Back in September five Anglican clergy stood with our rector here to bless a “Queer” marriage between a woman and a Transgendered person, the legal ceremony having been conducted by a provincial marriage commissioner. Such blessings are prohibited in this diocese, though permitted in almost half the Anglican dioceses across the country—and in all other Canadian urban centres. As a result, the six clergy were chastised by the diocesan chancellor and threatened with disciplinary action by the archbishop.
Subsequently, the archbishop has initiated a series of study sessions called “Generous Listening” as a way for the diocese to discern its way forward on this issue. The first session featured two biblical scholars who took opposing sides while modelling a respectful dialogue. At the second session people gathered in small groups to share stories and then were invited to stand in larger groupings on a continuum of opinion from “Never” to “Now”, with over half the assembly crowding around “Now”, representing a clear majority who are ready to see same-sex marriages performed in this diocese.
Meanwhile, the lay people of the diocese who are concerned with the snail’s pace of progress on this issue (some have called it “glacial”) have banded together to apply pressure so that the issue is resolved quickly. Our own church members are invited to attend a congregational conversation, hosted by our churchwardens, on Sunday, April 9, following the 10:30 service, to consider our own ongoing actions. All church members are invited to attend and participate.
This weekend the Synod of the Anglican Diocese of Calgary convenes to consider the election of a Suffragan Bishop, elected from among the Indigenous clergy of the Diocese, to provide spiritual leadership for Anglicans in the Treaty 7 territories of Southern Alberta.
For almost fifty years the Anglican Church of Canada has been working toward a new relationship with its Indigenous peoples. The 2001 report, “A New Agape”, articulated a vision that emphasized Indigenous self-governance, self-determination, and partnership within the church nationally. The election of a National Indigenous Bishop, Mark MacDonald, in 2007 was a major step toward this vision, as was the creation of the Diocese of Mishamikweesh in 2014, encompassing over twenty-five First Nations communities in Northern Ontario.
As a precedent to this week’s motion in Calgary, the Diocese of Saskatchewan elected its first Diocesan Indigenous Bishop in 2012 to provide spiritual oversight for Anglicans of the Cree First Nations, which comprise over 60% of the membership of that diocese.
Questions remain about the voting process—which asks that a bishop be chosen by the Treaty 7 peoples for the Treaty 7 peoples—as it remains unclear if this bishop would become the automatic successor to the diocesan bishop in the event of illness or death, a position not supported by a general election of Synod as a whole.
But clearly, we are moving in the direction of greater autonomy for the Indigenous congregations of our diocese, a move that carries the potential for both healing and empowerment.
There are many ministries happening right in our midst about which not all of us are aware. Guides and Pathfinders are among those, as is the weekly community chess league for young people and the life-long learning group for seniors. But also, three times a week, people gather at St. Stephen’s to find support for their recovery from addictions, or support for their life living with an addict.
Alcoholics Anonymous has a long history as “an international fellowship of men and women who have had a drinking problem.” It was started in the 1930’s by a doctor and a businessman, both alcoholics. They applied Christian principles to addictions and created Twelve Steps to assist alcoholics to live a sober life “in recovery” (AA never calls a sober alcoholic “recovered”, only “in recovery”).
The Twelve Steps proved so useful to alcoholics that they were applied to other addictions as well, such as drugs (Narcotics Anonymous), sex (Sex Addicts Anonymous), food (Overeaters Anonymous), and gambling (Gamblers Anonymous). The Steps also provide support for the partners and families of addicts, helping them cope with the unique stresses of living with an addict. This group is called Al Anon.
Numbers are hard to come by (AA, after all, relies on anonymity) but it is estimated that AA has helped well over 2 million alcoholics worldwide. Some of those in recovery, along with their family members, have found new life in groups that meet here at St. Stephen’s. We are proud to be their home.
|SW Serenity AA
Sundays, 8:30 pm
Open Group (show up)
Tuesdays, 8:00 pm
For family and friends of problem drinkers–
Find understanding & support
Explorer AA Group
Wednesdays, 8:30 pm
Open Group (show up)
AA Help Line & Email
Al-Anon Help Line
Our new Parish Council had its first meeting last Sunday and its members clearly have their work cut out for them!
