December 2013
  1. Clergy Corner
  2. Deacon's Corner
  3. Lenten Activities
  4. Vestry Notes
  5. Men Who Cook
  6. Looking for Sponsors
  7. Fundraising Update
  8. Election of New Vestry Members
  9. Congratulations!
  10. Wanted: Coffee Hour Hosts and Hostesses
  11. From the Parish Register
  12. The Heart of the Home
  13. Around the Parish

Clergy Corner

Fr. Charles H. Howell

The Rev. Charles H. Howell, Rector of Christ Church New BrightonOn Sunday, January 26 the Annual Meeting of Christ Church New Brighton was held in the parish auditorium. For those of you who were unable to attend, we have reprinted Fr. Howell's Annual Report which was presented to those who were in attendance that day.

Rector's Report

2013 marked a year in which our Christian education programs for children and youth came into their own.  After years of dedicated hard work – years which easily stand on their own merits – we now see a comprehensive program reaching maturity. 

We continue to offer three classrooms of Godly Play, the Montessori-based Christian formation program, for children ages three-years-old through the fifth grade.  It's hard to believe that just a few years ago we were opening our first Godly Play room, soliciting donations to buy the necessary materials, and prevailing on our own Victor Stanwick to make the rest.  Now the attendance in our three rooms is holding steady or growing with a storyteller and doorkeeper for each room, and other adults who are available to help on an occasional basis.  Our Godly Play program has benefited from strong leadership starting with Lisa Rhoades, then Christina Noel, and now with Mary Larimer, the current Godly Play Coordinator.

Our Rite 13/Journey to Adulthood program is now in its third year.  After starting the program in media res with an older population of teens, this year's influx of middle school students allowed us to begin this year at the beginning.  In October we celebrated our first Rite 13 ceremony with six young people.

The Rite 13 ceremony, like a bar or bat mitzvah ceremony, recognizes that these students are young men and women and launches them on the journey to adulthood.  Along the way they will learn about the responsibilities and privileges of adulthood and be prepared for confirmation when they are sixteen.

The Rite 13 program also has a youth group component which offers a variety of fun and service-oriented activities and which includes the older high school youth.  This year we also had an overnight lock-in during Lent.  The Rite 13 program and its students have been shepherded by Lisa Rhoades with the assistance of Larry Modzelewski.

Ever since I came to Christ Church, I have hoped that we would someday have a Vacation Bible School, and this year we did for the first time.  We used a curriculum of our own devising, which focused on telling and exploring one of Jesus' parables each day.  We had about twenty-five children each day and thanks go to Elizabeth Gattullo, Alleida Mitchell, Deborah Lindsay, Jane Sharif, Laila Modzelewski, Catherine Barnett, Kirstin Swanson-Basso, Beth Johanning, and Deacon Geri and our invaluable teen helpers Chloe Lee, Amber James, Claire James, and Andrew Romano.

In other children and youth related news, I think it is important to note that we have two paid childcare workers in the nursery each Sunday.  This summer we hosted a Godly Play training, open not only to people from Staten Island but also from the Diocese of New York and the neighboring dioceses.  And, finally, as you know we are participating in the diocesan Indaba process.  The bishop requested that each parish Indaba team have a young person on it, and I am proud to say that we are one of the few parishes in the diocese that has a young person willing to take up the challenge and make the commitment, Eva-Marie Black. 

Thanks to a $10,000 grant from the Staten Island Foundation and a $5,000 grant from Episcopal Charities, we are able to continue our after school arts enrichment program – the Christ Church Community Youth Choir and the Christ Church Community Youth Drummers.    Everything we read

about child development tells us how important arts education is, and we are proud that we can offer these excellent programs, free of charge, to our community.  Currently a Daisy Troop and Girl Scout Troop meet at Christ Church, and we are the chartering organization for a new Cub Scout Pack under the leadership of  Elizabeth Gattullo, Charlotte Hewitt, and John Edwards.

It is often said that children are the future of the church, and that is certainly true, but children are also the here and now of the church.  Childhood and young adulthood are very short and so we have just a few years to minister to their needs.  We could not do this without the time and dedication of our teachers and youth leaders, some of whom I've mentioned here.  But we need more help.  We need more storytellers and doorkeepers in Godly Play, we desperately need more teachers in Rite 13, and we need more youth group leaders.  We need people who are willing not only to help but also to take responsibility for ongoing areas of ministry and for special projects.  And we need to support the leaders we currently have.

