This Sunday we celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration, known as the high point of Jesus’ ministry. In the Harry Potter series, transfiguration means turning something into something else, but in the biblical story, Jesus is not turned into something else – he is revealed as who he is, the beloved of God. The upcoming changes to our worship space may feel very dramatic – but we are not turning into something that we are not already. Our community has a strong instinct for innovation, and a high tolerance for creativity, change and risk in worship; our worship space renewal is a revealing of that deeper identity to the wider community. And it may take some time for us to get comfortable in a skin that fits us better and gives us more room to play.
And after his Transfiguration, Jesus walked down the mountain looking exactly as he did before. Today we are celebrating the baptisms of Megan and Noella, and they won’t look any different when we’re done either. But today, we name them and see them as they really are, beloved children of God, and we remember that it’s true for every single one of us. Through all the dark times that can come in this life, we need reminders of who we really are, deep down: beautiful, beloved children of God. And we need healthy communities who keep believing in us. So thanks to Megan and Noella for revealing this truth today as we prepare to be transfigured.
ST. STEPHEN’S IS BLESSED
Churches rely on the faith and generosity of their members. The clergy have their role—providing spiritual care and leadership. The staff offer administrative and program support. But it is the members who do the “work” of a church, contributing their time and energy, their vision and passion, their money and their expertise.
We at St. Stephen’s are blessed with many active members. It is their work that lends our church its character, its ministry in the world, and its reputation in the wider community. Inn From the Cold would be an obvious example, with its overflowing roster of willing workers.
But there are so many others: Maureen Jones and our Radio Nights program; Jill Coggins and the many outreach projects she has coordinated; Ginny Binder and our Midtown Mosaic; Marion Gibson and our Stampede Breakfast; Tom Clarke and his fall book sellers; Marilyn Nettleton and her coffee hosts; Ron Daley our volunteer Verger; all the members of our Chancel Guild, Choir, and Sidespeople who serve so faithfully week after week.
And even with that, the list is not complete. Just climb the stairs to our office any day of the week to see even more! Get involved in the Open Doors Chapel Ministry, or the Feed the Hungry Dinner, or our Excellent Adventure program, and meet many of your fellow parishioners. Meet even more at our Dinners for Eight.
This week, as we prepare for our upcoming AGM, once again we honour and thank our many active members: you!
THE ORDERS OF MINISTRY
It’s official. Clara will be ordained a priest on May 19, 2013, at 4 p.m. at the Cathedral Church of the Redeemer. Some will say, “That’s nice. But what difference will it make? Is Clara not already a minister?”
In the Catholic tradition (of which we are part) we do not tend to use the word ‘minister’ for the clergy. The reason is that all baptized Christians are called to be followers of Jesus Christ, each with their own unique ministry to offer. Calling the clergy ‘ministers’ undermines the notion that we’re ALL ministers.
But having said that, the Church has created three orders of ministry set aside for distinct service and leadership: deacons, priests and bishops. Clara is currently a deacon, a role embodying Christian service that is symbolized by her reading the Gospel each week, preaching, preparing the altar, and giving the dismissal. A deacon reminds us of our own baptismal calling to serve.
A priest stands at the centre of a congregation’s worship by presiding at the Eucharist. A priest can also baptize, bless people and things (the rings at a wedding, for instance, and then the couple in the “nuptial blessing”), and pronounce absolution, or forgiveness, in God’s name.
A bishop, who continues to share the functions of deacon and priest, has the added authority to consecrate Christians for ministry in the rites of Confirmation and Ordination, to “defend” the faith, and to be a unifying symbol of the Church.
In short: to each their own.
“WANTED: ACTIVE MEMBERS”
Planning and budgeting for 2013 has us thinking about the engagement of our members. Many of us have come to church as “consumers”, shopping for the best product at the lowest cost. But then something happens once we settle in. We grow attached to the place and its people, and begin looking for ways to get more involved and to deepen our commitment.
There are two types of involvements at St. Stephen’s: the “What’s in it for me?” programs, and the “How can I help?” jobs. The first have to do with our needs, the second with the needs of others. And both are legitimate. Jesus reminded us that we are to love God, and then to love our neighbours as ourselves. So, loving ourselves—taking care of ourselves and attending to our own needs—becomes the basis for loving our neighbours … because it is not out of need, but out of an abundance of love in our own hearts.
Our needs get met through educational programs like the Lenten Bible study, or Dinners for 8, by engaging worship and attentive pastoral care. We meet the needs of others through Inn From the Cold and the Feed the Hungry Dinner, through the Rector’s Discretionary fund and the City’s Ten Years to End Homelessness.
And then there is the Job Jar: chores that someone has to do—both for ourselves and for others—like organizing a Spring Clean-up or counting money. More about all this in the weeks to come.
We are getting ready for some big changes this year at St. Stephen’s. Here is an update on our renovation plans:
- We are in the midst of an environmental (hazardous materials) assessment of our buildings. If any materials are found that must be removed, that work must be completed before renovation can begin.
- We are preparing to go to tender at the end of this month (January). The projected start time for the elevator and washrooms is mid-April; the sanctuary renovations are projected to begin in May/June.
- Our preliminary estimates put us approximately $225,000 behind what we’ll need to accomplish the entire scope of work. A final financial appeal will be made to the congregation after the firm costs come in through the tender process. Thereafter any shortfalls will be dealt with by removing or revising portions of the renovation plan.
- Grant applications have gone out to three funding sources—the federal and provincial governments (each of which offer support for projects that will enhance the community) and the Anglican Foundation—with a third request being prepared for the Diocese.
- Completion of the work is slated for September (hopefully by Start-up Sunday).
- Plans are underway to introduce local arts and culture groups to our renovation plans to elicit their interest in St. Stephen’s as a rentable venue for the arts.
- We are continuing to work with the City to explore funding options for the redevelopment of our Memorial Hall as arts “incubation space”.
All in all, an exciting year ahead!
There are some painful moments in life so unfathomable that the only possible response is prayer. Celebrating Christmas following the horrific events of December 14 in Newtown, Connecticut, is one such moment. How are we to thank God for the birth of this vulnerable child in a manger without thinking of those innocent victims—both children and adults—who died at the hands of such a troubled young man?
Our minds reel trying to understand. What sort of deep psychological problem casts a shadow so dark as to provoke such senseless slaughter? What family dysfunction leads a sick mind to conclude that such a hateful action is justified? What in the world are we teaching our young people—or failing to teach them—such that they should take refuge in rage and violence? What sort of world permits—even encourages—the proliferation of fire arms that gives ready expression to our personal fears and anxieties?
In the weeks and months that follow we will read much in our media as people offer answers and solutions to these grim questions. But each of us has another path as well: the path of prayer. As we take to God our heartfelt care for those whose lives have been forever shattered by this tragedy, we take as well our own need for healing and for wisdom. Only this way will future tragedies be avoided … as each of us shoulders the responsibility of living the true life God has called us to live.