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April 24 Second Sunday of Easter: Loving God, our neighbor, and Creation by John Dernbach, Esq.

Apr 25, 2022

The Dean has honored me, with her invitation to speak today, in ways I cannot fully express. I thought about attending seminary after college, but went to law school instead.  So for me, this is taste of a road not taken.

This past Friday was Earth Day.  Every year since 1970, people in the U.S. and around the world have set aside April 22 to celebrate our environment, to learn about it, and to discuss how to protect and restore it.

I am going to respond to the Dean’s invitation by venturing an answer to a question that Earth Day prompts: What does our faith have to do with the environment?   This is a huge question, and one the churches have not—until recently—done a particularly effective job in answering.

I’m going to suggest that the environment is central to our faith.  My answer is not the only answer to the question about what our faith has to do with the environment, but it is simple and basic.  Today’s lessons can help us understand the answer.  But I first need to use another short text.

Three gospels–Matthew, Mark, and Luke–record a story in which Jesus says that there are two great commandments.  According to Mark (Mark 12:28-31 (NRSV)):

One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that Jesus answered them well, he asked Jesus, “Which commandment is the first of all?”  Jesus answered, “The first is ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’  The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  There is no other commandment greater than these.”

This teaching, of course, is fundamental to our faith.  Jesus says Love God with your entire being, and love your neighbor as yourself.  And he adds that no other commandment is greater than these.

One way to read this passage is to say that our faith is about God and other people, and that it has nothing to do with the environment.  After all, there’s nothing in this passage about nature or animals.  Many Christians have read the passage that way, and it is pretty easy to see why.

But there is another and more profound way to understand the two great commandments.  Let’s ask about the relationship between each commandment and the environment.  Instead of assuming there is no connection, let’s see if there is one.

First, then, what is the relationship between the commandment to love God and the environment?  We know God made the world and all that is in it.  At the end of each day of creation, God looks at all that God has made and pronounces it good.  We also know, from the Psalms and elsewhere, that the Earth belongs to the Lord.   Today’s Psalm (150:6) even calls on “everything that has breath” to “praise the Lord.”  God made our natural environment; it belongs to God, and God has pronounced it good.

If we love God, how do we respond to that?

If we pollute what God has made, are we showing our love of God?

If we permit endangered species to become extinct because they get in our way or are of no use to us, are we showing our love of God?

God does say, in Genesis (Genesis 1:28) that humans are to have dominion over the fish of the sea and every living thing that moves upon the earth.    But dominion is not the same as domination or degradation.  Dominion, I am told, is the English translation of a Hebrew word that means taking appropriate care or exercising appropriate rulership.  And God never, ever says “do whatever you want.”  What matters is what God wants, not what we want.

So the commandment to love God with all of our being also requires us to care for what God has made.  God’s creation also helps us understand this God we are called to love.

We can know the calming power of God in nature because he leads us, as the 23rd Psalm says, to “green pastures” and “still waters” (Psalm 23:2).

We can know the fearsome power of God from storms, floods, hurricanes, and earthquakes.

We can know that God will reward the faithful by protecting them from the most challenging and difficult things in nature so that, as the book of Revelation says, scorching heat from the sun will not strike them (Rev. 7:16).

We can know the greatness of God from pictures of the far end of the universe–exploding stars, galaxies in formation.

We can know the beauty of God from the Susquehanna and Juniata Rivers and the flowers on the altar.

The fact that creation can help us understand God is another reason to respect and care for what God has made.

The second great commandment is to love our neighbors as ourselves.  So, people have asked me over the years, what’s this got to do with the environment?  Isn’t that just about people?

The most important thing to recognize here is that pretty much everything we do to the environment affects other people.  If we damage the environment, we hurt other people.  If we restore the environment, we help other people.  We hardly ever do anything of any consequence to the environment without affecting someone, somehow.

When God says in Genesis, have dominion over every living thing, God absolutely doesn’t mean to use the environment in ways that hurt other people.  But when we damage the environment, that’s what we do.

These effects happen in small and large ways.  People who throw things in the creek, including broken bottles, create a danger for anyone who does something as simple as walking barefoot in a creek, whether they intend harm or not.  I stepped on such a bottle in my college days, and well remember the long ride to the hospital in the back of a pickup truck to get stitches.

