The “Open Doors II” Task Force is busy preparing its first full report to the congregation and looking forward to sharing its work and its early recommendations.
Continuing the work of “Open Doors”, which coordinated our renovations of 2013, the Task Force was struck last year by the Corporation to explore the possibilities for redeveloping our Memorial Hall, Rectory, Centre Block and surrounding properties. This work is necessary because all three ageing buildings are in dire need of attention. But rather than simply do expensive repairs, it is good stewardship to ask if these buildings, plus our church grounds, can be put to better use than they are presently.
Broadly, we are asking how our buildings and grounds can be redeveloped to fund the ministry and mission of our church, meaning, both the programs we run for our own members and the outreach we carry out in the community. More specifically, might there be partners from the wider community who would be able to help us develop our buildings and property toward this end?
The Task Force has been meeting since the fall, consulting with many current and potential stakeholders, and it is now eager to share its initial findings with you, the congregation. On Sunday, April 29, at 12 noon, please join us for an information session in the church. A full written report will be available, and a presentation will be made about progress thus far. Please bring your interest, your concerns, and your questions. The future beckons!
“Every story is sacred.” That is what our outdoor church sign has announced throughout the Lenten season. It references what has been going on indoors these past six weeks, with our program “Three Days in Lent”—an exploration of our personal journeys as “stories” that can be discovered, owned, and told.
On February 24th, we learned to identify our personal stories by asking three questions: What is my way? What is my work? What is my wound? On March 10th Joanne Epply-Schmidt helped us to frame our stories such that we can share them. This weekend we accept our stories by walking the labyrinth, where we offer the story of our life back to the community as a gift.
Each story is unique, with its own valleys and mountaintops. It is born of the interaction between who we are, and what has happened to us. Each challenge we have faced, each decision we have made, each new branch in our unfolding journey, has shown us the essence of our character, of who we really are. We have acted sometimes nobly, sometimes shamefully, but a life review reveals a hidden process whereby we were becoming, at each step of the way, the person God created us to be.
So the message on our outdoor sign has been more than a promotional hook for this year’s Lenten program. It has been a reminder to take seriously the unique events that comprise the story of our lives. They tell us who we are.
When is a church member not a church member? Each week, as we make our way through the parish list, bringing forward names of parishioners for our Sunday prayers, we cannot help but notice that not all the names are familiar to us. Some once had an active connection here but now have drifted away. Some were placed on the list when they had a child baptized, or a wedding performed, but they never really “took root” as members. But some who are inactive now still regard themselves as members, and fiercely so, as having connections here that stretch back for generations.
Several decades ago Reginald Bibby, a Professor of Sociology from the University of Lethbridge, did extensive research on Canadian Christians and their church-going habits. His findings were startling. To the evangelical churches, so proud of their church growth, he said that much of that growth was due to church-hopping, not church-finding, that is, to restless Christians moving about to whichever church had the best band, or the best preacher, or perhaps the best coffee.
For mainstream Christians like us, he said our membership was actually much larger than the numbers indicated. He discovered that many non-church-attenders retained a strong brand loyalty and would be surprised—even piqued—to learn they were not considered members. Bibby’s message to us: evangelism begins with the many people who already count themselves as members.
So look around. Who are the people who are not with us? How might we bring them home?
This weekend we are thrilled to have with us a master storyteller whose passion is helping people tell their own stories, especially church people, whether in church or out in the world.
Joanne Epply-Schmidt, an Episcopalian priest and university chaplain in Princeton, NJ, will be giving a public lecture on “The Good That Comes after ‘Once Upon a Time …’” on Friday, March 9, at 7:30. She will share her experience telling stories in parishes, prisons, the public square, and in pastoral care. This is a free lecture with a wine & cheese reception to follow to meet the speaker. All are welcome.
On Saturday, March 10, from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.a. Joanne will be offering a workshop to help people tell their own stories—everything from setting up a story, paying attention to details, the use of drama—to give us confidence when we area called upon to tell our story. Registration is required and the workshop is limited to 20 people. Freewill donations will be gratefully received toward the cost of this day.
Joanne will be our preacher at both services on Sunday, March 11, and then will stay following the 10:30 service to lead a workshop for all our readers. She believes that “reading” the lessons on a Sunday morning is in reality a form of storytelling.
Please participate in any or all of these events as you are able. There is not one of us, after all, who does not have a story to tell!