This Week at St. Stephen’s: “Gardeners” [June 17th, 2018]

One definition of a vocation is: “where my passion meets the world’s need”. Well! Are there any passionate gardeners out there looking for a need? Are you looking for a great summer project that will engage your skills and make you feel good? Have we got an opportunity for you!

For years we at St. Stephen’s have been exploring ways to make our buildings more welcoming, accessible, and useful for the wider community. But our grounds! They are the face we show to the world. But what a neglected and forlorn face they are—an eyesore even! The grass is dry and patchy, the west garden derelict and overgrown, and there is not one inviting spot that bids pedestrians to come rest awhile. Our neighbours notice this. Last year one even offered to come over and water our lawn for us!

True, the Memorial Garden has now been professionally spruced up, with plants and embellishments soon to be added, and a stone marker, lit by night, will appear at the corner of our property, bearing the inscription, “THE CHURCH OF SAINT STEPHEN: Open Hearts. Open Minds.” But these improvements will only highlight the lack of care shown for the rest of our grounds.

So … is gardening your gift? Have you recently moved from a house to a condo or to an apartment and find yourself missing the great outdoors? Are you hankering for a chance to get your hands dirty? If you have the passion, we have the need!

This Week at St. Stephen’s: “Pride” [June 10th, 2018]

We are in the process of registering for this year’s Pride Parade. Here in Calgary the annual event takes place on the Sunday of the Labour Day weekend—so this year, on September 2nd. We encourage our church members to march in the parade, if they are able to do so, or to offer support from the sidelines. Worship will end early that day to encourage people to do either.

St. Stephen’s has long stood for the full welcome and inclusion of people from across the spectrum of sexual orientation, believing that human diversity is a manifestation of God’s extravagant creativity, and that every creature is loved and cherished by its creator. This is reflected in our Mission Statement—“welcoming people of all ages, races, backgrounds, and sexual orientations”—and also in our current branding motto: “At St. Stephen’s you can BE REAL, you can BELONG, and you can BELIEVE IT.”

As we await authorization from the Pride Parade committee, the only question is: what do we put on our banner? Last year we marched under the banner that now appears above our main doors, which says, “Working toward marriage equality for everyone.” But that banner was large, unwieldy, and, while correct at the time, may now be out-dated. Are we still “working toward” marriage equality, or are we simply assuming it?

Parish Council will be discussing this at its June 24 meeting. So what are your thoughts? What should be the words … to accompany our brightly coloured rainbow?

This Week at St. Stephen’s: “Summer Month Budget Crunch” [June 3rd, 2018]

As we make our summer plans, with thoughts of leisure and get-away vacations, it is vitally important that we don’t forget St. Stephen’s, even as we prepare to leave town. Our budget relies on a steady cash flow through the year to sustain our programs and ministries, and the summer months always present us with a challenge.

But there are more serious reasons not to neglect our financial obligations at this time of year. At the moment we rely on the diocese to afford our current staffing, which includes two full-time clergy. To break this reliance, and function more independently, we need to increase our income by approximately $2000 a month.

Needless to say, our present level of staffing is essential to ensure a smooth transition when our rector retires in 2019. Furthermore, we wish to function as independently as possible in relation to the diocese. So if you are able, not only to maintain your present support through the summer, but also to augment that, this would be enormously helpful.

The best solution to our church’s summer cash flow is for our members to sign up for pre-authorized payments, taken monthly, directly from your bank account. Please consider this option if you haven’t already.

But there’s also this. Before a road trip you stop to fill up your car. You don’t drive first and catch up later. Same with St. Stephen’s: don’t catch us up when you return; fill us up before you go. And have a great trip!

This Week at St. Stephen’s: “Event Rentals” [May 27th, 2018]

Several years ago we at St. Stephen’s decided to regard our ageing buildings, not as a liability, but rather as a gift. That inspired us to raise almost $1.5 million to renovate our worship space and make our facilities more welcoming and accessible. It inspires us now to seek partners with whom we can develop the rest of our buildings—that is, as a gift, and not only for our use, but for that of the entire community. In fact, our buildings have become one of the chief ways we reach out to that community.

Currently our buildings host many community groups, from Guides to AA recovery groups, from community and condo associations to before and after school programs. Our ongoing renters include artists and not-for-profits, and our facilities are used for luncheons, workshops, receptions and meetings. The sanctuary is rented out for concerts, cultural events and workshops.

