Newsletter Contents

Click for Pastor’s article
Click for St. Stephen’s Calendar
Click for Serving Schedule

Blessings,  The Parish Paper,  Looking Ahead, Conference on Congregational Ministries, “Pub Theology” with Pastor Chris.



Every year during the Stewardship drive, we are urged to give of our time, talent and treasure.   And while it’s true that the church needs our monetary contributions in order to pay the bills and contribute to the greater church missions, without people willing to give of their time and talents, our church would certainly fail to serve God as the body of Christ.  I started thinking about this a few weeks ago when we had the lesson about the body and how the parts didn’t work properly unless they had the other parts working with them. Our church family is the Body of Christ here in this place and we need all the body parts with all their different functions and abilities.

Some of us are preachers or deacons, others make beautiful music.   Some can teach or otherwise work with children and youth.  Some work to keep the building and grounds in proper order, others prepare the altar and assist with worship.  Some are ushers or greeters, provide refreshments & fellowship.  Still others provide community outreach and social opportunities to the congregation as well as evangelism and stewardship.

For me, being a part of the St. Stephen family has been an enormous blessing in my life.  Bob and I felt like we had found a home right away here and got involved pretty quickly.   We found that by getting involved, we made great new friends, and grew in our faith along with people who are like-minded, and also had lots of fun.  And, when difficult times come along, we know that we are surrounded by members of our church family who are willing to help, comfort and provide Christian love to us when we need it.

But, really the greatest blessing for me is the joy of doing things for others.  Whether it’s hosting the Christmas Party at the Senior Apartments, organizing and serving at one of our dinners, collecting food for the less fortunate people in the community, or deciding how to dole out the proceeds from our fund raising activities, the joy of serving God by giving my time is a real blessing in my life.  And I know if you asked anyone here who is active in the ministries of this church, they would say the same.  Doing things for others just makes me happier. Jesus said it in Luke, Chapter 6, verse 38:  “Give and it will be given to you, ….for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”

So, if you’ve been thinking about getting involved in some way, today’s a good day to get started.    Give some of your time to the glory of God.   It will be a blessing in your life.   As it says in 2 Corinthians, Chapter 9,  God loves a cheerful giver.

Cathy Newman



Coeditors: Herb Miller, Lyle E. Schaller, Cynthia Woolever –
April 2013 – Volume 21, Number 4
Copyright © 2013 by Herb Miller

Oral Communication: How to Strengthen Our Effectiveness
A congregation’s clergy and members will find that the best way to improve communication is by perfecting their responsive listening skills. Briefly defined, this conversational method enables us to listen to and understand another person—even though we may disagree with some of his or her opinions or behaviors. Sometimes referred to as caring or active listening, responsive listening creates a conversational environment in which people with whom you converse often move toward positive changes in their feelings, attitudes, or behaviors. A few people are born with this responsive listening ability, but most of us need tips on how to do it.

What Responsive Listening is NOT
A pattern often seen in poor listeners: finishing sentences for people when they pause too long, doing all the talking, stepping on sentences by starting to talk before people have finished expressing their thoughts, not maintaining eye contact while others are talking, and giving more feedback than necessary by going too far beyond a simple “uh huh.” When our conversational patterns include any of those five traits, people enjoy talking with us about as much as they enjoy hearing chalk screech on a blackboard. Still, there are also actions that appear to represent responsive listening and a caring relationship, but they are simply disguises:
Runaway sympathy. Becoming emotionally entangled with someone’s feelings can produce negative results. Runaway sympathy is dangerous for you because it may cause you to miss key issues that would normally have been obvious; it is dangerous for the person to whom you listen because she or he fails to increase the kind of self-understanding that leads to positive changes.
Taking responsibility for others. The temptation to drift from caring to taking responsibility is present in every kind of caring relationship. Yet none of us
can successfully take responsibility for another person’s behavior, thinking, and feelings. If we begin feeling responsible for someone, then we begin feeling guilty because we have not accomplished what we had hoped for them, and then we start feeling either depressed (because we are too sympathetic) or angry (because we are too low in sympathy).

