WHEREVER THE SPIRIT LEADS US
Pentecost is about new life. And not simply life unfolding before us, as we witness in our gardens every springtime. But life unfolding within us, as we feel the rejuvenation of new directions and new possibilities.
The disciples had no idea what was happening when, like the rush of a mighty wind, the Holy Spirit came suddenly upon them, sending them out into the streets to witness to God’s power. It is from this point on that they were no longer called “disciples”, a passive term, but “apostles” or “those who are sent out”. While Jesus had sent them out many times during his earthly ministry, now they were being sent out—compelled—from the inside, from the Spirit of Jesus residing within them.
And so with us. Clara will be ordained to the priesthood this afternoon, “sent out” to preach the Good News, to preside at the Holy Table, and to care for God’s People. As much as she will always be part of us, she is being set apart for a particular mission and ministry, one that will take her wherever God calls her.
Our congregation is experiencing such a “sending out” these days too. We have left our beloved church while it is undergoing renovations. We are worshiping below in the church hall like a people on a journey. When we return, sometime in the early fall, we will be in a strange new land, with new directions and new opportunities—wherever the Spirit will lead us.
“ONWARD, CHRISTIAN PILGRIMS!”
After years of dreaming, it’s suddenly happening all around us: construction has begun! The tiles are coming up, the pews are coming down, and asbestos is coming out, and we are going out of the Sanctuary today, not to return until we enter into the New Jerusalem: our renewed worship space. But we humans are creatures of habit; we rely on the known, the routine to allow us to function in the world. A temporary move can be a joyful time of congregational renewal, as the structures of routine are removed, and the community draws closer to one another, on pilgrimage into the unknown. For other congregations, the stress of the unknown shortens their patience with one another, as they struggle to make do in marginal worship environments with uncomfortable chairs, bad acoustics and makeshift liturgy.
Doubtless, in our temporary home, we will struggle. The chairs are uncomfortable, the acoustics may well be bad, and there will be days when chaos seems to triumph over order. But it is we ourselves that will decide whether we find in the Lower Hall a joyful time of renewal or a grim time of shortened tempers with ourselves and one another. We can choose the better way, by being gentle with ourselves, giving each other the benefit of the doubt, finding humour in mistakes, welcoming the God of creative chaos. And if we are intentional in this choice, we will find that this is who we really are, and we will be blessed.
Cantaré Children’s Choir
This summer the Cantaré Children’s Choir will be taking up residence in our midst. Cantaré is a well-known and well-respected choral program led by Catherine Glasser-Climie. One hundred and fifty children, ages six through eighteen, gather each week to deepen their knowledge and appreciation of music, to learn the principles of diversity, respect and cooperation, and to rehearse for award-winning performances here in Alberta and across the country.
For the moment, Cantaré will house their administration in our tower office (aka, the former women’s choir room, Jeff’s office, and presently the counters’ room) and will begin bi-weekly rehearsals in our worship space. Once the renovation dust has settled, they will move to the upper studio in the Memorial Hall (where our church offices used to be, years ago) above the artists’ studios already well employed on the main floor. As we move into the fall season choral concerts will be offered in the church, bringing the public into our lively facilities and delighting them with God’s gift of song.
This is precisely the sort of relationship we had hoped to develop with the wider community through our renovated facilities. With fully accessible entrances and washrooms, theatre lighting, an improved sound system, and an evocatively sacred space, St. Stephen’s is taking its first steps toward becoming a cultural hub in the City.
To learn more about Cantaré visit their website: www.cantarechildrenschoir.homestead.com.
“BRANDING” ST. STEPHEN’S
This week, following our 10:30 service, we will talk about “selling” St. Stephen’s. No, we’re not going anywhere. But we are considering how best to present ourselves to the wider community and therefore, in that sense alone, “selling” ourselves.
Churches never had to do this in the past. They enjoyed a central and even privileged place within the social fabric. Everyone knew what churches did and how they contributed to the common good. That’s because just about everyone belonged to a church, or knew people who did. Now, when a grocery clerk has to ask what a clerical collar stands for, we know times have changed.
As the church recedes farther and farther from public notice, we must become intentional, entrepreneurial even, to win a place in the modern world. So we must be as clear as we can about who we are, what we are about, and what we have to offer the wider community. Then we must employ all the means available to us to present ourselves to that community.
In the marketing world this is called “branding”. A product becomes known by a certain image, a certain impression, which plants itself in the public’s mind. But that impression must be both accurate and compelling. If it is not accurate, it is false advertising. If it is not compelling, it simply fails.
So as odd as it may sound, yes, we are preparing to “sell” St. Stephen’s. Take part in the conversation, if you can. It’s your church.