As an environmental lawyer, I can tell you that our laws recognize that air and water pollution, toxic chemicals, and waste cause many harms to human health as well as to the environment.  Those who seek environmental justice are seeking relief from precisely such problems.

So our duty to love our neighbor also requires us to care for and protect the environment.

But who is our neighbor?   We have all been taught that our neighbors include strangers, the hungry, and the homeless.  But how about people on the other side of the world?  How about people who have not yet been born?  While our environmental laws have done a remarkably good job of cleaning up our air and water, and improving the way we manage waste, many other issues have not been addressed effectively.  Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are now as high as they have been in the last three million years.  This is already contributing to greater heat waves, heavy downpours, and sea level rise.  Future generations (including our children and grandchildren) will experience more severe effects  than we will.  When Jesus commands us to love our neighbor as our selves, what does our faith call us to do for them?

The commandment to love God and the commandment to love our neighbor put the environment at the center of our faith, not out at the margins.  When we ask God for forgiveness in our worship service, we say, from our prayer book:

We have not loved you with our whole heart;

we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.

We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.

The reality, then, is that we sin against God and against our neighbor when we degrade or pollute the environment.  This is a hard message.  Most of us were not taught this as children.  Many of us have never thought about or understood these connections.

Today’s Gospel lesson offers a way of thinking about, and acting on, these connections.  Thomas had to see the actual wounds of Jesus with his own eyes and touch these wounds with his own fingers.  Jesus permitted that, and Thomas believed.   His belief was based on the power of his senses.

Jesus appears to be saying that it would have been better if Thomas had simply believed without the physical evidence.  “Have you believed because you have seen me?” Jesus asks. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

But Jesus permitted Thomas to examine the evidence.  Jesus doesn’t object, I expect, because Thomas could have said that he wouldn’t believe even if he saw the evidence.   Thomas was open to the possibility that the evidence would change his life and faith.

On this first Sunday after Easter, Thomas offers us a surprising and unlikely role model.  He wanted to see the evidence.  Having seen it, he acted.  Like Thomas, we need to be open to the evidence, and to act on what we learn.

The most basic first step is to talk with each other about these connections.  In his 2015 encyclical on faith and environment, Laudato Si, Pope Francis urgently appeals for a respectful and Christian dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet.  This call for dialogue is of enormous importance.  Yet it is also one of the most difficult—particularly in a culture where many demonize those who have opposing views, and are in turn demonized. To be honest, that makes a lot of us a little nervous.

And yet we already have experience here at St. Stephen’s showing our love of God and neighbor on a major environmental project. And we did it after a lot of internal discussion and discernment.   Some twenty years ago, as many here know, we converted a parking garage into the primary building for St. Stephen’s School.  As part of that project, we became the first church in the country to register a green building project with the U.S. Green Building Council.  You can see in the school building the certification we received.

The building project is a model of Christian stewardship for the environment.  It was energy efficient, used recycled, nontoxic, and recyclable material, and used natural lighting as much as possible.  It has saved us tens of thousands of dollars in energy costs, and has also reduced our carbon footprint.

We continue to be called to love God and to love our neighbors.  We cannot do either without caring for, protecting, and restoring the environment.  As a church and school community, let’s renew that dialogue with each other, in the church and school, and in the communities where we live, work, and play.  Let’s discuss the connections between our faith and the environment, what they mean, and what we should do.

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Clergy & StaffStuart Scarborough

Property Manager

Rev. Stuart Scarborough, Deacon, joined St. Stephen’s Episcopal Cathedral part-time as a Property Manager after migrating northward from the Diocese of Maryland when his wife, Rev. Anjel Scarborough, was called to be Rector of All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Hershey. Prior to relocating, Stuart spent 13 years managing facilities, including three years as Facilities Operations Director for St. John’s Episcopal Church and Parish Day School in Ellicott City, MD and, before that, ten years as Director of Operations at the Claggett Center, Maryland’s Diocesan conference, retreat and camp center in Adamstown, MD. Prior to this, Stuart, who has a BS degree in Chemical Engineering from Virginia Tech, worked for 20+ years in manufacturing. Stuart and Anjel have two adult children; Martin, who lives in Cockeysville, MD and Erin, who lives in Newark, DE.

