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Celebrating the Grace of God to St. Stephen Presbyterian Church!

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Maundy Thursday and Easter We Will Celebrate Communion at Home

Grace and peace to you all in this time when we are sheltering at home because of the Covid-19 virus! We pray that you all remain healthy and safe and take seriously the guidance we’re receiving from health professionals that sheltering in place is the most certain way to protect ourselves and others from this pandemic.

Sunday’s worship for the Fifth Sunday of Lent will be posted Sunday, March 29, at 11:00 am on Facebook and on our website, www.ststephenpresbyterian.com. Rev. Dr. Warner Bailey will be preaching. You should have received the bulletin for Sunday, but if you haven’t, it will be posted on the website as well.

Some news items from St. Stephen 

• We are officially saying that we are closed through Sunday May 10. All this of course is dependent on what the health experts tell us, and it could be shorter but more likely, unfortunately, it’ll be longer.

But ministry is still going on. We’ve been able offer some help to the Presbyterian Night Shelter and to Samaritan House through the Mission Committee and Deacons and you’ve probably seen some of the video offerings your staff is putting together. We staff are having a good time pre-recording worship and morning prayers and hope you’ve been able to partake of these. We plan to have a full slate of services for Passion Week and Easter. Keep an eye out for Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter services. Those services will be posted at the times we’d normally observe them: Sunday services at 11:00 am Sunday, Maundy Thursday at 7:00 pm and Good Friday at 12:15 pm.

Heads-Up: We will have communion on Maundy Thursday and Easter! 

You could use whatever bread, wine, or grape juice you have handy, but we thought you might enjoy making your own version of our unique St. Stephen Communion Bread recipe. Here it is (in smaller proportions!!) from Chair of the Worship Committee, Bruce Campbell:

 

Communion Bread Recipe—Courtesy of Angela Springfield

Angela’s original recipe makes 8 loaves. The one below has been adapted to make two loaves. The adaption is mine and I have not made such a small batch, so if it works, thank Angela, if not, blame me.

Use a mixer with a bread hook. Bake time 10 minutes at 475.

1 ½ cup all-purpose or bread flour

½ cup whole wheat flour

½ pkg = 1 1/8 tsp active dry yeast

1 cup warm water

1 ½ tps sugar

1 tbs olive oil

¼ tbs salt (sea salt preferably)

Add sugar and yeast to water, let stand 5 minutes. If it bubbles, yeast is alive.

Add flour and olive oil and mix for 5 minutes, scrapping down the sides as necessary.

Cover the bowl with a towel and allow to rise until it doubles, about 45 minutes.

Turn out on a floured surface (be generous with the bench flour, this dough is sticky), divide in half and form two balls. Let it rest for about 15 minutes to allow the gluten to relax.

Roll or hand press into a round shape about the size of a dinner plate. Place on a parchment covered cookie sheet and allow to rise for 20-25 minutes.

Bake for 10 minutes at 475, rotating the sheet halfway through.

Allow to cool completely before storing in a zip lock bag. There are no preservatives, so these will keep a couple of days on the counter, a week in the fridge, or until the next ice age in the freezer.

The communion wine is Sheffield Tawny Port—if you haven’t already got your own wine choice in mind!

Office Hours and Contact Us

Staff is trying to balance practicing shelter in place and also being available to you all. Starting Monday March 27, we will only been in the office from 10-12. We’re glad to take calls at those times, or you can contact us with pastoral concerns at admin@ststephenpresbyterian.com. You can continue to keep up with what’s going on at the church via our website www.ststephenpresbyterian.com

KERA Offers Educational Resources for Homebound Kids

From member Lauren Menking, who works for KERA:
My KERA coworkers and I have been working on a fast and furious project this week to meet the needs of North Texas families who are facing school closures. Want to share with you as I thought it might be helpful for some St. Stephen families!

Starting Monday, we’re changing the KERA TV (Channel 13) lineup to feature 12 hours of curriculum-based programming. Blocks of programming will be targeted for specific grade levels and feature accompanying digital educational resources. Programs and resources all align with Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) standards. The programs will also be available for livestreaming atkera.org/learn.