Looming large on the horizon is a major renovation project for the Memorial Hall and office block. A team of church members will head the project, reporting to Parish Council. It will do a full needs assessment of both the engineering and the programmatic needs of our buildings and property, and prepare recommendations for the congregation’s consideration.
The issue of same-sex marriage continues to be unresolved in this diocese, meaning that parishes are currently prohibited from offering either marriage or even blessings to same-sex couples. The churchwardens are considering assembling a congregational meeting to study the range of options available to the parish in moving the issue forward toward a decision at the diocesan level.
Succession planning is necessary for all the staff changes occurring within the next few years, requiring strategic shifts away from reliance upon the rector and toward increasing self-sufficiency of the Council and Corporation.
All this requires a guiding vision and a steady hand at the wheel. So the Corporation is delighted to announce its appointment of Pat Cochrane as Chair of Parish Council for a two-year term. Among her many other qualifications and civic involvements, Pat was a trustee for the Calgary Board of Education for fourteen years, and chair of that body for over ten years. We welcome Pat to this new role and look forward to her leadership through this challenging time.
One of the complaints of modern living is how busy we all are. In fact, it is sometimes offered as a badge of courage for surviving the fray: “Hi, how are you?” “Really busy! And you?” “Same!”
Jesus preached that we have to turn around (“repent”) in order to see the kingdom of heaven in our midst. Lent is the church season for making the necessary course corrections that will set us back on the right track. People will sometimes make special sacrifices, like dieting, or take on specific obligations, like making special offerings of time or money, as a corrective spiritual measure.
Lent at St. Stephen’s begins with Ash Wednesday, on March 1, and an evening service that offers the Imposition of Ashes, an ancient sign of humility intended to remind us of our mortality. Recalling that we are all going to die someday might sound morbid, but it works to sharpen the urgency of re-setting our priorities.
Next Saturday, March 4, we are offering a Lenten workshop that will involve walking the labyrinth, another ancient—in fact, pre-Christian—practice that engages not just the heart and mind, but the body as well, in a “walking meditation”.
On Tuesday evenings throughout the Lenten season (from March 7 to April 4) we will be studying the practice of mindfulness, the spiritual discipline of “paying attention”. Various meditation techniques will be explored to stop the racing of our minds and bring our attention back to the present moment.
Welcome to Lent!
Jesus told us to repent (“turn around”) and recognize the Kingdom of heaven in our midst. His parables and his actions all drew people’s attention to this heavenly realm that is not a “pie in the sky when you die by and by and by”, but a present-day reality here and now. To be a follower of Jesus means to live from this reality, and from all the healing and hope it promises.
But training ourselves to recognize the Kingdom of heaven in our midst is a major adjustment. What we see—and all too readily—are reasons for worry and despair: political changes that alarm us; economic uncertainties that loom large; personal challenges that overwhelm us. How do we “repent”, as Jesus taught, “turning around” to see signs of hope?
Most of the religious traditions identify an openness of mind and spirit that is sometimes called “mindfulness”. It is the art—cultivated through practice—of simply paying attention. We learn this in meditation as we sit in silence or quietly walk the circular path of the labyrinth. We practice it during the day as we grow conscious of our breathing and catch those moments when we need simply to exhale, long and slow.
Lent this year at St. Stephen’s will be all about mindfulness. Our Sunday worship will feature small stretches of silence, reminding us to slow down, breathe, and be present. Our Lenten study will consider a number of books on this very theme. Come, repent, and see.
Parish Council has been looking back at its accomplishments over the past year and anticipating the challenges and opportunities of the coming year. Looking back, Parish Council celebrated the collegial and cooperative way it conducted its business, marvelled at the complexity of church decision-making, and lamented that more progress was not made on a number of key issues.
Going forward, Parish Council identified three major areas that will require its attention:
1.As the boiler in the Memorial Hall approaches its centenary, plans need to be made not only for its replacement, but for a retro-fit of the entire building. This will require a new task force to update the 2003 engineering report, study the repurposing of the space (both in the hall and in the church offices), run a feasibility study, draw up plans, and begin the fund-raising for such a renovation.