These rentals have become important ways for St. Stephen’s to become known in the wider community, and also for us to generate funds to support our parish life and programs. But we need your help to spread the word. So when one of the many concerts or programs offered at St. Stephen’s catches your interest, please plan to attend, and of course tell your friends and neighbours. And if a group or association you know of is looking for a venue for an event or meeting, please tell them about us. Gifts are meant to be shared. So help us, won’t you?

This Week at St. Stephen’s: “Live … at YOUR place!” [May 20th, 2018]

Last week we had a successful house concert at St. Stephen’s—“Live at Steve’s Place”—featuring a barista, homemade desserts, and local musicians. We raised over $1200 for the Al Jbawi family, and had a lot of fun along the way. Now people are asking, “When’s the next one?”

So here’s a thought. Why don’t we have the next one at your place? That’s right, a house concert—with you as the hosts! Lynda Greuel, our event planner, has put together a detailed list of ideas and considerations, including the space you will need for the performers, how to set ticket prices, provisions for food and drink, and fundraising ideas. This is available in the narthex or here.

But think about it: your house, filled with friends, neighbours and family members, reclining around your back yard, or seated, crammed together, up the stairwell, all together to support a good cause, enjoying live music up close and personal, with you as the impresarios making it all happen.

And there’s no shortage of talent in this town, all itching for a place to perform where people are actually listening, and where they can try out new songs, or flog their most recent CD. If the event is a fundraiser you might get the artist to play for free, but provide them a place to sell their wares.

The church, in its infancy, met in people’s homes—life-changing events in small spaces. Maybe it’s time to return to our roots.

This Week at St. Stephen’s: “PWRDF” [May 13th, 2018]

The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF or, simply, the Primate’s Fund) is not an organization committed to the relief and development of apes. It is, rather, our link to the developing world … and our blue outreach envelope for the month of May. It is named after the top prelate in our national church, our Primate (pronounced prī-mĕt).

The Primate’s World Relief Fund was started in 1959 following the 1958 Spring Hill mine disaster in Nova Scotia that took the lives of 75 miners. Canadians scrambled to collect and distribute funds for the families, and the Anglican Church recognized the need for an ongoing organization that could respond quickly and effectively when disaster struck.

It later added “and Development” to its title as the Fund recognized how often disaster is worsened when local communities are underdeveloped and, further, that development happens best when those communities name their needs and develop their own long-term solutions.

The Primate’s Fund distributed almost $10 million in aid in 2017, over half of that to needs here in Canada. Funds are raised entirely from individual and institutional donors, and not from the annual apportionment we pay the diocese—it is our personal donations that support this good work.

Heather Dumka is our PWRDF representative at St. Stephen’s. This year she is portraying the effectiveness of our support by way of goats—how many goats would a donation buy for a village in a developing country? Visit the site: www.PWRDF.org. It’s not monkey business.

This Week: When Clergy Leave

In his Annual Report, our priest, Brian Pearson, announced his intention to retire on March 1, 2019. We are planning opportunities to say goodbye closer to the time; but meanwhile, people are asking how the parish prepares for the appointment of a new priest after Brian has gone.

The rules (called “canons”) governing the Anglican Diocese of Calgary describe the process this way: If the office of Incumbent becomes vacant, the Bishop shall consult with the Parish Council prior to appointing and licensing a new Incumbent. (Canon 8.3)

In practice, this means that, with the concurrence of Parish Council, the Churchwardens appoint a search committee, traditionally called a Parochial Committee, its membership representing a cross section of active church members. The Committee’s first task is to create a Parish Profile. This important document conveys the history and character of the parish, its sense of call in terms of ministry and mission, and the specific leadership qualities being sought in a new priest.

The Diocese then advertises the vacancy—locally, nationally, or even internationally—and the Parish Profile is made available to any clergy who express an interest in applying. Applications are made through the Bishop’s office, which then passes along the names of suitable candidates for the Parochial Committee to interview. If, in the view of the Committee, none of the candidates is suitable, a new list can be requested. When the Committee has found a suitable match, it asks the Bishop to appoint that person as the new Incumbent.

When a parish priest retires, especially if the incumbency has been a long one, church members are understandably anxious about what happens next. Last week we described the process whereby a new Incumbent is selected and appointed. This week we look at the timeline of that process.