You will recall that the bishop was at Christ Church in December, as part of a visitation he takes the rector and spouse out to lunch.  At lunch my wife Liz said to the bishop, "Chuck sometimes has trouble saying things directly."  To which I replied, "I wouldn't say that was exactly true," which produced gales of laughter.  So I'm going to try to say something as directly and clearly as I possibly can: Sometimes we at Christ Church don't treat our leaders very well.  I don't mean me, you treat me wonderfully, I mean our lay leaders.  I observe that when someone steps forward to lead an event or an area of ministry, they are frequently not supported and are criticized over the smallest details.  Insignificant moments of miscommunication are blown out of proportion.  A careless word, either spoken or received, is taken to be a grave offense.  There is a place for legitimate criticism and every ministry or event can be improved, but if you have an idea about how something might be improved, don't sit on the sidelines complaining, get involved and make it your personal mission to help out.  Those who head ministries and lead events need to remember to stay open to the ideas of others, particularly the new ideas of new members.  Our lay leaders lead for the love of God and for the love of the church, but their patience and endurance are not inexhaustible; they need your support and encouragement. I implore you to remember St. Paul's words to the Galatians: "Bear one another's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ."

In the Diocese I am in my second year as co-chairman of the Adjustment Board, and this spring the bishop invited me to be part of the Congregational Development Committee.  This year I also stepped down as dean of the Richmond Clericus, turning those duties over to Fr. Cole of St. John's Church.  Speaking of the ten Episcopal churches on Staten Island, I think it is important and sobering for everyone to know that there are currently only three rectors and one priest-in-charge.  The majority of our parishes are served by a supply priest or in one case an interim rector.  Some of our parishes are in transition and will get new rectors, but others seem to have no realistic prospect of calling a rector.  The diocese and the parishes on Staten Island will soon be facing difficult decisions about how best to carry forward the mission of the Episcopal Church on Staten Island.

In 2013 we received a $150,000 grant from the diocesan Property Support Committee and the pledges you made to the Enhance the Legacy Capital Campaign continue to come in regularly.  Thank you.  These two funding streams, and the possibility of other grants, have given us the confidence to move forward with our tower restoration project.  We hope to begin work this spring when the weather gets warm, which also means that we may be out of the church for a few weeks in the summer – worshiping in the Guild Room or auditorium – while masonry work is done inside.  While working inside, thanks to a family bequest, we plan to install a fire alert system to protect our historic church and to upgrade the electrical system so that in future years we can improve the lighting and possibly install air conditioning.

The work we do at Christ Church would not be possible without our small but dedicated staff: Cathy Romano, parish administrator; Tom Sarff, organist and choirmaster; and Lester Jean, sexton.  Thank you for all you do for us.

I'd like to recognize also my colleague in ministry, Deacon Geri Swanson.  In addition to her official duties she meets with Rite 13 parents, leads a class, comes over to church to unlock a door, welcomes a visiting mission trip group, and acts as my sounding board, giving me sane, mature advice.

Finally, I'd like to thank our retiring vestry members for their service: John Gerney, Nancy Reiersen-Scromo, Kirstin Swanson-Basso, and Rich Whaley.  Serving on the vestry is a demanding and time consuming task, and I am grateful for our retiring members' dedication.

Thank you also to our retiring churchwarden, Willie Black, Jr.  Through a period of personal challenges Willie has been a steadfast warden.  Willie has tried mightily to make me more like a military man – organized, precise, decisive – and the fact that he has not achieved his objective is in no way his fault.

On my desk I have a photograph of three little girls, which was taken on our second Sunday at Christ Church.  It shows Eva-Marie Black, who is now a college sophomore, Amber James, who is now a college freshman, and my daughter, Georgia, who is now a high school sophomore.  That picture reminds me of how quickly the years slip by, and I am happy to have spent those years with you.

Respectfully submitted,
Charles H. Howell

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Deacon's Corner

Deacon Geri Swanson

The Rev. Deacon Geri SwansonDiversity Sunday 2014

I have been thinking about how very blessed I am to be serving as Deacon at Christ Church New Brighton.  In 1997 I was ordained to the Sacred Order of Deacons in the Episcopal Diocese of New York by the then Bishop, Richard Grein.  My late Mother, Florence Mary Conkling Redden, had always prayed that one of her five children would be ordained, but she figured, as most devoted Irish-American mothers, that it would be her only boy-o.  She got what she prayed for, but not what she expected...sorry, Flo...stuff happens.

In the years that followed my ordination, I have served in five congregations in New York City.  I am currently assigned to Christ Church, a church with a long history here.  The church is a  wonderful stone gothic edifice with several Tiffany stained glass windows.

But this wonderful structure and its lovely accoutrements do not make a congregation.  They are the shells in which we hold our worship, but they are not the heart of our congregation. That heart can be found in the care and fellowship we share with each other. And there was no more poignant example of this then at last Sunday's "Diversity Sunday" celebration.

