Archive for March, 2009

2009 Stewardship Letter

March 26, 2009

Dear [Friends of St. Paul]

It was around this time last year I wrote to you reporting that the contract to commence work on the church tower had been signed and that our new organist/choirmaster, Brian Hoffman, had just completed his first Sunday at St. Paul’s.

The tower work was successfully completed last summer, praise the Lord! My thanks go out to the many people who gave generously to the project. In addition, Mr. Hoffman, now with us for a full year, has met and exceeded our expectations! It has truly been a pleasure to work with Brian on the weekly services, special events, and the start-up of the new Music School. Throughout this long winter a dozen or so children have come faithfully to sing, study, and share fellowship in the Music School. We have been blessed also with a cadre of faithful parents and volunteers who have prepared meals, and helped Brian with teaching the kids. On the Sundays when the vested children’s choir is present in church, I have heard comments like, “This is so wonderful!” and “This reminds me of the way church used to be.” My prayer is that we will continue to grow and expand the children and youth ministry at St. Paul’s.

I have also been very encouraged by the commitment Brian has made to put worship at the top of his list of priorities. On Ash Wednesday we had a very good turn-out for the noon service, which was enhanced by his exceptional musical skills and with the addition of a special adult choir drawn from members of the St. Paul’s Choristers.

My homily for that service centered on the symbol of the cross, which is imposed on the foreheads of the congregation at the Ash Wednesday service. The black cross is made from ashes out of burned palm fronds. The palms are a symbol of Christ the King and the ashes symbolize our mortality. The cross itself however, is a symbol of the hope we have because Jesus has conquered death. In a sense the cross is a type of brand. We are sealed, or branded, with the cross at Baptism. And we are reminded on Ash Wednesday that the brand of the cross continues to identify each one of us past death and into eternity.

In the same homily I read off a rather long list of brand-names of commercial products and companies that have long since gone the way of all mortal flesh. I also recited a list of financial institutions that have recently failed or are now on life-support. At some point in life we end up choosing where we put our real trust: Should we place our faith, security and self-esteem in the hands of corporations and their products – all with a limited shelf-life? Or should we throw ourselves on the mercy and grace of Almighty God?

Obviously, the answer to both of these questions is easy. The only brand that has true staying power is the Cross of Jesus!

This brings me to another important question: Where is this life-saving message to be heard today?

The place where the life-giving and sustaining Word is proclaimed is still predominately in the local parish church. Certainly there are Christian radio stations, TV broadcasts, and even internet sites. But it is in the local church – your own neighborhood church – through Sacraments, Preaching, Artistic Beauty, and Fellowship where the enduring message of new life in Jesus is brought directly to ‘all sorts and conditions’ of people.

I am encouraged and delighted to see so many new faces in the congregation. This is truly an exciting time in the life of St. Paul’s and we have every reason to be hopeful about our future, however our financial needs at St. Paul’s are great. We are not a rich church. Our limited reserves are diminishing. I implore you to seriously consider increasing your financial support. Please ask yourself how important this local church is to you, your family, friends – and to the children who are coming to the church and learning about God’s amazing love and forgiveness.

I remain yours in Christ Jesus,

MIG+

The Rev. Michael I. Gorchov, Rector

re: Rector’s newsletter article for April, 2009

March 25, 2009

So much has been happening at St. Paul’s it is hard to keep up.

