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.
Almost 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.
Next 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.
The 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.
We 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.
In our fast paced existence it is all too common to allow our schedules and exterior demands to control what we are doing, what we thinking and how we respond to life itself. When we get bounced around from thing to thing….we can be tempted to listen to everyone else’s wants and desires on our time…. and all but lose touch with ourselves. It is as if “we listen for guidance everywhere except from within” (Parker Palmer – Let Your Life Speak.)
It is a belief of our Christian faith that we have all been touched by God and blessed by God’s grace, present and active in our lives, and our response is meant to be open and ready to receive the Spirit of God speaking into our hearts and blessing our days. This is meant to be lifelong journey of learning and growth. But how to stay in touch with that blessing requires time and an intention to draw to the still and listen. Spiritual exercises help us to disconnect from the outer world, create inner peace, give us inner strength, help us to become more inspired or even name one’s purpose in life.
Weekly at St Stephen’s there are many opportunities to participate in cultivating our spiritual development through listening and learning. Look for the goldenrod handout in the narthex. Perhaps something found in St Stephen’s Spiritual Menu will entice you to embark on a new spiritual aspect of your faith journey, starting today.
On Friday, September 30, our rector appeared before the archbishop and the chancellor of the diocese, along with four other clergy, to receive a stern admonishment from the chancellor and a formal warning, in writing, from the archbishop. The reason? Blessing the civil marriage between a woman and her partner, who identifies as “Trans”, in what the couple refer to as a “queer marriage”.
Same-sex blessings and marriages are not permitted in the Anglican Diocese of Calgary, despite the recent vote by General Synod to amend the national marriage canon. Our bishop, Greg Kerr-Wilson, who is also the Metropolitan archbishop of the Province of Rupert’s Land, has indicated he is not likely to permit same-sex marriage in this diocese, even if General Synod ratifies its decision in 2019, nor is he prepared to sanction the blessing of same-sex marriages in the meantime. On September 17, six local clergy, including our rector, offered a blessing to a couple in a ceremony held at St. Stephen’s and then notified the archbishop in writing that they had done so.
The admonition issued by the chancellor charged the clergy with a failure to love their Christian brothers and sisters across the diocese, that is, those who oppose same-sex marriages and blessings. The archbishop’s letter, which he handed out to the clergy in person, threatened that any future actions of this sort would be answered by Canon XVIII, the regulations governing the disciplining of Anglican clergy. Those regulations stipulate penalties ranging from an admonition to the relinquishment of holy orders.
Our rector and one other member of the clergy have asked for a follow-up meeting with the archbishop and chancellor to seek a way forward, citing the negative consequences for everyone of the escalation of this conflict. They seek your prayers and your support.
We don’t have an arrival date yet BUT on Thanksgiving Sunday, Fransis of our Translation Team was able to contact the father of the Syrian family we are sponsoring and have a brief telephone conversation. This is our first direct contact with the family.
The father, Khalil, said that he and his family are ok and that they have completed their paperwork and medical requirements. They are awaiting word from the government for next steps. Fransis explained to Khalil that there is a whole team of people eager and excited for their arrival in Canada and that we are holding them in our thoughts and prayers. This first contact went well and ended with a plan to stay in touch. We will keep you posted, too!
It comes as a surprise to some that an organization like a church relies entirely on individual financial donations, and not on financial support from governments. Additionally, many of the activities and ministries are done by volunteers, not paid staff.
St. Stephen’s is no different. It is only through the ongoing commitment of its parishioners’ time and financial donations that this church can exist and function (with some help from building rental income).
But we don’t give to a church for its existence in and of itself. This is not its purpose. That is not our calling. Instead, belonging, and being committed to a church, gives us individually and collectively the opportunity to give through the church to that what God is calling us to do.
And it gives us the opportunity to receive the joys and blessings God wants for us when we realize, and use, the gifts we have for God’s mission here on earth. Jesus conveyed this message repeatedly, as do many of the New Testament authors.