This Week at St. Stephen’s–April 10, 2016

GOING FORWARD

Apr 10St. Stephen’s’ members are generous people. We provide almost $460,000 annually to pay our staff, operate our buildings, and run our programs. Approximately $350,00 of that comes directly from the offerings of our members (most of the rest comes from the rental of our space).

Last year we managed to adjust several of our staff salaries to bring them into better alignment. We made several costly repairs and improvements to our buildings. We were also able to retire a sizable portion of a debt we have been dragging along with us into each new year.

But what we were not able to do, entering 2016, despite having named it as a priority, was budget for an associate clergy position to replace the one held for three years by Clara King. This is disconcerting for several reasons: (1) the pastoral, program, and administrative demands on the clergy at St. Stephen’s cannot reasonably be met by one person; (2) reliance on a single priest limits the reach, and therefore the growth, of our various ministries; and (3) succession planning cannot be properly managed without a second ongoing clergy position.

Going forward, the Corporation is considering that we hire a part-time minister in the fall with funds available within the budget. This position would be dedicated to our young people and specifically to a yearlong Confirmation program. Then, following an ambitious fall stewardship campaign, we plan to budget for a full-time position beginning in January 2017. We’re generous people. We can do this.

This Week at St. Stephen’s–April 10, 2016

GOING FORWARD

Apr 10St. Stephen’s’ members are generous people. We provide almost $460,000 annually to pay our staff, operate our buildings, and run our programs. Approximately $350,00 of that comes directly from the offerings of our members (most of the rest comes from the rental of our space).

Last year we managed to adjust several of our staff salaries to bring them into better alignment. We made several costly repairs and improvements to our buildings. We were also able to retire a sizable portion of a debt we have been dragging along with us into each new year.

But what we were not able to do, entering 2016, despite having named it as a priority, was budget for an associate clergy position to replace the one held for three years by Clara King. This is disconcerting for several reasons: (1) the pastoral, program, and administrative demands on the clergy at St. Stephen’s cannot reasonably be met by one person; (2) reliance on a single priest limits the reach, and therefore the growth, of our various ministries; and (3) succession planning cannot be properly managed without a second ongoing clergy position.

Going forward, the Corporation is considering that we hire a part-time minister in the fall with funds available within the budget. This position would be dedicated to our young people and specifically to a yearlong Confirmation program. Then, following an ambitious fall stewardship campaign, we plan to budget for a full-time position beginning in January 2017. We’re generous people. We can do this.

This Week at St. Stephen’s–April 03, 2016

THE BENEFITS OF MEMBERSHIP

church 2016We are so fortunate to be St. Stephenites! In the relentless forward march of the calendar, bringing with it already another new season of programs and ministries, let us stop for a moment simply to count our blessings, so many of which were evident throughout our Holy Week services.

First, we are enormously blessed with a diverse and engaged congregation. Every worship service includes children (last week, several newborns!), as well as older members—pillars of our faith community who have guided us through the best of times and the worst—as well as visitors and newcomers who are thrilled to have found this lively church. There is a warm familiarity in our gatherings, and a welcome, and always laughter.

Our renovated facilities continue to extend our hospitality out into the wider community. A picture taken from the balcony during our Easter morning service and posted on Face Book was seen by over 600 people, some who felt moved to comment. It’s a stunning space, and wordlessly conveys the openness and flexibility that are hallmarks of our Christian witness.

But we are especially blessed by so many talented leaders (all “ministers” in their own right) who work tirelessly so we can offer our best to the world—from Lynn and Bev in the office to the Chancel Guild members working quietly behind the scenes to Jeff and our lively choir, and so many more. Our hearts are filled with gratitude and we feel once again the confidence to move forward.

This Week at St. Stephen’s–March 20, 2016

RE-LIVING THE MYTHIC STORY

Mar 20This week we enter the mythic story of the Passion of Christ. And that precisely what we do. We don’t just sit and listen to the story. We get up out of our comfort zone and allow ourselves to be carried along with Jesus on the road to Gethsemane.

