I had recently met Father Dan Jones through a mutual friend and we instantly began to share our love for the hymns of the faith. We both have musical backgrounds and, coincidentally, each of us have produced a hymn CD. His diverse background includes involvement with a variety of denominations including the Assembly of God Church. He also served for 9 years as pastor of a non-denominational church on Sacandaga Lake. I considered our meeting a “divine appointment” and knew I’d be visiting St. Michael’s Episcopal Church soon.
The church is conveniently located off Central Avenue in Colonie. Father Dan and his wife Debbie greeted me at the door with great enthusiasm. They shared with me a few helpful (and welcomed) hints about how the liturgical part of the service would go. As I made my way to the front pew, the sound of the grand piano filled the sanctuary with beautiful melodies. The processional song, “How Great is Our God”, was a pleasant surprise. Father Dan raised his hands in worship as his son Benjamin eloquently played. Amongst the voices one could hear a passionate, operatic voice singing a few rows behind me.
It was the fourth Sunday in Lent and we read some related scriptures. Reading the Word of God is such a pure and powerful way to begin. Father Dan then shared a brief word that was “unplanned”, letting us all know we were special, unique creations of God. His sermon on the prodigal son brought new light to this well-known parable. A son asking for his inheritance ahead of time was an insult to, not only the father, but the entire village. The young son squandered all he had been given and began making plans to ask his father to be one of his hired hands. He was in desperate need but did not repent, never mentioning a desire to restore the relationship with his father. The most striking detail of the parable is that the father, seeing his son in the distance, jumps up and runs to see him. This was considered undignified, but the father wanted everyone to know his son was restored. The son sees his father’s love for him and then repents. Sometimes we see ourselves as hired hands, but God wants a loving relationship with His children. When we were out living in the world, God was reaching out to us and He reconciled the world through His son Jesus.
Father Dan was preaching freely, without a pulpit in front of him. He stood in the center of the platform with Bible in hand and no microphone. He wore a traditional robe yet had a relaxed and almost informal style about him. The meet and greet was truly enjoyable as so many people came over to welcome me. Then there was a time of people shouting up prayers to God, followed by a time of sharing thanksgivings. A couple asked for travel mercies for an upcoming trip, and Father Dan invited them to the altar and prayed over them right then and there. St. Michael’s follows the Book of Common Prayer and has liturgical elements that are similar to other Episcopal Churches. However, there is a slight charismatic flavor sprinkled throughout the service. They are open to God doing things outside of what is planned. They believe that the Spiritual Gifts are still alive and well in the church and healing worship services are held every other Friday evening at 7 pm.
St. Michael’s supports many ministries including Christ the King Center, The People of Brookdale, St. Francis’ Mission and the Town of Colonie Outreach. They serve dinner at the Capital City Rescue Mission in Albany the first Sunday of the month (3:45 pm). Their knitting ministry provides small blankets and prayer shawls to the residents of Albany County Nursing Home, as well as, items for St. Peter’s NICU newborns. Their bulletin has a page dedicated to prayer needs, and they also offer a prayer e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org). Hospital and home visits are available upon request. Father Dan provides his personal contact info, making himself reachable and readily available, indicative of a true Shephard.
St. Michael’s has been a part of the Capital Region since the 1950’s (cornerstone 1956). Father Dan and his wife Debbie have only been here since 2018, but they are such a perfect fit that it seems like they’ve been here all along. As I was leaving something caught my eye. I happened to notice a hymn request box in the front lobby. This seemingly simple gesture spoke volumes to me. This church cannot merely be described as a specific denomination. It is a house of worship and a house of healing. It’s a place where people come together to worship God with their voices and hands raised. It’s a place where faith thrives and miracles are alive. It’s a place where the people are the church, and their input matters. So come and visit this unique congregation and don’t forget to put your hymn request in the box!
Church Website – www.stmichaelscolonie.org
By Donna Hansen Munafo