This Week at St. Stephen’s: “Summer Season” [July 1st, 2018]

With today’s Canada Day worship service we enter the summer season, and with next week’s outdoor Stampede breakfast and worship service we will have settled right in! Brevity and informality are the order of the day, with worship designed to give focus and shape to our summer plans, yet without taking a bite out of those plans! We call it Summer Lite.

Throughout July and August we will worship in the round, a more intimate arrangement for our smaller summer congregations. The service itself will be shortened, by omitting all but the Gospel Reading for the day, and the preaching will be a brief reflection on that reading rather than a full sermon. Nursery will be provided every week and older children will be welcome to
join us in church.

Come Labour Day weekend we will still be in Summer Lite mode, but many of our members will want to be marching in Sunday’s Pride Parade. So for those folks we suggest that you worship early, at our 8 a.m. service, or simply worship while you walk! You will be sustained by the thoughts and prayers of those who are in church that day.

Start-up Sunday will arrive the following week—September 9th. We will return to our usual Sunday worship format, and the fall season will be underway. So enjoy all your summer plans, worship with us when you can, and please do not neglect your financial support, as the summer months can be lean in churchland. Happy summer!

This Week at St. Stephen’s: “Contact Information” [June 24th, 2018]

Any data retrieval system is only good as the information it contains. So we are spending the summer updating our Parish List and the way we gather membership information.

Recently we have been faced with the inadequacies of our current parish data entry system. Newcomers have sometimes had to submit their information numerous times to be placed on the membership list, to receive offering envelopes (if they want them), and to begin receiving our weekly e-newsletter. Yes, Christian discipleship sometimes requires fortitude, and even tenacity—but how hard do we want to make it for people to sign up?

So we are addressing our “intake system” to make it more accessible, more streamlined, and more efficient. We are also taking this opportunity to update the information itself. So we are asking you to help us by filling in the Member Information form we are supplying in this week’s bulletin. The form will be available throughout the summer in the narthex Online Or, if you’d prefer, give us a call or drop us a line.

We need details. If you have several names, which one do you prefer, or do you prefer a nickname? Are there children under the age of 18 living in your home? What are their names and years of birth, so that we can more easily create a demographic profile of the congregation by age? If you have several email addresses and phone numbers, which ones do you prefer we use? Please help us … to help you.

This Week at St. Stephen’s: “Gardeners” [June 17th, 2018]

One definition of a vocation is: “where my passion meets the world’s need”. Well! Are there any passionate gardeners out there looking for a need? Are you looking for a great summer project that will engage your skills and make you feel good? Have we got an opportunity for you!

For years we at St. Stephen’s have been exploring ways to make our buildings more welcoming, accessible, and useful for the wider community. But our grounds! They are the face we show to the world. But what a neglected and forlorn face they are—an eyesore even! The grass is dry and patchy, the west garden derelict and overgrown, and there is not one inviting spot that bids pedestrians to come rest awhile. Our neighbours notice this. Last year one even offered to come over and water our lawn for us!

True, the Memorial Garden has now been professionally spruced up, with plants and embellishments soon to be added, and a stone marker, lit by night, will appear at the corner of our property, bearing the inscription, “THE CHURCH OF SAINT STEPHEN: Open Hearts. Open Minds.” But these improvements will only highlight the lack of care shown for the rest of our grounds.

So … is gardening your gift? Have you recently moved from a house to a condo or to an apartment and find yourself missing the great outdoors? Are you hankering for a chance to get your hands dirty? If you have the passion, we have the need!

This Week at St. Stephen’s: “Pride” [June 10th, 2018]

We are in the process of registering for this year’s Pride Parade. Here in Calgary the annual event takes place on the Sunday of the Labour Day weekend—so this year, on September 2nd. We encourage our church members to march in the parade, if they are able to do so, or to offer support from the sidelines. Worship will end early that day to encourage people to do either.

St. Stephen’s has long stood for the full welcome and inclusion of people from across the spectrum of sexual orientation, believing that human diversity is a manifestation of God’s extravagant creativity, and that every creature is loved and cherished by its creator. This is reflected in our Mission Statement—“welcoming people of all ages, races, backgrounds, and sexual orientations”—and also in our current branding motto: “At St. Stephen’s you can BE REAL, you can BELONG, and you can BELIEVE IT.”

As we await authorization from the Pride Parade committee, the only question is: what do we put on our banner? Last year we marched under the banner that now appears above our main doors, which says, “Working toward marriage equality for everyone.” But that banner was large, unwieldy, and, while correct at the time, may now be out-dated. Are we still “working toward” marriage equality, or are we simply assuming it?

Parish Council will be discussing this at its June 24 meeting. So what are your thoughts? What should be the words … to accompany our brightly coloured rainbow?