St Stephen s Church
Sixth Sunday of Easter
17th May 2020

Your one-click location to find the latest news and updates about worship,
programs, study groups, and pastoral care during the COVID-19 crisis .

How can we get to know God? It’s a big question. Remember the man with the mute and deaf son who had been demonized who came to Jesus seeking healing for his son? Mark tells us that he asked Jesus, “If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’? All things are possible for one who believes.” And the father of the boy cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” Imagine Jesus responding, “Well, if that’s your attitude, forget it. Get your act together and when you’ve got nothing but belief then we’ll see to the boy.” You can’t because that wasn’t his way.

No. It’s perfectly honest to say, “I believe; help my unbelief.” And sure enough the Lord in his grace helped his unbelief as he then responded and answered his prayer and brought healing to his child. We hope you’ll invite your friends and family to get to know you better by connecting with your church via livestream. Send the link. Covidtide has made sharing your faith now as easy as pajamas and slippers. Welcome to St Stephen’s
John Donne, from Meditation XVI I
Weakened by advanced years, my mother-in-law Muriel is in home hospice in Michigan. She’s not lying in mortal weakness as yet but the hospice nurse advises that it won’t be long. The woman I get through the nights with and enter every new day beside will be with her, God willing, as she lay dying.

Mortality calls us to one another, to hold and be held by one another, embrace and gather. When someone is dying we want to be at the bedside. I see the daily Covid-19 death report, the numbers, the statistics. The tally itself is a deep wound to those who are dying and those who survive that death in the family because it takes away one of the essential elements of a good death and a good funeral; the element of story, our story, which not only includes our biography — what we did this day or that day — but it includes our ancestors, where we came from, what we believed in, what we hold dear, what gives us hope. Our religious and our faith impulses are all included in the story that in this pestilence we’re not allowed to tell because we can’t gather together to share it with one another. It is such a deep wound to the impulses that grief calls us to, to get together, and to commune with one another.

It adds insult to injury. The numbers on mortality are convincing; they hover right around one hundred percent. But we’ve all seen individual deaths that have been so overwhelmed by circumstances — the act of terrorism, or the school shooting, or the plane crash, or the pandemic — that we lose the individual stories.

What kind of crisis is there coming, is there now, with people who are not being allowed to grieve in the way that many people expect to get to do, whether it’s being at someone’s bedside as they’re dying or if it’s just being able to come together for anything from an Irish wake to a formal gathering in a church? One of my teachers, Brevard Childs, the bed of heaven to him, may he rest in peace, used to say, “Grief will have its way with you.” You can pay the psychotherapist. You can pay the clergy. You can pay the bartender. But you will pay. Grief is really the other side of the coin of love, and it comes calling for the tax that is due on loving people.

People have said to me that it must be very difficult to see people in their grief and bereavement. It is. But you also see the deep attachments and real love we bear for one another and the kindness and the courtesy that humans do to and for and with one another.

The time will come round when we can exercise the large muscle investments we have to make in our dead, the heart and the shoulders and the shovel work and that type of thing. In the meantime, the bereavement letter, which used to be a formal ritual in Victorian times, we should find again, the putting pen to paper to condole and console with one another.

My Aunt Barbara died recently in the same home in Merriweather, Michigan where my father was born. Less than a month after her diagnosis, cancer handed her her walking papers. Someone asked the other day what I would say to those who are going through losing a loved one in this pandemic. I am not qualified to say. I’ve buried people I love, a still-born daughter we named Hope Gillian, a father-in-law, very close friends, but I’ve never been through a grief that I couldn’t embrace, that I couldn’t whisper in the ear of, that I couldn’t place something in the coffin of, that I couldn’t bend to kiss the forehead of, and pat the hand of, so I can’t imagine the heartbreak. But I will say that faith sustains us, and family and friends sustain us. “Grief shared,” Edgar Jackson used to say, “is grief diminished.”

We have to find people to help us do the heavy lifting. These times remove a
lot of those options from us, but we’ll find ways.

—PCE +
VISIT Together Apart ,
To download a pdf of the COVID Response 2020 letter, click here.

The flowers at the altar this Sunday, 17th May 2020,
were given to the glory of God 
by Sue Kwentus
in honor and remembrance of her Mother, 
Ruth Kelly, 
in celebration of all those with May Birthdays,
and in support of the livestream service.

St Stephen s Garden was created by Joe Jennings, Master Earth & Altar Gardener at the church through all of its harvest seasons. Thank you so very much Joe for your dedicated leadership and service.

With Joe s retirement, t he garden has lain barren since the Fall harvest. Even more so now during this increasingly stressful time, it is important to awaken the garden to help feed the homeless, as the church did in seasons past, and requires volunteers who are willing to help (at a socially acceptable distance). Karen Foss will oversee the garden planting plan, and has already begun soil preparation.

Please contact Elizabeth[at] , as soon as possible, to participate with this special project and help those in need.

Sunday, 17th May, 9:00 am
Slow Religion
Gospel of St John
Joe Jennings
Weekly on:
Sun 9:00 am,Tu 4:00 pm, Thu 4:00 pm

Online Film Society
Donald Sung
Up Next: 20th May
Wednesdays, 4:00 pm


Do you miss having the daily devotional booklets for your morning meditation? The Forward Movement Day by Day are available in a basket on a table outside the doors to Kimball Hall. All are welcome to come by to retrieve one or two. Please wear your mask and maintain social distance when you arrive if others are present.

Live Stream | We seek your feedback on your experience with the quality of the livestream. Are you having technical difficulties with livestream sound? Video? Glitches? Please email Elizabeth Gravely to let us know.

  1. A tip from Rod Hall: If you are having audio problems, try not watching the stream live but clicking on the url later—perhaps at 11:15—and downloading the video. All service livestreams are archived and available on the livestreams page at

  1. Trouble connecting? If you log on to the Livestream prior to 10:00 am, and then have trouble with viewing at the 10:00 hour, refresh your browser and the livestream should reset to stream.


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To light a candle in the virtual prayer corner, please see the instructions in this PDF link or in the Pastoral Care section of St Stephen's Central.
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