As Property Manager, Stuart will oversee the care and maintenance of all the Cathedral buildings and property. In addition to this part-time role, Stuart is also serving part-time as Property Manager for the Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania. In this role, Stuart will look after all buildings and properties that are owned by the Diocese, but are not parishes. Further, Stuart has been assigned as Deacon to Mt. Calvary Episcopal Church in Camp Hill.

Clergy & StaffMichael Frascella

Facilities Manager

Michael Frascella has served as our part-time Facilities Manager for several years.  He works diligently to see that our campus stays beautiful, our buildings are problem-free, and that there are inviting and welcoming spaces for all who enter our doors.  Michael is a member of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Cathedral and is the father of two adult children and the grandfather of 4. 

Clergy & StaffMicalagh Moritz

Director of Formation for Young Adults and Youth

In 2021, Micalagh transitioned into the role of Director of Youth & Young Adult Formation. She previously served as the Sycamore House Program Director, starting in 2017. She has over 15 years of experience in various community nonprofits in Harrisburg, Belize, and Washington, DC.

She majored in Human Development & Family Science in college, and continued on to receive her Masters in Social Work. She has a counseling and therapy background, which is applicable to many areas of life-both on the job and off. She has worked with youth and young adults in many different settings, including through Harrisburg-based after-school programs, through the Sycamore House, as Director of a study abroad program in Belize, and through teaching college courses locally.

She is passionate about helping to create healing spaces for people to grow and learn, exploring the intersections of faith and justice, and building bridges between people of various backgrounds. She is also passionate about spiritual formation as an integral part of building community.

Micalagh lives in Harrisburg and can often be found riding her bike up Riverfront Park, in a local café, or walking to Broad Street Market. She is married to Joshua Moritz, a middle school Case Manager and farmer at heart, and they have 2 children who attend St. Stephen’s Episcopal School. 

Clergy & StaffFred Miller

Canon Pastor

The Rev. Canon Fred Miller began on staff as Canon Pastor for spiritual care July 2020.

Fred is a MDIV graduate of the Episcopal Divinity School with graduate studies in Congregational Development at Seabury Western Seminary, and marriage and family counseling at Trinity Counseling Center, Princeton. He served 4 parishes in New Jersey before coming to Central PA at All Saints’, Hershey. After receiving certification with the Interim Ministry Network he served in NJ, & Kansas, before returning to this diocese, working in Altoona, State College & Williamsport. Serving with the YWCA as a volunteer, retired Red Cross volunteer and as a previous College Chaplain in two states has opened the possibilities of living into the Episcopal Church becoming a bridge to interfaith relations.

Married to Kris with whom we proudly share three children, now grown. Fred enjoys outdoor activities, simple meals, and quiet conversation.

Service OpportunitiesSt. Barnabas Children's Ministry

Uptown Harrisburg

St. Barnabas was founded by our own Bishop Charlie McNutt and Bishop Guy Edmiston from the Lower Susquehanna Synod. Located in Uptown Harrisburg, St. Barnabas offers children ages 7 – 12 an 8-week summer day camp. A variety of experiences allow spiritual, emotional, physical, educational & social growth. St. Stephen’s provides food for the children, along with volunteers to prepare, serve and clean up.

Service OpportunitiesDowntown Daily Bread

Downtown Harrisburg

Downtown Daily Bread is a soup kitchen located at the Pine Street Presbyterian Church. Their mission is to provide services for the homeless & feed the hungry (40,000 meals/year) 7 days a week including weekends & holidays. On the first Sunday of every other month from approximately noon until 2 p.m., St. Stephen’s serves the food trays and then helps clean up afterward.

Service OpportunitiesSusquehanna Harbor Safe Haven

Uptown Harrisburg

Operated by the ecumenical group Christian Churches United, Susquehanna Harbor is a residence for homeless men. St. Stephen’s, along with other churches and service groups, is responsible for staffing the 25-unit overnight shelter several weeks each year.

