November 1, 2019


Dear All:

For All Saints’ Day, I offer you a prayer from the New Zealand Prayer Book.  May this day call each of us to strive to be part of the “Christ’s united body to heal and reconcile.”

Mary Grace+


We give you praise and glory

for all your saints,

who have followed the way of Christ

in the power of the Holy Spirit.

May we learn from their example and rejoice in your call to us

to bring your kingdom to all.


We praise and thank you Holy Spirit of God,

for the men and women you have called to be saints;

from your first fallible, frightened friends

who followed you to Jerusalem,

through the centuries of discovery and growth,

people of every class and temperament

down to the present day.

We praise you, Holy Spirit, for calling us

to serve you now.

For baptizing us to represent you

in this broken world.


Help us to be Christ’s united body to heal and reconcile;

help us to share Christ’s life with everyone.


Last Sunday Thomas Cathcart gave us a moving sermon as we continue with the stewardship season at St. John’s.  For those who were not able to be with us, here is a copy for you to read:

Sermon, St. John’s

October 27, 2019

 For the past few weeks, members of the Board have been speaking briefly during the service about why they come to St. John’s.  More will be speaking in the next few weeks.  This is all part of the stewardship campaign, our annual look at how to support the church.

I guess I got the short straw—a whole sermon asking you to cough up money!  Yikes! 

Actually, I kind of welcomed the opportunity to talk about stewardship, for a couple of reasons.  One, it’s a job that the pastor shouldn’t be asked to do.  The business of keeping the church afloat belongs to the whole congregation.  We look to the pastor for all sorts of things, but that doesn’t need to be one of them.

 But, secondly, it’s an important subject, particularly at this time when church attendance across the country is down.  That makes this a time when we’re forced to think about what it would be like if the church weren’t here someday.  What if it couldn’t be sustained?  Would we care?  And, if so, why?

So, I started by looking at some national numbers.  The Pew Research Center asked churchgoers across the country why they go to church.  The biggest number, 81%, said that a “very important reason” is—anybody want to guess?  

“To become closer to God.” 

Does that surprise anyone?  It surprised me.  The stereotype is that most people go “for comfort in times of trouble or sorrow.”  And that is the fourth most important reason at 66%. 

There’s nothing wrong with going to church for comfort in times of trouble or sorrow, but it strikes me as more high-minded somehow to go in order to become closer to God, and I guess I didn’t think we’re that high-minded.  I was pleasantly surprised—unless it’s because, when we’re answering surveys, we humans try to sound more noble than we are!

The second biggest reason churchgoers said was “very important” (69%) was “so children will have a moral foundation.”  I guess that’s why you see so many children here this morning.  (Well, I guess we’re an outlier on this one.)

The third biggest reason (68%) was “to make me a better person.”

So, let’s take a straw poll:  How many people consider “to get closer to God” a “very important reason” that they come to church. 

How about “so children will have a moral foundation?”  (Don’t answer for now, but for some prior point in your life.)

How about “To make me a better person?”

How about “for comfort in times of trouble or sorrow”?

They also asked people who seldom or never go to church why they don’t.  The biggest number, 37%, said that a very important reason is “I practice my faith in other ways.”  Interesting answer.  It would be interesting to know what those other ways are.

There’s an old joke about that: A priest convinces herself that it would be okay with God to call in sick on Sunday morning, because she wants to play golf instead.  On the first hole, she gets a hole-in-one.  An angel says to the Lord, “What kind of punishment is that?  She blows off church and you let her get a hole-in-one!”  The Lord says, “Who can she tell?”

 The second biggest number, 28%, said, “I am not a believer.”  Think about that for a second.  That means 72% of people who seldom or never come to church must be believers.  Sounds like there must be a lot of untapped believers out there.

The third biggest number (23%) said, “I haven’t found a church or house of worship that I like.”  We’re lucky.  We’ve apparently found a church that we like.

The readings this morning suggest a somewhat different reason why people might want to come to church.  In the first reading the prophet Jeremiah says “Our apostasies are many, and we have sinned against you.” 

In the gospel reading, Jesus praises the tax collector for praying in the Temple, “God be merciful to me, a sinner!”

