Newsletter Contents

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

Stewardship Jottings, Partnership Team Formed, Senior Housing Christmas Party, “Pub Theology” with Pastor Chris, Congregational Meeting,

Christmas Eve Worship Schedule, Thank You Note, Christmas Food Baskets, Prayer List, The Parish Paper.


Stewardship Jottings


Thanks to all who have submitted your 2014 Pledges and Time and Talent Sheets.  Those of you who have forgotten or are still thinking about how you can best serve the Lord through His Body at St Stephen’s, know that it is not “too late.”  Your pledges are welcome any time.

On the Time and Talent Sheet you might have noticed a new item this year.  This item is “Respite Volunteer” and I would like to discuss it a bit here.  There are a number of people who, for a number of reasons, ill health being a main one, cannot be left alone.  This means that their primary care-takers are very limited in being able to get out and do some things for themselves.  The idea of a “Respite volunteer” is to simply spend some time visiting with the person while the caretaker is given the opportunity to get away for a short period to take care of some business or simply get some “me” time. It does not involve any specialized care.  It is simply visiting a while as a concerned Christian friend.

If you feel you could use this kind of service, or if you feel you could offer it, contact Linda Nietman and we’ll see what we can do about matching up need and gift.

Also, we are getting into the holiday season now.  As we all begin to search for the ideal holiday gifts, you are reminded again of the idea of giving a gift to a charity in a loved one’s name through the ELCA Good Gifts catalogue.  Heifer International, Food for the Poor, and the American Bible Association are among many organizations that offer similar opportunities.

Wishing a Blessed Christmas to all and Peace in the New Year.



Partnership Team Formed


On Sunday October 27th, the 3 Lutheran churches in Edison (St. Paul’s, St. Stephen’s and Our Savior’s) and St. Stephen’s South Plainfield came together to discuss Asset Mapping.  As a result of this meeting a Partnership Team was formed with representatives from each of the 4 churches.  The purpose of this team is to share ministry and to be a source of communication.  Beginning in January, the Partnership Team will have access to a joint calendar which will include happenings in each of the churches.  The Team members will then be responsible for informing their individual congregations of these events.  For example, St. Stephen’s can list our Lenten soup suppers and services, our annual Spaghetti dinner and any other events that we would like to inform the other churches about.

Mary Flannary and Linda Hansen are the contacts for St. Stephen’s.  If you know of an upcoming event or your committee would like to share information about something happening at our church, please contact Mary or Linda and we will get that to the other Partnership Team members so they can notify their congregations. 

Our Savior’s Lutheran Church has extended an invitation to the other churches to attend their International Potluck supper on Sunday, Dec. 8th at 5PM.  It will be a multicultural music night which will include trimming of their Christmas tree and singing of carols.  If you would like further information or directions to Our Savior’s, please contact Linda Hansen.



Senior Housing Christmas Party

St. Stephens is sponsoring a Christmas Party at the South Plainfield Senior Affordable Housing Complex on Sunday, December 8th at 2:00 PM.  We plan on singing Christmas Carols and providing refreshments and door prizes.  We’re expecting approximately 50 guests.  ST. STEPHENS SENIORS ARE ALSO CORDIALLY INVITED.

How can everyone participate?


  • By baking Christmas Cookies, Cakes, Brownies or any other goodies (finger food), and bringing them to church on December 8th.
  • By providing door prizes, home-made or store bought.  We’re looking for small things to give out to as many guests as we can.  Please wrap your gifts.   Even wrapped Christmas Treats would be very welcomed.   These items can be brought to Church any time from now until December 8th.
  • By volunteering to help.


Whatever you’d like to do to help, please sign up on the sheets at the back of church.   We need to know what we’ll be getting so we can plan what we may need to buy.



“Pub Theology” with Pastor Chris

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

When:  Tuesday, December 10, 2013 – 8:00-9:00 PM

Topic:  We’ll be going through the parts of the prayer book Pastor Chris compiled, Read, Reflect, Pray,

discussing how it shapes our piety, and also praying through it together.  

There should be people from the Edison Lutheran Churches as well as South Plainfield Churches.

The first 5 people in the door get a free copy of the prayer book!

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

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




St. Stephen Lutheran Church Congregational Meeting

Sunday, December 8th following the 10:30 a.m. Worship Service

Agenda:  2014 Budget & Election of Council Members

We look forward to seeing you all there.





Christmas Eve Worship Schedule


4:30 p.m.  +  Family Worship


7:30 p.m.  +  Evening Worship




A Thank You Note


St. Stephen’s,


I would like to give a very late “thank you” to the congregation for the college care package.  I’ve been very busy getting accustomed to college life and the college workload, so I apologize for the very late letter.  The package had a lot of great snacks that helped me get through a bunch of late-night study sessions.  I hope that the church is doing well, and will see everyone soon.  Thank you again for the food; whoever made the package knew what a college student’s stomach craved!