Service OpportunitiesArtsFest

Downtown Harrisburg

Artsfest is always held the weekend of Memorial Day, Saturday through Monday, with St. Stephen’s members serving hot dogs, hamburgers, snow cones and beverages, while tours of the Cathedral are offered along with free organ concerts every hour. The profits from our ArtsFest work are all dedicated to a selection of service groups in the city.

Service OpportunitiesCommon Ground Cafe

Allison Hill - Harrisburg

When is a breakfast more than just a meal? When it is a community center, a kids’ craft session, a book nook for adults, a reading program and book giveaway for children, an opportunity for family members and neighbors to visit in a warm, welcoming place.

Please join the volunteers and community members who make all of this happen on the last Saturday of every month at the Unitarian Church of Harrisburg at 1508 Market St. We serve about 250 people at each breakfast, so we need cooks, waiters, greeters, coffee servers, readers, a set up crew, dishwashers, piano players, and anyone who just wants the best breakfast in town!

Service OpportunitiesLittle Free Food Pantry

Jessica McClard launched the grassroots mini pantry movement on May 2016 in Fayetteville, AR, when she planted the Little Free Pantry Pilot, a wooden box on a post containing food, personal care, and paper items accessible to everyone all the time no questions asked.

Service OpportunitiesRMMS

We participate in an organized program to support and encourage refugees hoping to make the U.S. their home.

Serve in WorshipLay Worship Leader

Do you have an interest in leading prayer and worship services that do not require ordained clergy? By receiving a license as a Lay Worship Leader from the Bishop of Central Pennsylvania, you will be able to lead the congregation in Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, and other prayer services. This ministry requires significant study and preparation, and is open to all baptized and confirmed members of the church. 

Serve in WorshipLay Eucharistic Minister

Lay Eucharistic Ministers (LEMs) assist the clergy at the altar by distributing Holy Communion to members of the congregation. LEMs are scheduled based on their availability to serve one or more Sundays each month. This ministry is open to all baptized and confirmed members of the church, after attending two hours of training and receiving a license from the Bishop of Central Pennsylvania.

Serve in WorshipTechnical Guild

Are you looking for a behind-the-scenes way to get involved? Consider joining our technical crew and learning to operate our sound and light systems. Sound and Light Technicians facilitate worship services by ensuring that sound levels and amplification are appropriate, and that lighting is used to highlight the liturgical action. Some training is required.

Serve in WorshipGreeter

Greeters are the public face of the Cathedral on Sunday mornings. Our greeting team welcomes guests and members alike, and helps guests find a seat and matches them up with a member to assist them in the service.

Serve in WorshipUsher

One of the primary functions of an usher is to guide guests and members to various parts of the Cathedral (restrooms, parlors, nursery, etc.) and to assist with any special needs (e.g. wheelchair access). Ushers are also trained to summon help in the case of any emergencies.

Serve in WorshipPrayer Leader

Prayer Leaders lead the Prayers of the People during worship services. Prayers are led from among the congregation, with prayer leaders adding a prayer of their own choosing to reflect the needs of the moment. All persons are eligible for this ministry — a brief orientation session is available to help prepare you for leading prayers.

Serve in WorshipLector

Lectors proclaim the Word of God by reading from the Old Testament and the New Testament during worship services. Lectors are scheduled based on their availability. All interested persons are eligible to become lectors by attending a 30-minute orientation session.

Serve in WorshipAcolyte

Acolytes carry the cross and torches at processions and help the priest prepare for Holy Communion. This ministry is ideal for youth (grades 7 and up), and is also open to adults. A brief training session is offered to help you learn the job. Acolytes are scheduled on a rotating basis.

Clergy & StaffGene Schofield

Parish Nurse

Gene was born and grew up on family farm in MN. After getting her Bachelor’s degree in nursing, she worked at a Navy hospital where she met and married her husband, Mike. The mother of 4 (Kirsten died of CP complications at age 40) she keeps busy with her children, her 9 grandchildren and her great-granddaughter. Gene returned to work in nursing after her children were in middle school with her last position being a Hospice nurse until her retirement in 2008. Gene is available to assist the newly diagnosed, helps with securing durable medical equipment and checks in with those on our prayer list on a weekly basis.

