October 9, 2019

Belonging with Purpose – An Episcopal School

St. Stephen’s Nursery School celebrates 50 years in 2019!

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” Proverbs 22:6

St. Stephen’s Nursery School celebrates 50 years in 2019! SSNS transitioned to an Episcopal preschool in 2013 and joined the National Association of Episcopal Schools. As part of the school’s Episcopal identity, each class holds monthly Chapel, says grace before lunch, and the school has a commitment to love each child as part of God’s family. The school has also embraced service with an ongoing Diaper Ministry to donate diapers to local food pantries and Christmas Angel Trees to provide Christmas gifts to children in Danbury. Our school has donated more than 4,000 diapers and hundreds of Christmas gifts since we started these programs.

In September the children were introduced to our monthly Chapel program, and they learned that Chapel is when we learn about God. We talked about how God is our Father in Heaven and Jesus is his son and how they love us as a parent loves their child. We introduced the Beginner’s Bible and how the Bible is a special book that teaches us about God. Each child that is new to our school was presented with their own Beginner’s Bible to bring home and share with their family. Our hope is that this provides an important school-home connection and supports each family on their faith journey. Many parents have shared that their child loves to read their Bible at home, and that their whole family says our lunchtime prayer before dinner each night!

For many families, the faith foundation at St. Stephen’s Nursery School is the only “church” their child receives on a regular basis. If you want a child to appreciate art, science or music, you introduce it at a young age. We believe the same is true for a child’s faith. We want them to know there is a God who loves them. SSNS is one of only two faith-based preschools in Ridgefield, and many parents seek out our school so their child will have a school experience that includes Chapel, prayer, and service. Our Episcopal identity has also reached beyond our school walls to impact our families in other ways. We have a Parent Care Team that provides support to SSNS families in crisis through prayer and meals, and several SSNS Moms attend Moms Connect, a faith-based book study at St. Stephen’s Church.

After Chapel in school one day, a child ran to her Mom at pick up and said, “Mommy, guess what? God created EVERYONE!” Those moments, those lessons, are a part of our school every day. We are looking forward to another wonderful year here at St. Stephen’s!

*Belonging with Purpose is a weekly news update of how our purpose is being reflected through the collective and individual lives of St. Stephen’s. If you have a story or experience that you believe illustrates our Vision and Mission, please send it to Ginny Fitzpatrick, gfitzpatrick@ststephens-ridgefield.org   The staff works together to create a schedule for highlighting our ministry as St. Stephen’s Church.

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August 13, 2018

The Crafting of Worship

… I couldn’t help wondering what it would have been like if I wasn’t a regular church-goer…

Do you ever have something come up in your life over and over and over again?  For example, you think about a song, and then it plays on the radio and then is on the loudspeaker at CVS and then is the background of the television show you’re watching and then someone is whistling it while they pass you on the street?  It’s tempting to believe such incidents are meaningful – the universe it trying to tell you something – but I think it’s more likely that where your attention is, that’s where your thoughts follow.  If you hadn’t thought of that song, you wouldn’t have heard it at the CVS, or noticed the whistling on the street, even though they would have been there.

I’ve had worship services on my mind.  In part this is because the church where I work during the week (First Presbyterian in New Canaan) is going through a time of transition.  They are working with an interim pastor who is a respected author and educator on mindfully crafting worship services with the intention of fostering church growth.  It is a fascinating time to be a fly on the wall; I am learning a great deal.

And now, in my life, how people craft their worship services seems to be popping up everywhere.  I was traveling in Ohio last week and attended a Friday night Shabbat service (my in-laws are Jewish) – and was floored to see new large monitors all around the room.  They displayed the Hebrew text with an appropriate image and basic description of what we were praying; for me, out of my comfort zone, that made a world of difference in my feeling like I was participating in the worship rather than simply observing it.

I went to an Episcopal church while I was traveling as well, for a Summer Sunday Eucharist.  This is a lovely small congregation – but I couldn’t help wondering what it would have been like if I wasn’t a regular church-goer.  I was greeted and handed a bulletin, but then I was on my own.  Is that enough?  Maybe?  I remembered those screens and wondered if a simple description of why we were singing a Gloria with an appropriate Glorious Image would enhance or distract from the worship.  I’m honestly not sure.

I’ll be traveling a few more weeks, and then will be back home at St. Stephens…where our Sabbatical Rectors will be guiding our worship.  With my new focus of how these things are crafted, I’m interested to see what is the same and what changes – and how those things may look to a someone checking out St. Stephens for the first time.  From the interim pastor at the Presbyterian Church, I’m learning that how comfortable people feel in engaging in worship really impacts if they come back. 

I think my mindset is shifting from being someone who is fed at church to someone who is doing the cooking.  From a guest to a host.  As church members, where should we be – eating or serving?  How can we make those we serve the most comfortable, eager to return for more?

Careful – once you start thinking about this stuff, you’ll see it everywhere.  Get ready.

Peace, Erika Hagan


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