“BECOMING PUBLIC SERVANTS”
There was a time, not so very long ago, when church and politics mingled as easily as a glass of port and a good cigar. The Anglican Church in particular was so embedded in Canada’s political life that it was sometimes referred to as the “Conservative Party at prayer”! Not so much anymore.
There are those who grow nostalgic for those days of insider power and privilege. But the church in the modern age has been a given a new opportunity to define itself in the world. Now it must create its own usefulness. It must prove its worth and its place in the world rather than taking anything for granted.
At St. Stephen’s we continue to explore our usefulness as disciples of Christ and servants of God’s world. Over fifteen years ago Inn From the Cold started here, and that helped us enormously in finding a new role for ourselves: that of public servants. Now we are exploring relationships with the arts, offering our buildings as administration, studio, rehearsal, and performance space.
Some say these are hard times for the church; and declining numbers across the country would bear this out. But these are also exciting times, if we can but grasp the spirit of the age and discover new ways to love God and love our neighbour. Those of us who gather regularly here for worship and for ministry feel the great privilege of walking by faith and learning new ways to be ‘Church’ in the modern world.
TO SIP OR TO DIP, THAT IS THE QUESTION
As we used to pray in the service of Morning Prayer, “We have erred and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep, we have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts, we have offended against thy holy laws …” It may not be as bleak as all that, but we do need to address a matter that in recent years has led us astray: the practise of dipping (known as “intinction”).
With the outbreak of devastating diseases such as AIDS and SARS, it is understandable that Anglicans have raised questions about the potential health risks of sharing a common cup. Many have chosen, as an alternative, to receive the bread, hold on to it, and then dip it into the chalice when it is offered. This practise is now actively discouraged by the Anglican Church of Canada. And for good reason.
Nasty viruses like AIDS , for all their destructiveness, are relatively weak and are destroyed by exposure to air, soap and virtually any disinfectant (including alcohol). There is in fact a greater risk of infection, especially from common viruses like influenza, through the hands than through the lips. And intinction invariably means dipping not just the bread into the wine, but also the fingers!
For this reason, if individuals feel uncomfortable with the common cup, the better alternative is to receive only the bread and not the wine, tradition reassuring us that the presence of Christ is equally in one element as in the other.
REJUVENATING OUR TIRED BODIES AND SOULS
For those of us who worked through Holy Week, right up to the words of dismissal at the Easter morning service, we might have thought a rest would be in order. But that’s the thing about new life: it is irrepressible!
So this week we are baptizing no fewer than seven children at our two morning services, accompanied at the 10:30 service by the Soul Food Band. This is a happy development from the many young families who have been finding their way to St. Stephen’s in recent years. And it is as hopeful a sign as the robins singing from the treetops.
Two weeks from now we will host the King’s Own Calgary Regiment, and along with them the Honorable Alison Redford, Premier of the Province of Alberta, as we receive and dedicate a plaque in memory of Nathan Hornburg who was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2007. It is an honour to have this association with the KOCR, and a privilege to be receiving this plaque, which will be affixed to a wall of our chapel, the official chapel of the Regiment.
Meanwhile we can expect to see construction equipment starting to arrive onsite as we prepare for the renovations planned for our church buildings: a ramp, an elevator, new accessible washrooms, revamped worship space to double as performance space, plus technical upgrades throughout.
So there is no shortage of new life around here! All of which has the effect of rejuvenating our tired bodies and souls.