This Week: December 4th 2016

picture1A  secret garden is growing in the heart of Calgary’s Beltline. Flower boxes, brightly painted, mark it outwardly, busy with gardeners of all ages during the growing season. But inwardly, there is a cultural flowering of art and music that is attracting world-class artists and savvy urban audiences. That secret garden is none other than St. Stephen’s!

Several weeks ago the Calgary Instrumental Society hosted a Sunday afternoon concert by CPO violinist and concertmaster Diana Cohen and members of her musical family. Over two hundred were in attendance for this intimate family affair. This Sunday we are visited by three of Calgary’s finest classical guitarists for a baroque and classical Christmas feast.

Professional choral groups love singing—and recording—at St. Stephen’s. In coming weeks the Renaissance Singers, One Voice Chorus, and La Vie Vocal Ensemble will all be taking the stage here, and in the New Year Luminous Voices will be recording their second album in our sanctuary.

This garden is overflowing with delight. Calgary’s culture vultures know it well, but to many it remains one of our city’s best-kept secrets, which doesn’t seem right. Good news should be proclaimed from the rooftops and in the city squares.

Your church has become a cultural mecca! Come and be fed by the cultural offerings happening here almost every week (check the Sunday bulletin, our weekly e-newsletter, or the bulletin boards for details). And then go tell the world there’s a cultural garden flowering here … and that it’s no secret!

This Week: November 27th 2016

picture1In early November, our rector and his wife visited Emmanuel Gatera in Rwanda to learn more about the work of YEGO-Rwanda, a foundation created by Emmanuel to bring healing to Rwandans and peace to a post-genocidal Rwanda. This is their story, in three parts. YEGO-Rwanda (Part III)

In 2008, sitting at the computer at the home of our rector and his wife, Emmanuel Gatera, beginning his doctoral studies at the University of Alberta, tapped out the guiding principles for a new foundation—YEGO-Rwanda (“YES-Rwanda!”), its mission, to heal the lingering and devastating trauma of the Rwandan genocide of 1994.

Early in his ministry, while starting up a new congregation in Kigali, Emmanuel was troubled by the deep and disproportionate pastoral needs of his congregation. From adults who had lost entire families during the genocide, to young people being poorly raised by traumatized parents, to emotionally unstable individuals languishing in abject poverty, Emmanuel recognized a massive problem whose solution lay beyond what even a caring Christian congregation could do.

picture2pngYEGO-Rwanda was his answer. From a tiny office in Kigali, Emmanuel, his wife Athanasie, and a “staff” of volunteers started hearing the stories of genocide survivors; they provided counselling, healing retreats, and, for the young, programmed activities like traditional dance; and they offered what material assistance they could to those most severely marginalized by their trauma.

All the stories told by those touched by YEGO-Rwanda conclude (implausibly, given all they’ve been through!) with thanks to God and with tearful appreciation for the love and healing they have experienced through Emmanuel and his staff. Lives that were burned and scarred, like that of Rwanda itself, are rising from the ashes.

We support Emmanuel and YEGO-Rwanda through our “Outreach-Beyond” pink envelopes. But you can offer direct support through YEGO-Canada at www.yegorwanda.net.

This Week: Nov 20th 2016

In early November, our rector and his wife visited Emmanuel Gatera in Rwanda to learn more about the work of YEGO-Rwanda, a foundation created by Emmanuel to bring healing to Rwandans and peace to a post-genocidal Rwanda. This is their story, in three parts. YEGO-Rwanda (Part II)

picture1In 1994, in a coordinated attack long prepared for, spurred on by extremists, and whipped into a frenzy by local media, the Hutu population of Rwanda turned on their Tutsi neighbours, brutally slaughtering over a million in a hundred-day period. The facts are sobering enough, but the personal stories are devastating.

Anastasia is a forty-something mother of two grown children. They all bear the trauma of watching Anastasia’s husband and the two oldest children beaten to death by Hutu attackers. While her life was spared, Anastasia was enslaved by her tormentors and forced to provide for their children while her own wasted away. Surviving the ordeal, the family’s emotional scars render them incapable of living productive lives, the children both receiving ongoing treatment for mental illness.

Clementine, seven years old at the time of the genocide, witnessed the violent murder of her immediate family. Miraculously, she escaped, carrying her newborn cousin on her back into the woods. She survived for days in the bush, avoiding capture and fending for herself, but was forced to watch her cousin die in her arms, unable to care for her, a trauma she bears to this day.picture12

YEGO-Rwanda was founded by Emmanuel Gatera, the former divinity student we supported in his studies, and a good friend whose efforts to bring healing to Rwandans we continue to support—not only for survivors of the genocide but also for the subsequent generations who continue to suffer its effects.

Next week … the inspiring work of YEGO-Rwanda.

This Week: Nov 13th

In early November, our rector and his wife visited Emmanuel Gatera in Rwanda to learn more about the work of YEGO-Rwanda, a foundation created by Emmanuel to bring healing to Rwandans and peace to a post-genocidal Rwanda. This is their story, in three parts.

picture31Almost twenty years ago St. Stephen’s asked our World Mission office for the name of a promising seminarian in a Third World country whom we could support in their studies. The name they gave us was Emmanuel Gatera, a divinity student at the University of Kampala, Uganda, who was hoping to be ordained and to serve in his home country of Rwanda.

Serve he has! Upon graduation, Emmanuel was hired as the General Secretary for the Archdiocese of Rwanda where he was also to found a new congregation in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital city. Faced daily with pastoral challenges relating to the enduring and widespread trauma of the 1994 genocide, Emmanuel realized more could be done through an agency committed exclusively to personal healing and social relief. So … YEGO-Rwanda was born.

Knowing he needed unique credentials for this kind of work, with our assistance and that of our World Mission department, Emmanuel enrolled in the doctoral divinity programme at St. Stephen’s College, University of Alberta, to begin long distance studies that would qualify him for the therapeutic work to which he was feeling called.

picture41Next year Emmanuel will graduate, returning to Alberta to receive his diploma, accompanied by his wife Athanasie. In the meantime, in early November, our rector and his wife spent a week with Emmanuel in Rwanda where they heard the stories of genocide survivors and visited the homes of those whose personal trauma has isolated and marginalized them—a sobering life-changing experience.

Next week … their stories.

This Week at St. Stephen’s: November 6th 2016

acr296553145151424-3168030The chairs aren’t quite as full this morning—another day where the pleasures of lingering a little longer over coffee win out over a barnburner of a sermon and some awesome hymns, right? Not quite. This morning, and later today, about 40 or more members of our congregation will be working with Feed the Hungry to set-up, prepare, serve, and tear down a complimentary meal for nearly 600 guests at St. Mary’s Cathedral.

Thanks to your generosity last month, we were able to contribute $2500 toward the food costs for today’s supper. Giving of our time, our talents, and our treasure is part of how we minister to a world beset by economic uncertainty and job losses. We work together with our partners at Feed the Hungry and our fellow volunteers to affirm our guests’ humanity, by greeting them, serving them a nutritious and tasty meal tableside, and providing them with a hospitality package at the end of the evening.

acr296553145151424-713033We know that it may be hard for some of our members to support yet another request for funds and assistance to people outside our congregation, while some of our own have themselves been affected by the very economic uncertainty we’ve been dealing with for the past 2½ years. We are called, in the words of the hymn and the Prayer of St. Francis:

Make me a channel of your peace,

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,

In giving of ourselves that we receive.

We ask God’s blessing on all who are being served at today’s Feed the Hungry dinner.