Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Congratulations Brian

Fr. Pavlac's day job is that of the Heerve A. LeBlanc Distinguished Service Professor and chair of the History department at King's College. I have just received a copy of his A Concise Survey of Western Civilization. I have read it in manuscript form, as have a number of our ordination track people, who would join me in saying that it is indeed concise, but also enlightening, well-organized, and not given to the pretense of relativism. That is, the author knows that perception is motivated by many things, and gives us not just data, but an account of human relating. The glossary is extremely useful and is a kind of mini-course in itself.

Now that this book is in printed form, we have a textbook for the pre-ordination process that not only meets the canonical requirements but is also a joy to read for everyone! You can find it on Amazon.

I think you will enjoy reading it.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Keeping the Homeless in Memory

Posted: December 22
Times Leader
Keeping the homeless in memory
STEVE MOCARSKY smocarsky@timesleader.com

WILKES-BARRE – Losing his birth certificate in a house fire early in life and a paperwork mix-up when he was getting ready to retire led to Bob “Pinky” Shovlin becoming homeless at age 62.

Recalling the four years of his life that he had no home, while eating a cup full of chili in the hall of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church on Tuesday night, was easier for Shovlin than thinking about the other local homeless people who have died recently, people who were his friends and family.

Just last week, his friend Peter passed away. His friend, Christian, died recently of sclerosis of the liver. And about a year ago, his son, Wayne, was killed when he was run over by a train in Huntington, W. Va.

Shovlin, 69 and a Wilkes-Barre native, was among a few dozen people who either are or were homeless or who work to help the homeless who gathered for a memorial service in the church and, afterward, a candlelight vigil outside.

Bill Jones, of Volunteers of America, welcomed everyone to the fifth Luzerne County Homeless Memorial Service, noting it was intentionally held on the first day of winter, the longest night of the year.

“As children of God, we all have a divine nature. And because of this, we all deserve respect, love and compassion,” Jones said.

“Today, we remember the growing number of homeless individuals from our community who have died. Sadly, 13 more individuals have been added to the roll call of (56) names we celebrated last year. So we begin our service today knowing that all of us, those who have homes and those who don’t and those who have died because of the darkness of homelessness, are indeed children of God,” he said.

Psalms, scripture passages and prayers were recited and led by Rabbi Larry Kaplan of Temple Israel, Kristen Topolski of Ruth’s Place, Sister Mary Fellin of Catholic Social Services, Tony Brooks of St. Stephen’s Vestry and the Rev. Brian Pavlac of King’s College and St. Stephen’s.

Stefanie Wolownik of REACH and Mary Zack led a procession outside to a candlelight vigil. As they left the church, each participant picked up pieces of paper with names of the area homeless who died and formed a circle outside. As each person read one or more names, they blew out their candle.

When all the candles were extinguished, they filed into the church hall to share food and fellowship, thankful for warmth and the company of others on a cold winter’s night.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Subverting the Secular World - by Tony Clavier

Subverting the secular world;
beginning a new year.

We have to tackle a number of years.
There’s the school year, the secular year,
the shopping year, and the poor neglected
church year. In a sense we live in all of them, and
keeping our feet planted in each reality is no easy thing. All too often we only remember that the church
has a year when we look at the bulletin on Sunday and try to figure which Sunday after what we are in.
Of all these years, the Christian year presents the greatest challenge. It reminds us that we are citizens
of another place and owe our allegiance to another ruler. The early Christians were persecuted and killed
because they claimed that “Jesus is Lord.” Perhaps today we are regarded as rather eccentric when we
whisper the same words. They remind us that our faith is no private, personal thing, but that we are citizens
of the kingdom of God.
We are subversive. We seek to bring the love of Christ into the secular
world because we believe that ultimately the world will be restored
to God. In the meantime, we work and pray to transform what is into
what shall be.
Advent Sunday begins yet another year. It sets our sights on the miracle
of Christ’s birth, that God invaded this planet in the form of a helpless
child. This vulnerable God walks with us, takes our flesh, re-creates the
human race, suffers, dies and so is in all our sufferings and in our deaths.
He rises again giving us the hope of resurrected life in a new heaven and a
new earth.
We perhaps moan about a secularized Christmas that begins before
Thanksgiving and ends abruptly on the day after Christmas. Rather
than moaning, we can meet the challenge it presents. We can be subversive
by keeping Advent in holy preparation. We can keep Christmas by
observing the twelve days in joy, gratitude and compassion for God’s poor
and needy, rather than throwing out the tree on December 26!
Above all we can humble ourselves before the baby who is King, and
offer him our lives in obedience and hope.
The Rev. Tony Clavier is rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, La Porte, in the
Diocese of Northern Indiana.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Top Ten reasons to be an Episcopalian - Robin Williams

Top 10 Reasons to be an Episcopalian
(from the comedian Robin Williams, who is an Episcopalian, on a recent HBO special)

10. No snake handling.

9. You can believe in dinosaurs.

8. Male and female God created them; male and female we ordain them.

7. You don't have to check your brains at the door.

6. Pew aerobics.

5. Church year is color-coded.

4. Free wine on Sunday.

3. All of the pageantry - none of the guilt.

2. You don't have to know how to swim to get baptized.

And the Number One reason to be an Episcopalian:

1. No matter what you believe, there's bound to be at least one other Episcopalian who agrees with you.

Friday, October 22, 2010

From the Archives of St Stephens - by Tom Jones


St. Stephen’s has a rich history since its founding in 1814 and its incorporation in October, 1817. During that time thousands of parishioners, wealthy and not, from all walks of life have passed through the doors of the parish, and many of them have been memorialized in various ways. The chancel of the present church built in 1897 contains several prominent memorials presented to the parish by families to commemorate loved ones.