Our present Incumbent, Brian Pearson, will retire on March 1, 2019. Over the next few months, with the concurrence of our Parish Council, our Churchwardens will appoint a search committee, called a Parochial Committee, to assist with the process. Their first task, going into the fall, will be to create a document called a Parish Profile that describes the congregation’s history and character. This will be made available to any clergy interested in applying.

After Brian has left, the vacancy will be advertised through the Bishop’s office, and applications received. In the interim the Bishop will make provision for clergy leadership and support. Usually this means that an interim priest is appointed by the Bishop to ensure continuity of worship, pastoral care, and administrative support. Every effort is made to honour the customs and practices of the parish, and not to introduce changes. We will be fortunate to have our deacon, Charmaine Evans, on hand to provide ongoing pastoral care and coordination of our programs.

The interim period between Brian’s departure and the appointment of a new Incumbent could reasonably  be expected to last six to nine months, that is, until September or December, 2019—long enough to prepare for our next chapter.

 

“This Week: “Live, at Steve’s Place” [April 15th, 2018]”

Music is the great liberator. It cuts across all boundaries—social, economic, race, age—as people gather to celebrate the common of bond of being, simply, music lovers … which is to say, humans!

But the rising cost of ticket prices for live shows, the content monopoly of commercial radio stations, and the rarefication of successful musical personalities—all these conspire to place music at a distance from where it belongs, that is, with the people!

Thankfully, in the modern age, the internet delivers to our ears new music from an almost infinite variety of sources, and house concerts bring musicians into our living rooms … literally.

On Friday, May 11, St. Stephen’s is offering our own house concert, “Live, at Steve’s Place”, featuring local musicians, home-baked desserts, coffee and tea creations, and a great opportunity to gather with friends.

Ticket sales will support the work of NeST, our refugee resettlement committee, and specifically, the Al Jbawi family, as we come to the end of the year of their sponsorship.

Among the performers will be our rector, Brian Pearson, who is launching his new album, “Let the Dogs Run Free”, and Laurie Johnston, a local singer.

Tickets will go on sale next week at church, on our web site, and through our Facebook page. So watch for details and plan to hang with the homies, live, at Steve’s. The people’s music: Keeping it real … and bringing it home.

This Week: “Open Doors II”

The “Open Doors II” Task Force is busy preparing its first full report to the congregation and looking forward to sharing its work and its early recommendations.

Continuing the work of “Open Doors”, which coordinated our renovations of 2013, the Task Force was struck last year by the Corporation to explore the possibilities for redeveloping our Memorial Hall, Rectory, Centre Block and surrounding properties. This work is necessary because all three ageing buildings are in dire need of attention. But rather than simply do expensive repairs, it is good stewardship to ask if these buildings, plus our church grounds, can be put to better use than they are presently.

Broadly, we are asking how our buildings and grounds can be redeveloped to fund the ministry and mission of our church, meaning, both the programs we run for our own members and the outreach we carry out in the community. More specifically, might there be partners from the wider community who would be able to help us develop our buildings and property toward this end?

The Task Force has been meeting since the fall, consulting with many current and potential stakeholders, and it is now eager to share its initial findings with you, the congregation. On Sunday, April 29, at 12 noon, please join us for an information session in the church. A full written report will be available, and a presentation will be made about progress thus far. Please bring your interest, your concerns, and your questions. The future beckons!

This Week: “Every Story Is Sacred” [March 25th, 2018]

“Every story is sacred.” That is what our outdoor church sign has announced throughout the Lenten season. It references what has been going on indoors these past six weeks, with our program “Three Days in Lent”—an exploration of our personal journeys as “stories” that can be discovered, owned, and told.

On February 24th, we learned to identify our personal stories by asking three questions: What is my way? What is my work? What is my wound? On March 10th Joanne Epply-Schmidt helped us to frame our stories such that we can share them. This weekend we accept our stories by walking the labyrinth, where we offer the story of our life back to the community as a gift.

Each story is unique, with its own valleys and mountaintops. It is born of the interaction between who we are, and what has happened to us. Each challenge we have faced, each decision we have made, each new branch in our unfolding journey, has shown us the essence of our character, of who we really are. We have acted sometimes nobly, sometimes shamefully, but a life review reveals a hidden process whereby we were becoming, at each step of the way, the person God created us to be.

So the message on our outdoor sign has been more than a promotional hook for this year’s Lenten program. It has been a reminder to take seriously the unique events that comprise the story of our lives. They tell us who we are.