Saturday, September 26, 2009

Blessing of Animals


A Blessing of Animals and Pets

Sunday, October 4, 2009
honoring St. Francis of Assisi

at the Labyrinth
of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church
120 21 Avenue North

Any and all animals and pets of any size may join us

Thursday, September 24, 2009

St. Stephen's featured in 2010 Historic Churches Calendar

St. Stephen’s will represent the Diocese of North Dakota in the 2010 Historic Episcopal Church Calendar published by the National Episcopal Historians and Archivists. The entry, with a vignette about St. Stephen’s history and current ministries, as well as a beautiful photo of the church by Jim Coffee, will face the calendar week beginning on December 26, the Feast of St. Stephen the Martyr.

The calendar can be ordered from The National Episcopal Historians and Archivists for $16.95 each (with postage and handling being 10% of the order). Orders can be sent to:

509 Yale Avenue
Swarthmore, PA 19081

Order forms are available in the Narthex. Contact Fr. Jamie for further information.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

St. Matthew's Day Mass

Come join us for
Holy Eucharist
Wednesday, September 23
to celebrate the feast day of
St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist
supper will follow at a local restaurant

Please note: Incense will be used at this service

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Children's Chapel dedication

Photos from the Children's Chapel dedication on September 13th.

(photos by Michelle Gelinske)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

From Fr. Jamie

(from the September issue of The Ambassador)

I am surprised sometimes by the over-all negativity of some Christians. And by negativity, I mean a negative outlook in general about the past, the present and the future. I so often hear people who are Christian lament and complain about the sorry state of the world, society, the financial outlook, etc. And certainly, if we were to take a look about us and see the world for face value, it would seem that we have much to despair about.

However, for us as Christians, we need to stop looking at things in this wholly negative way. We need to stop being nay-sayers, especially about the future. Of course, we are caught in this present moment—trapped in ways by a history (both personal and collective) that often seems frightening. But our future does not have to seem so bleak.

For Christians, there is no other way to look at the future than as a good thing. Tony Jones, who has become a favorite author of mine, writes the following:

“God’s promised future is good, and it awaits us, beckoning us forward. We’re caught in the tractor beam of redemption and re-creation, and there’s no sense fighting it, so we might as well cooperate.”

I have clung to those words often since first reading them. They really do speak loudly and clearly to me. I hope they speak loudly and clearly to you as well. As we, together, look forward to our future here at St. Stephen’s, I don’t think we can do anything else but realize that we too are caught in a kind of “tractor beam of redemption and re-creation.” Wonderful things are happening here and we are all being rejuvenated and renewed in the midst of this “happening.”

God’s future is good. For those of us who have faith in God, we can see it as none other than good. So, rather than despairing, let us rejoice. And let us move forward into that future with joy in our hearts and our actions.


Liturgical notes

As most of you know, I love liturgical beauty. I cherish and hold dear the aesthetic and symbolic beauty of Christian worship. As a result—and to make sure that I share with you the reasons for any changes we make at St. Stephen’s—I would like to explain a few slight changes in our worship life here at St. Stephen’s.


At the request of several members of St. Stephen’s, I will be introducing incense for the first time at the Wednesday night Eucharist on September 16 as we commemorate the feast of the Holy Cross.

As I do so, I am sensitive to the fact that there are some who are wary or downright apprehensive about having the use of incense introduced at St. Stephen’s. Some are concerned because of allergies or sensitivity to smells. To help remedy such concerns, I will be using a hypoallergenic incense during these Wednesday night Eucharists.

Others may be concerned about the use of incense for theological or personal reasons.

To help remedy those concerns, I would like to direct you to the website of St. James Episcopal Church in Columbus, Ohio (, which gives some very thoughtful explanations of the use of incense in Episcopal worship, from a decidedly moderate point of view.

So, why use incense at all? When we think of worship, we might think of the senses we use in worship. Certainly we use sight—in seeing what is going on the liturgy, in the colors we use for the liturgical seasons and the vestments that are worn, for the paraments used on and around the altar. Certainly we use hearing—in the words spoken, in the music and the singing. Certainly we use taste, in sharing the bread and wine. In the same way, worship should be a way in which we use all our senses to worship God. Incense is a way in which we can use the sense of smell to heighten our worship experience.

And like all of our liturgy, rich as it is with symbols, incense itself is a symbol. As the St. James website shares:

“Symbols help to point our minds in the direction of invisible realities, and speak to us in a language often richer than words alone. As a symbol, incense is exceptionally rich in associations.”

Over and over again in scripture, we find the use of incense symbolic of worship of God. That is also the reason why incense is used in worship in church.

Taking all of this into account, I will assure everyone that incense will be used at this time only at the Wednesday night Eucharists, and only on so-called “red letter feasts” (such as the Feast of the Holy Cross). I will also announce beforehand which services we will use incense.

I also would like to make clear that I will not be using incense at any Sunday morning Eucharist. I also hope that everyone will keep an open mind and an open heart to such innovations and will recognize that traditions such as incense are not meant to subvert or direct us away from our common vision of ministry at St. Stephen’s.

Rather incense is meant to enhance our worship experience. The use of incense at St. Stephen’s enmeshes itself well with our use of such other ancient forms of worship such as the labyrinth, candles and vestments.