February is "Black History Month" in the USA. Back in the day, this was a new concept that grew of out a week in which schools did special programs and lessons around the achievements of African-Americans in our shared history. The congregant who has been doing the arrangements for "Diversity Sunday" explained that at first they would have  outside folks come in to give talks about famous African-Americans in the New York area.  That would, of course, include Fredrick Douglass, Harriet Tubman  and Sojourner Truth who all had connections to New York State.  Over the years he found people were less and less interested in these "talks" since they had all heard it before.  So, he decided to mix it up.  Thus was born "Diversity Sunday". 

Members of the congregation from differing cultures came together to share food and talents with each other.  Christ Church has a great mix of folks: Waspish cradle Episcopalians, West Indian Anglicans, Liberian immigrants, recent Eastern European exiles, former Roman Catholics who might have felt disenfranchised due to divorce or sexual preferences, young families looking for a place to raise their children, African Americans living in the neighborhood, people from the nearby adult home, all of these people have found a place in which they worship together on Diversity Sunday.

And this past Sunday we celebrated our life together. We were serenaded by our Godly Play children singing "This Little Light of Mine"; we listened to a member of the congregation speak about his passion for educational equality based on his early years in the Civil Rights movement; we watched and admired their clarity as our Rite-13 group shared their exegesis of the  banishment of Adam and Eve. We marveled at the musical talent of our young people as they played steel drums, played piano, sang solos and duets and generally amazed us with their shining smiles and sweet voices. And we sang together that wonderful Pete Seeger song, "Turn, Turn, Turn" in tribute to his work, and we realized that there is a season for everything, and for us, at this moment, it is a time for joy and celebration.

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Lenten Activites

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Vestry Notes

Nick Dowen

The regularly scheduled meeting of the Vestry of Christ Church New Brighton took place on Monday, January 13, 2014. The following are highlights of what was discussed that evening:

Treasurer's Report

Dorothy Thompson circulated a preliminary version of the Treasurer's Report for the year 2013.  The final report will be distributed at the Annual Parish Meeting on January 26, 2014.    Committee Reports

Plant & Equipment


2014 Parish Calendar


New Business

Staten Island Helping Hands

Deacon's Report

Rector's Report

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Men Who Cook

Deacon Geri Swanson

Gentlemen, start your engines! On Saturday, March 8th from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m. our friends at Trinity Lutheran will be hosting their annual "Men Who Cook" event at their church on St Paul's Avenue. 

Men Who CookEvery year men from the congregation  enter into a "friendly" competition to see whose culinary skills can tempt the most complements.  This year they have invited Christ Church to send a delegation of our own "Men Who Cook" to join them in this endeavor.  Victor Stanwick, the leader of our Second Saturday program and soup kitchen chef extraordinaire, has put together a group of men who are ready, willing and able to participate in this event. 

All are invited to attend this event to see how they fare with their "cross town" rivals. Doors open at 6 pm and suggested donations are $10 per person, $20 per family.

All proceeds go to the feeding ministries at Trinity Lutheran. The church auditorium is located at 309 St Paul's Avenue. 

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Looking for Sponsors

Alleida Mitchell

We are currently in the planning stages for distribution of Easter Food Baskets for needy families, which will take place in April.

Although we do receive some funding for this project the number of recipients has increased each year and funding does not always cover all of the expenses.

If you'd like to consider sponsoring a food basket for $25 please speak to Alleida Mitchell.

Thank you!

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Fundraising Update

Alleida Mitchell

Members of the fundraising committee met earlier this year to discuss events for the 2014 season.

Although volunteers have stepped up to chair the "traditional" events we have not found a chairperson for the Fish Fry or Blueberry Festival.  Past chairs are not able to continue and it was decided to drop these two events, unless someone steps forward. 

Last year these two events combined grossed just over $3,400 and the committee is still hoping that someone will step up to chair these  events.

Also on the chopping block is the pre-Spring Fair Dinner.  Right now the committee plans to  improve and expand the House Tour and dinner and eliminate the pre-spring fair dinner.

To be included in the proposed list of activities is a "free-will welcome back picnic" in September when we all get back from the summer.  Sheila Swigert has agreed to chair this event.  We are also considering the possibility of a "Jazz Evening with Dinner"  later this year or early next year. More info to follow on this.

We are always looking for new members and new ideas and welcome your suggestions and your support.

Thank you!

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Election of New Vestry Members

At the Parish Annual Meeting we elected a new warden and six new vestry members.

Vestry 2014

Back Row (l to r):
Beth McLean, last year's Junior Warden, becomes Senior Warden
Kirstin Swanson-Basso, Junior Warden
Mark Gherzo, two-year Vestry term
Catherine Barnett, three-year Vestry term
Kevin Larimer, three-year Vestry term
Andrea Morse, three-year Vestry term
Front Row (l to r):
Sheila Swigert, two-year Vestry term
Rita McGough, three-year Vestry term

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Congratulations to Judy Davis (center) who was honored at the Staten Island Council of Churches Annual Award Dinner for her service to Christ Church. (also pictured: Sheila Swigert & Marlene Elia).

