Before St. Stephen Lutheran Church established a building at 537 Bolton Street more than 40 years ago, people would gather for outdoor “worship in the pines” on the property. This month, outside worship will take place again on Sunday, August 9 – a reflection on the 2020 pandemic rather than a nod to nostalgia.
Safely-distanced outside worship was the preference of 75% of respondents to a survey asking if people would attend outdoor or indoor services. Worship in the pines will be held in the partially-shaded back parking lot and those who attend must wear masks, bring their own chairs, keep social distance from people who are not family members, and pre-register, since only 40 people will be able to gather.
“For our congregation, part of ‘loving your neighbor’ is following the public health guidelines that keep us all safe,” noted St. Stephen Pastor Joseph Graumann. “After a great deal of time without gathering, it will be a joy to see each other face-to-face in a way that’s both safe and enjoyable.”
Ushers will offer hand sanitizer and guide worshipers to seating locations. Bathrooms will be available on a limited basis. Worship begins at 10:00 am and will be what is known as Service of the Word, without Holy Communion, although a committee is looking into communion options for the future.
Everyone who attends – members, friends, and visitors – must pre-register by going to https://www.eventbrite.com/e/outdoor-worship-registration-113524466736. By reserving a “ticket,” registrants will provide important information so that, in the unlikely event of someone falling ill, the church will be able to give critical information to public health professionals.
The outdoor services will be live-streamed on YouTube for those who prefer to participate from home. St. Stephen Lutheran Church hopes to continue to hold outside services on alternate weeks with the live-stream option, and maintain Zoom worship on the opposite weeks.
The church building has been closed since March, while church services have continued using YouTube and Zoom. As Zoom worship developed, piano accompaniment from the music director and participation by readers and an assisting minister added more elements of a traditional church service. Parishioners also have gathered virtually for coffee hour, book club, youth group, and ministry team meetings.
There will be a food collection for the Hudson Food Pantry on the outdoor worship Sundays. Some needed items include hearty soups, white tuna, cereal, baked beans, and packaged rice and pasta side dishes.
For more information about St. Stephen Lutheran Church, visit the church’s Facebook page or website, www.saintstephenlutheran.com. Saint Stephen is a member of the New England Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (www.elca.org). The church is a Reconciling in Christ congregation, inviting people of every gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, ability, marital status, or class. Parishioners come from Marlborough, Hudson, Berlin, Northborough, Southborough, Westborough, Shrewsbury, Sudbury, Stow, and Bolton.
Thanks to all the members of St Stephen who came out for a “Congratulations Parade” for the High School Seniors and College Graduates! The kids really enjoyed the candy, ramen noodles and New City Microcreamery gift cards you threw to them! ❤️
Although the doors are closed and there are no Sunday services at St. Stephen Lutheran Church, Marlborough, the church is open online five days a week, with additional opportunities. Whether parishioners are looking for a sermon, prayer, coffee hour, or even a book club meeting, it is available, with both Zoom and YouTube platforms.
In addition, parishioners are also using “old school” methods to make sure, although people can’t congregate, they can still feel part of a congregation. Easter cards were mailed to everyone, and now the church council is contacting all members by phone, email or note to say, “How are you doing?”
“In a time of physical distancing, community and togetherness are as vital as ever,” notes Pastor Joseph Graumann. “As a church, we are best when we are connecting people, and our focus is connection. This is why we provide weekly opportunities for ‘coffee hour,’ which is a time just to check in and chat. Our worship videos can be accessed at your leisure, and they connect you to a millennia-long tradition of faith and hope.”
Pastor Graumann began his weekly “Sermon Without Germin’ series on YouTube on Sunday, March 22, where he discusses the weekly gospel lesson not only with its original relevance, but connects it to today’s challenges with COVID-19. The April 19 message featured as guest speaker James Hazelwood, Bishop of the New England Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Also on YouTube were weekly messages from Pastor Graumann for Wednesdays in Lent. Those have continued, and both Wednesday and Sunday messages can be viewed at any time on YouTube.
For Easter Sunday, St. Stephen Lutheran Church held a live Zoom service, with prayers, sermon, and even festive organ music played by music director Stan Hanson. The small church attracted at least 80 people, more than the typical live Sunday worship. Committees/teams, the confirmation class, book clubs, and the youth group have been meeting via Zoom.