Clergy & StaffJordan Markham

Director of Music

Jordan R. Markham studied at The Peabody Conservatory of The Johns Hopkins University and Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania. He is a classically-trained lyric-baritone, pianist, organist, and conductor, having previously studied under the Grammy-winning baritone, William Sharp and soprano Susan Solomon Beckley of Bucknell University. For two years he was a professional chorister at The Washington National Cathedral, and was a paid chorister and soloist in The Handel Choir of Baltimore. While with the Handel Choir, he sang the tenor solo role of Apollo in Handel’s Semele, the tenor solo in Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy (both with full orchestra), and the tenor solo in Benjamin Britten’s Rejoice in The Lamb. Prior to this, he sang the baritone solo in Rossini’s  Petite Messe Solennelle with the Peabody Singers and most recently has been heard singing the baritone solo in The Seven Last Words Of Christ by Theodore Dubois, accompanied by a full orchestra.

Throughout the past decade, Mr. Markham has performed at The Meyerhoff Symphony Hall with The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Nobuo Uematsu, composer of the soundtracks for the Final Fantasy Games. He has also sung at Carnegie Hall, The Boston Symphony Hall, and the Jackie Gleason Theatre. He has been active in the musical theatre scene for over a decade directing, accompanying, and acting in theaters throughout Pennsylvania and Maryland. Mr. Markham has most recently been seen in South Pacific with The Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra, as “Jimmy” in Reefer Madness, “Peter” in Bare: A Pop Opera, and as “Chip” in The 25th Annual Putnum County Spelling Bee, for which he was also the music director and whose cast received a nomination by Broadway World for Best Ensemble. He has also performed onstage with the Peabody Opera in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte and  Cosi fan tutte, Verdi’s La Traviata, and Leoš Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen.

Mr. Markham is currently the Artistic Director and Conductor of The Central Pennsylvania Womyn’s Chorus, and a co-founding member of Allegro con Fuoco, a keyboard duo with Tyler A. Canonico, and proudly serves as the Director of Music and Organist at St Stephen’s Episcopal Cathedral in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. 

Clergy & StaffCindy Harbert

Administrator | Email:

Cindy Coombs Harbert joined the staff at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Cathedral in 2017.  Most of Cindy’s professional career has been centered around non-profit administration.  Cindy holds a BA in social work and education from West Virginia Wesleyan College and has completed graduate coursework in counseling at Messiah University. The mother of two adult children, she enjoys traveling, volunteering in the community, watching field hockey, and exploring new places that she hasn’t visited before.

Clergy & StaffMichael Nailor


Michael was born and raised in Mechanicsburg, PA as a member of First Evangelical United Brethren (United Methodist) where he was active throughout childhood and as a young adult.  He came to the Episcopal Church while he was in college at the University of Pennsylvania.  The pioneering women of the “Philadelphia Eleven” had just been irregularly ordained and the church was struggling with the role of women in leadership. Michael was drawn to a church that was willing to deal with – sometimes successfully, sometimes not – the important social justice issues of the day. 

Agreeing to disagree but still staying in communion around the Holy Table appealed to this English teacher and debate coach throughout his 41-year career in education.  Michael serves the Diocese of Central PA as a deacon at St. Stephen’s Cathedral as he has since his ordination in 2018. He also works at the Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral.

Clergy & StaffAmy Welin

Dean | Email:

The Very Rev. Dr. Amy D. Welin has been serving as the Dean of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Cathedral since August 2017.

Prior to her priestly ordination, Amy worked as an instructor of medieval and world history, an insurance claims processor, and a pastoral associate in a large mid-western church. Before accepting the call  of the Cathedral Church of St. Stephen in Harrisburg, she served a variety of parishes in the Episcopal Church in Connecticut, as a member of the Standing Committee and the Chapter of Christ Church Cathedral.

One of the founding members of the Episcopal Clergy Association in Connecticut (ConnECA), and a prior board member of the Network of Episcopal Clergy Associations (NECA), Amy devotes her energy to issues of clergy and parish wellness.

Married to Greg Welin, who is also an Episcopal priest, and mother of four young adults, Amy likes to garden and practice yoga in her free time.