What Responsive Listeners Do
The most effective responsive listeners operate from two basic principles: (1) responsive listeners allow the other person to hear his or her own information clearly enough to find insights and self-direction; (2) responsive listeners understand what people are saying without a response that gives either approval or disapproval.
Several positives usually result when we practice the art of responsive listening with someone: we feel greater self-worth from the experience; we feel more positive toward the person to whom we listen; the person to whom we listen feels closer to us; the person to whom we listen gains wholeness
because self-expression has clarified confused feelings and produced a more certain sense of self-direction; and, by getting it off his or her chest, the person to whom we listen can gain more positive feelings and take more constructive actions.

Responsive Listening Techniques
You feel like . . . ” As one of the more basic techniques, this phrase is a great way to begin practicing your responsive listening skills. For example, after someone has finished unfolding a long criticism of another person, begin your response with “You feel like . . . ,” and then finish your sentence by rephrasing the feelings that seem to lie behind their words. Using that response, you can talk about a hot issue without taking sides. Plus, the person feels that you are listening sympathetically to what they say. Those three words —you feel like—signal people that you have carefully listened to what they have said. Because of that, they want to say more. As they say more and you continue to listen responsively, their inhibitions and fear of “saying too much” declines.

Paraphrasing. Using this technique, you state back to the person the meaning of what she or he just said. Good paraphrasing sentences begin with words such as:

 “You are saying that you feel . . .”
 “I hear you saying that you feel . . .”
 “You feel that because . . .”
 “You seem to be feeling . . .”
 “You are saying that . . .”
 “Are you saying that . . . ?”
 “It seems to me that you are saying . . .”

When you respond in one of these ways, the other person quickly tells you whether your understanding is on track or has accidentally derailed. Paraphrasing also tells the other person that you care enough to pay close attention; it is like becoming a human mirror. You reflect back the facts and feelings that the person told you without making a judgment about whether those facts and feelings are rational or irrational, right or wrong. Like a mirror, your words do not change anything; they merely reflect the reality before them. A mirror does not argue or add new information; it lets people see themselves more objectively. Test this with friends and people you meet for the first time. They will think of you as a sparkling conversationalist.

Repeat their words. When a person seems finished talking, repeat the last three words of his or her last sentence. Almost always, that prompts the person to add additional details to what he or she had been saying.

Perception checking. With this tool we ensure that, as the listener, we understand the facts, feelings, information, and viewpoints that the other person is conveying. Here are some examples of using perception checking in conversation:

 “You feel like _____ (express his or her feeling) because______ (repeat the content).”
 “You feel hurt. Is that right?”
 “It sounds as though you’re very angry about that. Would you agree?”
 “It sounds as if you’re frustrated. Am I reading that correctly?”
 “Correct me if I’m wrong, but it sounds like . . .”
 “I’m not sure whether I’m with you; do you mean . . .”
 “I’m not certain I understand; you’re saying that . . . “

Creative questioning. Good listeners use this tool to flush out missing information by giving the other person permission to share in greater detail. A genuinely creative question cannot be answered with a simple yes or no or a one-word fact. “How old are you?” is not a creative question. “How did you feel about that?” is a creative question that elicits not just facts but also feelings. Creative questions should avoid being phrased as judgments; for example: Why do you feel that way? Judgment questions will induce withdrawal into silence instead of additional information.

Three Questions
Responsive listening is a skill that must be honed over time. It takes patience (and learning from a few mistakes) to get better. It’s best to learn in low-risk situations by practicing on friends and family when the conversation is not so serious. Then you can work on your skills when the situation is more difficult. To begin, ask yourself these three barometer questions: How high is the quality of my listening skill? Do I feel motivated to increase that quality? How often do I (or will I) intentionally practice?

Copyright © 2013 by Herb Miller


Spring Clean Up


Saturday, April 13th –  8:00 a.m.




Blessing of Lawyers


Sunday, April 28th   –  during 10:30 a.m. worship




“Faith in Film” Movie Night


Friday, May 3rd  –  7:00 p.m.


Conference on Congregational Ministries 2013
Saturday, April 20, 2013
Steinert High School, Hamilton Twp, NJ

Keynote Speaker:  The Rev. E. Roy Riley, Bishop

Registration materials for the

24th Annual Conference on Congregational Ministries are available. 

The registration deadline is April 10, 2013.  


“Pub Theology” with Pastor Chris

Where:  Flanagans, 2501 Plainfield Ave., So. Plainfield

When:   April 3, 2012 – 8:00–9:00 PM

Topic:  How do we live our faith?

This is an informal gathering for fellowship, refreshment and discussion. 

It’s open to the public, so bring your friends and neighbors.