Judy Davis

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Wanted: Coffee Hour Hosts and Hostesses

Sheila Hewitt

There are still some openings for coffee hour hosts and hostesses for this year.

This is an invitation to share a special occasion by hosting or sponsoring a Sunday morning coffee hour.

No Coffee Hour is TOO small or TOO large

Just a reminder…there is no "set" format for coffee hour – you can host your coffee hour however you choose. In addition, if you don't have time to purchase or prepare the food for coffee hour – or if you're unable to be there on Sunday to serve it – we'll be more than happy to accept your monetary donation, purchase the food and serve it on  your behalf on Sunday morning.

Coffee hour is an important ministry at Christ Church and is really a continuation of the fellowship that we have shared in church that morning. If you haven't already signed up please consider adding your name to the list.

 Thank you.

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From the Parish Register

February Birthdays
2 – Andrew Schneider; 5 – Albert Alfieri, Fr. John Walsted; 8 – Wolde Archer; 11 – Hal Reiersen, Peter Sipp; 12 – Sophia Mekhail; 13 – Lisa Rhoades; 14 – Bruce Liozzi; 17 – Malik Archer; 22 – Joseph Gilman, Alleida Mitchell; 24 – Trevor Mills; 26 – Nicholas Lettiere, Alexia Richards, Alyssa Richards; 27 – Martin Noel.

February Anniversaries
4 – Kevin & Mary Larimer; 15 – Nathaniel and Ela Seeley 

If your special day is not in our records, call the Parish Office at 718-727-6100 so it can be added.

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The Heart of the Home

The difference between a house and home is that a home has a heart. For most people the heart of the home is the kitchen -- a place where family and friends naturally gather to share a meal and enjoy each other's company.

This fall the Richmond Inter Parish Council (the association of the ten Episcopal churches on Staten Island) and the Richmond Clericus (the Episcopal clergy on Staten Island) began a program called The The heart of the homeHeart of the Home Campaign. Working with Darrell Hayes, the Staten Island Relief Coordinator for the Diocese of New York, and the five Episcopal Service Corp interns housed at St. Paul's Church, we are making $6,000 grants to install kitchens in storm-damaged homes.

Over a year after Hurricane Sandy some of the escalators still don't work at South Ferry and some people are not yet back in their homes. It's easy to let our attention and compassion lag, but the Heart of the Home campaign gives us an opportunity to support a hurricane victim in the last leg of her journey home. As part of the Heart of the Home Campaign, each Episcopal parish on Staten Island is asked to take responsibility for donating the essentials of a functioning kitchen.

We have been asked to work with Cecelia Hernandez, a participant in Heart of the Home, whose kitchen is now nearing completion.

Roxanne Ingoe is heading our initiative to stock Cecelia's kitchen. Roxanne has created a wedding registry (the other choice was baby shower) at under the name Christ (first name) Church (last name). You can buy an item for Cecelia's kitchen off the gift registry or you may make a donation to Christ Church with  Heart of the Home in the memo line. If you would like to

donate a staple food item for the pantry, you may bring it to the church office.

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Around the Parish

Nancy Reiersen

Hopefully this picture of Christ Church in the spring will bring back memories of a time when we didn't have snow!  It's been a while since we've published the Tower Chimes and there is much news to report. Apologies if something is overlooked in this issue – just let us know and we'll make sure to cover it next month – here goes:

This month we mourn the passing of Fr. Frank Burton, who served as our Interim Rector several years ago. We all have many fond memories of this warm and gentle man.  His funeral will be Saturday, February 22, 3:30 p.m. at St. James Chapel at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.

Congratulations to Alleida Mitchell, the 2014 recipient of the Christ Church Chiro, This award was given to Allie in recognition of her boundless energy and generosity and for her never ending  gift to Christ Church of her time, talents and treasure.

Congratulations to Kristin and Matro Parrish on the birth of their daughter, Annalise Lynn, on January 19.

Congratulations to Catherine Barnett who was recently honored for her accomplishments at the annual Gala of the Center for an Urban Future. She currently serves as the Executive Director of Project Enterprise, and was elected to serve on the Vestry this January.

Congratulations to Andrea Morse and Peter Raff on their recent engagement. The happy couple first made their acquaintance right here at Christ Church and will tie the knot here later this year.

In January we had a surprise visit from Abby (Boody) and Brian Shaw who stopped by Christ Church as part of their 30-day "road trip" to Florida. It was so good to see them.

Last month we also saw the wedding of Heather Allen and Justin Schroeder. Heather is the granddaughter of Joyce Rowan.

That's all for now – keep warm and be safe – warmer days ARE coming! 

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