2. With the Rector’s retirement approaching within two years, a succession plan must be carried out to ensure a smooth transition. Adding a staff position this year, and guaranteeing its long- term funding, will launch the first step of that plan, i.e. to create a stable ongoing pastoral presence to carry us through.
3. It is time to re-establish the local outreach of the parish, for instance, building on the success of our community gardens to create a community kitchen. This could be reflected in the renovations to the Memorial Hall but, in the meantime, could begin in our present kitchen and lower hall.
So … to work!
The “Generous Listening” process has begun, studying the unresolved issue of same-sex marriage in the Diocese of Calgary. Pressed to explain the purpose of the process, our archbishop, Greg Kerr-Wilson, told our churchwardens: “The process of discernment is intended to be a time of listening and learning, both to the resource people who will be presenting and to one another.”
Our first resource people, who presented last weekend, were the Right Reverend Stephen Andrews, former bishop of Algoma and Principle of Wycliffe College, U of T, and Sylvia Keesmaat, adjunct professor at Trinity College, U of T. Together, in respectful debate, they tackled the most problematic scriptural references to homosexuality.
Bishop Andrews interprets scripture as describing an ordered universe, discounting same-sex relationships as inherently inconsistent with that order. Professor Keesmaat takes the view that scripture remains ambiguous about consensual adult relationships, noting that the early church admitted Gentiles, for which there was no biblical precedent, thereby opening the way for a modern-day consideration of same-sex marriage. She added that, like the early church, we would do well to hear the actual stories of the people we are “studying”.
How this conversation will move us forward toward decision-making in this diocese is unclear. But the archbishop reminded the assembly of clergy and lay people that the Anglican Church of Canada is a “diocesan church”, meaning that a decision of this sort, regardless of decisions made at the national level, falls to each diocese and, ultimately, to the bishop of each diocese.
Some Christians are fond of saying that children and youth are the church of tomorrow. The corollary is that, if we want the church to survive, we must inculcate our beliefs and values in the lives of the young. Respectfully, we disagree. Children and youth may or may not be the church of tomorrow; but they most surely are the church of today. Treating them as present-day members, with their own gifts to share and their own challenges to bear, is the only way they will ever become the church of tomorrow.
We are pleased to announce that, beginning January 29, we will be sharing our faith with our younger members in a monthly Sunday morning youth class. On the last Sunday of each month, from now through April, our Rector will meet with our young people to explore the basics of the Christian tradition, from how the Bible was written to what Christians have believed, then and now, to what modern faith looks like—for them! Information will be imparted but, more important, the actual lived experience of our young people will be honoured.
Some may choose to go on to be confirmed, but this is not a Confirmation class per se. It gathers young people who are ready to think for themselves while exploring their faith. For those who do seek to be confirmed a separate class will be offered in May. For now, though, we get to learn from them, just as they will learn from us.
As many of you know, several years ago our church raised funds for the Nav Paryas Children’s Home in Panchkula, Haryana, India. Permod and Pearl Kaushal, good friends of Dave and Barb Driftmier, established and ran the orphanage with the help of many Indian and Canadian volunteers. Dave and Barb had the opportunity to spend a month at Nav Paryas in 2011 and, upon their return, drew our attention to the good work being done there through a dinner and a slide presentation as well as through their heart-felt enthusiasm for the project.
Sadly, Permod passed away in August and his family members have recently decided that they cannot continue to operate the orphanage without him. The Home will remain open until the end of this school year, at which time it is hoped the children will move as a group together to a new home. They are grateful for the support we were able to give them.
The girls at Nav Paryas have had a happy life with good education, wholesome food, health care, a comfortable place to live and, most importantly, a warm, loving home. Nav Paryas has saved lives and given its children a brighter future. The funds we donated made a real difference to these children, including the completion of a new playground. The children, who are mostly Hindu, learned that Christians half a world away could be known by their love and generosity. It has been a beautiful partnership, helping to build a better world.