The idea is to help parents, teachers and caregivers navigate these new circumstances and help them turn the living room into a classroom.

More info can be found here, but of course, happy to answer any questions. Again, just sharing in case this is helpful for any of our families juggling new challenges at home! I defer to you if/how you’d want to share.

Giving

As I’ve mentioned before, there are many organizations that are in need of financial support right now because in this Covid-19 crisis they are dealing directly with vulnerable populations. If yo can give to them, please do so. Suchj organizations include but are not limited to Samaritan House, DRC, the Presbyterian Night Shelter, The Center for Transforming Lives, and the United Way. However, it is very important that if if is within your power in this challenging time, you continue to fulfill your pledge to St. Stephen. The easiest way to do this right now, especially with our access to mail often cut off due to keeping the office shuttered, is through donating online.Here is the link to do it.Thank you for your ongoing support of St. Stephen!

Ministry of Absence

by Rev. Dr. Fritz Ritsch

You may not have thought of it, this way, but this corona virus is the anti-church. So many of the things that make the church unique are exactly the things that the virus has made threatening. The church is the gathering of God’s people as the body of Christ—but to gather now is to spread the virus. The church is God’s people reaching out in compassion and kindness, touching one another with the healing touch of Jesus—but we can’t reach out and touch when social distancing is the order of the day. We also show Christ’s compassion through outreach to neighbor, stranger, and community—what I was taught to call in seminary “ministry of presence.” But our presence is a threat to the most vulnerable. So suddenly, and much to our frustration, we can’t be present with those who most need us. How can we be the church in this time?

The well-known Catholic spiritual writer, the late Henri Nouwen, coined the phrase “Ministry of Absence.” He warned that those of us who care for others might feel so obligated to be “present” that we actually become a barrier to the Holy Spirit. We forget that the care that others really need is not ours, but Jesus’ own care.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus gives his disciple a heads-up that he himself will be practicing ministry of absence by leaving them and going to be with God, and that this is a good thing: “It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, will not come to you, but if I go, I will send him to you.” That’s John 16:7.

In a way, the physical presence of Jesus in the world was actually a barrier to what the world really needed, which was his living spiritual presence through the Holy Spirit. The physical Jesus, like us the physical church, could only do so much good in the world. But the Holy Spirit is unrestrained by physical limitations. As Jesus tells us in another place, the Spirit blows where it will. It doesn’t need you and me to do its work. In fact, sometimes it needs us to get out of its way.

This period of enforced isolation from one another is a good time to remember that. The fact that we aren’t meeting or physically being the church is hard, but it doesn’t stop the Holy Spirit doing its work. In fact, this is the time when we can most trust the Spirit is at work, planting new seeds of salvation, spreading God’s healing wings over all the earth.

It’s also a good time to remember that we aren’t only the church when we’re physically together, but we’re the church no matter what, because what unites us isn’t a building or a name or an event we all attend together; what unites us to one another is the Holy Spirit. We are connected to one another even though we are socially distant; and we’re connected to Jesus whether we’re physically in the church or not.

It could be that, in all our “doing,’; we’ve sometimes gotten in the habit of believing that Jesus isn’t with us if we aren’t doing all those things. In which case, this is a good time to rediscover that Jesus is with us, and the Spirit is in us, when we’re alone just as certainly as Jesus is with us and the Spirit is in us when we are together.

It could be that one reason we are uncomfortable when isolated is that we fear that we aren’t good enough if we aren’t busy, if we aren’t doing something. In which case, this time of enforced isolation is a way that Jesus can teach us to have the faith that Jesus does think we’re good enough, and that Jesus does love us, not only when we’re doing, but when we’re being—that Jesus loves us for who we are, and not what we do. In this time that we the church aren’t working we can trust that Jesus is still at work; In this time when we are absent from one another we can trust that Jesus is nearer to each of us, and all of us than we might ever have imagined.

sarah

sarah

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