and infused them with tremendous power.
"Spirit" is defined in Webster's College dictionary as "the animating principle of life; an attitude or principle that pervades thought, stirs one to action; a vigorous, courageous, or optimistic attitude; vigorous sense of membership in a group; to encourage; urge on or stir up."
The Spirit of God, in tongues of fire and a rushing wind, entered Jesus' followers as individuals and as a group. This Spirit enabled them to embody the ministry that Jesus had begun. Pentecost has thus been celebrated as the birthday of the church. The strong, assertive quality of the color red makes it the liturgical color for Pentecost.
Pentecost Sunday is May 30th. Please join us to usher in the liturgical season, which celebrates the Holy Spirit's ongoing work to encourage, transform and enliven Stone Church's vision and ministry.
Ann Coons to Lead Retreat
On Saturday, May 8th, you are invited to participate in an all-day (9 am to 4 pm) meditative retreat, "Resting in the Heart of God," led by former Stone Church member, Ann Coons, in the Social Hall. There will be no charge for the retreat; rather, a free-will offering will be taken.
This retreat day will be a time set aside for quiet and rest. It will be a day to soak in the presence of the Holy and will include many opportunities for personal prayer and times of sharing, as well as theological reflection. Who hasn't yearned for that kind of stillness and peace? And when we are worn thin by stresses in our lives, or overwhelmed by the chaos and conflict in the world around us, it's not just our bodies that need quiet - our souls crave something as well, something deeper to replenish us.
Ann has a Certificate of Theological Studies degree from Pacific School of Religion, a Diploma in Spiritual Direction, and an MA in Theological Studies from SFTS. In addition to her practice in spiritual direction, Ann is a noted retreat leader, having led last year's Women's Retreat at the Zephyr Point Conference Center. She has a special interest in contemplative prayer and using the labyrinth as a tool for deepening prayer.
Lenten Sanctuary Art Lauded
Thanks to the creative Liturgical Arts Committee, chaired by Susan Bedolla, rave reviews of the Lenten Sanctuary Arts were expressed at a recent Speak Out Forum. Committee members included Donald Foster, Karen Scott, Jeanette Rapp, Janice Goertz, Gail Chaid, Jennifer Scott-Brand, Jim Hamm, and Pastors Rebecca Kuiken and Art Mills. Donald, Karen, and Rebecca will lead the committee in the process for creating liturgical arts for Pentecost.
Adult Education Offerings for May
Stone Church offers varied and informative Adult Education classes from 11 am to noon every Sunday in the Chapel. Childcare (including infant care) is available upon request; please let the church office know ahead of time.
May 2 - Denying Death - Leader: Richard Keady, Professor of Religion, San Jose State American society denies death and thus robs it of its meaning for life. How should we as Christians view death, and how can we celebrate it as the culmination of our earthly life?
May 9 - Dealing with Death: Powers of Attorney and Health Care Directives - Leader: Lynn Stutz, Attorney
May 16, 23 & 30 - The Passion According to Mel Gibson: A Critical Assessment - Leader: Pat Magee The historical Jesus scholar, John Dominic Crossan, has called Mel Gibson's movie an important cultural event in America. Using preview clips and related TV documentaries as our starting point, we will explore the movie and the questions it raises for us as Christians today.
There will be no formal Sunday morning Adult Education classes during the summer; they will resume in September.
Stone Church Members Will Lead Zephyr Summer Programs
For many years, Stone Church members have been active in the summer programs offered by the Zephyr Point Presbyterian Conference Center at Lake Tahoe, and this summer is no exception.
The annual Zephyr Experience will take place this year from June 27th to July 2nd. Alice Thorn is Dean of the conference, responsible for the entire program. Pat Magee is leading one of the six classes, "Science, Technology, and Ethics." Della Smith and Julie Ludwig will lead the children's and youth programs, respectively. In addition, Richard Keady, Professor of Religious Studies at San Jose State, will conduct a class on "Conflict and Common Ground."