Dennis Hansen




Christmas Food Baskets

Please bring in canned goods and other non-perishable

food items to be given to the poor over the holidays. 

There is a food donation box in the narthex.




We pray, O God…


For the church across denominations and across the globe


For the well-being of all creation


For peace and justice in the world, the nations and those in authority


We pray for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, our Full Communion partners, and for the whole Church—may we find ourselves united by the Holy Spirit.


We pray for our home, the earth, which you have created and declared good, may it, and all of creation be so, be good.


We pray for those in authority, especially President Obama, Governor Christe, and Mayor Anesh.


We pray for all nations Lord, especially those in severe turmoil, such as Kenya, Syria, Egypt, and Pakistan.


We pray for the people in the Philippines affected by Super Typhoon Haiyan.


For the poor, oppressed, sick, bereaved, lonely, and for all who suffer in body, mind, or spirit



Joe & Joy Billich

Eric Conrad

Agnes Czarnecki

Steven Goetz

Joan Hassard

Helen Henne

Miriam Mentzell

Len Merlo

Vera Millet

Alan & Nancy Moore

Jim Moore

Dave Rapp

Ken Troy


Jim Albert, brother of John Albert

Holly Bowen, friend of Sharon Gianneschi

Bernie Cherry, nephew of Orvie Hoffman

Joyce Citsey, friend of Barbara Cibak

Sal Cortese, uncle of John Cortese

Bonnie & Fred Dauncey, parents of Sandra Cortese

Marie DeWoolf, niece of Mary Flannary

Bob Dienst, brother of Marylou Johnson

Gerry Fein, friend of Agnes Czarnecki

Marilyn Fortier, friend of Eloise Newton

Tim Fraenza, friend of Tom Baker

Fran Hackett, friend of Bob Buck

Tom Hanlon, cousin of Barbara Pallister

Leslie Hansen, friend of Agnes Czarnecki

Kathy Hoagland, friend of Carol McCarthy

Mr. & Mrs. Janisiak, friends of Marilyn Scalisi

Hannah Johnson, granddaughter of Marylou Johnson

Dolores & Eugene Neuzil, parents of Bonnie Lombardo

Velma Nietman, mother of Linda Nietman

Michele O’Toole, friend of Pat Benward

Milton Pearson, brother-in-law of Jean Mingle

Natalie Romeo, friend of Marylou Johnson

Cindy Rutler, friend of Barbara Cibak

Ralph Scarcelle, friend of Eloise Newton

Susan Shipe, cousin of Tom Baker

Karly Sison, newborn granddaughter of Barbara Cibak

Julie Sulu, friend of Agnes Czarnecki

Greg Talbott, friend of Linda Hansen

Al & Sharon Vastano, uncle & aunt of Melissa Cortese

Beth Williscroft, friend of Agnes Czarnecki

David, friend of Barbara Pallister




The family of Bob Hassard

The family of Gail Warren

The family of Helen Federico



For special concerns



We give thanks, O God…


For the life and witness of the faithful departed


Bob Hassard, husband of Joan Hassard

Gail Warren, husband of Betty Warren, father of Kathy Winsmann

Helen Federico


Coeditors: Herb Miller and Cynthia Woolever –
December 2013 – Volume 21, Number 12
Copyright © 2013 by Cynthia Woolever
Why a Sense of Belonging Matters

With our cultural emphasis on individuality, too many people are lonely and feel disconnected from others in their community. Because a sense of be-longing can be linked to economic development, city planners and community organizers attempt to create environments where residents can enjoy a sense of belonging. Local churches also provide some of the fiber that weaves people together by offering them a place to belong and to be known.
Strong congregations organize in ways that help people feel close as they worship together, disclose life’s joys and sorrows, and share their deepest beliefs. Strong congregations find approaches to encourage emotional attachment because having a sense of be-longing is a basic human need. Psychologist Abraham Maslow, who wrote about the hierarchy of human needs, cited belonging as the third most important, coming after only physiological and safety needs. For worshipers, the sense of belonging is how individuals experience community. Intentionally fostering a sense of belonging among members is one of the weight-bearing walls in the structure of strong congregations.1

