This Week at St. Stephen’s : May 8th 2016

Picture2Five years ago, as our building committee bore down on plans to renovate St. Stephen’s, we said we wanted our church to become a community hub, a cultural centre, a gathering place for the neighbourhood. It sometimes seemed a remote dream, especially as the challenges mounted up and plans had to be trimmed back.

But today we witness the fulfillment of that dream. St. Stephen’s is busy most weekends with concerts, art shows, and theatrical performances. Renowned performance groups like Cantare Children’s Choirs, Luminous Voices, and the Calgary Instrumental Society thrill local audiences that sometimes burst the seams, sending patrons up into the balcony.

So it is curious that we ourselves are seldom numbered among the members of the audience, even when we are co-sponsors of events offered here. True, we designed the space for use by the wider community. But we host some of the best talent in the city right here in our sanctuary, and for the reason that (we said) we love the performing arts.

So this is just a reminder that we are part of the community too. When our neighbours come to see a performance, they are also coming to see us—not just our buildings, but the people who reside here. In coming weeks we will host a program about Sound and Spirit, and bring back the Donald Ray Johnson Blues Band, among other events. It would be unfortunate if we were to miss out on the very blessings we offer to the world.

This Week at St. Stephen’s–May 01, 2016

“FROM THE GROUND UP”

Feb 28Following the suspension of Calgary’s Inn From the Cold satellite program, where churches like St. Stephen’s offered food, shelter and hospitality to the homeless, many of us wondered how we might continue our work with those in need in our city. Serendipitously, a respected broad-based community organization has arisen in Calgary that may help us continue that good work, creating and sustaining a community that offers respect, equality and justice to all its citizens.

The Metro Alliance for the Common Good (MACG) is a new iteration of the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), an alliance of faith-based and community organizations that transformed the inner city of Chicago (the “Industrial Areas”) in the 1940’s. It now operates in over sixty-five cities worldwide developing leadership, coordinating civic-minded organizations and galvanizing citizens to create local communities of which we can all feel proud.

The Calgary chapter of MACG is currently offering a series of three listening events where citizens gather to explore the areas of greatest need and concern in our city. (The second in the series is being held Monday, May 2, 7 – 8:30 pm, at Beth Tzedec Synagogue.) St. Stephen’s has been invited to participate and several of our members will be in attendance.

To help us become better acquainted with MACG and with the social demands of the Gospel, The Reverend Ryan Andersen, Lutheran minister and lead organizer of MACG Calgary, is our guest preacher at both services on May 1st. You can also visit the IAF and MACG websites online.

This Week at St. Stephen’s–May 01, 2016

“FROM THE GROUND UP”

Feb 28Following the suspension of Calgary’s Inn From the Cold satellite program, where churches like St. Stephen’s offered food, shelter and hospitality to the homeless, many of us wondered how we might continue our work with those in need in our city. Serendipitously, a respected broad-based community organization has arisen in Calgary that may help us continue that good work, creating and sustaining a community that offers respect, equality and justice to all its citizens.

The Metro Alliance for the Common Good (MACG) is a new iteration of the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), an alliance of faith-based and community organizations that transformed the inner city of Chicago (the “Industrial Areas”) in the 1940’s. It now operates in over sixty-five cities worldwide developing leadership, coordinating civic-minded organizations and galvanizing citizens to create local communities of which we can all feel proud.

The Calgary chapter of MACG is currently offering a series of three listening events where citizens gather to explore the areas of greatest need and concern in our city. (The second in the series is being held Monday, May 2, 7 – 8:30 pm, at Beth Tzedec Synagogue.) St. Stephen’s has been invited to participate and several of our members will be in attendance.

To help us become better acquainted with MACG and with the social demands of the Gospel, The Reverend Ryan Andersen, Lutheran minister and lead organizer of MACG Calgary, is our guest preacher at both services on May 1st. You can also visit the IAF and MACG websites online.

This Week at St. Stephen’s–April 17, 2016

“Into the Fray”

Apr 17Last week our Primate, the Most Reverend Fred Hiltz, spoke with the Anglican Journal about the most recent House of Bishops meeting held the first week of April. Specifically, he shared his concern for the aftermath of July’s General Synod meeting when it votes on an amendment to the marriage canon to permit same-gender marriages.

He acknowledged that very little has changed in the mindset of the House, despite all the work the bishops have done on this issue in recent years. So it remains split three ways: those in agreement with the motion, those opposed, and those who “struggle” with the issue. As the motion will require a two-thirds majority vote in each of the “houses”—clergy, laity and bishops—it remains unlikely that the motion will pass.

The Primate said that if the motion is defeated it will “upset” the LGBTQ community, which will be “deeply offended”. Many may leave the church. Moreover, he fears that clergy may take matters into their own hands and perform same-sex marriages as an act of “civil disobedience”, something he says every bishop must be prepared to deal with.

On the other hand, if the motion were to pass, the Primate foresees that there are clergy and congregations opposed to same-sex marriage who are also poised to leave the church. So either way, this is going to be a divisive vote.

In the meantime, how do we at St. Stephen’s continue to advocate for those we love whose relationships are being denied?

This Week at St. Stephen’s–April 17, 2016

“Into the Fray”

Apr 17Last week our Primate, the Most Reverend Fred Hiltz, spoke with the Anglican Journal about the most recent House of Bishops meeting held the first week of April. Specifically, he shared his concern for the aftermath of July’s General Synod meeting when it votes on an amendment to the marriage canon to permit same-gender marriages.

He acknowledged that very little has changed in the mindset of the House, despite all the work the bishops have done on this issue in recent years. So it remains split three ways: those in agreement with the motion, those opposed, and those who “struggle” with the issue. As the motion will require a two-thirds majority vote in each of the “houses”—clergy, laity and bishops—it remains unlikely that the motion will pass.

The Primate said that if the motion is defeated it will “upset” the LGBTQ community, which will be “deeply offended”. Many may leave the church. Moreover, he fears that clergy may take matters into their own hands and perform same-sex marriages as an act of “civil disobedience”, something he says every bishop must be prepared to deal with.

On the other hand, if the motion were to pass, the Primate foresees that there are clergy and congregations opposed to same-sex marriage who are also poised to leave the church. So either way, this is going to be a divisive vote.

In the meantime, how do we at St. Stephen’s continue to advocate for those we love whose relationships are being denied?

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.