This year, for the first time, the Zephyr Conference Center is offering Encore Enrichment: a Program for Adult Learners, September 12th to 17th. This program follows a standard Elderhostel format, but its fee ($445 per person, double occupancy) is $75 less, as there is no Elderhostel overhead, and you do not need to be a senior to attend. The three classes are (1) "Looking at Ourselves in the Mirror of Faulkner's Novels," with Herman Waetjen, Professor Emeritus at SFTS, (2) "Lake Tahoe: Past and Present," with McAvoy Layne as the ghost of Mark Twain, and (3) "God and the New Sciences," with Pat Magee.
The Rev. Rebecca Kuiken will lead the Women's Retreat, October 15th to 17th. The theme will be "Finding Sacred Ground: Taizé, Iona, and Us." Worship and reflections will be drawn from the deeply rooted Christian communities of Taizé, France, and Iona, Scotland. Karen Johnson will be the worship and music leader. Cost for the weekend is $140.
Whether you are a jewelry maker or would like to learn about jewelry making, join us for a fun-filled evening in the Social Hall at Stone Church on Monday, May 10th, at 6:30 pm. Pat Patterson will provide instructions for making earrings, necklaces, and bracelets. Debbie Fant, a professional jewelry maker, will be our special guest to demonstrate wire-wrapping techniques; she will also offer her jewelry for sale and show her handmade beads. To register (no later than May 3) and to receive more information, please call the church office at 408-269-1593. This event is sponsored by the Membership and Evangelism board.
Stone Church's friend and former Sunnyvale Presbyterian Church pastor, Dale Bracey, reports on his recent nine-day mission trip to El Salvador.
I returned from El Salvador more than two weeks ago, but I'm still integrating what it means to be in solidarity with the Salvadorans, and others in need, at a deeper level. I'm re-learning that Christians can best support a struggle for a dignified life of peace with justice by "seeing from below," that is, through the eyes of people who have been victimized by civil war and marginalized by economic systems that enrich only the wealthy.
As part of a team of seven from the South Bay, I was privileged to accompany "los pobres de la tierra" (the poor of the land) who are building a small community of 99 families. Because of the 1991 Peace Accords ending the Salvadoran civil war, they were granted small plots of land on the lower Lempa River (my own Bracey grandparents homesteaded "160 acres with a mule" in Mississippi).
Because the South Bay Sanctuary Covenant has been visiting this area annually for 20 years, our delegation (three of whom were from San Jose Presbytery) was received as old friends. We lived separately in the homes of subsistence farmers for four of our days. They spoke only Spanish so my elementary Spanish was pressed to grow in order to relate - yea, survive! By sharing their life for a few days, touring their vegetable crops and small herds of cattle, worshipping with them, and meeting with the community's governing "Directiva," I was inspired by their community spirit. They care for each family and wholeheartedly support the cooperative by pooling resources. Most were former peasant guerillas whose families fled to the Honduran mountains for refuge while the most active adults opposed the death squads and army in the rugged mountains of El Salvador. In one way or another, they bore the scarring of civil war.
Because of our relationship, we were able to discuss their progress and discern what we might do together in the future. In recent years, the South Bay Sanctuary has funded training for three state-certified school teachers, helped to repair 104 earthquake-damaged homes, provided four San Salvador university scholarships, funded a health promoter, and supplied a drilling rig to dig 83 wells delivering safe water.
Equally important to these experiences were meetings and interviews with mission-minded people as diverse as our Presbyterian mission workers, Bob and Julie Dunsmore; the American Ambassador; the staff of El Salavador's largest labor union; the leaders of a non-governmental, international organization providing rural healthcare; and the national legislative leaders of the FMLN party that just lost the national presidential elections. It affirmed for me that mission is not something that comes alone through churches; rather, it happens whenever people of faith work in concert to build and liberate their nation.
On April 15th, at 7:30 pm, Pat Magee opened the monthly Session meeting with prayer.
The Session welcomed new members, Allen Decker, Heather Reynolds, and Andrew Reynolds.