“Our youth group Zoom meetings provide a space for kids to hang out and have fun,” Pastor Graumann said, noting that one of the activities has been Pictionary via Zoom.
The Sunday offering will change from YouTube to Zoom in May, “with worship on Zoom, led entirely from our homes. With our building closed, we celebrate Christ’s presence in all creation, especially in our homes and our hearts,” the pastor added. To access any of the church’s programs, go to the calendar on the website, www.saintstephenlutheran.com, and click the appropriate link.
For more information about St. Stephen Lutheran Church, visit www.saintstephenlutheran.com or the church’s Facebook page. Saint Stephen is a member of the New England Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (www.elca.org) . The church is a Reconciling in Christ congregation, inviting people of every gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, ability, marital status, or class. Parishioners come from Marlborough, Hudson, Berlin, Northborough, Southborough, Westborough, Shrewsbury, Sudbury, Stow, and Bolton.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to change our daily lives, Holy Week has taken on new dimensions. We are still unable to gather together for worship, and as we look to the cross, death seems to swirl around us. This is a difficult time, and it is a time when we need the hope that springs from Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.
Holy Week will be different this year. While we are working hard to maintain community ties and to share God’s Word, our online services are simply different than gathering in person. For Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, we will have a zoom meeting at 5PM to gather for prayer and community time followed by a 7 PM YouTube video message. Easter Vigil, we will celebrate that “this is the night” with a YouTube video. Stan will be providing some music for each of these videos. We’re grateful for his continued leadership in this time.
On Easter Sunday, we will have a zoom worship service, with live music and readings, all led from our respective homes. This will not be a videotaped service from an empty sanctuary. It will be living and incarnate from house to house. Even though it may not feel like the Easters we know and love, we trust that Christ is still risen. God continues to bring new life amidst the death around us.
I look forward to the time we can shout our Easter hallelujahs in person. I truly miss the handshakes and hugs that go along with our gatherings. But soon enough, just as we are sure in the resurrection, we will surely gather once more around God’s table and sing, “This is the feast of victory for our God. Alleluia!”
For now, please stay at home. Wash your hands regularly, and avoid public spaces of all kinds. Call one another and check in. Pray. May God bless you and keep you safe.
Yours in Christ,
My Dear Friends,
After consulting with folks at the city board of health, we decided to meet for worship this past Sunday. After worship, our church council met and decided to close our building for the remainder of the month of March. Council will meet remotely on March 26 to evaluate if we are able to re-open the building at that time. In the meantime, all activities and outside groups are suspended.
Notice that it is the building that will close. Saint Stephen will continue to be an open church, using our technological resources to the best of our ability to remain connected. Most of us have and use computers, some others smartphones only, and some are living off the digital grid. As time goes on, we will be thinking of ways to keep us connected in the midst of technological diversity. While technology is a gift, using it can be a challenge.
Even though we are canceling all activities in the building, the operations of the church continue. If you normally bring your offering to church, please consider mailing it to St Stephen Lutheran Church 537 Bolton St, Marlborough, MA 01752 Attn: Financial Secretary. Your continued support is greatly appreciated.
Please, if you haven’t already done so, consider signing up for our email list, subscribe to our YouTube channel, follow us on Instagram, and like us on Facebook. All of these are linked from our website, saintstephenlutheran.com
In Psalm 46, the Psalmist writes, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble,” and later affirms that “God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be shaken.” Because of God’s saving grace, we are bold to care for each other. Because of Baptism, we are all connected in Christ Jesus. Because God is our refuge and strength, we look to the future when we can all meet again.
In the meantime, follow the directions of our elected and appointed officials. Pray. Keep in touch. I can be reached by email or by phone. Check out our online resources. Be safe.
May God bless you and keep you.
In sure and certain hope,
Joseph Graumann, Jr.
Dear Friends in Christ,
In the midst of crisis, communities of faith like our own are powerful witnesses to God’s kingdom of life and love. When those crises center around the transmission of disease, we face a twofold responsibility: to witness to God’s compassion and to mitigate risks to those most vulnerable. In order to reduce the chance of risk and to alleviate anxiety, I would like to share the following recommendations to increase health and hygiene in our community.
There is no cause to panic. Nor is there cause to seriously amend your way of life, unless later directed to do so by local authorities. We are a people of hope, and we consider science and medicine to be gifts from God. Let us join in prayer and care for those who suffer from illness in any way. God is a God of life, and we trust in the love that comes from God and from neighbor.
