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The Stone News for December 2005
Pastor's Message for December
Dear Friends,"All saving ideas are born small. God comes to earth as a child so that we can finally grow up, which means we can stop blaming God for being absent when we ourselves were not present, stop blaming God for the ills of the world as if we had been laboring to cure them, and stop making God responsible for all the thinking and doing we should be undertaking on our own." (William Sloane Coffin, Credo, p. 10)
During Advent, the four weeks prior to Christ's birth, Christians prepare for the coming salvation in this small birth that took place 2000 years ago and that takes place in our lives today.
"Salvation" was not originally a religious word in either the Hebrew Scriptures or the Gospels. The Hebrew word more often refers to victory over evil or to a rescue from danger. In the Gospels, people seek Jesus out to be physically saved from paralysis, leprosy or blindness. He tells them, "Your faith has made you well."
Salvation is concrete and physical. Listen then to the place in your body where you experience fear, outrage or despair. What would wholeness, healing, or rescue look like? Take a small step towards spiritual adulthood, and offer a hand - not a temper tantrum - to the Divine.
I have seen people take this step and leave years of drug addiction, and move into health in their families. I have witnessed people who took a step, and left their powerlessness over environmental decay or world hunger, only to be empowered with friends and partners who grew them up into advocates. I have seen angry and bitter people shed their old skin, and grow up in faith and trust.
All saving ideas are born small. May this Advent season bring you to birth in Christ ...
- Faithfully yours,
Preparing the Way of the LordThe theme for Advent this year at Stone Church comes from Isaiah 40:1-5: "In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God."
Here are a few of the ways that members of Stone Church are preparing for Advent, including several in which you are invited to participate.
Taizé offers Meditation and Music - As the days shorten to the winter solstice, light becomes even more important. And light is the focus of Advent, and of the Taizé services held during Advent. The worshipper enters a darkened sanctuary and looks to the front to a wall of candles. A service of silence, of scripture, of spoken prayer and of chanted music creates a time out from the flurry of holiday rush. The sanctuary opens for meditation and music at 6:30 pm. The services begin at 6:45 pm. and are held every Tuesday in Advent: December 6, 13 and 20.
Handel's "Messiah" - The choir has also been preparing for the Advent season. They will be singing, among other things, selections from Handel's "Messiah". George Frideric Handel (1685-1759) was born in Germany, but worked primarily in England, and is considered one of the most important masters of the baroque period (from about 1600 to 1750). "Messiah", first performed in 1742, is considered Handel's greatest oratorio. On composing "Messiah", Handel is said to have remarked, "I did think I did see all Heaven before me and the great God Himself."
Christmas Eve - Since Christmas falls on a Sunday this year, there will be only one service on Saturday, Christmas Eve, at 7:30 pm. This will be a family-oriented service and will include candle-lighting and participation from the choir.
Christmas Day - On Sunday, Christmas Day, there will be a family worship service at 9:30 am. Please note that the Nursery will be closed.
Quick AnnouncementsParents' Day Out: Set aside some time for yourself on Sat., Dec. 3, from 10 am to 2 pm. Children, ages 12 and under, can be left in the capable hands of the Deacons, and parents can do some shopping, go out to lunch, take in a movie, or just enjoy some grown-up time. Contact Mike Wyllie for reservations.
Stewart Tartan Pipes & Drums Christmas Concert: All are invited to the Stone Church Sanctuary on Sunday, December 4 at 3 pm to enjoy this annual holiday event. Admission is free, donations welcome. There will be a reception following the concert
Men's Book Group: The Men's Book Group will meet at Bill Ribble's home on December 19, at 7:30 pm, to select books for reading early in the New Year.
Because so many events are announced in this StoNews issue, we summarize them in date sequence here:
Don't Forget Your Partner on Valentine's DayThe Christian Education Board and the Membership & Evangelism Board are pleased to announce a day of enriching and exciting events on February 11, 2006. On Saturday morning, a Marriage Renewal Seminar with Ed Brackenbury will start off the day. Saturday evening will include Rev. Marge Palmer leading a vow renewal in the Sanctuary, followed by the return of the popular "Sweethearts in the Kitchen" dinner.
Please save this 2006 date and stay tuned for further information.
Women's RetreatThe planning committee for Stone's annual Women's Retreat is organizing a wonderful weekend for the women of Stone Church and their friends and family. The retreat will take place March 17-19, 2006, at the St. Francis Retreat Center in San Juan Bautista. (Please note that the retreat will take place a few weeks later than previous years.)