This particular memorial is the second memorial font presented to the parish. The original was destroyed in the Christmas Eve fire of 1896. The inscription at the base of the font reads:

BORN OCT 12TH 1873 + DIED MAY 2ND 1875

Ruth Butler Conyngham was the third child of William Lord and Olivia Burr (Hillard) Conyngham. She was the granddaughter of John Nesbitt and Ruth Ann (Butler) Conyngham and Oliver Burr and Harriet Ann (Butler) Hillard. She was baptized on Thursday, February 24th, 1874 at the family residence by Rev’d Chauncey Colton, Rector. The sponsors/witnesses to the baptism were Charles Miner Conyngham, her uncle, and Mary Conyngham Parrish, her aunt. Ruth Butler Conyngham died from Scarlet Fever on Sunday, May 2nd, 1875 at the age on 19 months and was buried on Tuesday, May 4th, 1875 with services conducted by the Rev’d Dr. Henry L. Jones, Rector. Besides her parents, she was also survived by her two brothers John Nesbitt Conyngham, named for his grandfather, and William Hillard Conyngham. Interestingly, Oliver Burr Hillard, Mrs. Conyngham’s father, was also a long-time Vestryman and was a member of the committee charged with building the third church edifice in 1853.


This reading desk, as it was referred to in an 1888 newspaper account of the reopening of the church after extensive renovation, is also a second memorial given after the Christmas 1896 fire. The inscription on the front of the lectern reads:

MARCH 26, 1827 + MAY 16, 1890

Lewis Compton Paine was born in Perth Amboy, NJ the son of Jedadiah and Phoebe Ann (Compton) Paine. His lineage dates back to Thomas Paine one of the original organizers of a company of Pilgrims who came to Plymouth, Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1621. Jedadiah Paine was a sea captain, and Lewis from an early age accompanied his father on voyages to the West Indies and the Caribbean, eventually becoming 2nd officer on his father’s vessel at the age of 14. In 1893 he came to Wilkes-Barre to work for Col. H. B. Hillman who was engaged in mining in Nanticoke. While here he met Mary Campbell Lee, the youngest daughter of James Stewart and Martha Campbell Lee. He contracted an illness that forced to leave the area and return to the coast.

During his convalescence he and Miss Lee married on September 19th, 1848 and took up residence in Perth Amboy. In succeeding years he became a purser on steamers traveling to Savannah and then for over three years on a new line which traveled to Chagres, Panama through the Isthmus. It was on one of these voyages that he heroically rescued more than a thousand persons stranded by a flooding river by running the first passenger train on the Panama Railroad, which was under construction.

When his illness returned, in 1853 he accepted an offer from his brothers-in-law Washington and Andrew Lee to form Lee, Paine & Co. to operate the old Lee mines. (Eventually, this operation became the Susquehanna Coal Company.) After they moved to Nanticoke from Brooklyn with their son William Lee Paine, Mary Lee died in childbirth. After her death he moved to Wilkes-Barre.

On October 15th, 1857, Lewis married Annie E. Lee, no relation to his first wife, the daughter of David Lee of Sycamore Grove, Tredyfferin Township, Chester County, PA. Serving as one of the executors of the will of Isaac Smith Osterhout, Lewis Compton Paine helped establish the free library, purchase the old Presbyterian Church to serve as temporary quarters, provide for the building of the Historical Society museum, and sit as one of the library’s first trustees. He and Annie had three children.

Lewis Compton Paine was confirmed on June 27th, 1863 by Rt. Rev’d William Bacon Stevens. He served on the Vestry in 1865, 1866, and then continuously from 1870 until his death in 1890. Upon the death of Judge Conyngham he became Senior Warden in 1874 and held that position until his death. He also chaired the committee charged with refurbishing, redesigning, and enlarging the church from 1883 to 1887. During his tenure as Senior Warden, the Rectory at 181 S. Franklin St. was twice enlarged and redecorated, a detached Parish House was built, the Log Chapel was erected, St. Andrew’s Alden and its Rectory were built, St. George’s Nanticoke was constructed, and St. Peter’s Plymouth received a new Rectory. In addition to the lectern, the Ascension stained glass window is a memorial to Lewis Compton Paine and Annie E. Lee Paine.


The present altar replaced a wooden table which served as the altar of the church when the first services were conducted on Christmas Day 1898. After the flood of 1972, the altar was moved from its place in the apse to its current location in the chancel. The inscription at the base of the back of the marble altar at the center of the chancel reads:


Charles Miner Conyngham was the seventh and youngest child of John Nesbitt and Ruth Ann (Butler) Conyngham. He was baptized on November 5th, 1840 by the Rev’d Robert Bethell Claxton and confirmed at St. Stephen’s on May 8th, 1866 by the Rt. Rev’d. Thomas Hubbard Vail. He was educated at the Protestant Episcopal Academy in Philadelphia and received an A. B. in 1859 and an A. M. in 1862 from Trinity College, Hartford CT. He studied law with G. Byron Nicholson and was admitted to the bar in August 1862, but he never practiced. He entered the army during the Civil War as a Captain under the charge of E. L. Dana, another St. Stephen’s parishioner, and held the rank of Major on his discharge. While in service, he fought in the battles of Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, the Wilderness, and Spotsylvania. He was severely wounded on May 12th, 1864 and was honorably discharged on July, 26th, 1864.

On February 9th, 1864 in Hartford CT, he married Helen Hunter Turner, the daughter of Congregational Minister Rev’d William Wolcott Turner. He and his wife had four children: Helen Maria who married Charles Alling Gifford; Alice who married J. Frank Turner; Charles Turner who died at age 6 months; and Herbert who never married.

When he returned home from the army, he engaged in many mercantile businesses under the names of Conyngham and Paine, Charles M. Conyngham, and Conyngham, Schrage & Company among others. He was also active in coal operations with Conyngham and Teasdale in Shickshinny. Mr. Conyngham also served as President of the West End Coal Company and as a director of Parrish Coal Company and Hazard Manufacturing. Under the administration of Gov. Henry Hoyt he held the office of Inspector General of the National Guard. Notable among his community activities is his membership on the Executive Committee of the Luzerne County Bible Society.