February 26 is Ash Wednesday on the Christian calendar, a day people throughout the world will go to church, to mark the start of the season of Lent, the 46 days before Easter, often a time for penitence and reflection. The day is named for the practice of imposing ashes, a tradition that many Christians have found to be a meaningful part of the Ash Wednesday liturgy.
If, however, you can’t make it to church on Ash Wednesday, the ashes can come to you! Saint Stephen Lutheran Church offers this creative alternative. Pastor Joseph Graumann and assisting minister Ann Gibson will be available in Marlborough near the corner of Main and Florence streets, from noon to 1:00 pm on Ash Wednesday, and will impose ashes and offer a blessing to anyone who asks. Those who prefer not to receive ashes are also welcome to come for prayer or conversation.
“Ash has been a symbol of death and mourning since ancient times,” Pastor Graumann says. “Christians mark their foreheads with ashes to remember that ‘we are dust, and to dust we shall return.’ We remember our mortality, but also in the sign of the cross, how Jesus triumphed over death,” he adds.
Lenten Services February 26-April 1
In addition to noontime ashes and prayer on Main Street, St. Stephen Lutheran Church will offer traditional Ash Wednesday worship at 7:00 p.m. on February 26 at the church at 537 Bolton St., Marlborough.
On subsequent Wednesdays in Lent, March 4, 11, 18, 25 and April 1, people are invited to gather at St. Stephen for a simple soup supper (one soup is vegetarian) at 6:30 PM, followed by a choral Vespers—or evening prayer—service. “Lent is a time of discipline, but it is also a time of celebration and beauty,” Pastor Graumann says. “On March 25, our friends from Temple Emanuel in Marlborough will be joining us,” he noted.
Vespers will feature Marty Haugen’s Holden Evening Prayer, along with a reading and reflection from the Lenten stories from the Hebrew Bible. Holden Evening Prayer “is easy to sing and focuses on Christ as the light of the world. During evening prayer, we hear the story of Mary and her response to God’s news that she would bear for us a savior. We pray for a world in need, and we receive God’s blessing,” Pastor Graumann said.
Written in 1985-86 by Marty Haugen during a musical residency at Holden Village, a scenic Lutheran camp in the mountains of Washington State, Holden Evening Prayer is a simple Lutheran vespers service that follows traditional form while using contemporary and inclusive language. Since then, the service has been adopted around the world. Haugen is a composer of liturgical music for Lutheran, Roman Catholic and other denominations, with over 400 compositions.
Snow tubing and a Games Night were on the January schedule for the Youth of St. Stephen Lutheran Church, Marlborough, but those social activities were sandwiched between events where they reach out and help others, something they are drawn to just about every month.
In December, teens joined friends from other churches that are part of LIPY (Lutheran Interparish Youth) to shop for and wrap Christmas gifts for children in need in Central Massachusetts. Participating families and others in the congregation donated $525 for this event.
A week later, the teens, younger kids and parents came together to wrap 215 sweatshirts in just 90 minutes, as a service to the Marlborough-based non-profit, Sweats4Vets. Church members and friends also donated sweatshirts and wrapping paper. Sweats 4 Vets collects new Boston/ New England sports-themed sweatshirts and wraps and distributes them to homeless veterans in the greater Boston and Worcester areas for Christmas.
January 11 was the date of a visit to Hudson’s Fresh Start Furniture Bank. St. Stephen youth had collected new pillows and shower curtain liners, but also brought supplies to create housewarming gifts with a bucket holding a broom, dustpan and cleaning products. They completed each present with a large bow. Fresh Start is a volunteer-based organization that provides free furniture and home goods to people in need.
Next on the teen calendar is a Youth vs Adult Trivia Contest on Friday, February 7 at 6:30 pm at the church. Giving back, however, is never far from the minds of St. Stephen youth, as they are planning and raising funds for a mission trip to Maine in April.
For more information about the church, visit www.saintstephenlutheran.com or the church’s Facebook page. Saint Stephen is a member of the New England Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (www.elca.org) . The church is a Reconciling in Christ congregation, inviting people of every gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, ability, marital status, or class. Parishioners come from Marlborough, Hudson, Berlin, Northborough, Southborough, Westborough, Shrewsbury, Sudbury, Stow, and Bolton. Sunday Worship is at 10 am, with Sunday School for all ages at 9:00.