Mary Alice Collins, back by popular demand, will lead the retreat. Information on registration will be coming soon. Be on the lookout - you won't want to miss this year! And you can start collecting items now to contribute to the White Elephant sale to benefit the retreat scholarship fund.
Butch Washington Ordination Service PhotoLast October 9th, several Stone Church members travelled to Hollister to be present for Adrian "Butch" Washington as he was ordained Minister of Word and Sacrament in a service there. He has accepted a call to serve in Swan Valley, ID. The photo below was taken at the reception following the service.
Church School Prepares for AdventProphets Point to Jesus
As children in kindergarten through grade 5 complete their study of prophets, they see that many of the prophets pointed to Jesus as the Messiah and shaped our understanding of the kind of Messiah he would be. His name would be Emmanuel (God with us); he would be of the line of David and born in Bethlehem; his role would be as a shepherd, a suffering servant and savior; the Son of God would be a light to the world.
All church school students are preparing to share the song, "I Am the Light of the World," in worship on December 11.
Letting Advent Do Its Work!
Church school students have been making Advent wreaths and taking home guides with the booklet, "Whose Birthday Is It Anyway?" As their families take time weekly to light the candles, share the reflections and worship together, they will be opening their hearts and preparing for the coming of Christ - a gift of calm and purpose in the midst of a hectic season! Supplies for Advent wreaths, the "Whose Birthday Is It Anyway?" booklets and other helpful resources are available at a CE table after Worship on Sundays.
Using Good Children's Books to Share Faith
For each book, there is a synopsis of the story, suggestions of related spiritual themes, and reflection questions. As the adult and child share the story and talk about it, the conversation leads to God's involvement in and a Christian perspective on life. These kinds of experiences are invaluable in the child's development of a personal faith.
This resource is available from Miriam or on Sundays at the CE table for $5.50. What a great gift, maybe with one of the recommended storybooks!
Middle School Friday's Kids Events in Full SwingThe Stone Church Middle School, also known as Friday's Kids, has been enjoying a series of events especially planned for them by advisors Angela Kobel, Kate Wheatley and Rosaleen Zisch.
The first event was a late summer BBQ and swim party at the home of Kate Wheatley. It was lots of fun, and seventh grader Jordan Olmstead was the chief BBQ king, trying his first solo stint at cooking hot dogs and hamburgers. He admitted that it was "a bit different than just helping his dad do the barbequing!" Everyone had a great time swimming, eating, hanging out, and getting to know each other on one of the last days of summer before school began.
In October, at a gathering at the church, the group made their own chicken fajitas. Alexandra Bowers was cookstove queen this time, along with help from new youth advisor, Angela Kobel. The group also watched the animated film, "Brother Bear," and talked a bit about the spirit journey made by the lead character, Kenai, and how it was similar to their own Christian journeys.
On December 9 (note the change in date from December 2), the group will gather at church for dinner and a hands-on activity making Christmas decorations for some very special people at Stone Church (they're not telling who - that would spoil the surprise!).
The Middle School group is called Friday's Kids because they meet on Fridays, and Fridays are a TGIF day for many of us! You are welcome to visit with the group on December 9, and check out the fun they are having and the community being forged among these wonderful and energetic Friday's Kids.
Sunday Morning Adult Study in DecemberSunday morning Adult Classes are being offered this school year in two broad areas:
(2) Spirituality and Christian life.
There will be no Adult Classes on Christmas Day, December 25, or New Year's Day, January 1.
Spirituality and Christian Life
November 27 to December 18 - The Way of Blessedness: Would you like to go deeper into Christian Spiritual Formation in a small group setting? The Rev. Rebecca Kuiken leads an exploration of Jesus' teachings from the Sermon on the Mount. Each participant will be invited to discover Jesus' vision of the Kingdom of God on earth and to develop and live a personal "rule of life" that helps us reside in that kingdom. The resource book, Companions in Christ: The Way of Blessedness, will be available for review and purchase.
Bible Study & Church History
December 4 - Birth Pangs of the Church: The First Years: Who's a heretic and who has the true faith? When the church was being formed, Christians had many different views of Jesus and what it meant to follow the resurrected Christ. And they had questions about faith: what was "in," what was "out?" Dale and Barbara Bracey will probe evidence from the New Testament and extra-biblical writings, including the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, the Apostolic Fathers, and Gnostic writings. Some of these views are still challenging "orthodoxy" today!
