IT’S TIME TO TAKE A STAND
This week we at St. Stephen’s are engaging in a process of discernment to decide if we wish to offer a Service of Blessing to same-sex couples who seek it.
Across the country and in some parts of the church, this would seem to be a foregone conclusion—that the church would offer to bless adult Christians in their relationships.Some might even ask, “Do we not already do that?” But the answer, in this diocese, is, “No, we don’t.” Furthermore, it is nowhere on the agenda, nor even on the horizon. It is an issue whose time has come (… and gone, some would argue) and that demands a response from a parish church known for its intentional inclusivity.
For us, there are two issues before us. The first: do we wish to extend to same-sex couples who call St. Stephen’s home the same privilege we do to heterosexual couples, namely, a blessing upon their relationship in the name of God? The second: are we willing to prod the diocese into taking a public stand on this issue by pushing out the boundaries of what is currently permissible?
This issue has been divisive throughout the church worldwide. It forces us to confront the fear and homophobia inherent in our Christian tradition, indeed, going right back to our very scriptures. It also makes us take seriously what God is already doing in our world to break down walls of prejudice and hate. Inescapably, it calls us to take a stand.
ST. STEPHEN’S IS BUZZING WITH ACTIVITY
One of the reasons we entered into major renovations a year ago was to create a meeting place between St. Stephen’s and the wider community. Waiting for our neighbours to come to church on a Sunday morning would be a passive—not to say presumptuous—approach to that relationship. So our worship space was re-conceived as a flexible performance space suitable for worship, concerts, rehearsals, and art shows as well as for religious rituals and spiritual practices.
We are pleased to see that this is precisely what is happening! The renovated space opens doors to new configurations for baptisms, weddings, and funerals, not to say also for our regular Sunday morning worship. Our weekly “Learning to Breathe” meditation group is well accommodated on Tuesdays and the labyrinth attracts spiritual seekers every Thursday.
Even more exciting are the many arts and cultural groups who have found us and who are now using our space for their activities. The Cantare Children’s Choirs are well established here now. But coming up are performances by the Westwood Cultural Group, the Renaissance Singers and Players, and the “One Voice” Chorus, to name just a few. The Madison House will hold its Christmas fund-raising concert here and even our own rector will be holding the launch for his new book here.
As imagined almost ten years ago, when our visioning for renewed space began, St. Stephen’s is buzzing with activity—not just our own, but the activity of a grateful neighbourhood.
THANK YOU AND WELCOME
Inn From the Cold is one of the defining ministries of St. Stephen’s. The well-known, multi-faith, city-wide outreach program started here, with a homeless person sleeping beneath our front steps on Christmas Eve and a timely sermon by then rector, Bob Purdy. By May the following year we hosted our first Inn … and the rest is history.
We have been blessed through the years by caring and competent leaders who have given sacrificially of their time and talents to ensure that our guests receive a warm and thoughtful welcome. So it is with sadness that we say goodbye to Sue McPhee, our IFTC Coordinator these last three years. Sue has been part of the Inn from the very beginning and has brought both her expert knowledge and her big heart to the job. She has worked tirelessly behind the scenes, overseeing supplies, coordinating volunteers, and attending most Inns herself. She has been an inspiring example of Christian service!
But we are pleased to announce that Shelley Brisby is taking over from Sue. Shelley and her husband Brian were guests of the Inn in the early days. In gratitude for the hospitality they experienced during that difficult time, they have served the Inn as volunteers ever since, often taking the hard-to-fill overnight supervisory position. Needless to say, Shelly knows the workings of the Inn from the inside out, bringing a valuable perspective on the needs we are attempting to meet. We welcome Shelley and pledge to her our enthusiastic support.
Our attention is drawn this week to our heroes of the faith. On All Saints’ Day we remember that “great cloud of witnesses” who have gone before us to clear a path and set an example. We are inspired particularly by Stephen, whose name we bear and whose patronage we seek, the church’s first deacon and martyr. His deeds were as powerful as his words in giving witness to a God who loves unconditionally, even in the face of persecution.
On All Souls’ Day we recall all those “souls” who have died during our lifetime. If we had a churchyard we would likely process out among the headstones and give thanks to God for the legacy they have left us. We think, for instance, of Bob Rhodes whose love for St. Stephen’s and whose leadership are legendary and remain inspirational. We think as well of Zelda Yeoman whose compassionate heart touched so many. And there are many others!
While we do not have a churchyard, we have a memorial garden, though it remains a little known treasure to our own members and a complete mystery to the wider community. In the coming year might we consider giving the garden the attention it deserves? We have a small crew that tends the garden. But does it now require some new design elements to set it apart—with benches for resting and signage for identification? As we honour our heroes of the faith, let us make them proud in our own day.