Mr. Conyngham served as Vestryman from 1876 until his death in 1894 and as Junior Warden from 1879 until his death.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

St Francis' Day everyday

"If we could talk to the animals, learn their languages
Think of all the things we could discuss
If we could walk with the animals, talk with the animals,
Grunt and squeak and squawk with the animals,
And they could squeak and squawk and speak and talk to us."

This is the last verse of the song “If I Could Talk to the Animals” (Music / Lyrics by Leslie Bricusse) from the movie / musical Dr. Doolittle.

At St. Stephen’s we had our very own “Dr. Doolittle”, Father Daniel Gunn. Celebrating the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi we were given the opportunity to bring our pets to church for their annual blessing. This is a great opportunity for us to give thanks for the beautiful creatures God has entrusted to our care. Father Daniel has a special gift of talking to each animal in much the same way Dr. Doolittle did. Each pet was brought to the front one at a time for their individual blessing. Father Daniel placed his hands on their head, blessed them and thanked God for the happiness they bring to their owners. Father Daniel was able to infuse something personal into each blessing at times funny and at other times poignant. We celebrated new life in the form of a 3 month old St. Bernard puppy and gave thanks for a life slowly coming to an end in the form our Jack Russell, dear Abigail at 15 years and 3 months. Father Daniel had the foresight to save Abigail’s blessing for the very end. This St. Francis Day will always hold a special meaning for me as I think of Father Daniel’s kind words while he held Abigail on his lap. I am fully aware this will probably be her last blessing. While it makes me sad to think about this I am also grateful for the happiness, intelligence and courage she has brought to our family. Things won’t be the same once she is gone but she will always be in our hearts. It makes me realize that we need to love and care for these beautiful creatures more dearly since they are with us for such a short time. They are always there to comfort us and keep us company when we are feeling lonely or have had a rough day at work. Rather than yelling at them to stop barking, whining or scratching we should sit down with them and find out what is on THEIR mind. Maybe by doing this we can learn to “talk to the animals” in much the same way that Father Daniel / Dr. Doolittle are able to.

In closing I fully admit that I copied and pasted the following paragraph from the internet. It’s the last sentence I want to bring to your attention.

"St. Francis's attitude towards the natural world and animals, while poetically expressed, was conventionally Christian. He believed that the world was created good and beautiful by God but suffers a need for redemption because of the primordial sin of man. He preached to man and beast the universal ability and duty of all creatures to praise God and the duty of men to protect and enjoy nature and animals as both the stewards of God's creation and as creatures ourselves."

We are stewards of this earth and everything in it. It is our duty to take care of what God has given us and not to take anything for granted. Why not make St. Francis day everyday and give thanks for these creatures He has entrusted to our care.

-submitted by Matthew Malini October 4, 2010

Sunday, October 3, 2010

a Whippet, several cats, and a puppy

What does a Whippet, a West Highland Terrier, a few cats, a St Bernard puppy and a Gecko have in common?

They all attended the St Francis day Blessing of the Animals at St Stephens today.
Along with a German Shepherd, Italian Greyhound, a couple of miniature Dachshunds and several other dogs of various breeds. All blessed today by Father Daniel, and although they were blessed today they are a blessing everyday to each and every one of their families bringing joy and relaxation to the humans that they care for and keep in line. No I did not say that wrong - I have a cat, she keeps us in line, making sure we tend to her needs and making sure our priories are in line;

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon:
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope
where there is darkness, light
where there is sadness, joy
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Days at the Fair

This is the last day of the Luzerne County Fair. Today I got here before the Fair opened at 11:00 (I've done this the past two days) and walked around for a few minutes, to stretch my legs and look for cinnamon rolls (not ready yet) the morning at Fairs is my favorite time - I've done this at Bloomsburg Fair too, the vendors are busy setting up, no one is really in a major hurry, they'll look up and say good morning, there are no stresses yet. The smells of the bar-b-que is just starting, the morning is fresh -even if it is cold. Than the day starts, things get busy, orders come in, people ask questions and the those that love what they are doing will tell you everything...just stop by and talk to the man who has the hit and miss engines,or the gentleman in the tractor display, sometimes even if you don't ask questions.

The most fun was being at our booth and giving out balloons....the smiles on the smallest kids-seeing a great big balloon in red or blue all for them was special. Asking an older child... 7 or 8 "do you want a balloon?" and getting an enthusiastic "YES" (imagine them bouncing up and down too) or letting them pick out their favorite candy. Something you might miss if your not looking ..... mom or dad looking up at the display to see who is giving out balloons to their kids and telling them to hold on tight. Reading the banner that says "The Episcopal Church Welcomes You" and than they might glance around some more, look at the information on the tables and maybe ask a few questions. If they don't - that's fine, we made a good impression... we were friendly, not pushy. Open, not aggressive. Inquiring but not accusatory. Visitors to our booth were treated as guests.

The other neat thing was to be available to our neighboring vendors ... teasing one that his zebra was distracting the children we were trying to give balloons to, or helping out one by watching their space for a little while, lending a chair to another. Than hearing their stories, and listening...just listening. To their pains, concerns, their questions, their heart.

Someone asked me - was this worth it? Or just a waste of time.

The answer is "Yes, it was worth it." For the smiles, the laughter, the questions, the stories. Time is only wasted if you learn nothing. This was not a waste of time."

Monday, August 30, 2010

It’s my last full day of vacation. Tomorrow we have to pack up, go home and get resettled in. Then on Tuesday it’s back to the ‘grind’. Aside from watching the Emmys tonight I’m feeling rather down and depressed.