December 11 & 18 - The Book of Genesis, Its Meaning for Today: The Book of Genesis is filled with strange, unbelievable stories: creation of the universe in six days, expulsion from Paradise for eating a forbidden fruit, a worldwide flood, and an old man who tries to sacrifice his son. Can these 3000-year-old myths have any meaning for our lives today?
J. Philip Newell, World-renowned Author on Celtic Spirituality, to be 2006 Henrietta Perdue LecturerJ. Philip Newell, an internationally acclaimed poet and author who writes about Celtic spirituality, will be the Henrietta Perdue Lecturer the weekend of May 5 - 6, 2006. His books include Listening for the Heartbeat of God and Sounds of the Eternal. His latest book, just published in September, is Celtic Treasure.
Dr. Newell will present a lecture on Friday night and two workshops on Saturday.
Lecture - Friday Evening, May 5: Listening for the Heartbeat of God: A Celtic Spirituality
The Friday evening lecture will explore the major themes of the Celtic tradition as a type of spirituality for today. A cherished image in the Celtic tradition is the memory of John the Beloved leaning against Jesus at the last supper. It was said of him that he therefore heard the heartbeat of God. He became a symbol of the practice of listening for the beat of God's presence within the whole of life.
Workshop I - Saturday Morning, May 6: Matter Matters: Listening for God within the Body of Creation
Workshop II - Saturday Morning, May 6: Love-Longings: Listening for Christ within the Human Soul
Please save these dates; additional information will be forthcoming as the dates approach.
The Gift of Books: Fun and ChallengingAs we remember the many gifts of love that Evelyn Williams gave to our library, the Bethel Presbyterian Church Deacon's Fund in Seattle has also given us a gift in her memory. These new books were purchased with their gift:
News from Presbyterian WomenHere is the calendar for Presbyterian Women activities in December. Newcomers are welcome at all meetings. For additional information, call the meeting hostess; the church office has phone numbers if you don't have a current member list.
Dec. 5, 1 pm, Book Group I, reading Angels & Demons by Dan Brown, at Liz Shandera's home
Dec. 6, 9:30 am, Focus Group, at Liz Shandera's home
Dec. 7, noon, Amethyst Circle, Study and Holiday Lunch, at Jan Keifer's home
Dec. 11, after worship, Fair Trade Coffee Sales (Social Hall)
Dec. 12, 6:30 pm, Sapphire Circle, Study and Holiday Dinner, at Jeannette Rapp's home
Dec. 13, 11:30 am, Lunch Bunch (Taiwan Restaurant; call Ida Raby for information)
Dec. 15, 9:30 to 11:30 am, Bible Study (Conference Room, Lincoln House)
Dec. 19, 2:30 pm, Book Group II, reading The Beggar King and the Secret of Happiness by Joel ben Izzy, at Rosaleen Zisch's home
Church and World Board Board News
The Giving Tree: Gifts for a "Friends Outside" FamilyDid you find the Giving Tree in the Social Hall during November? Missed it? Not to worry - you may still have the opportunity to help with gift items, food items, or gift certificates. Call Kathie Lloyd or Sara Holtzapple.
Backpacks for RefugeesBill Palmer still has one or two unfilled backpacks for refugees arriving in San José, if you missed getting one in November. Call him; it may not be too late to participate.
Report on Stone's Generous GivingChurch & World board is happy to report that as of December 5th the special disaster response offerings totalled as follows: to Hurricane Katrina victims, exactly $10,000; to earthquake victims in Pakistan, $1,185. The Peacemaking Offering collected $2,423; twenty-five percent of this offering will be used to support the "Clean Slate" project locally, and the remainder will go to General Assembly Peacemaking programs. Church & World board is grateful for the generosity of the congregation.
REJOICE EMMANUEL! - 2005 Christmas Joy OfferingAs we honor Emmanuel, God With Us, this season, we will pass the light, candle by candle, at the Christmas Eve service. We can also pass on the light of love with our actions. The Christmas Joy Offering, which we Presbyterians have been collecting for almost 70 years, will equally support both Presbyterian-related racial ethnic education and the Board of Pensions. Whether helping to light the way forward for students groping toward their future or casting a grateful light back on lives spent serving the church, the Joy Offering is a way we celebrate this season and pass on the candle of love that is God With Us.
Mission Study Committee Survey Data Collection is CompleteThe Mission Study Committee thanks members and friends of Stone Church who completed the Congregational Survey this month. The committee will be tabulating responses and writing a report about the values and beliefs of the Stone Church family to assist in the search for our new pastor.
Shown on the left, Tina Luebcke of the Mission Study Committee reviews comments from the congregation regarding the strengths and weaknesses members see in Stone Church life.
