We wish you a very Merry Christmas & a Happy 2019

Every parish has its own character—an ethos or atmosphere which reflects the nature of its members. People who visit various parishes undergo a winnowing process. Either they are attracted by the character of the parish or repelled by it.

Saint Stephen’s is no exception, of course. Undoubtedly, we are just a tad more formal than many others in the way we worship. But there’s nothing pompous, stodgy, or stuffy about Saint Stephen’s. Quite the reverse.

The great thing about this parish is that you know how to enjoy yourselves, whether it be at worship, at work or in fellowship. While this might seem a tad mundane, it is a talent that reflects the true spirit of Christianity. God doesn’t mean us to be glum. He means us to enjoy ourselves.

At Saint Stephen’s the watchword seems to be: “If a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing well.”

This is apparent in everything that takes place in the parish whether it falls into the realm of daily business—the Vestry, the Sunday School, the Parish Life Committee, the Altar Guild and Bible studies—or the special tasks such as decorating the church for Christmas and Easter, teaching a class, organizing a picnic, making church furniture, or the complicated job of putting together the Cookie Walk.

Everything is not just enthusiastically done. It is exceedingly well done.

Actually, it sometimes seems that there is nothing you cannot turn your hand to if you put your mind to it. This was demonstrated at our British Garden Party and the Cookie Walk ’04. Both were the result of good old-fashioned teamwork.

There are those who sniff at people who enjoy good fun and fellowship. But, then, folks like this have been around since the beginning of time. Jesus pointed out that there’s no pleasing this kind of person.

John the Baptist, he said, came neither eating nor drinking, and they called him crazy; The Son of God, by contrast, came eating and drinking, and they called him a glutton and a drunk.

Fellowship, in many respects, goes to the very core of the faith. Remember how Jesus summarized the meaning of the Law of Moses. He commanded us to love God with all our being and to demonstrate our love of God by loving our fellow men, our neighbors, as much as we love ourselves.

Proper fellowship enables us to get to know our neighbors. This, in turn, prevents us from practicing our faith in the abstract—something human beings often prefer to do. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, of course. But the experience of this parish demonstrates the effectiveness of Jesus’ program.

Thanks to the open-handedness and hard work of its people, this small parish has achieved a great deal in its short existence. Not least, the people of Saint Stephen’s have built themselves a church and taken the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a part of the Baltimore area that sadly lacked churches.

Far from looking inwards, you have generously supported missions in the community. Our causes are by no means always fashionable—the dying, the elderly, the psychologically disordered—but nevertheless they have made an impact in areas of great need.

And this is what the Christian faith is all about. The overflowing baskets on ingathering Sundays for At Jacob’s Well are truly inspiring!

Thanks to your efforts the spirit of Christmas is at work throughout the year at Saint Stephen’s. Your enthusiasm made for a wonderful 2018 and it holds promise that 2019 will be even better. A very merry Christmas and a happy New Year to each and every one of you. GPH✠

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