This Week at St. Stephen’s–March 25, 2012

YEGO RWANDA

Fifteen years ago, Emmanuel Gatera came into our lives, a divinity student in Uganda struggling to complete his studies and begin his ministry in his native Rwanda. Now we witness with pride the founding of his heart’s dream, YEGO Rwanda, a healing centre for orphans and other young Rwandans.

Emmanuel’s story encompasses all the recent conflict of the region. Fleeing the tribal violence and political upheaval of Rwanda in the early 1960’s, Emmanuel’s family relocated to neighbouring Burundi where Emmanuel was raised in a refugee camp.

Singled out for his intellect and character, Emmanuel was sponsored to attend university in Kampala, Uganda, where he was commended for financial support by our national Church. We contributed to his studies, supplying his first computer.

Upon graduation, Emmanuel stayed on at the University of Kampala as registrar until he was ordained by the Anglican Church of Rwanda and appointed as the General Secretary of the Episcopal Province there. Returning to his home country, Emmanuel learned the heavy responsibilities of his administrative post while also founding a new congregation, which, after only three years, was thriving with over 300 members.

Despite his successes in ministry, Emmanuel’s dream was to work with traumatized youth following the genocide of the mid-1990’s. Thus began Emmanuel’s biannual trips to St. Stephen’s College in Edmonton to attain a Doctorate of Ministry degree with a specialty in counseling, to qualify him to work towards his dream.

This dream is now a reality, which you can discover for yourself at: yegorwanda.org.

This Week at St. Stephen’s–March 18, 2012

GOOD FRIENDS AND NEIGHBOURS

We have learned that Spiritual Directions, the personal growth and development resource centre that works out of our rectory next door, will close its doors the end of April.

The Centre was the dream of founder John Griffiths. Raised and ordained in the Moravian Church, John ministered in both Moravian and United Church congregations until he left congregational ministry in 1999 to found Spiritual Directions. Operating first from the old Grace Hospital, the Centre then moved to our rectory in 2008.

The Centre has provided courses, workshops, counselling, spiritual mentoring and energy healing by its team of holistic health practitioners, therapists, counsellors, educators, and workshop facilitators.

John retired in the fall of 2011, and was succeeded by our own Clara King as Executive Director. But the many healing and educational services provided by the Centre proved unsupportable by its cash flow. We will miss our good neighbours and soul friends.

This Week at St. Stephen’s–March 11, 2012

ONE STEP AWAY FROM DISASTER

Every week people in need find their way to our door. Some of their needs are pervasive and beyond anything we could possibly meet: chronic poverty, mental health issues, painful circumstances far too complex for us to untangle. But sometimes the needs are clear and urgent. In those instances the Rector’s Discretionary Fund is available to help, this month’s Pink Envelope designation.

If there is one thing we have learned through the years about the working poor, it is that they are only ever one pay cheque away from disaster. A week off work due to illness means that some monthly bill will not get paid. An unexpected car repair means there is no grocery money. These short-term crises can be met with vouchers for one of the major food chains. We will offer this assistance once a month for up to three months. Sometimes things have gone so seriously awry that rent payments are late, or utility services are cut off. In these instances one-time assistance can keep a family off the streets.

It is enormously satisfying to be able to support people in need. Their gratitude is testament to that. But sometimes the help we offer is less tangible. It might simply be a five minute conversation where, for that brief period, they are treated with respect and dignity and given a listening ear to their hurts and troubles. They may or may not walk away with a food voucher, but their step is lighter as a result.

This Week at St. Stephen’s–March 4, 2012

 

Our new Parish Council met for the first time last week. Formerly known as “Vestry”, this committee of parish leaders has changed more than its name. Its elected members will now be offering direct support for the various programs of our parish.

St. Stephen’s is a dynamic congregation with a lot happening all the time. Amidst the busyness, individual programs can lose their focus, and volunteers can burn out. So each Parish Council member will oversee one particular area, offering support to the volunteers, assessing strengths and weaknesses in the program, and acting as a liaison.

These areas are: Children and Youth (including the implementation of the Child & Youth Task Force recommendations and support for our programs for young people); Outreach (including Inn from the Cold, Feed the Hungry, and Chapel ministry); Community & Fellowship (including newcomer ministries, Dinners-for-Eight, and pastoral follow-up); Hospitality & Pastoral Care (including care for seniors, Sunday coffee hour, and special events); and Stewardship (including stewardship campaigns, investment management and budget planning).

Meanwhile, the Wardens will continue to act as “point persons” for the areas that traditionally fall to the Corporation, including Finances and Building & Property; and the Rector continues to oversee Worship and Spiritual Formation and to offer support for special programs and events.

Dariel Bateman, People’s Warden, is guiding the process as we grow from an advisory board model to an active working board. We are well served by Dariel’s vision and energy and by the dedication of our new Parish Council.