Saturday, December 31, 2016

The wedding of Christian and Kayla Rose

A beautiful New Year's Eve Nuptial Mass for the marriage of Christian and Kayla Rose.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Mass at the Dawn of a New Year

Not a bad way to begin the New Year

Sunday, December 25, 2016

The week of December 26

Join us this week at St. Stephen’s

Monday, December 26 – St. Stephen
6:00 p.m. – Holy Eucharist
Fr. Jamie, celebrant/ preacher
Incense will be offered at this Mass
Supper afterward at a local restaurant

Wednesday December 28
6:00 p.m. – Holy Eucharist for the New Year of 2017
Fr. Jamie, celebrant/ preacher
Incense will be offered at this Mass
Supper afterward at a local restaurant

Saturday, December 31   
Nuptial Mass for Kayla Heier and Christian Rose at St Stephen’s

Sunday January 1  – Holy Name of Jesus
11:00 a.m. – Holy Eucharist
Fr. Jamie, celebrant/preacher

Coffee Hour following

Monday, December 19, 2016

Christmas Letter from Fr. Jamie

December 15, 2016

My Friends at St. Stephen’s,

As we near the birth of Jesus and as we look forward toward 2017, the future continues to look over brighter and brighter for us at St. Stephen’s.

Serving as St. Stephen’s continues to be one of the most fulfilling experiences of my priestly life. Our life together of worship, ministry, music and outreach, our life of being a safe place where all are accepted and welcomed has been a source of great personal joy for me and has helped me to see how gracious God is in showering blessings upon faithful, committed people who truly do seek after God.

As we move forward together into this future full of hope and potential growth, I ask for your continued prayers for St. Stephen’s and your continued presence on Sunday mornings, Wednesday nights and whenever else we gather together to worship and to do ministry.

As you know, I pray for each of you individually by name over the course of each week in my daily observance of the Daily Office (Morning and Evening Prayer). I also remember all of you at the altar during celebration of the Mass. This my way of expressing my gratitude to God for each of you. Above all, know that I also give God thanks every day for the continued opportunity to serve such a wonderful, caring and loving congregation of people who are committed to growth and radical hospitality.

In return, I ask for your prayers for me in my ministry. I depend on your prayers and blessings in my life and certainly can feel the full effect of those good works in lifting me up and sustaining me during those inevitable low times.

And please do join us during this Christmas season as we celebrate the birth of Christ. There will be plenty of opportunities to join in the celebration at St. Stephen’s/

My sincerest blessings to you and to all those you love during this season of joy, hope and love.

PEACE always,

Fr. Jamie Parsley+

Christmastide 2016
at St. Stephen’s
 Saturday December 24  - Christmas Eve
7:00 pm – Holy Eucharist
Fr. Jamie, celebrant/preacher
James Mackay, music
Christmas tableau for the Children during the reading of the Gospel

Sunday December 25 –   Nativity of Our Lord
11:00 am Holy Eucharist
Fr. Jamie, celebrant/preacher
James Mackay, music

Monday December 26St. Stephen
6:00 pm – Holy Eucharist
Fr. Jamie, celebrant/preacher
James Mackay, music
Incense will be offered at this Mass
Supper afterward at a local restaurant

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Christmas 2016

The week of December 19/Christmas at St. Stephen's

Join us this week at St. Stephen’s

Wednesday December 21   
6:00 p.m. – Holy Eucharist
Fr. Jamie, celebrant/ preacher
James Mackay, music
Incense will be offered at this Mass
Supper afterward at a local restaurant

Saturday December 24 Christmas Eve 
7:00 p.m. – Holy Eucharist
Fr. Jamie, celebrant/ preacher
James Mackay, music
Children’s Tableau

Sunday December 25 Christmas 
11:00 a.m. – Holy Eucharist
Fr. Jamie, celebrant/ preacher
James Mackay, music
No Children’s Chapel
NO Coffee Hour following

Monday December 26  – St. Stephen
6:00 p.m. – Holy Eucharist
Fr. Jamie, celebrant/preacher

Our Third New Member Sunday of the Year

We welcomed Paul, Jean, Kristofer and Katie Sando as new members today. This was our third New Member Sunday of the year; we welcomed 22 new members at St. Stephen's in 2016.

Greening of the Church

After Mass today, we greened the church, getting it ready for Christmas

Gin Templeton directs Sue Morrissey and Darcy Corbitt in the hanging of the swags.

 The Demmons Family and Sandy Holbrook got the Christmas tree ready in the Narthex
William Weightman showed off his new candy-cane bowtie

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Dan Rice's sermon from Wednesday night December 14

Advent Sermon by Dan Rice

December 14, 2016

Isaiah 45:5-25   Luke 7: 19-23

It was this time of the year.  I was serving my first parish after graduating from Divinity School and returning to South Dakota.  My appointment as a United Methodist minister was to two churches, The large parish in Brookings as the Associate Minister and to a small rural church at Bruce, South Dakota.

