This Week : “The Road Ahead” [February 5th 2017]

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!

This Week: “Listening … Generously” [Jan 29th 2017]

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.

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

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.