Information Concerning Holy Week and Easter Services

  • We begin Holy Week with the Liturgy of the Palms on Palm Sunday. This is a kind of prelude to Holy Week. The service commences in the Great Hall of the Guild House with the distribution of palms. During the procession from the parish hall and into the church there is a dramatic change in the service. The celebration of the waving palms suddenly gives way to the realization that Jesus is going to allow himself to be handed over to the murderous desires of an angry mob. The music in the church changes key, the vestments are now colored red. We are moving from Palm Sunday into Passion Sunday. Once we begin reading the Passion Gospel we know that we have definitely entered into Holy Week.
  • On Thursday evening in Holy Week we will hold a traditional Communion service appropriate for the day. Members of the choir will be in attendence to provide choral music to complement the celebration. Maundy Thursday liturgies attempt to honor all the events that are associated with that day. It is a difficult undertaking. This is the night that Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, washed the feet of his disciples, and instructed them to love one another (the new commandment, or Mandatum, from which we take “Maundy”). Thursday in Holy Week is also the night Jesus was betrayed, arrested, and taken into custody. The Maundy Thursday service ends with the dramatic ‘Stripping of the Sanctuary’ and the extinguishing of the Tiffany “Christ Lamp’ over the altar. Both of these actions signify the impending death of Jesus, and in symbolic terms transform the church into a tomb while we await His glorious Resurrection on Easter Sunday.
  • This year on Good Friday we have planned a worship service with music provided by our Organist and Choirmaster, Brian Hoffman, and a special choral group. The Liturgy of the Passion begins at 1:00PM, following the annual downtown Walk of the Cross (11:45AM, starting from Barker Park).
  • Easter Day at St. Paul’s begins with the Great Vigil at 5am. If you have not attended this beautiful service please consider doing it this year. Our regular services on Easter Sunday remain at 8 and 10AM.

Music School

  • The Music School at St. Paul’s is really going strong! The kids love coming to school each week. The parents are supportive and some have even volunteered to make and serve meals to the children during the dinner break between classes. We are truly following Jesus when he said, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:14). I can confidently say this is a great inaugural year for the Music School, and I look forward to great blessings to come from this ministry.

Sunday School

  • We have done a remake of our Sunday School. The new format has the kids assembling in the parish hall between the Sunday services. Right now John Strang, Janeen Paul, Adrain Clayton, and Melissa Enslin are taking turns teaching the new classes. We are using a Bible-based curriculum, and the children learn Bible stories and remember important Bible verses each week. We only have a few kids right now, but they are having fun while they learn. By the way, parents are invited to attend the Sunday school with the kids!

Adult Education:

  • I have enjoyed immensely the opportunity to participate in the sermon forums this year. The dialogue we had on my sermon on the “Binding of Isaac,” (Genesis 22) was a great give-and-take event! I have also heard that the presentations on the parables of Jesus were interesting and informative. Many thanks to Bob Kearney and the Adult Ed committee for continuing to provide excellent adult learning opportunities for the parish.
Redesigned Web Page

  • Many thanks go out to Karen Strang, and former member Jason Burks (now in Maine), for doing a great redesign of the parish web page. New photos of the church have been added and the pages have been given a needed face-lift. Check it out: http://www.stpaulstroy.org.

Lenten Cleaning and Polishing

  • A crew of faithful members guided by David Graham and Florence Strang did a great job on a recent Saturday in the church. The pews and various nooks and crannies have been cleaned of accumulated dirt and ‘dust bunnies. Well done!

Shelter Project

  • April is our turn to become a downtown shelter for the homeless. If you would like to volunteer, please contact Karen Strang.

Safeguarding God’s Children and Safeguarding God’s People:

  • Along with my ministry partner and spouse, Marianne, we continue to provide child sexual abuse prevention training (Safeguarding God’s Children) throughout the diocese. We were in St. John’s, Ogdensburg in early February and at Good Shepherd, Elizabethtown at the end of March. On April 25th we are scheduled to be at St. Michael’s, Colonie. We also will be presenting the seminars on June 5th as part of the Diocesan Convention in Speculator, NY. All church staff and volunteers who regularly work with or around children should take this training. A new training program designed to prevent adult-on-adult sexual harassment and exploitation is now available in the diocese (Safeguarding God’s People).  I have completed the train-the-trainer program to become a certified trainer, and on February 19th I presented the first training seminars in the diocese to the staff at Christ the King Spiritual Life Center.
Blessings, Michael+