“Voting 101,” the inaugural program of the new Micah Center for Social Justice Learning and Practice, will take place at St. Stephen Lutheran Church, 537 Bolton St., Marlborough, on Wednesday, January 15 at 7 pm. Snow date is January 22.
Guest speaker Stephen Kerrigan, Marlborough City Clerk, will not only go over the basics of voting, but will also explain how to participate in the recently adopted early voting for the March 3 Presidential Primary that takes place February 24-28. Early voters can cast their ballots in person or by mail. The public is invited to attend Voting 101. There will be a Portuguese translator available.
In addition to early voting, Kerrigan will discuss “registration, the absentee ballot process, and how to keep your voting status active.” Voters have options that vary from appearing in person at City Hall to staying home and going online. Kerrigan will also answer questions. “I am excited, and looking forward to this event,” Kerrigan said. “It is very important to exercise your right to vote.”
The Micah Center was begun as an initiative of St. Stephen Lutheran Church, but has attracted community members as individuals and from other organizations, including the Boys and Girls Clubs of Metrowest, and the Marlborough Public Library. The center’s goal is to lift up the good work being done in the area and examine the ideas that drive that good work. In addition to voting, the center will offer programs on three other topics this year: human trafficking, housing insecurity, and immigration.
Deb Roberts of Marlborough chairs the Micah Center committee. She notes that “there are many social topics that we all need further education on to bring awareness and promote meaningful discussion followed by meaningful change.” The committee includes Sandra Austin, Mary Patricia Bailey, Margaret Cardello, Chris Duane, Samantha Gogan, St. Stephen Pastor Joseph Graumann, Peg Harbert, Pam Narahara, Marilyn Perry, and Melanie Whapham. Additional members are very welcome. If you would like to become involved, send an email to email@example.com.
FOR YOUR COMMUNITY CALENDAR
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 15
St. Stephen Lutheran Church
537 Bolton St., Marlborough MA
Registration, new early voting process, absentee ballots, voter status
Free event, open to the public
Sponsored by the new Micah Center for Social Justice Learning and Practice
A special blessing took place at St. Stephen Lutheran Church, Marlborough, as a representative package of hand knitted hats and scarves, as well as sweatshirts, socks and chocolate bars was placed on the altar, earmarked for Christmastime delivery to Seafarers International House in New York City.
This is the fourth year the church’s knitting group, the Knit-Wits, made sure Seafarers would be warm and not forgotten at Christmas. In the first year of participation, Saint Stephen sent five kits; the second year they doubled their efforts and sent ten; the third year they put together 15 kits and this year collected and packaged 20 kits that will be Christmas gifts.
Seafarers are often isolated and lonely, sometimes without the means to contact family frequently, or purchase needed items while in port. Typical contracts put most at sea for 10 months a year, and they remain a largely forgotten population at the holidays.
Seven Lutheran chaplains support the Seafarers Port Mission. When requested, they will board merchant marine ships to provide pastoral care and counseling. During the holidays, chaplains distribute the packages to ships that port in New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, Philadelphia and southern New England that will be out at sea for Christmas.
The 20 satchels arrived intact in early December, according to Ruth Setaro, one of the chaplains who received the donations. “I have a wonderful ship here with a crew of 20 Filipino seafarers,” she wrote. “When the ship leaves New Haven they will be heading with a load of our scrap metal to Turkey, a 14-day trip across the Atlantic. They were so excited to hear that I had Christmas presents for them.” She expressed thanks to the St. Stephen congregation and noted, “You can’t imagine what joy it will bring to these seafarers who will be far away from home and family this Christmas.”
Seafarers International House is an ecumenical mission of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to seafarers and sojourners, as well as people who are distressed, disadvantaged, and displaced. For more information, check out https:/www.sihnyc.org.
For more information about the church, visit www.saintstephenlutheran.com or the church’s Facebook page. Saint Stephen is a member of the New England Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (www.elca.org) . The church is a Reconciling in Christ congregation, inviting people of every gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, ability, marital status, or class. Parishioners come from Marlborough, Hudson, Berlin, Northborough, Southborough, Westborough, Shrewsbury, Sudbury, Stow, and Bolton.