I often wonder if Jesus ever took a vacation. In my humble opinion he certainly deserved one. This after starving for forty days and nights in the desert, being tempted by the devil, preaching the Beatitudes, feeding five thousand people (and later four thousand people), raising Lazarus from the dead, healing a bunch of people of whatever maladies they were inflicted with and giving us a new commandment to love one another (This is by far the most important commandment He ever gave us. One we so often forget). Whew! If Jesus were walking on Earth today where would he vacation, South of the Border, SC or the Hamptons? Or better yet a little cabin called Wac-Zip in Stoddartsville. This is a place I think he would have found a true refuge from His daily challenges. It’s a place where you can sit on the front porch with a glass of wine (remember His first miracle was changing water into wine) watch the Lehigh River down below, listen to the water falls in the distance all the while a humming bird is hovering just five feet from your face. This vacation more than anything has given me a chance to STOP everything around me. It’s been a vacation where I’ve not remembered what day of the week it is, what time it is or if the dry-cleaning has been picked up. Whether you identify yourself as an environmentalist as I myself do or just enjoy nature, when was the last time any of us just stopped everything we were doing to enjoy what God has given us. Aside from His greatest gift of dying for our sins and giving us a new commandment to love one another I think His next greatest gift is nature. I know we are all busy with our careers, families and kids. But the next time you get the chance, take a drive out into nature, shut your cell phone off and just be still. If you wish, have a bottle of wine or whatever beverage you prefer and just watch and listen to what God has given us in nature. I am sure Jesus this did many times when he needed a break.

Matthew C. Thomas-Malani

August 29, 2010

Monday, July 26, 2010

Three Signs of a House of Prayer --- by Matthew Thomas-Malani

I try and make of point of reading the daily entries in the Forward Day by Day devotional pamphlet each morning at 4:45 before heading off to work. You know the pamphlet I’m talking about, the ones in the back of St. Stephen’s. AND you can also view online. So if you happen to be at work and you’re bored, instead of playing Solitaire or surfing the web, check this one out - http://forwardmovement.org/Today-s-Meditation/

The reading for June 28th has made a big impression of me and I have kept the words close to my heart. It begins with Jesus clearing out the Temple of all those who were selling and buying. The people who were selling and buying were creating a huge distraction for what the temple was really there for – to worship God and find peace. What impressed me the most about this is that we can apply this not only to our homes but to ourselves.

Three signs of a house of prayer:

There is thoughtfulness each for the other.

There is temper control because God is in control.

There is infinite patience.

Am I practicing these three things on a daily basis? Before reading this passage I admit that I did not. Usually when I got home I would be more stressed out about making sure everything is perfect – the dishes are done, the bed is made, the laundry is folded, the dogs are walked and cleaned up after and dinner is made (all this on top of having already worked a 10 to 12 hour day). I hate to admit that my infinite patience collapsed which created a domino effect….

But since reading this passage from June 28th I have gotten into the habit of inviting God into my heart to give me peace and that I can be a house for his spirit to dwell within me. Everything else – dishes, bed, laundry, dogs and dinner will fall into place once I let Him be in control and clear everything else out.

Matthew C. Thomas-Malani

July 23, 2010

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Brian Pavlac ordained to sacred order of priests

Brian Alexander Pavlac was ordained to the sacred order of priests in the Episcopal Church at St. Stephen Pro-Cathedral, Wilkes-Barre, on June 29. He was born and raised in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. While attending Bowling Green State University, he studied abroad in Salzburg, Austria, establishing a deep contact with that country and with Europe, which he renews by visiting as often as possible. He earned a Ph.D. from the University of Notre Dame and directed its study-abroad program in Innsbruck, Austria, for four years. At Notre Dame he met and married his spouse, Elizabeth S. Lott, Ph.D. Together they raised two daughters, who currently attend graduate schools. In 1993, they moved to the Wyoming Valley and joined Grace Church, Kingston, where he later served as senior warden.

Since 1993 Dr. Pavlac has been a member of the History Department of King’s College, Wilkes-Barre, PA, where he teaches courses ranging from the Greeks and Romans, through Knights and Castles, to Nazi Germany. King’s College recently awarded him with the Herve LeBlanc Distinguished Service Professorship. In the past three years Dr. Pavlac has published two books: A Warrior Bishop of the 12th Century: The Deeds of Albero of Trier and Witch Hunts in the Western World: Persecution and Punishment from the Inquisition through the Salem Trials. His third book, A Concise Survey of Western Civilization: Supremacies and Diversities throughout History, will be released in Fall 2010. In his ministry as a priest, Dr. Pavlac hopes to support his fellow clergy through supply work.

"You stand here tonight," Bishop Paul said in his ordination sermon, "in line with thousands and thousands of scholar-priests who have through the centuries fed the minds, hearts and spirits of God’s people, keeping the simple truths of faith in tension with age-old challenges to human understanding." Read the sermon here.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

If you missed breakfast.......

you missed quite a few treats, at least two different egg dishes, sweet rolls, fruit and other sweets.
The video which profiled three separate churches in an inner city setting could have been the story of St Stephens, churches that provided much needed services to the community at large and to the congregation on a limited budget.
I remember a funny work saying "We the few, working instead of the unwilling, have become so accustomed to doing so much with so little we are now qualified to do anything with nothing"
We have done anything for everyone for so long on nothing that our building is in danger. Not only the beautiful windows (I have seen a major crack in one of the windows over the choir loft), but some of the hallways and stairways (the stairway at the end of the main hallway past the restrooms is closed off due to crumbling and falling plaster), to say nothing of the bell tower and roof, electrical system, the lights, the kitchen, parish hall carpeting, the _____________(fill in the blank with what you have noticed).
Lois is a wonder, she has found the funding for the dental clinic, reorganized the health clinic, and is now pursuing renovating the old (read ancient) downstairs kitchen to a pharmacy (no, not for controlled substances)but she is only one person.
We are not asking the congregation to do more financially (remember "we are doing so much with so little") what we are asking for is support. Tell St Stephens story - to your friends, neighbors, your doctors, family members - take the basket off the candle and let it shine for all to see.
There are three groups that formed last Sunday:
1. History - those that know something ( you don't need to know all of it) of St Stephens history, where we came from, what we did. If you're interested see Tony Brooks and join that team.
2. What we do - the stuff we do now on a daily basis, the events, the services, the impact we have on the community around us (I have no hard data but I honestly think that the least busiest day at St Stephens is Sunday, don't think that what goes on on Sunday is unimportant or un-needed but that joint is BUSY Monday thru Friday) If you're interested in being a part of this team see Mary Clemm
How much it is worth - the nuts and bolts, and how much it costs to replace it. Our size, the heat, the insurance, the real value of what is contained in our walls or or property lines. If you have knowledge and experience in this field talk to Frank Conyngham.

