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The Stone News for December 2004
Pastor's Message for December
In a dark time, the eye begins to see. - T. Roethke
Did you know there's a difference between the Christian calendar and the secular calendar? November 28th, the first Sunday of Advent, began the Christian liturgical year. The four weeks prior to Christmas mark the season of Advent, where we await the Christ in our lives. We look for the light that overcomes darkness (John 1).
There's a difference between God's time and the world's time. In God's time, we do deep preparation for the coming of the Christ Child. We don't rush into the joy. We don't race through to the Christmas hymns. Advent, also known as a "little Lent," suggests that human hearts require some reflection, prayer time, and even some cleansing (Psalm 51) in order to receive this new birth.
In the secular world's time, there is no Advent, just Christmas. There is no pregnancy, just a quick and sanitized birth. The world sings "Joy to the World" indiscriminately - any time in December is OK. Who cares about the work of preparation and pregnancy?
But, you see, Christian spiritual life is not for sissies. It takes work. It is tremendously difficult to go against the stream of the surrounding culture. I walk into the Valley Fair mall, and every cell starts to scream, "Christmas presents!" "Buy me!" I am so easily seduced.
If we hold a genuine and patient expectation for Holy Birth, we are far more deliberate in how we manage our shopping and our calendars. God's time says we are in preparation for the cosmic event that will transform us and our world. Do you believe that? Christ's coming is not sweet or tame. It may be bold, and even disruptive. It is about things like awe and wonder. Are you prepared?
I hope you will take some time to be quiet at our Taizé service. I encourage you to consider a minimum of fuss and presents, and a maximum of prayer time. Come to church Sunday mornings to be reminded that we live - all of us - in God's time.
May you have a blessed Advent,
Advent and Christmas Worship Services
This year's advent theme at Stone Church is "The Darkness Did Not Overcome." Each Sunday during Advent the 9:30am worship service will include sacred music on this theme. December 19 is the date of the special choir Christmas music, a service not to be missed. On December 24, Christmas Eve services will be held at 7pm, a family service, and at 11pm, a candlelight service.
Are you looking for a way to deepen your spiritual experience of the holiday season? Would you like some time to sit quietly - relax in silence - be surrounded by beautiful music and candlelight - find a moment of peace and centeredness amidst your busy life? Then join us on Tuesday evenings during Advent (Nov. 30, Dec. 7, 14, 21) for the Taizé service. The sanctuary opens at 6:30pm for music and meditation; the service begins at 6:45pm.
Please see below for more about Advent.
There are many ways you can choose to do things differently this year to enrich your holidays, if you plan ahead. The Christian Education Board will have a table during coffee hour with excellent materials to help you (donations will be accepted). Get a copy of Whose Birthday Is It, Anyway? which offers Ten Free, Fun Things Your Family Can Do at Christmas Time, Teaching Generosity to Kids, and The Search for Meaning-Beyond a Commercialized World, as well as ideas for simple home decorations and gifts. "Gentle, Faithful Steps Toward a Simpler Christmas" is a calendar for Advent and Christmas with more great ideas.
The "Reflections" section of Whose Birthday Is It, Anyway? will also supplement this year's Stone Church Advent Wreath Guide. Church school students will make Advent Wreaths during class on Sunday, November 28. Parents can join them after worship. Families who cannot be here that Sunday, as well as others who do not have children, can pick up supplies for an Advent Wreath and the guide on subsequent Sundays, as long as the supplies last.
A great planning guide in another piece called, Let's Talk About Christmas!, can help you ask the right questions to determine the traditions you want to continue and what you want to do differently. One consideration may be giving some alternative gifts, like a "Heifer Project" goat to a family in need, nails for a "Habitat for Humanity" house in the US or abroad, or one of the many possibilities offered in the "Alternative Gifts International" catalog.
The Christmas Game is something you can play anytime, anywhere, at home, while traveling, with friends or relatives of all ages. It's a great way to share memories of Christmases past, learn some Christmas history, and encourage thoughts about your deeper priorities. Be sure to pick up a copy; it's pocket size!
If you would like to have less stress and deeper joy in your experience of the holidays, take advantage of these great resources offered by the C.E. Board.
Butch Washington grew up in the Baldwin Hills section of Los Angeles. As a youth, he was active in the Catholic Church and served as an altar boy. He even considered, at age 17, enrolling in Catholic seminary to become a priest.
Instead, he chose a career in forestry, earning a degree in Forest Management from Humboldt State in 1979 and a degree in Logging Management from Oregon State. He has had a 20-plus-year career in forestry, working first for the federal government and then for the California Department of Forestry.
