Following our weekend workshop, “Making This House a Home”, we are reminded that home renovations are never done. We are justified in feeling proud for having made our buildings more accessible and our program space more flexible. But now the parts of our buildings and property we did not renovate feel tired by comparison.
Keri Weylander, our workshop leader, helped us celebrate not only our accomplishments of the last year, but also the stories and the history that reside in every corner of our church. Our space is important to us, and she helped us see that.
But touring our church with the eyes of a visitor, Keri also helped us see where our buildings still work against our desire to be welcoming and accessible. Rooms that seem to have lost their purpose, corridors packed with storage, entryways that do not say, “Welcome”—it appears we have not yet completed the task of making our house a home.
Cast your own gaze around our church. Which rooms say, “Welcome” to you, and which do not? Where do you feel most comfortable, where do you feel uncomfortable? Which spaces “work” for you, which do not? Those become the next areas of our ongoing renovation project.
To be clear, we are not starting up a new building committee—yet—nor are we revving up for a new capital campaign—yet. We are simply noticing for the moment where the work will continue, when it continues. Because truthfully, this work will never end!
GETTING BACK ON THE ROAD
Lent is the season for kick starting our spiritual engines and getting back on the road. This is why we offer Lenten prayers on behalf of those preparing for Baptism or Confirmation, as people seek the opportunity to take their next steps on their faith journey. We, like them, sometimes need a boost to our own faith.
At St. Stephen’s we are currently preparing two teenagers and two adults for Confirmation, and one adult and four infants (or their families really) for Baptism. The bishop will be with us at the Easter Vigil on Saturday, April 19, to do the Confirmations and we will do the Baptisms ourselves on Easter morning.
There are two additional opportunities offered here. One is formally to Reaffirm our faith before the bishop, who will offer a prayer over us and bless our intention. The other, if we have recently come to the Anglican Church from another Christian tradition, is formally to be Received into the Church by the bishop. If either of these opportunities call to you please speak to our clergy, as some preparation is necessary.
There is yet another opportunity for the rest of us. And that is to stand in solidarity with those who are affirming or reaffirming their faith. The Easter services provide for an Affirmation of Faith by the entire congregation. They will also ask our support for the newly baptized or confirmed. Let us then join with all those newly professing their faith, and newly profess our own.
This past week St. Stephen’s was part of a small delegation that approached our bishop about the unresolved issue of the blessing of same-sex relationships. Forty years after the first church-sanctioned same-sex marriage, twenty years after the issue was first raised at General Synod, almost ten years after Canada legalized marriage between same-sex partners, priests in the Anglican Diocese of Calgary are still not permitted to bless same-sex couples. Nor is it even on the agenda of the diocese, official or otherwise.
The delegation sought a way forward by proposing a protocol parishes in the diocese could follow to decide whether they wish to offer same-sex blessings. The protocol ensures broad-based consultation within the parish and notification to the diocese when the process is underway. But diocesan approval is not being sought for a parish to proceed, nor is there is any compunction for parishes to move forward with this. It is called in some dioceses the “local option” approach: all parishes may, none must, and some should.
The point was made that the church has been woefully behind the times on this issue so that now the world could care less what we do. (At St. Stephen’s we have not had a request for a same-sex blessing for over ten years.) But we do have same-sex couples in our parish who are legally married yet who have been denied a blessing from their own church. That should be reason enough. The bishop promised to “think seriously” about the matter.