Balancing the Fall

 THIS WEEK at St. Stephen’s … for October 2, 2011

An odd thing happens every year at this time.  All of nature is telling us to slow down, prepare our cave, turn inward, and prepare for the big winter sleep to come. But as the sun rises later and later each morning, and hastens to its afternoon setting, we turn on the lights.  There is work to do.

This is understandable in a northern climate.  We work through the long days of winter in order to play in the summertime … and just hope that we actually get summertime! But those who live closer to the land—farmers for instance—know it should go the other way. They make hay while the sun shines … and retire when it leaves.

Perhaps, in our all-too-busy lives, church might become the one place where we can rest. That is after all the intention of the Sabbath day.  But even our worship can become busy, as we move quickly from one thing to the next, talking in shrill voices, filling the spaces with movement. But what would it be like, when we enter the church proper, to sit in silence, to wait, to breathe, to take a reflective pause between the readings, to gaze inward during the sermon?

We cannot turn back the tides of a compulsively busy culture. There is, indeed, work to do. But we can take whatever quiet moments are offered to us on the Sabbath and, putting all worry and anxiety aside, simply be. And so rebalance the universe.

Work & Play

THIS WEEK at St. Stephen’s … for September 25, 2011

                This Friday night and Saturday, as many members of St. Stephen’s roam our aisles, wine glass in hand, perusing stunning artwork from some of Calgary’s top artists, others will be sitting in small table groups poring over the diocesan rule book. It may not seem fair, but some work so that others may play.

                The work of Synod is to govern the life of our diocese. We are an episcopal church, meaning we are led by a bishop (one with “oversight”, which is the combined meaning of the Greek words epi and scopé). But we are governed by a democratic body—Synod—which is composed of clergy and lay members elected from the parishes. Synod meets annually, or at the call of the Chair, to govern the diocese through its laws, or “canons”, which prescribe how parishes operate, how clergy are employed, and how the diocese manages its funds. From time to time, as at this week’s Synod, those laws need to be revised to reflect changing times.

                This may not sound as exciting as an art show, but Synod does have a vital place in the life of the church. Unlike the business world where, all other considerations aside, a company must reflect its success on a bottom line, the church succeeds where it embodies the teachings it espouses. In other words, how we do things is as important as what it is we do. Thankfully, next weekend, our Synod delegates will be attending to this on our behalf.

Creating Communities of Hope

THIS WEEK at St. Stephen’s … September 18, 2011

 There can hardly be a Canadian who did not breathe an enormous sigh of relief at the release of three-year-old Kienan Hebert last week, following his abduction in the middle of the night from his home in Sparwood, BC.  What parents did not follow this horrific story, as if it were happening to them, drawing their own children close for safety’s sake?

Children matter. We do not need to be reminded by the Old Testament prophets that a people is judged by how it treats its most vulnerable members, which is how God is said to judge the nations. We already know that how we treat the children in our midst is a measure of the safety we offer to the rest of the world through our churches. And safety is vital to our mission and ministry, “sanctuary” being at the very heart of our identity, as well as our building. 

So it seems fitting that we have embarked on an assessment of the place of children at St. Stephen’s: of their inclusion in the life of our parish, of the programs we create with them in mind, and of their safety in our midst. We have called this our “Year of the Child”. Dariel Bateman, our Deputy People’s Warden, is heading up a task force to study the place of children here and to make recommendations at our Annual General Meeting. It can only make us a better—and safer—congregation.