Butch has two daughters and one son. In 1996, he suffered an unexpected and difficult divorce. To begin to make sense of the situation and to lift himself out of depression, he met regularly with a spiritual counselor, who was a member of the Morgan Hill Presbyterian Church. As he worked through the loss of his marriage, Butch had a conversion experience and clearly sensed that God had more for him to do. He began to attend Hollister Presbyterian Church - the first time he had been in a Protestant church. He quickly became active and has served on the Hollister Session.
Butch enrolled in Fuller Seminary's extension program, taking classes in Menlo Park and other Northern California locations as far away as Sacramento. He was in a core group of 31 students who took classes together; 28 completed the course of study. Last month he passed his final ordination examination. When he finishes his internship at Stone in March, he will be ready for ordination and parish ministry.
We thank Butch for his service at Stone and extend our best wishes for future success in the ministry.
Rosaleen Zisch reported on the recent Middle School Retreat.
"When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers-" (Psalm 8:3), I am reminded of our Middle School Retreat kids, who on Nov. 5 and 6 taught me how God loves us in many ways.
On Friday night, after a "taco feed" with new friends from the Hollister youth group, we got lost and scared in a corn maze. Returning to the church gym, we ate warm cake and ice cream and listened to a talk by an astronomer. We finished the night viewing the stars and seeing the movie Contact. Some of us got sleep, and some of us were sleep-deprived, but we all enjoyed our great breakfast cooked with the help of our Hollister hosts.
Saturday showed us how God can be part of our everyday lives when we visited three ranches. Cows, horses, chickens, and bees, plus lots of sunshine and fresh air were the highlights of the day. Our theme was Psalm 8, and we connected with God's word in personal ways on this trip.
Middle School participants were Alexandra Bowers, Katie Hubbert, Jordan Olmstead, Kendall Searing, Brett Bowers, Liam Doherty, Greg Edwards, Sam Hudson-Crim, Ryan MacDonald, Janna Minehart, and Emily Nissen. The Leadership Team was Kent Campbell, Rosaleen Zisch, Butch Washington, and Rebecca Kuiken.
Advent at Stone Church
Advent Theme, "The Darkness Did Not Overcome," Presented in Art and Music
This year's advent theme is "The Darkness Did Not Overcome." This powerful scriptural message has inspired the Liturgical Arts Committee to focus on the message of hope that it conveys and to portray that message in creative expressions of light. Therefore, all of the liturgical arts added to the sanctuary for this season will incorporate images of light: our lovely Christmas tree; hangings at the front of the church consisting of small mirrors hung on nylon string: and hangings from the six side rods consisting of a combination of mirrors, ribbons and stars.
Our Music Director, Lucik Aprahamian, has carefully planned our Sacred Music for Advent. On November 28, we will hear the Fanfare and Chorus from Ihr Leben Christen, Freut Euch Nun (Dear Christians, Rejoice) by Dietrich Buxtehude (1637-1707), and Glory to God from the Magnificat, by J. S. Bach (1685-1750). On December 5, the choir will sing Dona Nobis Pacem (Grant Us Peace) from Missa Brevis in F by W. A. Mozart (1756-1791). On December 12, Lift Up Your Heads, O Ye Gates, by William Mathias (1934-1992), will be offered. December 19 is the date of the special choir Christmas music; this year, we will hear Missa in C by Antonio Lotti (1666-1740). The Christmas Eve service will feature O Magnum Mysterium, by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrini (1525 or 1526-1594), in addition to music from other composers of the 15th and 16th centuries.
It is hoped that the liturgical art in all forms - visual, auditory and kinetic - in both creations and performances - will work together to build feeling, emotion and concept of the scripture, "The Darkness Did Not Overcome."
Taizé Services During Advent
Join us on Tuesday evenings during Advent (November 30, December 7, 14, and 21) for the Taizé service. The center of the service is music. The Taizé form of song grew out of the need for active participation in the prayer of the community by numerous visitors. The songs can be quickly learned so that genuine prayer can be expressed through them. They are repetitions of chants, each of them brief and easily sung. A scripture reading, silent meditation, intercessory prayers, lighting of candles, and prayers at the cross are also part of this peaceful service. The sanctuary opens at 6:30pm for music and meditation, and the service begins at 6:45pm.
Adult Education Offers Many Options for Enrichment and Learning
Science and Ethics - Genetic Science: Promises and Pitfalls with Pat Magee as leader. November 28, December 5 - 19 (4 weeks)
Recent advances in genetic science and technology have outrun traditional ethical understanding, Biblical guidance, and legal precedence. This class will provide scientific background and religious orientation to help participants make wiser ethical decisions in this complex and critical area.
Basic Bible Study - The Parables of Jesus with Marge Palmer, Parish Associate, as leader. November 14 - December 19 (6 weeks)
This class is studying six of Jesus' parables as recorded throughout the Gospels. As a resource, in addition to Scripture, videotapes of lectures given by Dr. Ken Bailey, a noted Biblical scholar who has lived most of his life in the Middle East, are being shown.