If you think you have nothing to contribute, I ask you to think of one thing...
Turning off of Northampton Street onto North Franklin Street, seeing First Presbyterian Church, Osterhout Free Library, Westmoreland Club, the Historical Society ..............than nothing, an empty lot, covered in dirt and weeds- a large parking lot for a law firm or bank, or city parking lot. If you don't like that mental image, if it hurts to much to contemplate... than you have something to contribute.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

What does a Rector do?? (more like what doesn't he do??)

Prayer and Devotional time. Study time, 8 a.m. Sunday Holy Eucharist, 10 a.m. Sunday Holy Eucharist, Feast Days including Christmas,Holy Week, Easter,etc. Wednesday Noon Holy Eucharist, Evensongs as scheduled, Staff meetings, Staff support and supervision, Vestry meetings, Warden’s meetings, Parish Finance, Parish Building and Grounds, Parish Worship, Parish Stewardship, Altar Guild consultation, other Parish Committees, Parish Archive cooperation, Church School preparations, Women of St. Stephen’s meetings, Reach Board meetings including Executive Committee, Clothing Closet cooperation, Health and Dental Clinic cooperation, Property and buildings oversight, Oversee renovation projects, Sermon preparation, Rector’s Sunday Bible Study, Communications (email, mail, telephone), Parish Guest articles, Review Sunday Bulletins, Baptismal preparation, Confirmation preparation, Wedding preparation, Weddings, Funeral preparations, Funerals (even outside the parish), Coffee Hours, Hospital visits, Nursing Home visits, Home visits, Liturgical scheduling and planning
Preaching Rotation schedule, Supervising three ministry candidates, Spiritual direction(self), Spiritual direction (others), Coordinate Diocesan events at St. Stephen’s, Coordinate Community events at St. Stephen’s, Coordinate concert schedule, Sexton duties as needed, Security duties as needed, Pastoral counseling: Walk-ins and interruptions, Supporting new parishioners, Supporting old parishioners, Speaking to local colleges and other groups, Parish Lenten program, WB Ministerium meetings, Regional Episcopal Clergy meetings, County Homelessness Task force, United Way meetings, Kirby Episcopal House Board meetings, Osterhout Library Board meetings, Osterhout Library Personnel Committee, Wyoming Valley Interfaith Council, Diamond City Partnership, Parish events such as picnic, retreats, etc.Annual Parish meeting and report, Annual Parochial Report, Community Lenten Program including worship and lunch, Diocesan Convention, Diocesan Council,Diocesan Commission on Ministry (past)Diocesan Ecumenical Commission, Diocesan New Hope Executive Committee, Diocesan Social Ministries Committee, TEC NEPA adhoc Advertising Committee, Diocesan Clergy Days, Teaching Bishop’s School, Consult with attorney when necessary, Other things as necessary

Friday, May 21, 2010

Sacred Spaces Pancake Breakfast

This Sunday at 9:00am the Vestry will be hosting a Breakfast of Pancakes, sausage, juice and coffee plus some other goodies donated by a few other members of the congregation.
The purpose of this breakfast (other than to see how early we can get you to the church for breakfast) is to show a 28 minute video on The Partnership for Sacred Places. An organization that assists churches in organizing their resources for maintaining their buildings and community services.
Following is an excerpt from a recent e-mail from the organization, along with their website address


Proven Strategies and Experienced Advocates
Today, more than ever, a congregation needs proven strategies and experienced advocates to help care for and sustain its sacred place. Since 1989, Partners for Sacred Places has recognized the realities that community-serving congregations face and designed programs to fit your needs. Partners changes the way congregations view their role so that their sacred place remains a rich and vital part of the social fabric of a community.
Partners leverages the generous support of members to provide a comprehensive array of services and programs to congregations nationwide. With members' support, Partners continues to offer regional activities, technical workshops, training programs and informational resources. When you join Partners today, you enable congregations to receive the vital tools needed to care for their religious properties.
Join other dedicated individuals who care about preserving and sustaining our country's sacred places. With your tax-deductible membership fee, you'll receive:

The Professional Alliance Directory, a listing of firms that are experts in the field of restoration and care of historic religious buildings.
Monthly Sacred Places e-zine, filled with articles, tools and tips to help you care for your sacred place.
Sacred Places magazine, chock-full of informative features and case studies.
Invitations to regional workshops featuring speakers on energy efficiency, stained glass, major donor programs, and more.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Instructional Eucharist -- May 16, 2010

Have your ever wondered why we do what we do during the worship service, and when?
Have you followed along during the service and thought, "What is that for?" ? Than this service is for you.
It is a regular choral Eucharist, but at appropriate times Father Daniel will pause the service and explain what is about to happen, or what just happened and why or where it originates from.

Monday, April 19, 2010

ROAD TRIP to First Presbyterian

It's not far, just down the corner on May 2nd we are joining the congregation of First Presbyterian, 97 South Franklin Street, for the worship service at 10:00 am. Did you read that right TEN am so if you come at 10:30, like usual, you'll be late. If you come at 8:00 am, you'll be way early.
This is a chance to see their church, meet with the congregation and find out how, where and why the GREAT THEOLOGICAL rift that caused St Stephens to move and to relocate to where we are now. That information will be presented by Tony Brooks after the service. So come join us, show that the rift is healed (sorta) and that we can worship together, occasionally...