Leland Wong spoke to the Session about the upcoming All-Church Work Day, on May 22nd. The work day will be held at Commercial Street Inn and will include outdoor tasks, such as planting, and indoor tasks, including sorting items and painting at the InnVision warehouse. A barbecue will be held afterward for anyone interested (whether or not they attend the work day). Sign-ups began April 18th.
Fred Oliver of the Facilities Task Force provided an update of the facilities remodeling project. Plans are back into city planning with modifications to appease concerns over impact on the historical look and feel of the church. Key dates to remember are: April 29th: Special Session meeting for recommending approval of the final plans. May 2nd: Plans to be presented for final approval of the congregation.
A new Clerk of Session is to be nominated in late June as our esteemed clerk, Catherine Amos, will be retiring.
Art handed out a Vision Task Force Proposal for consideration at the May and June meetings.
One other date of note is May 16th, the deadline for board annual reports.
The Deacons recognized the Choir on Easter Sunday for their dedication and musical contributions to Stone Church. They selected Easter Sunday as the day to recognize this church group because the Choir participated in two identical services that day.
The Deacons honor and recognize the various groups of Stone Church for their service and commitment by providing food treats throughout the year. During the fall and winter, Presbyterian Women, Session and all Church Committees have been recognized. Church staff, library, church school and adult education teachers will be honored within the next couple of months.
New Nursery and Preschool Location
Thanks to help from many hands, including the Christian Education Board, the Building and Grounds Committee, and friends, the Nursery and Preschool classrooms have been moved downstairs. Stop by to see what a friendly, fun environment Debra Boston has created in Room 6! Preschoolers also have their own space for story and activities by sharing Room 1 with a Rotation workshop.
In a variety of ways, we will all need to be flexible, to adapt, and to work together during this transition to new facilities. Your understanding is appreciated. Together we can make it work!
New Nursery Assistant, Sheri Hankins, Joins Staff
Please join us in welcoming Sheri Hankins, our new Nursery Assistant. Sheri brings a wealth of experience and compassion to our nursery, from raising her own four children, to working with children as a nanny, preschool teacher, and pediatric medical assistant. She continues to take Child Development classes to stay current with her knowledge. Sheri and Debra Boston, our Childcare Supervisor, met in a child development class and have already developed a great working relationship. We are happy to have Sheri join our staff to care for the youngest of our members.
Looking for God's Perspective
Each observer of an event has a unique perspective, but may find it difficult to see the big picture. Church school students (Kindergarten - Grade 5) are learning in current workshops that the two followers on the road to Emmaus, on Easter afternoon, were having that difficulty. They had witnessed the excitement of Palm Sunday; the determination of Jesus in the Temple; his words of warning, along with the gift of a way to remember him after he was gone; the horrible arrest and death of their leader; and even reports of the empty tomb.
But the followers were unable to see the big picture, to understand God's perspective on the events. That's what the stranger who came to walk with them explained. Their "hearts burned within them" as God's way began to make sense, and when he blessed and broke bread, they recognized Jesus.
We, too, can recognize who Jesus really is and begin to see life from God's perspective when we experience the breaking of the bread. Church school students will participate in Communion on May 2; the bread will be a gift prepared in their Cooking workshop. The May 9th - 23rd rotation on Paul's Conversion will continue the focus, helping students to see how dramatically Paul's life changed in the light of God's perspective.
Can we experience that in our own lives? Families will have an opportunity to learn ways to look for God's perspective at a "Soul Feast for Families Weekend" at Stone Church, Friday evening, Saturday morning and Sunday morning, June 18th - 20th. It is designed for parents, grandparents, and preschoolers through middle schoolers. Watch for more details!
All-Church Mission Project to Benefit InnVision
On Saturday, May 22, Stone Church will make an all-out effort to help InnVision upgrade its warehouse and put in landscaping. Church volunteers will plant trees, build shelves, move and sort donations, paint walls, and construct a secure area inside the warehouse - all in one day!
