Every year during the season of Lent we offer programs designed to assist people in their spiritual journey. In the past we have read books, heard speakers, explored different forms of prayer, written creeds … and enriched our Lenten observance with such engaging activities. This year we offer “Three Days in Lent”—three Saturday workshops that will help us explore our faith journey:
NAMING OUR STORY, on February 24, will provide guidance for recognizing the ways God has moved in our lives, asking three key questions: What is our way? What is our work? What is our wound? Led by Brian, Charmaine and Cathy, participants will gain a new appreciation that God has been there all along!
TELLING OUR STORY, on March 10, will engage us in the art of storytelling. Led by master storyteller Joanne Epply-Schmitt, an Episcopalian priest from Boston, and a popular summer presenter at the Sorrento Conference Centre, we will learn how to put our stories into words, and into action, beginning with the biblical stories that move us.
WALKING OUR STORY, on March 24, will give encouragement to us as our journeys continue into a promising, but unknown, future. Led by Brian, Charmaine and Cathy, we will ask how we can remain open to God’s leading and so live the lives we are called to live.
Please consult the bulletin and our social media for details, and sign up early either by phone or in the narthex. Lent—a time to attend to the journey.
Lent. Forty days of prayer, penitence, fasting, and reflection that prepare us for the celebration of Easter . It draws our attention to the frailty of the human condition (“Remember you dust,” the priest says on Ash Wednesday, while imposing ashes in the form of a cross on the penitent’s forehead, “and to dust you shall return”), and invites us to examine our lives for impediments to God’s grace and love. Lent reminds us that, life being short, we need constantly to return to God and remember who-and whose-we are.
Historically, Lent has been a time to feel bad about ourselves-to deflate the ego and mortify the flesh-so that we might rediscover God’s mercy. But in modern times we are more concerned about fulfilling our potential than cutting through our hubris. So we speak of “taking things on” for Lent, not just giving things up. We find worthy causes for the expenditure of our time, talent, and treasure. We read edifying books, or attend study groups. We think about our lives, and where we’re going, and make corrective course changes.
Lent is reflected in our Sunday worship by a solemn tone, the sounding of the prayer bowl, by silence, and by an ancient rite called the Reconciliation of a Penitent, that is, confession and absolution. The scriptural themes revolve around Jesus’ call to a life of humility, discipline, and generosity. It is a reflective time that prepares us to receive God’s love and become who we are.
We are fortunate at St. Stephen’s to have a number of clergy who call our congregation home and, among those, several who act as “honorary clergy”, providing worship relief and other assistance with our church programs. All are either retired, or employed elsewhere, but they enrich our parish life with their presence.
Don Axford is retired and now approaching the 40th Anniversary of his Ordination to the Priesthood! Philip Behman remains active as part of the Spiritual Care team at the Alberta Children’s Hospital. Barry Foster is the Executive Archdeacon of the Diocese of Calgary and spends most Sundays on the road visiting Anglican congregations all across Southern Alberta, from Rimby to Pincher Creek. Cathy Fulton is retired, but continues to work as the Archivist and Registrar for the Synod. Both Barry and Cathy are honorary clergy here.
And now to this august group we are pleased to welcome Dean Houghton. Dean retired recently from thirty years of parish ministry, crossing denominational and interfaith boundaries along the way, and ending up here in Calgary with eleven years at St. George’s and several years since then as interim priest at both Church of the Good Shepherd and St. Barnabas.
With a background in outdoor adventure leadership, Dean shares with his wife Anne a love of fly-fishing, the culinary arts, and music. He also likes good liturgy, church music, the “ever-unfolding story of God here among us,” and, fortunately for us, the “good folk of St. Stephen’s”. We are well blessed indeed!
Lent isn’t just about giving something up. It’s about taking something on. So every year we offer opportunities for people to broaden their spiritual journey, deepen their faith, and increase their understanding. This year’s offering will comprise three Saturday workshops: “Three Days in Lent”. The focus will be on naming, telling, and walking our personal stories.
It begins on Saturday, February 24, with “Naming My Story”, a contemplative meditation on three questions: What is my wound? What is my work? What is my Way? These questions will guide our consideration of the ways in which life has set us on a path that is as unique as it is life-giving.
On Saturday, March 10, Joanne Ettsy-Schmitt will lead us in a workshop on how to tell our stories, both the stories of our faith tradition and the stories of our own lives. Joanne is an Episcopal priest from Boston and a favourite workshop leader at the summer sessions of the Sorrento Retreat and Conference Centre. She will also be giving a public lecture on the same topic on Friday, March 9, preaching at our worship services on Sunday, March 11, and leading a workshop for our readers following those services.
Then, on March 24, we will take our story “on the road”, as it were, by walking the labyrinth, carrying our burdens to the centre, leaving them there, and emerging to take up the next steps of our sacred journey. So this year, take up your cross, leave the cannoli.