SUMMERTIME IS HERE!
With this Sunday, we prepare to lay back a bit to enjoy the summer weather, vacations, and the opportunities for rest and renewal. Hopefully St. Stephen’s will continue to be part of that, but in a more relaxed way.
This means that our worship will be changing. We will have one reading instead of four, and the sermon will be more like sharing some thoughts than preaching a formal script (not that we have ever been that “formal” to begin with!). We will gather in the round rather than in rows, emphasizing our communal connections with one another. And children will be welcome to join us in that circle.
Our clergy will be taking their vacations in the coming months—Brian from July 15 to August 15; Clara from August 21 to September 3—but there will always be someone available to meet any pastoral needs that may arise. Similarly, Lynn our Parish Administrator and Bev our Administrative Assistant will both be taking some time off, but one of them will always be there to monitor phone calls and emails and to answer questions.
Come the fall, we hope we will all return refreshed as we launch another busy program year. Start-up Sunday will be September 13th. The fall season will feature a midweek Bible study every Thursday morning, plus a study series on “What (Really) Happens When We Die”. And there are other plans in the works to engage and inspire us. But in the meantime, let us rest.
PATHS TO AN EMERGING CHURCH
It’s not easy watching something new emerge. It takes patience—and faith—not to prejudge it, not to jump to conclusions, not to short-circuit the creative process. It requires openness and curiosity to allow God’s future to unfold.
Last Sunday evening a group of Christian seekers met at St. Stephen’s to witness the first tentative shoots of a new church emerging from our traditional roots. Some came from Catholic and Orthodox traditions with their emphasis on ordered worship; some came from evangelical churches with their focus on a personal relationship with Jesus. But all found their way to St. Stephen’s seeking an expression of the Christian faith that transcends the restrictions of any one tradition. All are looking for a more inclusive, more open church.
The gathering reflected all the paths that brought us here: the circle was spacious and the tone was contemplative; the praise music was led by guitars; the reading was meditative and the conversation in small groups was soulful; the sharing of bread and wine was communal and unscripted; and the departing was open-ended.
We asked everyone to leave us some thoughts on paper and we’re in the process of reading and assimilating those. They will help us give words to the changes we are seeking in the church … and perhaps a picture of what the emerging church looks like.
We all remember adults who mattered when we were growing up—our parents, of course, but also grandparents, teachers, neighbours, coaches—adults who played a loving and supportive role in our lives, reminding us that we were lovable and talented and competent and smart.
This time of year we pause to offer our thanks to the adults who are part of the lives of our children here at St. Stephen’s. Our children may carry impressions with them throughout their lives of our worship and of our building and of the things we tried to teach them. But more than anything else they will remember the people—the adults who loved them.
Care of our children begins in our nursery where Beverley Senko and Anna Bhattarai greet our youngest members each Sunday and engage them in play and creative activities … or sometimes just hold them. If you have not had a chance to see Bev and Anna at work, look in some Sunday morning and prepare to have your heart warmed.
We think of Kathleen Howes and her extraordinary work as the coordinator of the “Excellent Adventure”. Working without a curriculum, Kathleen comes up with endlessly evocative themes and topics, and then enlists volunteers to help her carry out the Sunday morning program. Each week our children rush to meet their friends and then emerge afterward with smiles on their faces, and sometimes a craft in hand.
Thanks to you all, staff and volunteers, and everyone who loves our children!
In recent weeks security upgrades and enhancements have been added to our buildings and property. This is in response to a series of break-ins at the church over the Christmas holidays and a subsequent fund-raising campaign that brought in over $20,000 in donations from church members and friends.
The elevator has now been fitted with a lock-off key that prevents access to the second floor church offices during off hours. Elevator access to the lower level, where the washrooms are, is being maintained.
Exterior lighting has been enhanced outside the Canterbury Room, the Memorial Hall door and the Sacristy exit door, with enhancements still to come for the main church doors, the eastern face of the church, and the courtyard. Windows by the chapel and rear entry doors have been reinforced with mesh embedded glass.
Perhaps most significantly, over the summer months we will go “keyless” for all our exterior doors, requiring a card or fob issued by the office to gain entry. (Lynn our Parish Administrator will be in touch with those currently possessing keys, to provide instructions regarding the new system.) And security cameras will appear over the main entry points, which can be monitored in the office, but also from remote locations.
All this is regrettable for a church like St. Stephen’s that prides itself on openness, accessibility and inclusivity. But it is a modern-day necessity for an urban church, that we protect our resources in order that they are available for our service to the world.