The action begins at 8 am when workers will start gathering at the church for coffee and donuts. In carpools and separately, folks will go to the InnVision facility at North Seventh and Commercial Streets. Most workers should be 12 or over, but those under, but close to, 12 may work under the direct supervision of an adult.
Younger children and others of any age may stay at the church from 8am to 12:30pm (or a part of that time) for other special projects: lunch-making for the InnVision workers, gardening, plus bagging rice and beans.
At about 4 pm, workers will return to church to join other interested (and hungry) folks for a time of fun, fellowship, and delicious BBQ cooked by Mel Goertz.
You can sign up on Sunday mornings for the work and the BBQ. The project offers great flexibility, but coordinators encourage commitments of at least two to three hours. For additional information, contact Leland Wong, Tom Scott, Lawrence Summers, John Lococo, Art Holtz, Ellen Springer, or Mike Breuleux.
Stewardship Board Offers Help with Estate Planning
Do you have a will? If you answered NO, consider having one prepared soon. If you answered YES, verify that the information is correct and up to date, AND consider remembering Stone Church in your will.
The latest statistics from the Presbyterian Church indicate that 80% of Presbyterians have wills, but only 12% name the church as a beneficiary.
In the March 2004 AARP Bulletin it states, "Everyone in America has a will, even if they've never had one drafted. That's because every state has laws dictating how the value of your assets will be divided if you die without a document that spells out your wishes." Luckily, you can avoid this if you don't make these common estate-planning mistakes.
1. Procrastinating. Over 40 percent of Americans age 45 or older have not drawn up a will. And this figure rises to 57 percent among all adult Americans, according to the Findlaw legal website. The excuses are a creative as the ones kids use with their teachers.
2. Keeping poor records. The biggest mistake people make is not regularly updating their estate plans.
3. Failing to update beneficiary forms. Most people never look at these forms, which declare who gets the money from your estate.
4. Failing to hire a qualified attorney. Don't be tempted to write your own will and leave it in the cookie jar.
The Stewardship Board can assist you in selecting options other than a standard will.
Men's Book Club
The next meeting of the Men's Book Club will be held at Bill Gum's home on Monday, May 17th, at 7:30 pm. The book to be discussed at this meeting is Engaging The Powers by Walter Wink, which is about discernment and Christian resistance in a world of domination (not a fast read).
The club's last meeting of the spring will be held at Bruce Raby's home on Monday, June 21st. At that meeting, the club will select books to read over the summer for discussion in the fall.
You are invited to participate in the club's informal, sociable meetings. If you would like to be added to their e-mail notification list, or would just like more information, please contact Bill Gum or Bill Ribble.
Mother's Day Special
Here is an opportunity you wouldn't want to miss. The International Health Ministries Office and Presbyterian Women have partnered to make available attractive Mother's Day cards in exchange for donations to the NetWorkers Malaria Prevention Program. Donations to this extra-commitment opportunity provide mosquito nets and malaria prevention education for families in Malawi.
PW of Stone Church continues their commitment to this project by putting together mosquito nets that are used by expectant mothers in Malawi, as they are four times as likely to contract malaria and twice as likely to die from it.
A gift of $10 will provide educational materials and an insecticide-treated net to protect a woman through her pregnancy. Your gift will not only honor your mother and other cherished women in your life, but will reach out to bring the gift of health to a woman and her baby in Malawi. Please make checks payable to PWP of San Jose, and give them to the church office, which will pass then on to our local PW. Thank you!
Annual Picnic on June 3rd
On Thursday, June 3rd, at noon, when Presbyterian Women and guests gather for the Annual Picnic, the Birthday Offering will be received and dedicated. For location, check with the church office. In the April StoNews, the history of the offering was described. This month, the focus is on the projects receiving Birthday Offering mission grants for 2004. With these grants:
We are happy to participate in this offering that makes such a difference in the lives of others.
Also, for the picnic, please create and wear your own Birthday Hat, bring a salad to share, bring layette items for the Public Health Nurses' program with new mothers, and plan to participate in the election/installation of PW leaders for 2004-2005. Please make reservations and childcare requests by May 30th, via the church office.