For over twenty years, through Inn From the Cold, robust teams of volunteers in churches, synagogues and mosques all across the city provided hospitality and safety to families who otherwise would have been on the street. Here at St. Stephen’s, those teams—the set-up crew, the supper servers and evening crew, the overnight coordinators, the breakfast and strike crews—comprised almost a hundred workers.
For many of those volunteers, the Inn was their only connection with St. Stephen’s, and they were grateful for the opportunity we gave them to serve. We were proud of our work with the Inn and even more proud that it was born right here in our own church hall.
A year and a half ago, when the Inn From the Cold Society put an end to its “satellite inns”, like ours at St. Stephen’s, many volunteers felt abandoned, and not a few felt angry. But the Inn had outgrown its humble beginnings and was able to consolidate its support for homeless families by centralizing their housing in a downtown location, close to social services the families needed, and providing day-to-day stability for families in transition.
The Society has continued to expand its services to homeless families, including several multi-family dwellings capable of housing larger families. But they have not forgotten their roots and now are reaching out to those many volunteers who created the “inns” that gave the Society its name, and its start. We appreciate those efforts and receive them with gratitude: Welcome home!
Life continues to be busy for this newcomer family on many fronts, especially now that everyone has started school full time. Managing four kids in four different schools in addition to the parents’ own full time ELL education has been a challenge but one they have risen to with their usual determined good spirits. In-home ELL support continues twice a week with NeST volunteers, and volunteers continue to support with health and dental appointments, financial mentoring, transportation, and assorted ongoing resettlement tasks.
The family has been working hard on their language studies, but taking time for fun too. Teenager Ayman celebrated his first Canadian birthday in September with a high-energy afternoon at a trampoline park, along with his family and friends from his neighbourhood and NeST. Ayman also, by the way, successfully harvested a small tomato crop before the frost, from plants he tended all summer. NeST volunteers, please stay tuned to Lotsa Helping Hands for upcoming NeST-sponsored social events, or contact Social Team Lead Sarah (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you would like to arrange something or join the team.
And finally, the family has requested additional seating for their living room, correctly noting that once the six of them sit on their current couch and loveseat there isn’t much room left for guests! If you have or know of a sofa or loveseat in very good shape to donate please contact the Household Goods Team (John at email@example.com or Catherine at firstname.lastname@example.org) to see if it will be suitable for their space. On behalf of Al Jbawis, thank you for your ongoing support!
Charmaine Evans has begun her work with us as a deacon and program coordinator. She will provide support for three areas of our parish life: worship, programs and pastoral care.
Our programs at St. Stephen’s include everything from the nursery to the visiting of seniors. But as a priority, Charmaine will begin focussing on programs for our children. This means stabilizing the staffing of our nursery to ensure that every Sunday we have experienced caregivers for our youngest church members. As well, Charmaine will explore the best locations for the nursery and assess its supplies and supports.
A larger challenge will be our Excellent Adventure Sunday School program. Kathleen Howes has created this engaging and effective cornerstone for the Christian formation of our young people. As she prepares to step down at the end of the calendar year it will fall to Charmaine to build on the foundations Kathleen has laid and create a Sunday morning program for the New Year. Charmaine will also oversee this year’s Christmas pageant.
In the New Year Charmaine will also be developing a program for our teens. But meanwhile, the rector will re-gather the group following their preparation for Confirmation last spring. It was a lively group and we want to build on the successes of that program heading into the future.
Charmaine will eventually be offering support for the women’s Soup Group, our team of pastoral visitors, and our local outreach, as well as initiating programs of her own. She’s just getting started.
Dramas set in England often depict the church as a beautiful old building with a congregation of upright (if not upt ight) parishioners sitting placidly in pews, and a charming, if not also doddering, vicar who visits his flock over cups of tea when not pottering in the garden at the rectory. A quaint picture, and nostalgic to some, but hardly a portrait of a robust faith community.
A modern picture, there as here, would explode that view to include a daily beehive of activity, worship that is anything but staid, and clergy who are more like community organizers than pastoral visitors. In fact, the modern church, when it is highly functional, looks more like a community centre than a sanctuary—more an advance into the world than a retreat from it.
We see this in all the busy activity that starts up this time of year. For church members we offer worship on Sundays, meditation on Tuesdays, Bible study on Thursdays, men’s fellowship monthly on Saturdays, women’s fellowship at the call of the soup-maker, and more than a dozen organizations from choir and chancel guild to parish council and the refugee committee, from the Excellent Adventure to the ROMEO’s (Retired Old Men Eating Out).
For the wider community we host Brownies and Guides, three recovery groups, several continuing education adult groups, young people’s activities (like the chess club), the community garden, and an exciting array of performing arts groups using our space for concerts and special events. Quaint it ain’t!
Here is a brief round-up of news for the week.
Diocesan Council (comprising clergy and lay people from across the Diocese) met last week to hear a report that from the resource person who facilitated the Generous Listening process. Her conclusion: the diocese is ready to consider adopting a practice called “local option,” that is, allowing each parish to decide for itself whether or not to offer same-sex blessings. Apparently there was some strong support for this direction, but the bishop once again has said, No. So it’s on to the meeting of Synod on October 14, where a motion will be presented to the same effect.
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The refurbishing of our Memorial Garden has finally been given the go-ahead from the Rector and Wardens. Consideration had been given to a fulsome plan that included redeveloping the entire northeast corner of our property to include a labyrinth. Initial estimates of the project were in line with our cash in hand, plus the possibility of a grant from the Anglican Foundation. But the final estimate came in at over three times the original amount; so all extraneous plans are being shelved. Work on the Garden itself will begin shortly.
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A small group of “Inquirers” are preparing to meet in October, some to pursue Baptism or Reception, others simply to explore their questions about the Christian faith, the Church, and their own spiritual beliefs and practices. Speak to the rector if you would like to be included.