When Calgary’s Inn From the Cold Society closed the doors of all its community inns, including our own, we felt something was being taken from us: a great opportunity to serve and a source of great blessing both for our guests and for ourselves. We will gather to celebrate that ministry, which started here at St. Stephen’s, and also to give thanks to God for such a rare and rich experience. But then we will move on to seek a new way of applying our considerable talents and energy to those who need it most in our city.
So this Sunday, June 19, at 5 pm we will gather in the Memorial Hall for a Gala Potluck meal, reuniting volunteers and coordinators from almost twenty years of service. At 7 we will move up into the church for a service of thanksgiving, singing songs of hope and taking inspiration once again from Bob Purdy as he reviews this great chapter in our history.
Then on two Sundays this summer—July 24 and August 21—we will participate in intentional listening events to identify needs in the city and ways of working together to meet those needs. This is part of a city-wide conversation hosted by the Metro Alliance for the Common Good (MACG) as churches, not-for-profit organizations, labour unions and interested citizens work together to build a better world. Sign-up sheets are found in the narthex, introducing us to MACG and inviting our participation … if we love our city.
LOVE IS A TEACHER
This past week St. Stephen’s took a major step toward helping Syrian newcomers settle into their new home. Dave Driftmier, of our parish, and Pat Glenn, a member of the cathedral, realized that language skills would be crucial to a family’s successful integration into their new life in Canada. Yet the ESL waiting lists for recent immigrants are interminable, leaving newcomers to languish, disabled, during their first months here. So the two former teachers envisaged a free ESL course offered here at St. Stephen’s to any who need it.
Aided by George Odeh, a former Jordanian who now makes Calgary—and St. Stephen’s—his home, they have begun a bi-weekly ESL class supported by a team of over twenty volunteers drawn from here, the cathedral, and St. Paul’s. Their first classes involved a mother and her two preschool children as they sang songs, learned to read their names in English, and formed a rudimentary appreciation of their new language. More will come as George moves among the Arabic community, reassuring newcomers of both the safety and the good intentions of this program.
By the time our own Syrian family arrives, later in the summer, we will have an experienced team helping them to settle in and, most important, to learn English. The benefit to the family is clear. But to the big-hearted former teachers who started this program, they get to use their considerable skill and experience to help others, confessing, as Dave put it, “It’s hard to stop teaching!”
It is sometimes said of our youth that they are the church of tomorrow. The saying implies that they are our insurance policy that the church will still be here a generation from now. But whatever our young people may be in the future, they are also the church of today—baptized, engaged, participating, inspiring the rest of us (as they did on Pentecost Sunday) by their energy and their zeal.
At St. Stephen’s we currently have a new “crop” of pre-teens soon to enter the dead zone of church attendance. Inevitably many will drift away as other interests compete for their time and attention. We have an opportunity before that happens to fill up their backpacks with resources they will need along the way—resources designed to equip them for an adult faith.
On Sunday evening, June 12, Charmaine Evans, currently the family and youth minister at Christ Church, Elbow Park, will meet with our young people—those who will be 12 years old or older in the coming year—and with their parents to talk about a youth program for 2016/17. If the interest is sufficient we will hire Charmaine to run a pre-Confirmation youth program beginning in September.
Unquestionably, parents are the most effective teachers of faith for their own children, young people learning by example what a life of faith looks like. But the church can support that learning with programs designed to engage our youth directly. We are excited by this possibility for St. Stephen’s.