This Week: “Youth: Church of Today” [Jan 22nd 2017]

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.

This Week: January 15th 2017

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.

This Week: January 8th 2017

Canada: Worthy of our Prayers

This year Canada celebrates its 150th Birthday! Some of us remember the national celebration that accompanied our centenary in 1967—a golden moment in our history! Those memories live on through song (Bobby Gimby’s “Ca-na-da” has become an earworm that some of us will never shake) and through countless cherished photo albums (with real fading photographs!) of cross-country trips and, of course, Expo ’67.

The world seems a darker, less hopeful, place these days. Terrorism knows no borders, warfare abounds, and the instability of once-friendly nations erodes our confidence of our place in the world. An international exposition like the one we hosted on the Island of Montreal would now seem more like an invitation for trouble than a welcome mat rolled out for the world.

So it may be especially important that we keep Canada in our thoughts and prayers throughout the coming year. St. Paul encouraged this in the churches he founded. To Timothy, his apprentice in ministry, he wrote, “I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving be offered on behalf of all people—for kings and all those in authority, so that we may lead tranquil and quiet lives in all godliness and dignity. This is good and pleasing in the sight of God our Saviour …”

Despite all that frustrates us, and perhaps even angers us, about our nation, its leaders, and its competing territorial and ideological interests, let us pray for Canada this year—and pray with thanksgiving. Would you rather be anywhere else?

This Week: December 18th 2016

Year-end Reality Check

The stewardship program has wound up, pledges are in, and we’ve started our budgeting for 2017. But, “Houston … we have a problem!”

At our parish visioning conversations in October we identified two trends: (1) people are happy overall with the direction St. Stephen’s is moving, including the quality of our congregational life, and our outreach to the city, and beyond; (2) people want more of the same, expanding our youth programs by adding to our pastoral staff, and engaging with the wider community even more intentionally by re-fitting some of our space.

The problem is, our actual givings—including the pledges we have just received—tell us that we should be doing less, not more! In fact, barring a miracle between now and Christmas, we are likely to enter 2017 with a deficit of somewhere between $12,000 and $25,000, effectively removing new staff and building upgrades from the table!

The rector and wardens are asking all parishioners to reconsider their financial support of this “lively and diverse midtown congregation”. Specifically, they are asking:

  • If you are not doing so already, please consider stabilizing our cash flow by giving by way of pre-authorized debit.
  • If you have not pledged, please do so. Let us know your intentions.
  • If you have already pledged, please revisit the amount and consider at least another 5% increase.
  • Or give us a whopper of a one-time gift, helping us climb out of debt and into the exciting possibilities of the New Year.

Will you help?

This Week: Dec 11th 2016

picture1This is a quick update of our ongoing work to make our diocese an inclusive Christian community that marries same-sex couples and welcomes all as equal members of the Body of Christ.

Back in September six clergy and a marriage commissioner joined to perform a wedding ceremony at St. Stephen’s for a “queer” couple (their own designation). It was an act of defiance within a diocese that does not permit same-sex blessings or marriages.

The six clergy were called before the archbishop a few weeks later, dressed down by the chancellor, and handed a disciplinary letter warning them not to do it again. Then, two months later, the archbishop sent an email to all the clergy of the diocese describing those events and attaching a copy of the disciplinary letter he had given the six clergy. A legal challenge has followed, citing a breach of the Personal Information Protection Act.

picture2The archbishop is now expecting all clergy and designated lay people from each parish to attend “Generous Listening” events he has planned for the New Year. Designed as study opportunities, they are not intended to lead to a decision but rather to help people “do their work” around this issue.

A group of clergy and lay people from across the diocese met recently to plan a way forward that presses for an end to study and debate and insists that “local option” be adopted as a diocesan policy, allowing individual parishes to make up their own minds about same-sex blessings.

This Week: December 4th 2016

picture1A  secret garden is growing in the heart of Calgary’s Beltline. Flower boxes, brightly painted, mark it outwardly, busy with gardeners of all ages during the growing season. But inwardly, there is a cultural flowering of art and music that is attracting world-class artists and savvy urban audiences. That secret garden is none other than St. Stephen’s!

Several weeks ago the Calgary Instrumental Society hosted a Sunday afternoon concert by CPO violinist and concertmaster Diana Cohen and members of her musical family. Over two hundred were in attendance for this intimate family affair. This Sunday we are visited by three of Calgary’s finest classical guitarists for a baroque and classical Christmas feast.

Professional choral groups love singing—and recording—at St. Stephen’s. In coming weeks the Renaissance Singers, One Voice Chorus, and La Vie Vocal Ensemble will all be taking the stage here, and in the New Year Luminous Voices will be recording their second album in our sanctuary.

This garden is overflowing with delight. Calgary’s culture vultures know it well, but to many it remains one of our city’s best-kept secrets, which doesn’t seem right. Good news should be proclaimed from the rooftops and in the city squares.

Your church has become a cultural mecca! Come and be fed by the cultural offerings happening here almost every week (check the Sunday bulletin, our weekly e-newsletter, or the bulletin boards for details). And then go tell the world there’s a cultural garden flowering here … and that it’s no secret!

This Week: November 27th 2016

picture1In early November, our rector and his wife visited Emmanuel Gatera in Rwanda to learn more about the work of YEGO-Rwanda, a foundation created by Emmanuel to bring healing to Rwandans and peace to a post-genocidal Rwanda. This is their story, in three parts. YEGO-Rwanda (Part III)

In 2008, sitting at the computer at the home of our rector and his wife, Emmanuel Gatera, beginning his doctoral studies at the University of Alberta, tapped out the guiding principles for a new foundation—YEGO-Rwanda (“YES-Rwanda!”), its mission, to heal the lingering and devastating trauma of the Rwandan genocide of 1994.