Session BeatThe Session approved two proposals from the Buildings & Grounds board at its November meeting related to Stone Church's new facilities.
In the first, the Session approved the creation of a handyman position, pending a decision of the Budget Review Committee to create a line item of about $6,500 for the 2006 fiscal year. The proposal anticipates a pay rate between $10 and $12 per hour for eight to 10 hours of work each week. If enacted, congregation members with necessary skills would be encouraged to apply.
The other action allocates $5,200 for a new sign for the church that would incorporate the Presbyterian Church USA logo and a changeable message board. The base of the sign would use stones left over from the renovation, and the money would come from the Combined Memorial Fund.
Session also authorized a chili cook-off on a date to be determined in 2006 that would be a fundraiser for the choir. It also voted that the raw data from the Mission Study Committee's congregational survey be available to all boards.
Notes from StewardshipBudget Review Committee asks for pledges by 12/1/05
The Budget Review Committee is meeting on Dec. 1 and has the responsibility of preparing the annual budget recommendations to the Session. Since the largest source of revenue for the budget is annual pledges, the more we have in by the time of the BRC meeting, the better the recommendations we can provide the Session.
End-of-Year Donations to be in by 12/31/05
2. Be sure to write out the words of the amount, not just the numerical amount; for example, One hundred and No/100 dollars. When there is any question, the bank uses the written words and not the numbers.
3. When writing a check for your pledge or the Capital Campaign and not using a pledge envelope, please write your envelope number on the Memo line.
4. If you are paying multiple weeks' or months' pledges at one time, you can use just one check and one envelope. (You don't need to include a check for each week's or month's pledge.)
Money and the FutureSometime during the sixth decade of our lives (if not before), we begin to get advertisements for retirement planning. The "advisors" who send the ads want to assure that we have adequate financial resources to maintain healthy and comfortable living. Implicit is the question, "How does money affect your plans for the future?" The question, of course, is not limited to retirement planning; it also has to do with home purchases, college for children, and many more issues, both immediate and long term.
How money affects our plans for the future is also an important question for our congregation. Our recent remodeling revealed several maintenance problems that developed because money was not spent several years ago. The Session and its committees are laying plans to prevent that kind of future problem. We also want to keep strong programs of ministry, such as community lectures, justice and social concerns, and new member growth.
Financial giving to Stone Church is more than contributing to a budget, and it is more than meeting current expenses during the coming year. It is an investment in a future, fulfilling the promise of a strong, vibrant, effective congregation that ministers both to its members and to the community. The future of this promise grows from the generosity of its members.
There is a story about a minister who told his congregation that he had good news and bad news about the building program. "The good news," he said, "is that we have all the money we need. The bad news is that it is in your pockets instead of the Building Fund." We could say much the same: "The good news is that Stone Church has a promising future." Will we speak of disappointment that the promise remains in our pockets, or will we be generous enough to fulfill the promise?
Stone's Renaissance Continues ... New Asphalt Paving the Way for the FutureThe Session has approved a repaving of the main Sanctuary driveway, the turn through driveway in front of the Simpson Wing on Lincoln, and the main Lincoln House driveway. Bay Area Asphalt will be working on December 1 and 2 to complete all of the areas. New handicapped spots will be drawn on the Sanctuary driveway and proper signs posted. The paving material will be 4 to 6 inches of asphalt; for quality, the old driveway materials will be removed or rehabilitated to provide a solid base and years of usefulness. The contractor has assured us the driveways will be ready for the December 3rd Parent's Day Out event sponsored by Deacons. Any questions or concerns, call Art Holtz of Buildings and Grounds, or Elizabeth Sorensen in the church office.
New Chairs Ordered for Social HallNow that you've tried the new "sample chair" for the Social Hall and decided that it's really comfortable, you will be happy to learn that 100 chairs have been ordered. The chairs were funded by a donation made specifically for that purpose. The Chair Committee (Virginia Holtz, Jan and Jerry Keifer, Fred Oliver and Joyce Summers) is hoping that they will arrive before Christmas - maybe even before the Stewart Tartan concert on December 4.
Here are some facts about the chairs: they have a 10-year warranty; their dimensions are 34.5 inches high by 20 inches wide; the seat height is 17.5 inches; they have lumbar support; the fabric is 100% olefin, has been treated for soil and stain resistance and is flame resistant; the frame has a powder coating - an environmentally friendly polymer-based coating; and the feet are recommended for a cork floor.
The Chair Committee hopes that everyone will enjoy them!