Basic Bible Studies are an opportunity for those who have never studied the Bible, or who have not studied the Bible since they were a child, or who just want a deeper understanding of the Bible.
Coming in January:
Religion and Race in America with the Rev. Jim Bennett, Santa Clara University, leader
The role of religion and the role of race form two of the most persistent themes in American history. They have also had a complex and intimately intertwined relationship with each other. This class will explore some of the ways in which religion and race have interacted to shape religious, racial, and national identities in American history.
Bible Study: Hosea with the Rev. Dale Bracey, leader.
Dr. Marcus Borg will be Henrietta Perdue Memorial Lecturer in April 2005
On Friday evening, April 1, 2005, Dr. Marcus J. Borg will present the annual Henrietta Perdue Memorial Lecture, Two Visions of Christianity Today. On Saturday, April 2, Dr. Borg will present a series of three lectures on the topic of Seeing Jesus Again. Each lecture will be followed by a time for questions from the audience. More information will be available in the January StoNews.
2005 Women's Retreat Announces Speaker and Theme
Be sure to save the weekend of February 25-27, 2005, for the annual Stone Church Women's Retreat at the St. Francis Retreat Center, in San Juan Bautista. The speaker will be Rev. Suzanne Seaton, spiritual director and Methodist clergywoman, and the theme will be Discernment.
Church Library will "Bloom" Again
Much like bulbs planted in dark, rich soil, Stone's library books have been sitting for months in boxes in the basement - just waiting to make that upward journey and burst into bloom!
During this time of waiting, many Stone Church folks have rendered a great service to all San Jose residents by displaying lawn signs, talking with neighbors, and doing other things that helped the library parcel tax win approval. Thanks to this victory, San Jose libraries will have extra funds for ten more years, enabling them to buy materials, put on children's programs, teach adults to read, and maintain reasonable hours, even if tough city budgets reduce operating funds.
Very soon - through the work of volunteers with strong backs, agile wrists, and nimble minds - Stone's library books will be moved into the new conference room/library in Lincoln House. And it won't be the only nice library in town!
Alternative Gifts International
Consider supporting the work of Father Elias Chacour and the schools he has established in Ibillin, Israel. Project 23 in the "Alternative Gifts International" catalog, or at www.altgifts.org, allows you to provide books or chairs for the "Children's Library for Peace." The library will complete the elementary school funded in part by contributions from Fr. Chacour's visit to our area last April. A variety of cards are available to announce your gift to the recipient(s) of your choice.
A Scottish Christmas
You are invited to a free concert to celebrate the holiday season. The Stewart Tartan Pipes and Drums of San Francisco present A Scottish Christmas featuring bagpipes, drums, Scottish ballads and Highland dancing. This event will be held in the Stone Church sanctuary on Sunday, Dec. 5, at 3pm.
Session met at the home of Ed Tablak on November 9, 2004.
Session was informed that Fred Gardner, our Church Historian for over 20 years, is retiring.
Fred Oliver, from the Facilities Task Force, reported that shelves from the old church offices have been moved to the new offices in Lincoln House. All city inspections are complete so things are now moving at a faster pace. Construction in the new Simpson Education Wing will begin soon.
Session voted to approve a Renaissance Celebration in April, following the completion of our remodeling. that will serve as an open house and outreach to the community, Pat Magee presented the outline for this event, which will require input from many members of our church family.
Rebecca Kuiken's sabbatical plan was presented and approved. A detailed account of her plan will be distributed to the entire church family. Her sabbatical will run from April through July and will include her vacation time.
The Youth Mission Work Trip was successful, as reported in the StoNews last month. A second trip is planned for one week in June working with Self-Help Enterprises. A joint committee meeting of CE members from Church School, the Youth Ministry Committee, and the Church and World board made commitments to the mission trip and vacation church school.
The Middle School Retreat was a wonderful experience for all (see page 5). CE also reported that fourth grade Bibles will be given out on Dec. 12, and a brunch for parents and kids will be held after worship.
Taizé attendance is down, so flyers have been created, and Session members were encouraged to attend prior to committee meetings; in Advent, Taizé services are offered every Tuesday. The worship theme for Advent is "The Darkness Did Not Overcome," and a special tree-decorating Sunday is planned on Nov. 21 after worship.
Two other reports included the following information: Seminary Intern Butch Washington passed his exams for ordination, and Session was encouraged to attend the Dec. 4 meeting of the Presbytery since it is Claudia Hamm's last one as Moderator.
The meeting closed with prayer and plans to meet in December in the new conference room!
