This Week at St. Stephen’s–January 29, 2012

A WELCOME CHANGE

The church renovations that are before us include changes to our worship space, both the main worship area and the chapel. In the chapel the sanctuary will be enlarged so that the altar can be pulled out from the wall, permitting the priest to face the people during a celebration of the Eucharist.

In the main church the existing altar will be affixed to its original position on the east wall and a new holy table will be commissioned, one that can more easily be moved to one of several locations in the existing chancel area or right down in the nave for smaller gatherings. In both the chapel and main church the pews will be replaced by chairs.

These changes follow several guiding principles in modern liturgy: (1) God is in the midst of us, not set apart by steps and railings; this is symbolized by the priest facing us rather than having his or her back to us; (2) the altar is, by Jesus’ intention, a table, a place where God’s people gather to be spiritually fed; it is not a sacrificial surface where, symbolically, Jesus offers his life once again; (3) to accommodate not only flexibility in worship, but also other uses of our worship space, moveable chairs permit us a range of possibilities not available with fixed pews (plus, they are more comfortable!).

Understandably, change is rarely welcome among church people. But these changes will enliven our worship and widen the use of our sacred space.

 

 

 

This Week at St. Stephen’s–January 22, 2012

YOU MADE IT HAPPEN !!

This week we come to the moment we’ve all been waiting for: the unveiling of the design drawings for our renovations. There shouldn’t be any surprises. The drawings will show exactly what we have been talking about for the last two years: an elevator and entrance ramp; new barrier-free washrooms; flexible worship space; and, “behind the walls”, upgraded electrical, heating and plumbing services.

We would not have arrived at this moment without the enormous efforts of Keith Moe and our Building Renovation Action Group (BRAG), Jack and Heather Walker and the Open Doors campaign team, and Ross Marsh and Margaret Dawkins of Ross Marsh & Associates, our fund-raising consultants.

We engaged Ross Marsh in the winter of 2010 to help us build a strategy for raising the monies for a project that, in its entirety, would have had a price tag of over $4 million. That spring they carried out a feasibility study that told us $1.1 million was achievable within our own congregation, with other funds pursued through various church and public grants. They were right. We have raised over $1 million to date, and applications are now being submitted to various funding agencies for the enlargement of the work.

But none of this would have been possible without you, our active and dedicated church members. Clearly, you caught the vision—that an ageing church building can actually be part of our mission and ministry (rather than an impediment)—and you stepped forward to make it happen. Thank you!

This Week at St. Stephen’s–January 15, 2012

A SPIRITUAL INVENTORY

This is the time of year when we take a broad view of life in our parish—both back in time and forward—as staff and church leaders prepare their Annual Reports. The writing of a report can be a bit of a chore. But the content can be a real eye-opener!

The full Annual Report will be available soon enough (January 22nd is the goal, a full two weeks prior to our Annual Meeting on February 5th). But staff and leaders are not the only ones taking stock. You, for instance, how would you describe your own experience of life at St. Stephen’s these days? Are you feeling spiritually nurtured? Are you finding opportunities for service in the community? Are you growing in your faith? Do you sense that our world—our neighbourhood, our city, our country, our overseas partners—is a better place for the work we do here?

This reflection —done both individually and together—is important. It suggests where we might place our priorities when planning the budget for the coming year. It identifies where we are strong in our program life, and where we are weak. It pushes us to ask: Are we fulfilling God’s will here? Are we hearing God’s call, and responding with our best efforts?

So what would your own Annual Report look like? What accomplishments would you celebrate? What lost opportunities would you regret? What dreams would you have for the year to come? This is after all your parish church!