What Creates a Sense of Belonging?
Focusing on members’ vertical relationship with God alone—with little attention to their horizontal relationships with other worshipers—slowly unravels the community’s overall health. What exercises increase the congregation’s heart rate?
Offering friendship. Close friendships generate feelings of belonging. One of the most important resources a congregation can offer to people is friendship. People flourish when we give them our time, attention, and acceptance. Unfortunately, congregations too often offer “help” to those in need without also offering friendship.2 Likewise, worship services may be experienced in the same space, but the opportunity to make friends is not part of the equation. Strong churches create many avenues for people to learn the names and interests of others as well as group social time. Intentionally practicing multiple means for long-term members as well as newcomers to be known and to know
others is sacred work. As John O’Donohue asserts: “Friendship is the nature of God.”3
The size of the congregation doesn’t make a difference in whether people have close friends within the church or whether their participation is increasing or decreasing. Both large and small churches must engage in practices to address this fundamental human need.
Helping worshipers grow spiritually. When congregations help worshipers grow spiritually, they are also creating stronger bonds with others. Worshipers who are spiritually connected are also emotionally connected. The venue for spiritual growth varies but most people need to devote time to private devotional activities, seek to grow through worship service participation, learn from and with others in a small-group setting, and discover new truths through service and leadership. Frederick Buechner shares the conviction that “when faith stops changing and growing, it dies on its feet.”4 Congregations that fail to meet these needs of their members place them at spiritual risk.
Creating opportunities for participation and service. Worshiper involvement and participation that grows over time signal that the sense of attachment and belonging is also rising. People gain a sense of
satisfaction from contributing to the congregation’s ministries and feel part of a team.
Typically, a sizable percentage show up at worship but sit in the bleachers during other church activities. In the average congregation, only one-third of the worshipers engage in at least four of these ways: attending services; joining a small group; holding a leadership position; being a part of church decision making; and regularly giving money. Some churches believe that they lose members because new attendees drift away not long after joining. But in truth, these newcomers never formed meaningful attachments. Effective congregations build assimilation bridges by which newcomers quickly bond to new friends, groups, and service opportunities.
Meeting age and life cycle needs. Congregations with a healthy heart—those with a high percentage of worshipers feeling a strong sense of belonging—recognize how younger worshipers connect to places (e.g., through sports teams or mission activities). Worshipers younger than forty-four years of age count on being emotionally attached to their congregation as a key ingredient for their commitment and involvement. At the same time, congregations cannot take older worshipers’ attachment for granted. In fact, congregations with an older age profile tend to have lower overall scores on sense of belonging measures.
Building positive engagement in the congregation’s future vision. When a congregation captures worshipers’ imagination about the church’s future ministry possibilities, worshipers also have a greater sense of belonging. They are able to envision what the faith community working together can accomplish with God’s help. Further, they have been offered a stake in that future by committing to share their time and talents to make it happen. Everyone acts on the shared belief that the best years of the church’s ministry lie ahead.

When Being Friendly Is Not Enough
A true congregational strength consistently operates whether or not the worshipers or leadership are aware of it. Further, a real strength is embedded in the behaviors, beliefs, and values of the majority of worshipers. As a result, a number of worshipers can leave without diminishing this strength nor does it depend on a few key leaders. A genuine congregational strength gains momentum and muscle when it becomes central to the conscious identity of the congregation.
Without routine maintenance and regular exercise, the strength of a healthy sense of belonging among church members and the experience of community
quickly deteriorate. Strong congregations demonstrate four pathways to generating feelings of be-longing. They:

 Develop groups that help people feel loved and give them the opportunity to express love for others.

 Promote friendships that give newcomers feelings of acceptance and self-esteem.

 Offer service or leadership roles and responsibilities that give people a sense of purpose, meaning, and positive self-identity.

 Present spiritual-growth experiences that deep-en members’ life-shaping values.

Each of these pathways are like load-bearing walls. Remove one or more of the walls and the structure is weaker and more vulnerable to mission failure.

The Bottom Line
“The hunger to belong is not merely a desire to be attached to something. It is rather sensing that great transformation and discovery become possible when belonging is sheltered and true.”5 This description underscores why strong churches make possible the greatest individual transformations and discoveries of all. With the significance of belonging in mind, review the structure, practices, and rituals present in your current worship services, educational programs, small groups, ministry outreach, and decision-making processes.

 Does participation give people the chance to make friends and deepen their relationships with others?

 Does involvement foster greater spiritual growth and understanding?

 Does participation help people to learn more about the congregation’s ministry vision and help them find a place to use their gifts toward that purpose?

1. Cynthia Woolever and Deborah Bruce, Beyond the Ordinary (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004).
2. Christine Pohl, Living into Community (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2012), 170.
3. John O’Donohue, Anam Cara (New York: HarperCollins, 1997), 15.
4. Frederick Buechner, Secrets in the Dark (New York: HarperCollins, 2006), 173.
5. John O’Donohue, Eternal Echoes (New York: HarperCollins, 2009), 22.
Copyright © 2013 by Cynthia Woolever