S. Stephen's Church
in Providence
"Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God." (Acts 7:56)
13 December 2020
Saint John the Baptist Pointing to Christ (c. 1655) by Bartolomé Estéban Murillo (1617 - 1682) The Art Institue of Chicago.
Kalendar and Readings

Click the readings above for links to the RSV
Organ: Andante from Fourth Organ Concerto in F, George Frideric Handel (1685 - 1757), trans. William T. Best (1826 - 1897)

Mass: Missa XVII "Missa in Dominicis et Quadragesima," Plainchant

Hymn: "Blessed be the God of Israel," Tune: Thornbury

Organ: Allegro from Fourth Organ Concerto in F, Handel, trans. Best
Virtual Worship Only:
In-person worship is still suspended
In-person worship was suspended at the end of November due to the alarming rise of COVID-19 cases in our state. That number has not gone down, and so we are still practicing safety and caution by having virtual worship only.

However, as a part of that virtual offering, we are endeavoring to leave the “online experience” unchanged, and so we still have a server, some musicians, someone to operate the camera, and (for now) even a reader for the lessons. This number of people keeps us at about 8 persons present, with no more than 10 – and we all maintain a physical distance of 6 ft and wear masks as necessary.

I believe that we can anticipate the building being closed to public worship for the duration of the month of December, with an update coming after Christmas as to what lies ahead in January. 

If you desire or are in need of pastoral care, that can be arranged by contacting the Rector at rector@sstephens.necoxmail.com or by calling the office.
A Word From Fr. Benjamin
Dear beloved in Christ,

Greetings on this weekend of Gaudete Sunday, which takes its name from the opening words of the Latin Introit at Mass, “Gaudete” – Rejoice! Like “Laetare” Sunday in Lent, this Sunday was traditionally a day when the strictness and somberness of the penitential season was lifted for a day, and the faithful were encouraged through the readings and hymns of the day to keep their eye fixed on the ultimate goal that lay ahead, the feast days of Easter and, in our case now, Christmas.

If you watch the live premiere of our virtual Lessons & Carols this Sunday at 4:00 PM, you’ll hear me say something similar to what I am about to say now. I know this is not the Advent nor the upcoming Christmas we would all like. After months of altering our lives and not being able to gather in the ways we are used to, we are growing frustrated and impatient. Sometimes, I become alarmed that doing church with only a handful of people and a few cameras seems normal now! (Some version of Stockholm Syndrome, perhaps?) I cannot promise or offer certainty about what next month or the month after will look like: but I do know that nothing in our present circumstance can alter or diminish the great unchangeable truth of God’s love that we will celebrate on Christmas. God so loved humanity in all its imperfections and weaknesses, that he was willing to be one of us for a time – to likewise experience human fragility and vulnerability. He came not as a mighty warrior, already grown. Rather, he entered the human story the way we all do, by being born of a mother, and being completely dependent upon others for love, sustenance, and care.

Our inability to gather together for Mass in our Church on Christmas Eve will not extinguish the light we are called to kindle on Christmas Eve in our own hearts, as we recall that “Love came down on Christmas,” – God the maker of all things was born a baby, angels sang to shepherds in a field, and even lowly animals contributed to the warmth of the glow that surely emanated from that scene. You must remember the great gift that we are given on Christmas – that Christ was born for you, yes, and born to save you. That is why we are urged to “Rejoice” this Sunday, to not lose heart, for “our God will come and save us.”

We have been in this altered way of living for roughly nine months now – the same duration as Mary’s pregnancy with Jesus. In this time of gestation, I wonder what new things have been preparing to be born within us and the Church. No, this pandemic will not magically end on Christmas Eve after roughly nine months, but I do note that the first vaccine was administered in the United Kingdom on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (Dec. 8), and that hope is appearing on the horizon as we prepare to celebrate the entrance of the Light of the World in the darkest and shortest days of the year. Hope indeed springs eternal, does it not?

Blessings upon all of you,

Fr. Benjamin+
Lessons and Carols
This Sunday, December 13, at 4:00 pm, S. Stephen’s will premiere a virtual Lessons & Carols service comprised of parishioners reading the lessons from their homes and music coming from S. Stephen’s. It will be a wonderful and cheery way for us to stay connected and celebrate the season, even while physically distanced as we approach the Christmas Holiday.

The service will be shown on our Facebook page. A “Hot Cider” gathering will follow the service, with an opportunity to socialize with one another. Please follow this link for that gathering.
Christmas at St. Stephen's
On Christmas Eve, St. Stephen's will stream our sung mass at 10 p.m. live on our Facebook page.

