This Week: [May 7th, 2017]

St. Stephen’s’ members are creative people. It’s reflected in the way we’ve developed our worship space as a hub for the arts, and our Memorial Hall as affordable studios for artists. It’s reflected in our programming, which includes the Midtown Mosaic, a major annual art show curated by Ginny Binder—herself a successful artist.

Sometimes our members break through themselves and make us proud. Two weeks ago Todd Hirsch and Rob Roach launched their book on successful adaptation to unwanted change. “Spiders in Space” begins with the observation that spiders in the International Space Station re-learned how to spin a web in zero gravity. Todd and Rob then collect stories of local adapters who, similarly, have learned to thrive when adverse changes rocked their world; and they draw conclusions about the personal qualities of successful adapters everywhere. An inspiring read, and all the more so because we know the inspiring authors bringing us the story!

Then, last week, our own Maureen Jones won a Rosie Award for Best Narrator at the Alberta Film and Television Awards in Edmonton. She was cited for her work in the 2016 short fantasy film, “It’s All in Your Head”, a creepy bedtime story about a monster in the closet. Her voice is described as “eerie and menacing … perfect for the story.” But we already knew that Maureen’s voice is “perfect for the story” for all the times she has brought the Biblical stories to life for us! Our congratulations to each of you!

This Week: [April 30th, 2017]

Reasonable people may disagree. Reasonable and caring people may disagree. We at St. Stephen’s are nothing if not reasonable and caring people. And, about one issue we’re all agreed: we must move the diocese forward to permit – at least as a local option – the blessing of same sex unions. But how to do it is another matter.
After the 10:30 service on April 9, we held a parishioners’ meeting to brainstorm ideas for action. There were ideas aplenty, offered passionately, persuasively and respectfully, all to be considered at Parish Council on April 30. The meeting itself was a powerful demonstration of our strength in diversity, hearing and coming to understand opposing views.

Here’s a sampling of the actions suggested: write and publish the story of our struggle in The Anglican Journal; join the Calgary lay movement Facebook site, “Moving Forward, Embracing Diversity;” lead an economic sanctions movement of like-minded parishes in the diocese; join the Diocese of Edmonton; fly the rainbow flag alongside a protest banner that explains our dispute; march in the Pride parade with banners stating our opposition to the Diocesan position; conduct an organized letter writing campaign, sending copies of every letter directed to the Archbishop also to the House of Bishops and the Diocesan Council; make a video of our story, for wide dissemination; go public.
All of these ideas will be considered at Parish Council and a proposal for next steps prepared for presentation to the congregation.

Thanks to all the reasonable, caring meeting attendees.

This Week: “It Is In Giving To All That We Receive” [April 23rd, 2017]

We at St. Stephen’s do Holy Week well—if we do say so ourselves! From the drama of Palm Sunday through the reflective solemnity of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday to the festive lights and sounds of Holy Saturday and Easter morning: it is an engaging story that pulses at the very heart of our faith.

But it is just as lively behind the scenes as it is at any given Holy Week service. On Saturday morning, for instance, preparations for our Easter services brought out a small army of willing workers—polishing brass and silver, trimming wicks, dusting window ledges, ringing bells, raising voices in song, setting lights and sound levels, staging liturgy. It is clear that (1) good liturgy is created by careful preparation; but also that (2) there is as much Easter joy in that preparation as there is in the services themselves.

This is one of the hidden gifts of congregational life. We may think we are attaching to a congregation for the benefits we receive—great music, thoughtful sermons, interesting people. But inevitably we are drawn in to become, ourselves, the willing ones, the workers, who end up blessing others by our efforts. We who once received become, ourselves, the bearers of the gift others are seeking.

There is in this observation a deep resonation of the Easter message. As we sing in the Prayer of St. Francis: “It is in giving to all that we receive, in dying that we’re born to eternal life.“