Sin.  Aha!  So, now it’s time for me to switch to hellfire and brimstone!  I’ve always wanted to do this!

I’m kidding!  Don’t get nervous.  Instead, let’s look at what the 20th century theologian—and my one-time teacher—Paul Tillich has to say about what sin is. 

He says sin is alienation or estrangement from God.   The Greek word translated “sin” in the New Testament is hamartia, which apparently means “missing the mark.”  So, it sounds like Tillich’s on the right track when he calls sin “alienation” or “estrangement.”  Missing the mark.

And we’re not just missing the mark when we do something flagrant.  We’re missing the mark virtually all the time. 

The liturgy refers to the “things we have left undone.”  Why have we left them undone?  Tillich implies that it’s because we’ve “tuned out.”  We’re not necessarily rebelling against God (as in “the things we have done”).  Most of the time we’re just estranged from God.  We have something else on our minds.  We have bigger fish to fry.  Really??  Well, we act like we do anyway.

So, estrangement from God rather than particular instances of bad behavior.

That’s not a crazy reason to come to church—to “get right with God,” as we say.  And maybe not so different from the reason most churchgoers give: “to become closer to God.” 

In the gospel reading, Jesus says “All those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all those who humble themselves will be exalted.”  He’s saying that if we sincerely attempt to reset our relationship with God—to get closer to God by adopting the proper attitude of humility—God will respond.

Sounds like a really good reason to come to church.

But if you’re like me, most of the time you’re not totally aware of exactly why you come.  We find ourselves being called in some way, and so we come.  And when we do, we’re reminded that we have a beautiful, spiritual, inspiring place to come to, and a pastor who honors whatever reason we come, and a community that makes us feel welcome.

Unfortunately, sustaining what we have here takes money.  (Oh-oh, here it comes!) 

Yep, we all know that everything we buy this year costs more than it did a couple of years ago, so we know we have to kick it up a notch.  We have to do better than we did last year.

This is where I really should preach hellfire and brimstone, but, fortunately for you, I’m out of time.  Amen. 


THIS SUNDAY:                     

All Saints Sunday, Holy Eucharist, Rite II

Readings: Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18; Psalm 149; Ephesians 1: 11-23; Luke 6:20-31

Please remember to fill in the Anniversary/Birthday Book located on the table next to the kitchen in Aspinwall Hall. We want to remember everyone’s special occasions during our Sunday worship.

 Stewardship Season Begins – Each year we are asked to prayerfully consider how we can support our church financially in order to do the important ministry of the church.  Over the next few weeks, we will hear from the members of the Board of Trustees as to why they give back to St. John’s.



Sign-up Sheets for Sunday ministriesThere are new sign up sheets located on the table next to the kitchen in Aspinwall Hall.  Please sign up to read a lesson, lead Prayers of the People, host Coffee Hour, provide treats for Coffee Hour and/or arrange flowers for worship.  All are welcome to be part of these important ministries that make our Sunday morning worship a spiritual experience for all.



Sundays @ 10:00 a.m.                      Holy Eucharist/Morning Prayer  and Coffee Hour

Mondays @ 8:00 p.m.                       Men’s AA meeting in  Aspinwall Hall

Wednesdays @ 8:00 p.m.                Open AA meeting in Aspinwall Hall



The Rev. Mary Grace Williams, Vicar,, (203) 858 – 8800

The Rev. Virginia Grab, Associate to the Vicar                                               

Mr. Peter Sipperley, Director of Music

Paulina Swierczek, Soloist

Frankie Sitler-Elbel, Student Intern

Max Toth, Student Intern



President                   Sara Takacs            2021      

Vice President        Mike Kelley            2020                                                                  

Treasurer                 John Ferguson        2020

Clerk                           Sarah McDonald    2022   



Tom Cathcart             2022                           Evie Chanler              2021

John Ferguson           2020                           Mike Kelley                2020

Isabel Livingston       2021                           Sarah McDonald        2022

Fran Sharpless          2022                           Peter Sipperley            2020  

Sara Takacs                2021

Nan Eliot, ex officio

Wayne Baden, Trustee Emeritus & Advisor to the Board




1114 River Road, Red Hook, NY 12571-2938


Telephone (845) 758-6433