Upcoming Eucharists that will be using incense

Wednesday, September 16 (Observing the Feast of the Holy Cross)

Wednesday, September 23 (Observing the Feast of St. Matthew)

Wednesday, September 30 (Observing the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels)

Pascal Candle

Some might note that the Pascal Candle is now located at the Baptismal font in the narthex. This is traditional place for the Pascal Candle outside the Easter Season.

Some concern was expressed regarding using our regular Pascal Candle in the such a high- traffic area as our Narthex (where the font stands). The solution to this problem was solved in the discovery of the original Pascal Candle stand that pre-dates our current stand. I cleaned up the original stand, placed one of our older Pascal candles in it and placed it next to the font.

The hope is that the candle, along with font, will be a poignant reminder to us of our baptism and the Baptismal Covenant we hold to so

Book Review

Christianity for the Rest of Us: How the Neighborhood Church is Transforming the Faith by Diana Butler Bass. 2006. HarperCollins.

As many of you, I have been very enraptured by Emergent Theology—a new way of thinking about God, Christianity and the Church. I have enjoyed it so much because it is challenging, frightening, sobering, but it also gives voice to much of what I have thought and felt about those issues.

When people ask me about what books they should start reading if they want to read about Emergent Theology, I of course always recommend the book that has transformed my thinking—A Generous Orthodoxy by Brian McLaren. But even before that book, I would recommend for anyone from St. Stephen’s a wonderful book called Christianity for the Rest of Us by Diana Butler Bass.

The reason I would recommend this book to people at St. Stephen’s is because it a book that speaks directly to what we are doing here. Bass, who is an Episcopalian, heard, like most of us, the dire warning about liberal Christianity dying off and how mainstream denominations like the Episcopal Church are quickly drying up and fading away. Bass, in her own research, found that those predictions might not necessarily be true. She looks long and hard at several eclectic, vibrant churches across the nation (many of which are Episcopalians, but also Presbyterian and Lutheran) that are, by simply doing ministry, bucking the system.

As exciting as this book was to me, I realize that many people might not find some of her suggestions so appealing. Bass challenges not only the right-wing Evangelicals, but also left-wing liberals who are too stuck in their ways. She attacks especially what she calls a “1960s, Protestant liberalism” she found “both cold and spiritually deadening.”

She presents a balanced approach to ministry. Yes, we can be progressive in our social outreach, but we also have to cling to our spirituality and our faith in Christ. In fact, she says, to be followers of Christ means to be open to all God’s children.

As Bass writes: “”the people I met rediscovered the humility of spiritual liberality.”

She goes on to say: “Vital mainline congregations are giving up liberalism, but finding their way back to liberality—that genuine openness which reminds us that in the economy of the universe, we are only human, and, despite our marvelous intellectual capabilities, there will always be things we cannot know. In that gap God breathes, and there, we experience awe. In some mysterious way, the sundry folk on my journey managed to create a space for theological generosity, and, in doing so, to catch glimpses of God.”

That description I believe in many ways describes who we are at St. Stephen’s and what we long to do here.

Bass says that strong spiritual practices of prayers, liturgy and scriptural grounding, along with a wide-open social approach really are the keys to a successful and vital congregation. As she describes one congregation, they are “rediscovering tradition. There is no PowerPoint or multimedia here. Nothing improvisational. Only banners, candles, robes, crosses, processions, and incense. Here, they are reclaiming the territory of the heart through tradition.”

I recommend this book as well because it really is a very good introduction to Emergent Theology. As paradoxical as this kind of thinking seems at times, it truly does enliven one and helps us look to the future of the Church with hope.

I will even go so far as to recommend that anyone who might be interested in new and vital approaches to ministry should simply purchase this book.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

In today's Fargo FORUM

St. Stephen’s dedicates new children’s chapel

By: Forum staff reports, INFORUM

A children’s chapel is being dedicated at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Fargo, after the 11 a.m. service Sunday.

The new chapel, which will be located in the undercroft of the church, will serve as a place for children’s services and other services during the year. Children’s chapel services begin Sept. 20.
The dedication service is part of a celebration of Dedication Sunday, which commemorates the 53rd anniversary of the dedication of the St. Stephen’s building.

An ice cream social will follow the dedication.

St. Stephen’s is located at 120 21st Ave. N. For more information, call the Rev. Jamie Parsley at (701) 232-2076.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Children's Chapel dedication

Come celebrate!

Everyone is welcome to
the dedication of our new

Children’s Chapel

Holy Eucharist
11:00 AM

Sunday, September 13

St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church
120 21 Ave. N.

Ice Cream Sundaes will be served following the dedication

Beginning on September 25th, we will begin a regular Children’s Chapel service. Children's Chapel takes place during the Service of the Word (everything from following the opening collect to The Peace) and will be offered September through June

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Volunteers needed for Children's Chapel

We need volunteers to help out with Children’s Chapel as a Leader and/or Helper.

Our new Children’s Chapel will blessed on Sept. 13 and our first Children’s Chapel service is set for Sept. 20.

Children’s Chapel Leaders's responsibilities include gathering the children, leading a short worship and reading a lesson/sermon (that will be prepared for you beforehand).

Children’s Chapel Helpers will assist the Leader.

Ideally we would like a leader and a helper for every service.

The Commitment is minimal: if we get enough volunteers, you may only need to help out once a month.

All volunteers (whether Leader or Helper) will need to take Safeguarding God’s Children (for more information contact Sandy Holbrook at

If you are interested in volunteering for this rewarding and exciting ministry, please contact Fr. Jamie at