Deacons "Parents Day Out" Helps with Holiday Rush
Parents, do you need some extra time before Christmas? Do you always run out of time for shopping, baking and errands right before Christmas? If so, let the Deacons help you out! We will take care of your kids, ages 12 and under, on Saturday, December 11, from 9am to 1pm at the church, giving you some uninterrupted time for holiday tasks. We're planning a morning full of crafts, stories and fun. Lunch is also provided. Call Barbara Krause at 971-3751 by December 6 to sign up.
Church & World Board Reviews 2004
Here is a summary of the Church and World board's loving and caring ministry for 2004.
Stone Church members provided food for homeless men in InnVision's Community Inn rotating housing program at Calvary United Methodist Church. (The remodeling project kept Stone from being a host church this year.) The men gave enthusiastic thanks for the placemats specially made by the children in the church school. In 2005, we will again host a group at Stone Church.
The springtime work day at the church and at InnVision was a time when many, many members, from toddlers to octogenarians, participated and contributed to cleaning up the grounds in both places; sorting goods for sale and clothes for job hunting; and painting and building a fence at the InnVision site.
The Adult Mission trips, organized by Leland Wong, included work projects at Westminster Woods and Camp Mattole. These trips have been valuable to the recipients, as well as providing opportunities to form friendships and obtain spiritual guidance and study experiences.
The High School Youth Group work and study mission trip at Westminster Woods was a great success and a major learning experience for all concerned.
Community Care-Taking was put together by Sue Williams. A handout was developed listing volunteer opportunities within the community and was distributed Sunday mornings and in the StoNews.
The Friends Outside Giving Tree is being coordinated by middle school students under the adult leadership of Kate Wheatley and Jody Meacham. Through this program, the church will provide Christmas gifts and much-needed groceries for two families of five. Last year, many Stone Church families contributed, and we are confident that they will do so again.
The Crop Walk, headed by Derk Johnson, Rod Thorn and Art Holtz, was held April 25th. This year the walk raised $1,800. A number of dedicated Stone Church members walked, making this the 26th year of the church's participation.
The Sacred Heart Community Center received a steady stream of clothing thanks to the congregation's donations. Thanks to all who kept clothing and personal items flowing month after month.
The Presbyterian Women once again performed many activities on a number of justice issues.
Supporting local needs continues to be important for Stone Church. The following local organizations received funding from Stone Church in 2004: $900 each to Sacred Heart Community Center, Emergency Housing Consortium, InnVision, Next Door, Contact, Santa Maria and Urban Ministry, as well as $2,500 to Community Inns.
Presbyterian Church (USA) Special Offerings raised were as follows: $1,798 from the Peacemaking offering coordinated by Ed Tablak. $2,457 from the One Great Hour of Sharing Offering coordinated by Renate Frick. We will be sponsoring the Christmas Joy offering in December.
This year's pledge to General Mission is $28,500: 50% will go to the Synod, and 50% will go to national/international mission through the General Assembly.
Worship Committee Opportunities
Two committees are being formed from the Liturgical Arts Committee: one will consist of spiritual thinkers, designers and architects, who will provide the concepts and emotions of ideas in scripture; the other will consist of designers, doers and construction personnel, who will creatively bring the concepts of the first committee to life. If you are interested in being a part of either of these committees, please contact Gail Chaid.
Presbyterian Women News
PW Giving: The Hudspeth Trust
Ruby Hudspeth was an early member of Stone Church, one of its first women elders, and active in Presbyterian Women. At her death, she left a bequest to PW for its mission projects, and PW created the Hudspeth Trust. Though income has diminished because of low interest rates, a number of projects are still funded each year, including a variety of community services and a pledge of $5,000 over 5 years to the Stone Church Capital Campaign. For nine years, the trust has funded scholarships to Stone Church youth, including Karen Hagan who received support for seminary.
This year, five students at four-year schools are receiving aid: Isabel Wei and Nathan Hudson-Crim at UC Davis; Matt Moncrief at the University of Oregon; Colin Frohlich at UC Santa Cruz; and Betsy Williams at Yale.
December 2, 10 am - Emerald Circle Bible Study and Christmas Lunch at the home of Janice Goertz.
December 7, 9:30 am - Focus Group at the home of Liz Shandera.
December 8 - Amethyst Circle Luncheon at the home of Jan Keifer.
December 9, 9:30 am - Coordinating Team at the home of Jan Keifer.
December 12 - Coffee sale after church - the last coffee sale before the holidays.
December 13, 6:30 pm - Sapphire Circle Holiday Gathering at the home of Jeanette Rapp.
December 14, 11:30 am - Lunch Bunch, at the Taiwan Restaurant; call Ida Raby for reservations.
December 16, 9:30 am - Bible Study with Marge Palmer at the home of Alice Thorn.
December 20, 2:30 pm - Book Group II (reading Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey) at the home of Betty Spicher.
Please note that Book Group I is not meeting in December.