It was a Sunday evening at the Bruce church and the Sunday School Christmas pageant was underway.  The chancel area in the front of the church was filled with children dressed in costumes to portray the traditional nativity scene of the Holy Family surrounded by shepherds, domestic animals, and, of course angels.

My two daughters, Lisa and Kristi, were about 5 and three years old and were dressed as angels.  They wore the typical white gown, large filmy wings and, of course, halos made from silver tree trimming.  They looked angelic but, as their parent, I was not deceived.

The program was progressing as well as these things usually do with Advent hymns and the nativity narrative delivered with weak and halting voices and promptings from the teachers.  In a moment of silence during a pause in the program, our five year old Lisa said in a very loud and scolding voice to her sister, “Kristi, you wings are falling off!”

As I thought about the sermon for tonight, this scene from many years ago came vividly to mind.
Those words shouted out by a five-year old seem to capture exactly how I am feeling during this Advent season in the year 2016. 

As I reflect on the presidential election these words seem to describe much of the Christian church and our country.  I want to shout at them, “YOUR WINGS ARE FALLING OFF!”
My mood these days swings from despair to outright terror at the thought of what might come. 
This sermon is my sharing with you my own personal struggle with how to maintain my faith in the face of what I view as a possible disaster for our country and the world.  So please bear with me, especially if you do not share the sense of panic that I do.

How do I (we) maintain our faith when all about us the wings are falling off?

Maybe an airplane is a better image than an angel!

Those of us in the church who were in college and young adults in the 1960s and 70s are not naive about either the church or our country.  I don’t need to repeat the long litany of bad presidents, political scandals, the fight for civil rights, and unjust wars.  We know all too well that neither the church or our country are inhabited by angels, far from it!

But in my humble opinion, this current situation is qualitatively different.  In the academic world we would call it “an outlier.”  Something so far beyond the norm that we have no adequate way to explain it.

Never in my lifetime has the victor in a presidential election been a person so lacking in moral character, so mean-spirited, so blatantly dishonest, and so reckless.  Not since the Vietnam war have I felt that our nation was on the brink of disaster. 

Not since those days have I thought the church was so divided and have I been so bewildered by the actions  of many who call themselves Christians.

What are we to make of this?  What word do we speak to the church and to our country at such a moment?

Which brings me to the scriptures for today.

First, the reading from Isaiah.   The clear and persistent message from the prophet is unmistakable:
“I am the Lord, there is no other.” (repeat)

The Hebrew prophets and, for that matter, what we Christians call the Old Testament, proclaim what has been called “radical monotheism.”  The passage from Isaiah is a perfect example of this theological assertion, “I am the Lord, there is no other.” 

The claim of this faith perspective is that there is one God, no other.  And importantly, this one God is beyond our human comprehension, this God is the creator of all that is.

The prophet chides us and puts us in our place,  “Woe to you who strive with your Maker, earthen vessels with the potter!”

“I the Lord speak the truth, I declare what is right.”

The prophets bring us up short.  They remind us of who we are and who the Lord is.  We are reminded that there is a moral order to the universe. 

One of my father’s favorite books was written by J.B. Phillips and titled, “Your God Is Too Small.”  The book was about this concept of “radical monotheism.”  Phillips reminded Christians of our tendency to domesticate God, to make God a proponent of our flawed and limited denominations, our clumsy and obtuse creeds and dogmas, our pretentious and pandering religious leaders. 

And Phillips reminded us that the God of the Bible is not a patriot of any particular country or political party or ideology.  Claiming otherwise is actually a way to trivialize God.

It is difficult to hang on to this greater sense of order at times.  We humans seem to be a forgetful lot.  We seem to make progress but then we fall back in to our old ways.  We fail to keep our commitments, to uphold our highest standards.  We are prone to follow demagogues, fools and charlatans in religion and politics.

We dare not forget that these same prophets called Israel and her leaders to stand for justice.
Isaiah wrote, “But Israel is saved by the Lord with everlasting salvation;
                        You shall not be put to shame or confounded to all eternity.”

There is hope.  I don’t know about you but this is a truth I need to hear right now.

The second word comes from our Gospel reading. 

In Advent we are anticipating the birth of Jesus, but this Gospel reading jumps forward in time to when Jesus is an adult, preaching in the countryside.  But the issue is the same, is Jesus the promised one?

In the reading from Luke, John the Baptist sends two of his disciples to observe Jesus and to ask him the big question:

“Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?”

That is the question, then and now.  “Are you the one to come, or are we to wait for another?”

Every year during Advent the Church brings us back to this basic question, “Are you the one to come, or are we to wait for another?”

Jesus does not answer the question directly.  Rather, he says to the followers of John the Baptist,
“Go and tell John what you have seen and heard.”
In each generation, each of us must make up our own mind, based on what we have seen and heard.  

“The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to
them. ”  That is our answer.

