This Week at St. Stephen’s–June 24, 2012

“DEACON IN THE CHURCH OF GOD”

Today, June 24th, Clara King is to be ordained a deacon. On July 1st she will take her place on our staff as our assistant curate.

A deacon, in catholic tradition, is the first of three orders of ministry that include priests and bishops. Some deacons are vocational, that is, they have no vocation or calling to the other orders. For most however, being a deacon is the first step to becoming a priest and, in some instances, a bishop.

A deacon, from the Greek word diakonos, is a servant. Among the first deacons in the church was Stephen, our Patron Saint, who was set aside to serve the poor, attend to the distribution of people’s givings, and preach the Gospel. In modern times deacons are to “interpret to the Church the needs, concerns, and hopes of the world … [and to] assist the bishop and priests in public worship” (from the ordination service).

On Sundays Clara will routinely read the gospel and set the altar for communion. Through the rest of the week she will share in the pastoral care of the parish as “assistant curate”, one who assists in the “cure”, or care, of souls. She can perform weddings and funerals but not eucharists.

The diaconate is one ministry among many given to baptized Christians. But it is significant in that it is a living reminder in our midst that all ministries are founded on our common call to be servants, serving one another as Christ serves us.

This Week at St. Stephen’s–June 17, 2012

“HOMECOMING”

One of the roles played by churches is that of a spiritual home, a safe harbour in a storm, a refuge, a place to which weary travellers return. We see this every week at St. Stephen’s where members, both old and new, seek a sense of belonging where familiar faces and familiar habits become a reassuring sign of “coming home”.

We saw this a few weeks ago at the funeral service for Ann Rhodes. Ann’s association with St. Stephen’s was lifelong and she was an active member of the AYPA (Anglican Young People’s Association) in the post-war years. The church then was central to the social life of many young adults, as is evidenced by the many pictures we have from that time of stage productions, scouting events, and a full choir featuring the glowing faces of several well-known present-day members.

Ann’s funeral brought many of the old gang “home” and many took the time to say how good this felt to them. Their young lives were forged here, romances were sparked, and deep friendships were formed that have endured a lifetime. One woman who has lived abroad and who returned to worship with another congregation asked tearfully if, when the time comes, she might be buried from St. Stephen’s.

With our current focus on redevelopment and on all the exciting possibilities for future growth and change, we should never forget that we are also, for many people, the rich and rewarding past. And that every Sunday is a “homecoming”.

This Week at St. Stephen’s–June 10, 2012

“IN FOR A PENNY…”

“In for a penny, in for a pound,” the saying goes. And it is apt for the challenges and opportunities we face in our parish outreach.

St. Stephen’s has a big heart. We opened our heart to the homeless fifteen years ago with the inception of Inn From the Cold. Our heart has remained open as people from a wide spectrum of backgrounds have found their way into our community. We continue to be open to the many needs that present themselves to us every week, some local and some a world away.

In each case, when we respond to a cry for help, we are opening ourselves to a new relationship with a child of God, precious in God’s sight. It is never simply a matter of writing a cheque. It means getting to know someone’s name, their story, their joys as well as their sorrows.

But, being human, we have limited resources, certainly of time and money, but also sometimes of patience and even of kindness. Needs press in on us whether or not we are ready, whether or not we have the ability in the moment to respond appropriately. So right now the Rector’s Discretionary Fund is at an all-time low. And Parish Council is struggling to respond to a number of foreign outreach situations without promising something we would be unable to deliver.

Real human needs do not stop knocking at our door. It is a challenge … but also, always, it is a great opportunity.