So on Palm Sunday we find ourselves joining the crowds as they welcomed Jesus into the Holy City—jubilant but wary, because we know how the story ends. Then on Maundy Thursday we find ourselves seated round the table at the Last Supper as Jesus washes our feet as an example of humble service. On Good Friday we gather solemnly around a hooded cross, joining the angered crowd as they cry out, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

On Easter Eve we light a new fire outside, bringing that light into the church as a sign of hope in the midst of darkness—the promise of life in the midst of death. Then with our hand bells we ring in the Easter acclamation: “Christ is risen! Alleluia!” The cry is picked up on Easter morning when, at 8 a.m., we welcome new members through baptism and, at 10:30, we affirm our faith in the God of life.

Like primitives dancing their history round a blazing fire, or like moderns recreating family traditions round a groaning dinner table, we don’t just tell this story. We re-enact it through ritual. That is how it is with a mythic story. We tell it … by living it.

This Week: March 20th, 2016

Easter-Banner-Religious-Images-2This week we enter the mythic story of the Passion of Christ. And that precisely what we do. We don’t just sit and listen to the story. We get up out of our comfort zone and allow ourselves to be carried along with Jesus on the road to Gethsemane.

So on Palm Sunday we find ourselves joining the crowds as they welcomed Jesus into the Holy City—jubilant but wary, because we know how the story ends. Then on Maundy Thursday we find ourselves seated round the table at the Last Supper as Jesus washes our feet as an example of humble service. On Good Friday we gather solemnly around a hooded cross, joining the angered crowd as they cry out, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

On Easter Eve we light a new fire outside, bringing that light into the church as a sign of hope in the midst of darkness—the promise of life in the midst of death. Then with our hand bells we ring in the Easter acclamation: “Christ is risen! Alleluia!” The cry is picked up on Easter morning when, at 8 a.m., we welcome new members through baptism and, at 10:30, we affirm our faith in the God of life.

Like primitives dancing their history round a blazing fire, or like moderns recreating family traditions round a groaning dinner table, we don’t just tell this story. We re-enact it through ritual. That is how it is with a mythic story. We tell it … by living it.

This Week at St. Stephen’s–March 13, 2016

WHO YOU GONNA CALL

Mar 13This week we welcome our new Corporation and Parish Council, both of which had their first meetings of the new term last weekend. Together the Corporation and Parish Council are the governing bodies of St. Stephen’s between General Meetings of the congregation as a whole.

Corporation—so-named because it forms the legal entity of St. Stephen’s Church—comprises the rector, two churchwardens, and one deputy churchwarden. The churchwardens are either appointed (as with the rector’s warden) or elected (as with the people’s warden), but once they have found their way onto Corporation they function as a team, sharing information and making decisions by consensus.

Parish Council comprises at least six members-at-large (we currently have more than that), three lay delegates to synod, the members of Corporation, and a recording secretary. It meets monthly to help determine the overall direction of the parish, the state of its finances and property, and the programming priorities that we should be attending to. Currently Parish Council is considering priorities for the coming year, but has already identified youth ministry as one area of particular concern.

So if you have a question or concern, “Who you gonna call?” All our Corporation and Parish Council members are listed on the back of the Sunday bulletin. Speak to our churchwardens about parish finances, staffing or building & property. Approach one of our members-at-large with questions or concerns about parish programming. Seek out one of our lay delegates to synod with concerns about the diocese or national church.

This Week at St Stephen’s–March 06, 2016

DANGER AHEAD!

Mar 06The Anglican Church of Canada House of Bishops met recently to discuss proposed changes to the marriage canon. Those changes—to be debated at the upcoming meeting of General Synod in June—would remove reference to gender, thereby permitting clergy to marry couples of the same gender, something they are presently prohibited from doing.

As a change in canon law, a two thirds vote is required in each of the three voting “houses”: lay, clergy, and bishops; and that vote must be repeated at the next meeting of General Synod three years hence for the changes to take effect.

In a disturbing statement following their meeting, our bishops reported that they do not now foresee passing the motion when it is presented to them at the upcoming General Synod meeting. This is of course disturbing to all who favour same-sex marriage.

But it should be disturbing to all Anglicans, whatever their views on this subject, to hear our leaders declare themselves before the motion has even been presented, before debate has ensued, and before the guidance of the Holy Spirit has specifically been sought. In other words, it sends a dangerous message that decisions are being made without the benefit of the prayerful and consultative consideration of the whole church!

