Newsletter Contents

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See below for Baking Bread for Communion, Helping with Family Easter Vigil Service, A New Youth Group, News from Pastor Sara Olson-Smith, Thrivent Financial Helping Haiti, Joan Heer Memorial Music Scholarship, A Note of Thanks, ELCA News.

Check the website Welcome page for other news and announcements
See the Worship Archive for the services and sermons you missed

Read why we don’t publish the prayer list online and how you can get a copy

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Will you bake bread for communion?

During Lent, we will commune with real bread!  Contact Pastor Clark if you’re willing to be a Lenten bread baker, and he will share a simple recipe with you.  (It’s the same recipe we used at Christmas this past year.) But contact him soon—Lent begins Wednesday, February 17.

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Will you help prepare for the Family Easter Vigil service?

The Confirmation class will soon begin preparing for the Family Easter Vigil.  Contact Pastor Clark if you’re willing to help them.  Preparations will begin in Lent, and the Vigil itself will be held at 6:30pm (an hour earlier than last year) on Saturday, April 3.  None of the 90 people who participated last year left the Vigil doubting that Christ is risen indeed!

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Come Join our Youth Group starting February 3rd at 7pm

I, Sarah McCarthy, would like to start up a youth group in St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church.  I have visited other youth groups around town and have gotten some good ideas.  During each meeting, they spend some time talking about the bible, doing fun activities and games together, and planning different trips.  They go on different trips throughout the year.  For example, they go to different places like Six Flags in the summer and snow camp in the winter.  These youth groups have a lot of fun together.  I was hoping to get the middle school and high school teens to join our youth group.  You can even bring a friend.  The pastor and I are planning our first meeting on Wednesday, February 3rd at 7pm.  Interested?  Please come and join us.  We will be discussing different things we will all like to see in the youth group.  If you can’t make the first meeting but still would like to join, you can call me at (908) 561-8754.

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Members and Friends of St. Stephen-

A blessed Epiphany and Happy New Year to you.  My deepest thanks to you for the prayers, hospitality and compassion that has been shown to me and the newest members of St. Stephen – formerly of St. Peter’s.  I am immensely grateful and I cannot wait to hear about all that God will do through the community of St. Stephen in the coming months and years.  As for me, I have recently been appointed to serve for the next year as the Interim Pastor at Christ the King Lutheran Church in Kendall Park.  Their current pastor is retiring, and I have been asked to serve that congregation through this transition.  As I begin that ministry, I will continue to hold you in my prayers and give thanks to God for your witness, compassion and faithfulness.

Many blessings to you-

Pastor Sara Olson-Smith

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Thrivent Financial members invited to join in $3 million Helping Haiti effort

Thrivent Financial for Lutherans members who want to make a financial contribution to support disaster response efforts in Haiti can have their donations to one of four Lutheran relief agencies multiplied by the fraternal benefit society.

To participate, visit www.thrivent.com/helpinghaiti and make a contribution to one of the following:

Lutheran World Relief

ELCA Disaster Response

Thrivent Financial will add $1 to every $2 its members donate, up to a total Thrivent Financial contribution of $1 million. That means a potential of $3 million or more to support relief efforts: $2 million + from its members and $1 million added by Thrivent Financial.

For questions or alternative ways to donate through this program, please call 800-236-3736. When promoted, say “directory” and enter ext. 83003.

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Joan Heer Memorial Music Scholarship

Growing out of Joan Heer’s love of music and St. Stephen’s history of strong musical ministry, this scholarship seeks to enrich our worship and help to raise up new musicians for the body of Christ.  Money from this scholarship will be given to individual members of the congregation to take music lessons, either voice or instrument, who then share their musical gifts in worship.

The scholarship will be administered by the Director of Music, in consultation with the Pastor and the Worship and Music committee.  Individuals who wish to make use of the scholarship will meet with the Director of Music.  With the recommendation of the Director of Music and in consultation with the Pastor, the Worship and Music committee will decide whether the request is consistent with the aims of St. Stephen’s music ministry and useful for the strengthening of worship.  If so, the Director of Music, on behalf of St. Stephen, may grant a scholarship for each individual for up to six lessons (or $200) from the Joan Heer Memorial Music Scholarship.

The Director of Music will stay in touch with the individual, to learn how the lessons went or are going.  The Director of Music will invite the individual, during the announcements in worship, to describe to the congregation what he or she learned or has enjoyed about the lessons.  The Director of Music will also invite the individual to play or sing during worship.  The individual might perform a piece on one or two special occasions like Christmas or Easter.  Alternatively, the individual might begin to play or sing during worship regularly to support the assembly singing the liturgy and hymns.

Above all, St. Stephen hopes to support individuals in discovering a love for music and developing a skill in making it, while they also discover God’s love and faithfulness through music, worship, and this congregation.  That is the purpose of this scholarship—to nurture relationships, both a person’s relationship to music and a person’s relationship to Jesus Christ with and through this community of disciples.

“Sing to the Lord a new song!” says the psalms.* Let us do just that, singing or playing a new song together, in Christ’s name and in thanksgiving for the saints like Joan Heer who passed on the faith through music.

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St. Stephen’s Evangelical Lutheran Church,                                                                                  January 21, 2010

Thank you so much for the generous donation of $500.00 from your Octoberfest dinner.

This donation will be used to purchase gift cards for perishable foods to supplement the food pantry.

We would love to say that the number of people who use the pantry has decreased but unfortunately we cannot.  New people find their way to the pantry weekly.

Please extend my deepest thanks to the parishioners of St. Stephen’s Evangelical Lutheran Church for their continued support.

Margaret Ackerman

Director of Social Services


* Five of them!  See Psalm 33, 96, 98, 144, and 149.

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ELCA News

February, 2010

Living the Difference in Palestine

A normal day for Chelsea Mathis — helping to promote travel through the Peace Not Walls campaign of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) followed by a bit of bassoon playing in the afternoon — sounds fairly typical.

Chelsea picks olives on the Lutheran World Federation Mount of Olives campus. Photo by Allison Schmit

Ordinary accompanies the extraordinary in Palestine. “Palestinians are adept at celebrating life’s joys and making do with what they have. I feel as at home here as I do in my home state of Michigan,” Chelsea says.

A trip as a teenager to Palestine with her ELCA Southeast Michigan Synod inspired Chelsea to participate in ELCA’s Young Adults in Global Mission program. An area plagued by troubles has left its mark, good and bad. “The worst part has been realizing how helpless I am in regards to changing the future of the political situation for Palestinians,” she says. “The best part is that I have changed the future through my presence, support and simple acts of kindness.”

Chelsea admits her faith has been challenged. “What does it mean that a land called holy is torn with violence, hatred and fear?”

The solution lies in seeing each other’s humanness, Chelsea believes. “Our commonality as people trumps all differences — religion, race, gender, political party. Israelis and Palestinians must see the human in each other’s eyes to begin to erase the hatred and fear.”

Chelsea understands how intimidating a year-long stint in a foreign country can seem. Pack your faith, leave your fear behind and “go for it,” she advises. “Getting up the nerve to leave everything you know behind can be extremely hard. But you will grow and be fulfilled in ways you’d never imagine.”

With her Palestinian journey nearing its end, Chelsea looks to her future. “Whatever I do,” she says, “I know I’ll make time for advocating for peace and justice in the Holy Land. I learned from my first trip to Palestine that once you’ve been there, it’s always on your heart and mind.”

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