Early in his ministry, while starting up a new congregation in Kigali, Emmanuel was troubled by the deep and disproportionate pastoral needs of his congregation. From adults who had lost entire families during the genocide, to young people being poorly raised by traumatized parents, to emotionally unstable individuals languishing in abject poverty, Emmanuel recognized a massive problem whose solution lay beyond what even a caring Christian congregation could do.

picture2pngYEGO-Rwanda was his answer. From a tiny office in Kigali, Emmanuel, his wife Athanasie, and a “staff” of volunteers started hearing the stories of genocide survivors; they provided counselling, healing retreats, and, for the young, programmed activities like traditional dance; and they offered what material assistance they could to those most severely marginalized by their trauma.

All the stories told by those touched by YEGO-Rwanda conclude (implausibly, given all they’ve been through!) with thanks to God and with tearful appreciation for the love and healing they have experienced through Emmanuel and his staff. Lives that were burned and scarred, like that of Rwanda itself, are rising from the ashes.

We support Emmanuel and YEGO-Rwanda through our “Outreach-Beyond” pink envelopes. But you can offer direct support through YEGO-Canada at www.yegorwanda.net.

This Week: Nov 20th 2016

In early November, our rector and his wife visited Emmanuel Gatera in Rwanda to learn more about the work of YEGO-Rwanda, a foundation created by Emmanuel to bring healing to Rwandans and peace to a post-genocidal Rwanda. This is their story, in three parts. YEGO-Rwanda (Part II)

picture1In 1994, in a coordinated attack long prepared for, spurred on by extremists, and whipped into a frenzy by local media, the Hutu population of Rwanda turned on their Tutsi neighbours, brutally slaughtering over a million in a hundred-day period. The facts are sobering enough, but the personal stories are devastating.

Anastasia is a forty-something mother of two grown children. They all bear the trauma of watching Anastasia’s husband and the two oldest children beaten to death by Hutu attackers. While her life was spared, Anastasia was enslaved by her tormentors and forced to provide for their children while her own wasted away. Surviving the ordeal, the family’s emotional scars render them incapable of living productive lives, the children both receiving ongoing treatment for mental illness.

Clementine, seven years old at the time of the genocide, witnessed the violent murder of her immediate family. Miraculously, she escaped, carrying her newborn cousin on her back into the woods. She survived for days in the bush, avoiding capture and fending for herself, but was forced to watch her cousin die in her arms, unable to care for her, a trauma she bears to this day.picture12

YEGO-Rwanda was founded by Emmanuel Gatera, the former divinity student we supported in his studies, and a good friend whose efforts to bring healing to Rwandans we continue to support—not only for survivors of the genocide but also for the subsequent generations who continue to suffer its effects.

Next week … the inspiring work of YEGO-Rwanda.

This Week: Nov 13th

In early November, our rector and his wife visited Emmanuel Gatera in Rwanda to learn more about the work of YEGO-Rwanda, a foundation created by Emmanuel to bring healing to Rwandans and peace to a post-genocidal Rwanda. This is their story, in three parts.

picture31Almost twenty years ago St. Stephen’s asked our World Mission office for the name of a promising seminarian in a Third World country whom we could support in their studies. The name they gave us was Emmanuel Gatera, a divinity student at the University of Kampala, Uganda, who was hoping to be ordained and to serve in his home country of Rwanda.

Serve he has! Upon graduation, Emmanuel was hired as the General Secretary for the Archdiocese of Rwanda where he was also to found a new congregation in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital city. Faced daily with pastoral challenges relating to the enduring and widespread trauma of the 1994 genocide, Emmanuel realized more could be done through an agency committed exclusively to personal healing and social relief. So … YEGO-Rwanda was born.

Knowing he needed unique credentials for this kind of work, with our assistance and that of our World Mission department, Emmanuel enrolled in the doctoral divinity programme at St. Stephen’s College, University of Alberta, to begin long distance studies that would qualify him for the therapeutic work to which he was feeling called.

picture41Next year Emmanuel will graduate, returning to Alberta to receive his diploma, accompanied by his wife Athanasie. In the meantime, in early November, our rector and his wife spent a week with Emmanuel in Rwanda where they heard the stories of genocide survivors and visited the homes of those whose personal trauma has isolated and marginalized them—a sobering life-changing experience.

Next week … their stories.

This Week at St. Stephen’s: November 6th 2016

acr296553145151424-3168030The chairs aren’t quite as full this morning—another day where the pleasures of lingering a little longer over coffee win out over a barnburner of a sermon and some awesome hymns, right? Not quite. This morning, and later today, about 40 or more members of our congregation will be working with Feed the Hungry to set-up, prepare, serve, and tear down a complimentary meal for nearly 600 guests at St. Mary’s Cathedral.

Thanks to your generosity last month, we were able to contribute $2500 toward the food costs for today’s supper. Giving of our time, our talents, and our treasure is part of how we minister to a world beset by economic uncertainty and job losses. We work together with our partners at Feed the Hungry and our fellow volunteers to affirm our guests’ humanity, by greeting them, serving them a nutritious and tasty meal tableside, and providing them with a hospitality package at the end of the evening.

acr296553145151424-713033We know that it may be hard for some of our members to support yet another request for funds and assistance to people outside our congregation, while some of our own have themselves been affected by the very economic uncertainty we’ve been dealing with for the past 2½ years. We are called, in the words of the hymn and the Prayer of St. Francis:

Make me a channel of your peace,

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,

In giving of ourselves that we receive.

We ask God’s blessing on all who are being served at today’s Feed the Hungry dinner.