Should any of our church members wish to register their concern, letters to The Most Reverend Greg Kerr-Wilson, our Metropolitan archbishop and diocesan bishop, would not be out of place, and similarly to our Primate, The Most Reverend Fred Hiltz.

This Week at St. Stephen’s–February 28, 2016

LIFE … AFTER THE INN

Feb 28Last week we learned that the Inn From the Cold’s Community Inn Program has been discontinued. There will be no more inns hosted by faith communities throughout the city for Calgary’s homeless. Most homeless families will now find shelter at IFTC itself, in its large downtown location. Most homeless singles will be accommodated by other existing social agencies.

But even with the large-scale shift of IFTC and other social agencies away from emergency shelters to affordable housing, the root causes of homelessness persist. They persist as unemployment in the oil and gas sector, inaccessible apartment rental rates, inadequate AISH and social welfare payments, and the impossibility of surviving on minimum wage in a city like Calgary. So our care for the homeless does not stop with the Community Inn Program. Instead, we are led to ask, Why are people still homeless in the first place?

As if in answer to that question, St. Stephen’s has been invited to take part in an exploration of the social challenges facing our city, to identify its greatest needs, and to pool the resources of individuals and organizations to affect the public policy that governs our communal life.

The Metro Alliance for the Common Good (MACG) is hosting a Listening Campaign: “Facing the Challenges of Our Time: Listening to Real People, About Real Issues, Acting for Real Change.” The details will be found elsewhere in our bulletin and on our website. Might this be a way of exploring our community outreach beyond the Inn?

This Week at St. Stephen’s–February 21, 2016

INNS SUSPENDED

Feb 21Last week we were shocked to learn that the Inn From the Cold Society is suspending its Community Inn program involving many faith groups across the city, like our own, that provide shelter for the homeless.

Since 1997, every night homeless families and individuals have been provided with a hot meal, a safe place to sleep, breakfast in the morning, and a bagged lunch. More important, they were welcomed as “guests”, treated with respect, and afforded the dignity that was often denied them on the streets. At its height, the Community Inn program involved over seventy faith groups and literally thousands of volunteers.

The Society has given two reasons for the suspension of this program: (1) a recent incident where a volunteer was injured by a guest and (2) the accommodation of families at the Inn’s central location. A letter from the Society argues that the needs of single homeless people can adequately be met by other existing agencies.

This is hard news for us at St. Stephen’s because IFTC started here—with a timely sermon preached by then-rector Bob Purdy and an inter-church task force that responded with the first community inns. We have seen lives turned around by this program, and we ourselves have been transformed in return.

There is a meeting with inn coordinators on March 6 and thereafter a determination will be made about the future of the Community Inn program. Until then we invite your prayers and your continued financial support. It’s not over yet.

This Week at St. Stephen’s–February 14, 2016

LENT

Feb 14Lent is upon us, the season that anticipates new life even as it denies us access to that life just yet. The Germanic languages gave us the term (shortened from lenten), which referred to spring and to the lengthening of days. But in the West the Church gave it significance as a season during which we prepare for our Easter celebration by observing various forms of restraint and devotion.

The season of Lent is forty days in length, counting the weekdays from Ash Wednesday to Easter Eve. Traditionally it has been marked as a time of fasting, almsgiving and prayer. In the first three centuries the fasting could be extreme, including only one light meal at the end of each day (much like Ramadan), that meal to exclude meat, fish or eggs. Gradually this was relaxed to permit a light meal midafternoon, and then a noonday meal, with fish and eggs creeping back onto the menu.

As a nod to those days of fasting, moderns often consider giving something up for Lent, perhaps dessert, or smoking, or some other form of abstinence. Some consider, instead, taking something on, perhaps daily prayer and study, or a special outreach project. At
St. Stephen’s we always offer a weekly Lenten study group, as we are this year with “Follow Your Wyrd.”

However you observe it, Lent is a hopeful time, but a time for restraint, as we get our spiritual house in order and prepare for our joyful celebration of the Risen Christ.