GROWING AND CONNECTING
As happens often around St. Stephen’s these days, last Wednesday evening was a beehive of activity. The meditation group was quietly praying up a storm in the sanctuary; the “I Love You” kickboxing class gave way to the Tillicum Al Anon group who gathered to share their personal stories down in the Memorial Hall; the young people from the community chess club was deep in cogitation in the Creation Space; and in the Canterbury Room it was standing room only as members of the neighbourhood vied for a patch of this year’s Community Garden.
The Garden, outside the doors to the Memorial Hall, was the result of conversations last year with Carmen Marques, the City’s community social worker assigned to our area. (It was also Carmen who facilitated the chess group.) Evenstart, the pre-school children’s support agency, had left us, which meant that the small area allotted for their outdoor playground was left fallow. A community garden would meet a number of local needs, providing yet another connection between us and our neighbours.
Then Ian Newman—a member of St. Stephen’s who is active in our local community—stepped forward and offered to build the planter boxes. One weekend he arrived with lumber and a few willing workers and—presto!—there was our first community garden. To which he then added a community library box. This year we are doubling the size of the garden to include the patch on the other side of the walkway. Our outreach is growing!
THE PATHS WE CHOOSE
We, all of us, in the modern world, have taken religion into our own hands. Gone are the days when we simple do what we’re told by religious authorities. We go to church on a given Sunday … or we don’t. We believe in the virgin birth … or we don’t. We choose.
Some would lament this development as an inflation of the human ego, some as contributing to social chaos. But no one would deny that we have entered an age of tremendous religious freedom, where we can forge our own spiritual path, with or without the help of organized religion.
For those of us who take comfort and inspiration from the Christian religion, our spiritual life remains tied to the story of the Bible and, specifically of course, to the story of Jesus. Yet even within this story there are rich avenues to explore, deep wells to uncover. What traditional beliefs are meaningful to us? Which spiritual practices are helpful? How do we find a way forward?
This Lent we will be exploring our individual faith journeys through Thomas Moore’s “A Religion of One’s Own”. In an age of religious freedom and secular choice, Moore considers the various dimensions that make for a spiritual life: naturalness, depth, the body, the arts, intuition, and community.
You are invited to join us for a lively exploration of “A Religion of One’s Own” every Tuesday evening through Lent, February 24 to March 31, from 7:30 to 9 pm in the sanctuary.
SEEKING A WAY FORWARD
This past week, our bishop, Greg Kerr-Wilson, met with our Parish Council to discuss same-sex blessings. In a respectful exchange of views, it became clear that we are at an impasse.
The members of Parish Council spoke clearly and passionately about the reasons they were in favour of same-sex blessings. Some spoke from a concern about a younger generation for whom this is no longer an issue. Some spoke from a concern for basic justice and equality. Some referenced the core values of the Christian tradition. All told personal stories that made their concerns personal.
The bishop shared some of his own personal stories and then spoke of a complex of philosophical and theological insights that underpinned his beliefs, insights he was reluctant to unpack in detail due to the limited format of our conversation. But he offered that, while he was opposed to same-sex blessings, he was actively pursuing pastoral rites and prayers that could be used in support of same-sex relationships, prayers that would stop short of actually blessing such relationships.
The bishop also made clear his disappointment in the haphazard way the wider church has approached this issue. He hoped we would honour the episcopal nature of the Anglican Church and not proceed on our own, the strong vote at our general meeting not being reflective of Anglican views across the diocese or across the country.
Clearly, we at St. Stephen’s disagree. Along with two other congregations in the diocese we continue to seek a way forward.
STARTING THINGS UP AGAIN
Starting things up again after the Christmas break is always a little daunting: it requires more energy than we actually have. But really, we cannot afford to extend our rest any further into the new year because many things now press upon us as life moves on here at St. Stephen’s.
The recent break-ins at the church over the holidays have given us a long and expensive “To Do” list as we work to make our buildings more secure. Keyless entries, video cameras and programmable access to the elevator are on the list, even as we take precautionary short-term measures such as re-keying the existing locks … for the third time in recent weeks!
Our bishop, the Right Reverend Greg Kerr-Wilson, will be joining us at next week’s Parish Council meeting for a conversation about same-sex blessings. We are seeking clarity about what he will and will not support of this ministry that lies so close to our hearts here at St. Stephen’s.
Then there are all the preparations for the upcoming Annual meeting, which include a budget for the coming year and nominations to fill various leadership positions in the church.
And not so far off, Lent is on its way with a study group planned on “Living a Meaningful Faith”. We will be using Thomas Moore’s recent book, “A Religion of One’s Own” as a guide.
So we’re putting away the chocolates, heading back to the gym, and preparing ourselves for a full, active and faithful winter season.