Homeless veterans all over New England were gifted with sports team hoodies for Christmas, thanks to the efforts of Marlborough-based Sweat For Vets and about 40 local participating organizations, including the members of St. Stephen Lutheran Church, Marlborough, who wrapped nearly 300 of the approximately 2000 sweatshirts.
Enveloped in Christmas paper, the sweatshirts were presented to Sweats For Vets organizer Mark Vital , noted Sarah Maston, youth group leader at St. Stephen Lutheran Church. While the initiative is typically an outreach of the teens, who gather at church for an afternoon of wrapping, 2020 pandemic issues made it practical to include other church families. Everyone picked up the shirts at church, distanced and masked, and wrapped them at home.
Recent research indicates that with the global pandemic, homelessness for veterans could increase 45%, according to the Sweats for Vets website, www.sweats4vets.com. The sweatshirts bring warmth, pride, and hope to homeless veterans across New England by rallying many dedicated volunteers and generous donors.
The security and integrity of the vote-counting process has been a hot-button issue in 2020. Learn more on Wednesday, December 9 at 7PM, when the Micah Center for Social Justice Learning and Practice will host City Clerk Steven W. Kerrigan for a presentation on voting security and ballot counting. For information on how to access the event, go to saintstephenlutheran.com/micahcenter
Mr. Kerrigan was the speaker at the Micah Center’s first-ever event this past January highlighting the importance of registering to vote and encouraging voter registration. After a hiatus due to COVID-19, the Micah Center is pleased to return to hosting events online. On the other side of a national election, Mr. Kerrigan is prepared to share information about the vote-counting process.
The Micah Center for Social Justice Learning and Practice is a new initiative, formed a year ago, to connect people interested in making the Marlborough-Hudson community more just and equitable. The goal is to lift up the good work being done in the area and examine the ideas that drive that good work.
Deb Roberts of Marlborough chairs the committee, which includes Sandra Austin, Mary Patricia Bailey, Margaret Cardello, Chris Duane, Samantha Gogan, Peg Harbert, Pam Narahara, Marilyn Perry, Melanie Whapham, and St. Stephen Lutheran Church Pastor Joseph Graumann.
“After moving very consciously, the Micah center committee met virtually to share our community and personal challenges since our last event in early January,” Ms. Roberts said. “We agreed that it is time to reactivate the Micah Center. We are in the process of identifying other topics and speakers that will allow us to commit to our goal of offering regular education and learning on important social justice issues.” Additional committee members are very welcome. If you would like to become involved, send an email to email@example.com.
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.
PHOTO: Melanie Whapham assembles one of 20 kits that went to the Christmas-at-Sea initiative of Seafarers International House, and will be distributed to merchant marines at sea on Christmas.
While the members of St. Stephen Lutheran Church, Marlborough, could not gather this year in person to knit as a group or assemble gift packages, they worked together – while apart – to make sure that a group of merchant marines will have presents for Christmas. This is the fifth year the church has participated in the Christmas-at-Sea initiative of Seafarers International House, collecting and knitting items for those who will be out to sea over the holidays.
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. Last year and this year they collected and packaged 20 kits that will be Christmas gifts.
Members of the Knit Wits group created warm hats with coordinating scarves, while the Greeting Card ministry made Christmas cards. Others donated items and money for the 20 satchels that were packed with heavy, hooded sweatshirts, thermal socks, chocolate bars and nuts. Coordinating the project was Melanie Whapham of Marlborough. When all items were collected, Melanie and Jane Woolsey assembled the final satchels, which were shipped to the Seafarers ministry in Connecticut for distribution. This was also a Thrivent Action Team project. The seed money awarded by Thrivent, a financial services company, was used to purchase some of the sweatshirts.
The Knit Wits enthusiastic activity yielded 35 hats, with the extras donated to the Hudson Food Pantry. Knitters included Jane Woolsey, Marlea Dutt, Elaine Recklet, and Norma DuBois of Hudson, Jan Conlin of Southboro, Peg Harbert of Shrewsbury, and Ann Gibson of Maynard.
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.
This past holiday season, a record 2601 crew members regardless of faith or nationality, received satchels. 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
It isn’t too late to sign up for “Sunday School Reimagined,” the 2020 version of a Christian Education program for children, offered by St. Stephen Lutheran Church, Marlborough. An online program, it is open to anyone, not just church members or people who live in the greater Marlborough area.
The program provides online resources for families to share stories of faith in the home at their convenience, and not just on Sunday. Rather than add another mandatory Zoom hour to your schedule, this program allows you to take the lead and learn at your own pace.
While some of the materials are provided by a published program, each weekly lesson includes an introductory video made by members of St. Stephen. Adults who register receive a weekly email with access to the videos and activities on that week’s Bible story and theme. To sign up, go to www.saintstephenlutheran.com/education and fill out the form. Learn how Sunday School equips children and families to take the lessons they’ve learned and live in faith and hope for a world in need.
Saint Stephen Lutheran Church 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 services at 10 am alternate between live worship in the back parking lot (October 18, November 1, 15, 29) and worship on Zoom (October 25, November 8 and 22).
With a safe and successful outdoor worship experience on August 9, parishioners at St. Stephen Lutheran Church will again gather for “Worship in the Pines” on Sunday, August 23 at 10 am. The service will take place in the partially-shaded back parking lot behind the church at 537 Bolton St., Marlborough. Weather permitting, Sunday outdoor worship will continue to alternate with Zoom church services through November 1. (Future outdoor services are scheduled for September 6, September 20, October 4, October 18 and November 1.)
Everyone who attends – members, friends, and visitors – must pre-register by going to https://www.eventbrite.com/e/outdoor-worship-registration-113524466736. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, church-goers must bring their own chairs and wear masks. Ushers will check people in, offer hand sanitizer, and guide them to socially distanced spots. Bathrooms will be available on a limited basis. For those who prefer to participate from home, outdoor services will be live-streamed on YouTube.
The church building has been closed since March and parishioners are reluctant to come back to indoor worship. A survey showed that 75% of respondents favored an outdoor service. The outside worship is limited to 40 congregants. For the August 9 service, 36 people pre-registered.
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.