This Week – October 31, 2010

The electronic world is lightning quick … once you’re in it. But there’s the rub!

We at St. Stephen’s are trying to move into the electronic age: less paper, more immediacy, better interactivity. We are doing this by focusing increasingly on our web site and using that as our hub, as the “go to” place for everything we might want to know but were uncertain whom to ask.

The vision is that, arriving at the site, we are presented with a plethora of interesting articles, announcements of upcoming events, information about programs and ministries, photographs of recent events, schedules and information for committees and working groups … plus a way of talking back in forums and blogs reflecting the vibrant life of the parish.

The problem is getting there. Recently, reasoning that people still wanted a paper version of The Carillon, our newsletter, we ended up neglecting the web site while producing that version, undermining our own intent to get people to visit us online.

So from now on, all new information—articles of interest, details of upcoming events, everything—will be posted on the web site. Then, three or four times a year, we will gather up all the information that seems relevant and produce a limited newsletter to be sent to shut-ins and those without internet access, as well as placing copies in the foyer for visitors.

So visit us online. Find us on Face Book. Make us your home page: We’ll see you in the future!


This Week – October 24, 2010

This week we took several steps in our “Open Doors” project, our vision for the renewal of St. Stephen’s’ buildings and property. We have appointed co-chairs for the campaign and made spending estimates on Phase I of the development.

Until now, “Open Doors” has been managed by our Building and Property Action Group (BRAG). This hard-working committee has studied the need, articulated the vision, and tested the waters, resulting in a two-phased approach to redevelopment. Phase I consists of upgraded electrical and mechanical services, improved worship space, new washrooms, and an elevator opening to all three floors of our main buildings. BRAG is now working on realistic estimates of costs and time lines that will deliver a finished renovation in 2012.

But the other major part of this project, which must now develop alongside the ongoing work of BRAG, is the capital campaign. The challenge is daunting, but feasible: raising the $1.1 million necessary for Phase I.

We are pleased to announce that Jack and Heather Walker have accepted the invitation to lead us in this campaign as our co-chairs. Jack and Heather are well-known members of our parish, Jack as a former churchwarden and our current treasurer, Heather as a former member of Vestry, an advocate for Christian education, and currently our Book-of-the-Month Club coordinator.

Jack and Heather are now assembling a team of leaders to assist in the various phases of the campaign, which will be given its official launch in the New Year. We are well served!


This Week – November 21, 2010

Programs do not inspire people. People inspire people. So it is no surprise that at the heart of our two most popular programs are two inspirational people. And they’re both about to retire!

For five years Lynda Greuel has coordinated our “Excellent Adventure” Sunday School program. Lynda came on board just as we were introducing Workshop Rotation, a way of teaching the same lesson from the Bible in three or four different ways using film, crafts, cooking, storytelling … and having church members volunteer to lead the activity they liked best.

Such a program is effective as a teaching tool, but complex in the organizational stages. Lynda has been nothing short of masterful in laying out the lessons, gathering the resources, equipping the teachers, and most of all inspiring church members to step forward and spend quality time with the children of the parish. As she prepares to return to the work-a-day world she leaves us an amazingly successful program and difficult shoes to fill.

Allison O’Neil joined us earlier in the year as our Nursery Coordinator at a time when we were experiencing a baby boom! Her deep compassion, her commitment to quality child care, and her reassuring Sunday presence have provided young families the support they need to be part of our church family. As she devotes more time to her own family, Allison gives us an example of how to do it right.

Now it’s our turn. Who will step forward to inspire us? Is it you?


This Week – October 17, 2010

It’s that time of year when—already!—we are preparing the ground for next year’s budget. Boring stuff? Not so! A budget is only the last stage of a process that begins when we ask: Where is God calling us in this next year? What is the unfolding vision of our mission and ministry? What resources are needed to fulfil this vision?

Vestry addressed the issue at its meeting earlier in the week. Considering the ambitious “Open Doors” capital campaign we are launching, and the continual growth of our membership, Vestry felt that our focus for 2011 needs to be on strengthening our core.

This means a variety of things. For one, it means providing opportunities for our members to get to know one another and deepen our bonds of fellowship. It also means making the connection between the redevelopment we are planning and the overall mission to which we are called, namely, working to include our ageing buildings as part of our mission rather than resenting them as a costly distraction.

In short, while we extend our “reach” through the “Open Doors” campaign, our budget needs to support our “roots”, reinforcing the basics of who we are called by God to be in the first place, and what we are called by God to do.

The numbers will follow in due course, but when they do they will reflect this vision. Watch for our fall stewardship package and its invitation for all to support our 2011 budget. Exciting stuff!


This Week – October 10, 2010

Careful what you ask for, the adage goes, because you just might get it.

Everywhere the church is praying for new life. At a United Church conference last week the same fears could be heard as at any Anglican gathering. The church is ageing, the young people aren’t coming, and the writing’s on the wall. We know how to wring our hands and shake our heads. But what happens when the new life we’re looking for suddenly whooshes into the room?

That’s what’s happening around here these days. On top of such enlivening programs as Follow Your Passion, the Midtown Mosaic, and Radio Nights, we enjoyed a shot of new life last Sunday when the Soul Food band backed an interpretive Eucharist that walked us through the shape—the soulful movement—of a typical worship service. The effect was electrifying.

The Soul Food band forms the core of our Soul Food events, gatherings where music, storytelling and meditation replace worship in the traditional sense. People who are not habitual church-goers have found a place to feel a soul connection through these events, and we have benefited from this contact with the wider community.

Now the band is being invited to take its lively music on the road with invitations from two other churches. The next Soul Food event at St. Stephen’s is a Christmas show, “Soul Food for the Winter Solstice”, on December 19. The Spirit is moving, new life is crackling in our midst. Are we ready for it?


This Week – October 3, 2010

This week, for something completely different, our worship at 10:30 takes the form of a “deconstructed musical mass”.

Anglican worship gets stuck on the words. We fight over words, whether they should be Elizabethan or modern, whether we should say “… proceeds from the Father” or “… from the Father and the Son”. As if worship is about the words.

But far beneath the words we use, something soulful is happening when we worship. We are caught up in a movement of the Holy Spirit. We arrive having lived in isolation from one another, perhaps feeling alienated from a sense of purpose. But somewhere in the course of worshiping we get ourselves back.

Anglican worship gives shape to this movement. We gather, hear the familiar story, offer our prayers in response, and end up celebrating with a meal around a table. Somehow this simple progression places us back on track and we leave empowered once again to be the people God created us to be.

Oh, about the music. Forty years ago Christian songwriter Larry Norman sang, “Why must the devil have all the good music?” Too bad for him, and for us, when we assume that music that doesn’t brandish the name of Jesus is of the devil. The mythic and universal dimensions of the Christian story—death and resurrection, fall and grace—resonate throughout popular culture. And most Western music—from Gospel to Blues to Rock to Rap—is rooted in that very story. So why not rock?!