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Susan Jane Matthews recital

Renowned concert organist Susan Jane Matthews will perform an organ recital at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, her hometown of Wilkes-Barre this coming Sunday, April 18, 2010 at 3:00 p.m.. Dr. Matthews has performed throughout the United States and in Europe, including solo organ recitals at the Washington National Cathedral; St.-Sulpice, Paris; and the Himmerod Abbey, Germany. The Wilkes-Barre recital is among several performances scheduled during this summer: San Francisco and Oakland, California; Trier, Maria Laach, and Gro├člittgen, Germany; and London, England. She has been featured on the radio programs Pipedreams, Organ Loft, With Heart and Voice and Music from St. Stephen's

She is currently Director of Music at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Burlingame, California where she serves as organist, director of the Chancel Choir, and founding director of the St. Paul’s Choir School for boys and girls, the latter affiliated with the Royal School of Church Music. She has served as Director of Music at St. Michael’s Episcopal Cathedral, Boise, Idaho and as Principal Organist of Grace Cathedral, San Francisco. During her four-year tenure at Grace Cathedral, she recorded frequently with the Cathedral Choir of Men and Boys and in September 2004, Gothic Recordings released her first solo organ CD, Chosen Tunes from Grace Cathedral.

A free-will offering will be received at the recital.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Drama of Holy Week

During Lent we live into a liturgical drama. We veil the cross to live as though there had been no cross, and we symbolically journey with Jesus to Jerusalem. During Lent we live intentionally naive of the victory over sin and death that Jesus accomplished for us upon the cross. This liturgical drama and journey to Jerusalem is intensified during Holy Week.

In Holy Week we stand as pilgrims and witnesses of Jesus in Jerusalem. On Palm Sunday we join in the drama as we wave palms in our procession into the nave of the church crying "Hosanna!" But as the day is intended to reflect, we soon learn of Jesus' fate. We hear the passion of Jesus read. This is why we leave church in silence on Palm Sunday- we know Jesus will die.

Our liturgical drama is than acted out during the following days leading up to Easter. It is tradition in most parishes to offer communion on the first days of Holy Week, as we do on Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesday we mark the day with Tenebrae. Though we do a shortened version of the service, it is intended to foreshadow the days to come. After each Psalm a candle is extinguished until only a single candle remains burning. That candle is then hidden to symbolize the death and burial of Jesus. The single candle is returned to its place. The entire church is dark, and everyone leaves in silence to contemplate the mystery of the evening's liturgy.

On Thursday we begin what is called Triduum (TRIDD-oo-um; Latin triduumsacrum,sacred three days). These three days re-enact the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus. Thurdsay in Holy week is called Maundy Thursday, which is derived from the Latin term mandatum whic means "commandment." On this day we re-enact the evening when Jesus instituted the Last Supper, which we called the Eucharist or Holy Communion, but we also follow his commandment to be servants of one another by washing each others feet. This humbling act recreates the evening when Jesus laid aside his pride and proved himself to be the servent of us all. When we wash one another's feet we are following his command.

Maundy Thursday continues with the Agape meal. Agape is the Greek word for love. Literally an Agape meal is a re-enactment of a "love feast." The earliest Christians were Jews. The Agape was intended to resemble a Jewish Seder. We eat soup, bread and other foods and drink wine. We say prayers over specific items of the dinner. The meal is intended to be festive, yet somber at the same time. The feast ends as we process back into the church where we witness the stripping of the alter.

We strip the alter and we remove all items of comfort. This stripping is intended to remind us of the evening when Jesus was apprehended as a common criminal. The kneeler cousins are removed, as are the seat cushions at the alter. The holy vessels are purged, and the Holy Oils used for anointing the sick and the newly baptized are poured out onto the ground. Even the cotton used in the oil stock is burned. The alter is washed as one would wash a body after death. Finally, the remaining bread and wine, the body and blood, are carried to the Alter of Repose where we begin the Minor Vigil. It is called the Minor Vigil to distinguish it from the Great Vigil. The Minor Vigil is intended to put us in mind of sitting in vigil with the deceased. The reserve Sacrament is placed on the Alter of Repose and hourly we light candles until the point when the sacrament is removed form the alter for Communion on Good Friday.

Good Friday is the only day of the year when we are forbidden from celebrating the Eucharist. On this day we receive Communion from the "Pre-sanctified" or Reserve Sacrament, meaning that which was consecrated the evening before. On Good Friday we also "Venerate the Cross." That is the act whereby we pay respect to the work Jesus accomplished for us on the cross. Everyone is invited to come forward to the cross to offer a brief prayer or thanksgiving. Most people will kiss the cross or at least touch it. In so doing we acknowledge that the cross that was veiled for the Lenten Season has been reveiled, and with it we learn of the fulfillment of Jesus' mission. After Communion we leave in silence.

By the time we reach Saturday we are into the third day of the Triduum. Most people think that Easter Sunday is the principal celebration of the Christian year, but that is not historically the case. The Great Vigil historically developed as the chief celebration of the Christian Year. Originally intended to be a vigil from sundown to sunrise, we now celebrate it in a shortened fashion realizing that few people could tolerate such a lengthy service.

The Great Vigil begins with the kindling of a new fire, meaning that we build a fire outside the church with everyone gathered around. We light our lanterns from the new fire as we process into the church. During the first part of the liturgy we hear readings from the Old Testament and the Psalms. If there are converts to be baptized, Confirmed or Received it is done during this time. Bear in mind Confirmation and Reception must take place before the bishop. All of this takes place in the darkness to symbolize our time before Christ when we lived in darkness. Then with a loud noise to recreate the rolling away of the stone from Jesus' tomb we sing "Alleluia!" The light is restored to the entire church. {By the way, everyone is invited to bring their own noise maker for the time of the "great noise.") From this point the celebration proceeds as any typical Sunday Eucharist. Thus ends the Triduum.