It is interesting that the lectionary pairs the prophet Isaiah with Luke, the physician, the Gospel so focused on concern for the poor.

So on this Advent night in the midst of our despair, in the cold of winter,  when all about us the wings are falling off,  the Word comes to us.

From the prophet:­­­­­­­­­­­

“I am the Lord, there is no other.”
“Only in the Lord…are righteousness and strength.”
And from the Gospel:
“Go and tell John what you have seen and heard.”
“Blessed is anyone who takes no offense in me.”

So where does this leave us, those of us who struggle to follow the Christ?
For me, it leaves me at odds with much of my country and many in the Christian Church.

Which makes me so grateful for this church, St. Stephens,  and other churches that share our understanding of the Gospel, and I am so grateful for our priest, Jamie, and for all of you.

May the Lord be with us in our struggle to be faithful to the One who came to be with us, and whose coming we await.


Sunday, December 11, 2016

The week of December 12

Join us this week at St. Stephen’s

Wednesday December 14
6:00 p.m. – Holy Eucharist
Fr. Jamie, celebrant/ Dan Rice, preacher
Incense will be offered at this Mass
Supper afterward at a local restaurant

Friday, December 16   
After 7:00 pm – Rectory Christmas Party

Sunday December 18  – 4 Advent
11:00 a.m. – Holy Eucharist
Fr. Jamie, celebrant/preacher
Children’s Chapel
Coffee Hour following

Greening of St. Stephen’s 

Sunday, December 4, 2016

The week of December 5

Join us this week at St. Stephen’s

Wednesday December 7 –   Eve of the Conception of the BVM
6:00 p.m. – Holy Eucharist
Fr. Jamie, celebrant/ Annette Morrow, preacher
Incense will be offered at this Mass

Supper afterward at India Palace

Friday, December 9   
Fr. Jamie’s day off

Sunday December 11  – 3 Advent/Gaudete
11:00 a.m. – Holy Eucharist
Fr. Jamie, celebrant/preacher
Children’s Chapel
Coffee Hour following

12:45 - Vestry

St. Nicholas Day celebration

It looked like a House of Bishops meeting at St. Stephen's this morning. Thank you to Jan Stewart for organizing a wonderful St. Nicholas celebration during Children's Chapel.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Stewardship Letter from Fr. Jamie

November 29, 2016

Dear St. Stephen’s family,

This Sunday, December 4, is our Pledge Ingathering—the day when we gather our pledge cards and time-and-talent sheets. I was recently asked a very important question: “what is this pledge package we are receiving?”

My answer is a fairly simple one. Your pledge is a way to say,

“I love this place. I love what it stands for. I love its uniqueness. I love that St. Stephen’s has accepted me when I needed acceptance. I love that it accepts others who need acceptance. I love this place so much I am willing to support it with my creativity, my energy and my financial resources.”

St. Stephen’s is definitely not your typical Episcopal Church—or your typical church by any definition. We are unique. We are eclectic. We do things a bit different than other churches. 
Everyone knows we are welcoming. It is not secret that we are fully-accepting. But we are definitely not push-overs. We are also very strong and committed. And when we stand up for something, we STAND UP. And we speak out.

This is how we follow Jesus and this is how we live as his Presence in this sometimes scary and uncertain world that needs Christ’s radical goodness, radical acceptance, radical love.
In the 1960s and 1970s, St. Stephen’s was at the forefront of full-acceptance of women in all ministries of the Church at a time when such a stand was often unpopular. In the 1980s and 1990s, we were the first congregation in the Diocese of North Dakota to seek full support of GLBT Christians in the Episcopal Church. And last year, we were the first congregation in the Diocese to stand up for marriage equality for all people.

Your pledge makes sure we continue to be the congregation we have always been. Your pledge helps us to continue to be a radical, loving and safe place for all. 

I have said it many times before: if you want to see the Episcopal Church of the future—it is right here. We are it. St. Stephen’s is what it means to be alive and vital as Christians. We are what it means to be all-inclusive, even if that means being inclusive to a fault. We are what it means to accept everyone—no matter their sexuality, their color, their gender, their political party, no matter if they are spiritual skeptics -- everyone is welcome here and fully ACCEPTED here. This is who we are.

And in the face of whatever may come, socially, government-wise, if the skies turns dark and the moon falls into the ocean, we will still be who we are and what we are.

That is what your pledge supports here.

Please return your pledge package this Sunday, December 4 for our ingathering. If you have not received a pledge card or a time-and-talent sheet, please let me know and I will make sure you receive one.

Your financial offering is essential for us to continue to be who we are here. We cannot be the radical, accepting, loving congregation we are without your help and support.

More than anything, however, please know how grateful and humbled I am to be serving as your priest. I am truly blessed by God to be serving a congregation that is excited about what it is doing, that is renewed by its energy and committed to its following of Jesus. 
Thank you for all you have given to me.


Fr. Jamie+