It has been a while since we have posted any updates about same-sex blessings and marriage in our diocese. While such pastoral services are being offered to couples elsewhere across Canada, especially in urban centres, our bishop and archbishop Greg Kerr-Wilson has opted for ongoing study and conversation instead—a frustrating tack to those who feel strongly that the time for talk has passed.
A year ago we had the opportunity—and great privilege—of hosting and blessing a Queer marriage (between a woman and her transgendered partner). A marriage commissioner oversaw the legal ceremony while six clergy of the diocese rose to offer the church’s blessing, against the wishes of the bishop. Predictably, the six were threatened with disciplinary action, but a local lay movement rose up to ensure there would be ongoing progress.
Meanwhile a series of diocesan conversations—called “Generous Listening”—was held from January to June, with visiting scholars representing different perspectives on this issue. The process was not intended to facilitate decision-making and ended prematurely and inconclusively.
A meeting of diocesan synod has been called for October 13-14, the first such meeting in four years, and the lay movement has put forward a motion calling for the freedom of clergy and congregations to act according to their consciences on this matter.
Two weeks ago members of St. Stephen’s marched in the Calgary Pride Parade under a banner that read: “Working toward marriage equality for EVERYONE”. Sadly, we felt it was the most we could say.
If you are new to St. Stephen’s, welcome! If you have been away, welcome! If you never left, welcome to you too! A brand new season launches this week, beginning with our Start-up Sunday worship.
Three major themes will dominate our fall season. The first is Charmaine Evans who will join our staff in October as our full-time Program Coordinator. Charmaine is a newly ordained deacon. She will assist with the Sunday liturgy, share pastoral care with the rector, and oversee the educational and outreach programs of our parish. Charmaine will be a great gift to us in the present, but also in the future when Brian our rector retires, providing stability and continuity when that time comes.
But a full-time staff position comes at a cost, so Stewardship becomes the second theme we will hear a lot about this fall. If we are spiritually invested in St. Stephen’s we need to be materially invested as well, so that we continue to offer ourselves as a sanctuary for the wounded, a light for seekers, and an inspiration to our neighbours. Please consider the place St. Stephen’s has in your life and, when we are asked, commit generously to the ministry we offer.
Finally, our Reno Group is studying the challenges and the opportunities of our ageing Memorial Hall. Your ideas for its use—both for ourselves and for the wider community—will be sought as we develop a vision for its complete transformation. Stay tuned for … “Open Doors Too”.
The Al Jbawi family are doing well in settling into their new life in Calgary. The parents are already in the LINC program (Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada), learning English everyday. The children are all registered and excited to start school in this month, with some excellent extra language support in place. NeST Volunteers go to the home twice a week to help them further with their English.
All last week the boys played soccer with ‘Soccer Without Boundaries’ which took place just across the road from where they live. This week it’s school intakes and transport orientation to and from schools.
Those of us involved with NeST are grateful for all contributions of time, furniture etc., and financial, towards this super family.
“Khalil and Kholoud very graciously hosted an Open House last Sunday for the volunteers assisting them in settling into Calgary. They know that the people they have met so far represent a wider community of support and friendship and they wanted to express their gratitude to everyone, including the volunteers they have yet to meet.
A great deal has been accomplished over the past month to help the family feel welcome in Calgary. They, in turn, wanted to welcome us into their home for a celebration. There was much lively conversation despite the language challenges and we were presented with a vast array of wonderful, home-made Syrian food, along with their sincere thanks. We are equally grateful to be a part of their lives.”