Many who attend these Holy week liturgies are very moved by the symbolism and drama. Over the years I have known more than a few who have left these services in tears. What is most fascinating to me is that Christians all over the world participate in these liturgies, and we have for hundreds of years. Through the numbers are growing, few churches celebrate the liturgies of Holy Week. It truly is a liturgical drama to witness, and as a witness you become a participant in these liturgies. You become the spectator in the crowd witnessing the trial, crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.

Please join us this Holy Week (March 28- April 4) as we journey with Jesus.

Rev'd Daniel C. Gunn
St Stephen's Episcopal Church

Sunday, March 14, 2010

An Open Letter

Rector's Message
Written by The Rev'd Daniel C. Gunn - March 2010

An Open Letter: Below is the response I sent to many parishioners and community members on Ash Wednesday.
Dear All, A Blessed Ash Wednesday to you. I hope you have seen the stories in the local papers the past three days. (They are attached below.) I think this is good news for us. The reporters have been balanced and reasonably accurate. For the record, I went down to Reach this morning and was greeted with a chorus of “Good morning, Father!” and even inquiries of when the Ash Wednesday Services were scheduled. (Jokingly, I asked them to go out to the street and assault someone so we could be in the paper again on Thursday. They all declined.) I have spent a great deal of my time in the past few years trying to make certain that Reach is operated in an appropriate manner. If you read the articles in recent days you will hear a great deal of innuendo and speculations. In four years I have only found one needle, 3 drug packets (I have them in my desk), and a couple dozen beer cans. I would love to say that there had been none of these items, but I live in reality. Downtown Wilkes-Barre is an inner-city, and that comes with all the problems of such a place. For those of you who read the local papers on-line as I do, please scroll to the end of the articles and read the posted comments. The overwhelming majority of the feedback is POSITIVE toward St. Stephen’s and Reach. One person even said that we are the one church that “practices what we preach.” Another said that we are the only church open and active during the week while others are locked and guarded except on Sundays. One of my mentors tells me that this sort of press is good press, and better than any advertisement we could buy. I tend to agree. Please if you or any of your neighbors have questions direct them to me. I will be happy to respond as I am able. It is times like these when I think about our brothers and sisters in Kajo-Keji (maybe because I was there this time last year) and wonder where would our critics want to send them? They’re uneducated, poorly clothed, poor and black, suffering from years of mistreatment. Our mission, though at times needing critique, is true and good and right, whether in Downtown Wilkes-Barre or in Africa. We are truly an International Parish: we need to tell others about our good works. Just as we welcome Bishop Anthony in a few days, we welcome Kevin whom I met in the basement of Boscov’s today who asked me to bless the cross he was wearing around his neck and say a prayer for him, too. We are known by our deeds, whether they be acts of charity or music or liturgy. We are a dynamic church and God bless those who think and say otherwise. Finally, Rabbi Ed Friedman, whom you have heard me speak of often, said that “You know you have reached a new level of maturity when you can hear criticism as affirmation.” He went on to say that “criticism is an act of pursuit.” This is true for individuals and parishes. In the past few days I have heard an abundance of affirmation. I have also felt pursued. Can you feel it? Can you hear it with me?

In peace, Dg


Addendum: As most of you know, I am on the Board of Directors for the Osterhout Library. I have heard no concerns from the Library, and I have met with the Executive Director who also has no concerns.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Lent's Terrible Gift - by Kay Lynn Northcutt

Features - christiancentury.org
March 09, 2010
Lent's terrible gift
Lessons in dying
by Kay Lynn Northcutt
At the end of every yoga class we practice dying. Our teacher cautions us that the corpse pose, or shavasana, is the most difficult of all yoga postures to master, but for those of us whose legs and arms are trembling from an hour's exertion in warrior pose, downward-facing dog and cobra, the prospect of relaxing horizontally on one's yoga mat brings both relief and the impertinent question, "How hard can it be?"

Fascinated, I report to my husband, "Every day at the conclusion of yoga class we practice dying." "That's interesting," he says, trying to share my enthusiasm. "It's kind of like Lent," I venture, "except it's a physical practice, not so much a spiritual one. Lent is when we're supposed to practice dying, right?"

When I was a young woman and my best friend died of lung cancer, my minister told me, "You've been given a terrible gift at so young an age, Kay. A terrible gift." That two-word phrase, "terrible gift," functions as a parable for me. New Testament scholar Brandon Scott re minds us that the Greek word parabole can mean to "throw beside." Most typically a parable throws something beside something else—unexpectedly.

Take the kingdom of God being like a woman, for example. That must have been a real howler to first-century listeners of Jesus. The kingdom of heaven is like a woman? No way. Women are property. Women are chattel. Women are impure. The kingdom of God is like a woman? Impossible. Ridiculous. Insulting.

But this is what a parable does. Like a belly flop into a lake, a parable leaves one feeling emotionally and theologically stinging, breathless, disoriented—like "terrible" and "gift." They aren't ordinarily thrown down beside each other. But that's what Lent does. It throws life down with death, and death with life. We practice dying. We learn living.

With the advent of hospice, many of us have been given the terrible gift of walking alongside those we love who are dying. When my mother's dying began in earnest she'd call from her bed, "Girls!" My sister and I would come running. "What, Momma?" "You've got to do something about all these children playing under my bed." My sister Amy stood at one side of the bed, I on the other. Our eyes met. This wasn't the first time those children had been caught playing under Mom's bed. We had a plan.

"Mom, you're having another hallucination." She lay quietly. Several minutes passed as she absorbed the information. "Right. It's a hallucination. I'm dying," Mom said slowly and patiently to us (as if my sister and I were a couple of slow-witted children). "But could you please take all these children out from underneath my bed and outside to play? They need sunlight and fresh air. Give them a good lunch. I'm going to rest while you and your sister take care of them. I just love having them, but I'm too tired."