We are currently exploring options for a brief candlelight service outside of the church earlier in the evening around 5:30. With so many unknown factors related to the current rise in COVID-19 cases, we are unable to make any definitive plans at this time, but we hope to announce something later this week. Please stay tuned for updates.
Daily Advent Meditations
We hope that you have been enjoying the daily Advent meditations going out on weekdays every morning. As we prepare to open our hearts for our coming Lord and Savior, this is a wonderful way to open our hearts to each other while unable to gather physically. We still have plenty of slots open, and there is no limitation on writing just once! So please contact Fr. Benjamin or Andrew Welch in the office at office@sstephens.necoxmail.com if you would like to submit one.
Zoom Church School
On second Sundays of the month, there will be a 9:00 Zoom “Children’s Sermon” and check-in with Fr. Benjamin open to school-age children and their parents, available here.
Annual New Year's Day Dinner
Like so much else in 2020, our annual New Year's Day dinner in which we have traditionally welcomed the homeless or food insecure into our Guild House Hall will still take place, but look very different.

Food will be prepared in to-go containers and then distributed at the door or driven to shelters and other locations around Providence. Due to COVID restrictions, we can only accept 4 to 5 volunteers for the assembly of the containers, in addition to 2 volunteers to possibly drive the food to a drop off location.
Please email rector@sstephens.necoxmail.com or office@sstephens.necoxmail.com if you would like to help with this important service and gesture of kindness to our fellow brothers and sisters.
Sunday Livestreams
We have begun using a new streaming app for our Sunday 10:00 Mass. One thing we are unable to do is link to the Facebook “event” that we were previously creating, but if you go to our Facebook page you can easily see that we are going live and it should come up in your feed.
"What is Anglo-Catholicism?" Series: Coming in January
Once we have moved past the Advent and Christmas season, the Rector will offer a series (via Zoom) that explores some of the questions raised about what it means to be Anglo-Catholic and examine the “whys” of certain practices. This course will likely be offered on Wednesday evenings. If you have any questions, please feel free to submit them to rector@sstephens.necoxmail.com!
Giving to St. Stephen's
You can mail your pledge card or weekly/monthly offering to the church office, or pledge online here. Thank you for all the many ways in which you are already supporting S. Stephen’s. 
For your Prayers
Prayers have been requested for: Patti Barnes, Mason Butler-Rose, Charles Calverley, Sandra Calverley, Lola Campagna, Ruby Campagna, the Rev. Norman Catir, Diana Clarke, Sarah Clarke, Grace Deneault, Harrington Gordon, Joan Gordon, Phebe Hodson, James Howley, Hunter Jacobs, the Rev. Jay C. James, Conrad Johnson, Ann Brooke Mason, Beverly Myers, Tom Oakes, Beverly Ryan, Rhoda Steinhart, Crystal Sylver, and Christopher Whittingham.

Birthdays this week: Beverly Ryan (12/13), Louise Wells (12/17).

Anniversaries this week: Anniversary of ordination to the sacred priesthood for Fr. Benjamin P. Straley and Fr. Andrew Mead (12/18).
The faithful departed: Recently departed: Bradford Atwood, Julia Callanan, Pamela Piper, and Barbara Stenning. Year's mind: George Franklin Barrow (12/14), Mary B. Trask (12/15), Constance Margaret Maxwell (12/17), Dorothy Denison Dunlap (12/17).

Anglican and Diocesan Cycles of Prayer: In the Anglican Cycle of Prayer, we are asked to pray for the Falkland Islands and the Rt. Revd. Timothy Thorton, Bishop to the Forces and Bishop to the Falkland Islands. In the Diocesan Cycle of Prayer, we are asked to pray for the People and Clergy of St. Thomas', Greenville and St. Thomas', Alton.
This Week at St. Stephen's

Saturday 19 December
Epiphany Soup Kitchen (Meal Pickup Only)  2:30-4 pm

All Services Streamed on our Facebook Page

Sunday 13 December
Children's Zoom with Fr. Benjamin 9:00 am
Sung Mass 10:00 am

Advent Lessons & Carols Service 4:00 pm
Hot Cider gathering to follow on Zoom

Daily Office and Mass Lectionary

Monday 14 December
John of the Cross, Mystic, Poet, Teacher, 1591
Evening Prayer 5:30 pm
Low Mass 6:00 pm

Tuesday 15 December
Tuesday in the Third Week of Advent
Noonday Prayer 12 noon
Low Mass 12:10 pm

Wednesday 16 December
Wednesday in the Third Week of Advent
O Sapientia (Sarum Use) -
beginning of the Great "O" Antiphons
with the Magnificat at Evening Prayer
Evening Prayer 5:30 pm
Low Mass 6 pm

Thursday 17 December
Thursday in the Third Week of Advent
Noonday Prayer 12 pm
Low Mass 12:10 pm

Friday 18 December
Friday in the Third Week of Advent
Noonday Prayer 12 pm
Low Mass 12:10 pm

Saturday 19 December
Saturday in the Third Week of Advent
Low Requiem Mass, Guild of All Souls 10 am

Next Sunday
Sung Mass 10:00 am
Zoom Coffee Hour 11:30 am