THE BEST IS YET TO COME
We in the modern Western world are not used to waiting. We are used to getting what we want, when we want. This may be one underlying reason for our recent financial crisis, our willingness to place
ourselves in great debt in order to have what we want—houses, cars, fancy vacations—and to have it now!
The season of Advent, which we enter this week, is an antidote to our acquisitive ways. It is a time when nothing happens … but that we wait. And as we wait, we make our preparations. We look to the future, when our hopes will be fulfilled, and we get ourselves ready for that day.
In modern Western culture this takes the form of getting ready for Christmas. We decorate our homes, we do our Christmas shopping and our Christmas baking, we make plans to celebrate with family and friends. But at a deeper level we are rehearsing something far more profound. We are looking to the day when God’s reign will be made known on earth, when peace and justice will replace warfare and greed, when the earth is reborn and the intentions of its Creator are fulfilled.
To miss this season of preparation is to risk rushing headlong into a future of our own making, a future stuffed with our own worldly desires but devoid of God’s rich blessings. The best things in life are worth waiting for. So we welcome Advent with eager anticipation. The best is yet to come.
A MARKETPLACE FOR PHILANTHROPY
We heard recently of a local church that disallows Sunday announcements about mission projects other than their own. Apparently they fearthat church members might follow a new scent and neglect their support of theirown church. We at St. Stephen’s take the opposite approach.
Last Sunday Tevin Richards, a friend of Stephen and DarielBateman, and a worker on behalf of women’s rights in Uganda, took a few minutesduring the Sunday announcements to tell us about this important work, especiallyin an AIDS-ravaged part of the world where the burden of domestic care oftenfalls to women. People wanted to know more.
Our own Dave and Barb Driftmier have just returned from asix-week exposure trip to North India where they are fostering support for anew orphanage there. Vestry has asked them to prepare a presentation that willhelp us consider how St. Stephen’s might become involved.
Of course, we expect our church members to support theirchurch financially. We make provision for that through stewardship campaigns,offering envelopes, preauthorized debit, and special appeals. We also promoteselected outreach projects through our monthly Pink Envelopes.
But we also expect our members to be actively engaged in thehealing of our world through outreach ministries that speak to them personally,whether or not those ministries have any direct connection with St. Stephen’s.Our view is that church ought to be a veritable marketplace of philanthropic
opportunities. So we provide the airtime. But the rest is up to you.
CENTRE FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS?
St. Stephen’s Centre for the PerformingArts? It has a nice ring to it. While we have not gone so far as to rename ourchurch, the performing arts are an important part of our dream to become partof the cultural landscape of the city … and it’s already starting to happen!
Performers have always told us how muchthey like our church. The aesthetic is warm and inviting, and the acoustics arebright and responsive and especially good for classical instruments. The
Calgary Classical Guitar Society has made St. Stephen’s one of two performingvenues for its annual concert series; Il Sono, the men’s chorus that made asurprise visit to our 10:30 service last Sunday, just offered a Remembrance Dayconcert on Friday; and Philip Hansen, the principal cellist for the CPO, isstaging a benefit concert here next Sunday (see our web site for more details).
What has this to do with Christian ministryand mission? Is this just a creative way of raising funds? Is it a ploy to seeour name in lights? Worse, is it a sneaky form of evangelism?
Offering our church for the performing artsis actually a way of becoming part of the cultural life of the city, hence,being neighbours rather than strangers. Anything else may follow: pastoral ministry, spiritual support, and yes, maybe even fund-raising and publicity.But none of it happens without first being in relationship with the widercommunity. And that happens through the performing arts.
Reconnecting with the Spirit – Walking the Labyrinth
“It is solved by walking.” – St. Augustine
On a sunny Saturday morning in September, twelve ladies met for a labyrinth experience. Our facilitator Angela Wards brought along a portable labyrinth which we set up in the courtyard in
front of the Canterbury room in the shadow of the bell tower ablaze with the fall colours of the Virginia creeper – a beautiful setting! The theme of the morning was “Reconnecting with the Spirit”.
The morning opened with the reading of psalm 23 and reflection. Angela shared with us the different types of labyrinths including a Classic style in the oldest church in Sardinia dating possibly back to 2500 BCE. The labyrinth in the Chartres Cathedral dates back to the 12th century. At the other end of the spectrum, finger labyrinths are offered to hospital patients and shut-ins. There is a worldwide movement to build and facilitate labyrinths so this tradition of prayer continues, survives and flourishes.
Walking the labyrinth is a varied experience; as Angela said, we can walk with intention or not – by letting go, something may ‘pop up’ in our consciousness.
We can walk alone or walk in community– a metaphor for life.
Our time together ended with a time for fellowship and a delicious lunch – all in all, a meaningful richly-textured morning.