Amy bent down on the far side of the bed, I on the other. Together we gently shooed imaginary children out from under the bed. As we opened the door to the backyard, Mom expended the last drop of energy she had for that day, calling out, "Thank you, girls!" Then, not knowing whether to laugh or cry, Amy and I sat down outside in the Oklahoma sun and did both.

Lent, if we accept its terrible gift, gives us 40 days to practice dying. Para doxically, Lent's terrible, life-giving wisdom is painfully simple: each of us dies the way we have lived. I don't mean that the easiness or difficulty of our dying is determined by our living. Physically speaking, my mother's death was a difficult, traumatic one. But in her death, my mother, who spent her life caring for children as an early childhood educator, was herself cared for—and kept company by—children. In the last 21 days of her life, Mom whispered to us about "the most darling little boy" who was holding her hand.

As I watched my mom with those imaginary children, I was reminded of another dying time, when, as a graduate student at the Univer sity of Chicago, I was a reader for theologian Joseph Sittler at the end of his life. He spent his last days precisely as he had lived his best ones: with a relentless hunger for God, poetry, wisdom. He wanted to hear Emily Dickinson's poems read aloud. He was restless for a note-by-note harmonic explanation of the most exquisite moment of Bach's Saint John Passion so that he might, as he said, "know exactly what Bach is doing right here."

Those rambunctious children under Mom's bed and Sittler's unquenchable thirst for wisdom during the final heartbeats of his life make Lent's typical claim on us seem abstemious. Bittersweet, that during the church season in which we anticipate our dying we preoccupy ourselves with small things, inessential things "given up" for 40 days.

Thomas Merton noted the uncanny way North American culture focuses our attention on the inessential. Spiritual teachers for centuries call such misplaced focus "distraction." Merton excoriated our North American preoccupation with the question, "Am I happy?" as exemplifying the diversion of our lives to banality, superficiality and achingly empty living:

When we live superficially . . . we are always outside ourselves, never quite "with" ourselves, always divided and pulled in many directions . . . we find ourselves doing many things that we do not really want to do, saying things we do not really mean, needing things we do not really need, exhausting ourselves for what we secretly realize to be worthless and without meaning in our lives. (Thomas Merton: Love and Living)

Although Merton did not live to see the Columbine massacre or the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building, he anticipated their possibility, warning that lives adapted to the American pursuit of happiness create an uncontrollable monster called self-alienation that seeks release in "dramas of violence." In an unpublished lecture to novices, Merton insisted that the right question, the true question, is not "Am I happy?" but "Am I free?"

The question "Am I free?" is the terrible gift Lent comes bearing in its arms for us this and every year. Lent asks us how we are living our lives, and reminds us that we die the way we live. Lent is the time not for giving up something of little consequence, but for identifying what is most essential in our lives, what it is that we are living for. As Merton put it, "Ask me not where I live, or what I like to eat, or how I comb my hair, but ask me what I think I am living for, in detail, and ask me what I think is keeping me from living fully for the thing I want to live for" (My Argument with the Gestapo). That is Lent's terrible gift: an examination of our living.

Recently, in a conversation with a woman whose faith was great, I couldn't help asking, "What do you think happens when we die?" Without a pause she said, "I think Jesus sends someone to comfort us. Someone particularly special to us that only Jesus would know about. Not a saint. Jesus would never send a saint or anyone 'big' in the pantheon of the church."

Wishing desperately to believe such a thing but unable to get my theological worldview wrapped around it, my mind's eye went to the final weeks of Mom's dying and to that darling little boy who held her hand—the one we never saw, but whom we suspect of being the source of her smile every once in a while, even long after she'd lost consciousness.

We die the way we lived. Of course Mom died with a little boy's hand holding hers and Joseph Sittler with Bach's Saint John's Passion in his strong hands. Lent is a perfect time to spend 40 days becoming crashingly clear about the lives we are living, and a great time to practice dying so we that can live.
Kay Lynn Northcutt teaches preaching and worship at Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and is the author of Kindling Desire for God: Preaching as Spiritual Direction (Fortress).

Friday, February 26, 2010

David Briggs and Cecil B DeMille's silent movie "The King of Kings

The King of Kings movie with David Briggs

March 14th at 7:30pm


A rare showing of Cecil B DeMille’s epic silent film (1927) of the final years of the life of Jesus
…with live organ improvisation by international artist


St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church

7:30pm tickets $10/15

From Briggs’ reviews:

'King of Kings' was a stroke of genius; the feedback has been great. One lady today, (first saying she had no idea what to expect) called it a 'life changing experience'... having NO spoken words made it all the more powerful.”

Right at the beginning of the concert Briggs made it clear that this evening would not be boring ….

Here was a technician at work who knew how to thrill his audience, but also had the musicality and humor that one frequently misses with great virtuosos.

For more information contact the Music Office by e-mail to mlaubach@ststephenswb.org or calling 570-704-7055.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Organ Recital for Haiti

On behalf of all the people of St. Stephen’s Pro-Cathedral, 35 South Franklin Street, Wilkes-Barre PA 18701, I’d like to invite you to St. Stephen’s on Sunday, January 31st at 3:00 p.m., when I will present an organ recital to raise money to send to Episcopal Relief and Development in support of the victims of the horrific earthquake damage in Haiti. All are welcome and encouraged to bring friends in support of a most worthy and urgent cause.

If you cannot attend the recital, we encourage you to support the victims with your prayers and monetary support through some worthy charitable organization. You may, if you wish, send a tax-deductible contribution to us at St. Stephen’s, and we will see that your gift is added to those we receive on January 31st. While this is not an immediate response, the need for support will undoubtedly continue through the coming weeks and months, so we’re hopeful that our efforts will be useful.

Many thanks for your help in this time of need for so many thousands upon thousands of our sisters and brothers.

A donation through Episcopal Relief and Development can also be done independently. They are one of the highest rated charities and have very low overhead expense. You can visit ER-D at http://www.er-d.org/ .