This Week: Midtown Mosaic [Oct 20th, 2018]

When we planned our renovations for St. Stephen’s, we were caught by a vision of becoming a home for the arts. This felt natural for us because so many of our church members are involved with the arts, either as patrons or as artists. But it was also a way of increasing our interaction with the wider community—a way of removing the street-side barrier created by our cinderblock walls, by playing host to our neighbours.

Five years later, it is gratifying to see the extent to which that vision is being fulfilled. Last weekend our church was transformed into an art gallery for our annual Midtown Mosaic art show, the sanctuary filled with art, and a constant stream of patrons flowing through the building. The place was alive with conversation, music, good food and drink. And our raffle and silent auction raised over $10,000, which, after expenses, will be divided between Kids’ Cancer Care, the Calgary Distress Centre, and the Rector’s Discretionary Fund.

On Saturday, November 3, the sanctuary will be transformed once again, this time as a coffee house, complete with both a barista and a bartender, providing a friendly venue for live music. “Live at Steve’s”, our second home-grown “house concert”, will feature country soul singer/songwriter Justine Vandergrift, Edmonton’s Ken Stead, and our own Brian Pearson hosting and playing a few tunes himself. (Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the door.) God gave us the vision, we built it, and now they’re coming! Sweet.   

This Week: Jeff and Maureen Jones [Oct 13th, 2018]

It would seem that God is preparing us for a new chapter in the life of our parish, one that we cannot yet fully imagine. It begins with Brian’s retirement in March, 2019, but it is anticipated now by the announcement that Jeff and Maureen Jones will be leaving us in mid-November to take up new work and a new life in Ontario.

Jeff and Maureen have contributed more to the life and character of St. Stephen’s these last thirteen years than we could easily measure! Jeff’s musical leadership has provided a dynamic rallying point for our congregation in his work with the choir, whose sense of fun rivals its devotion to the music itself. The music program—with its rich blend of the modern and traditional—has become a hallmark of our lively Sunday worship.

2016 Carol Service

Maureen has gifted us with her dramatic flare and masterful storytelling sensibilities. We first witnessed this in the Radio Nights series, dramatic readings of plays performed live in our sanctuary. And every year we were transported by her readings in church, most memorably at the Carol Service and the Good Friday Reading of the Passion.

But their sons, Simon and Hugh, are both setting courses that lead them east, and it seemed to Jeff and Maureen that this was a sign that the family was itself relocating. So Jeff is taking a new assignment in Hamilton with RBC and Maureen is finding her place in Toronto, the hub of our country’s professional voicing work.

This Week: Staff Changes At Our Synod Office [Oct 6th, 2018]

Last week Archbishop Greg Kerr-Wilson announced sweeping changes in the staff of our synod office. Among the senior staff our diocese now has a new Executive Officer (Pilar Gateman) and a new Treasurer (Lorraine Betts). Among leading diocesan volunteers, he has announced a new Archivist, a new chair of the Property Committee, and a new member of the Legislative Committee. Carol Tubman will continue as diocesan secretary.

These new appointments signal the recent departures of Barry Foster (former Executive Officer), Steve Koning (former Financial Officer), Dorothy Schultz (former Assistant to the Director of Finance), Murray Tait (former Vice-Chancellor), and Cathy Fulton (former Archivist).

Yes, there are stories behind all these changes; no, this is not the place to tell those stories. But it is the place to invite you to a reception being planned for all the outgoing staff and officers of synod by a group of their friends. Friday, October 26, from 2 to 4 pm, please join us in the Crump Room at Christ Church, Elbow Park, to honour these devoted people who have served us so well over the years.

A “purse” will be presented to each of these faithful servants to thank them for their many years of service. We are, therefore, asking for donations toward those gifts. If you would like to contribute, please do so by October 21, made out to St. Stephen’s Church, with the memo “Diocesan Staff”. Change is sometimes unwelcome, but it is sweetened by thoughtful gestures of thanks and appreciation.

This Week: Midtown Mosaic [Sept 29th, 2018]

Midtown Mosaic. Sure, it’s an art sale. With twenty local artists displaying their wares, there will be art to hang on your wall, art to hang from your ears, and art to give away at Christmas. The buyer doesn’t choose the art; the art chooses the buyer

Sure, it’s also a fundraiser. With a silent auction featuring everything from Flames games to the stage lights of Vertigo Theatre to the romantic candle glow of La Chaumiere, from wine baskets to hairdos, and a raffle that will take you anywhere WestJet flies, all proceeds will support Kids Cancer Care, The Calgary Distress Centre and the Rector’s Discretionary Fund.

Sure, it’s a weekend of entertainment, with a wine and cheese reception, the catchy melodies of St. Stephen’s choir, and the smooth sounds of the Triptychs. It’s a day and a half of browsing and mingling.

But more than all that, it is a community gathering, a way to welcome our neighbours into our church home and extend to them St. Stephens’s’ legendary hospitality. Join us, wear an “ASK ME” button (if you choose) and become one of our many unofficial hosts, providing our guests with a friendly face.

Midtown Mosaic has become one of the flagship events of the year. Don’t miss it—as a patron or as a host, or as both! It is our way of breaking down the walls that divide and building bridges of friendship. Friday, October 12, 6– 9:30 pm; Saturday, October 13, 10 am – 3 pm.

This Week: Emmanuel Gatera [Sept 22th, 2018]

For over twenty years St. Stephen’s has been blessed by our relationship with Emmanuel Gatera, an Anglican priest in Rwanda. Emmanuel and his wife Athanasie suffered unimaginable loss during the 1996 Genocide. But they have used that suffering to inspire their healing work among the Genocide’s survivors and among a new generation of young people, many who have grown up as orphans in the shadow of that tragedy.

We are pleased to report good and promising developments from YEGO, the foundation Emmanuel created to heal and empower vulnerable women and youth. Since earning his doctoral degree from St. Stephen’s College, University of Alberta, Emmanuel has become a sought-after speaker on the Rwandan Genocide. In August he shared the stage with Romeo Dallaire, a Canadian humanitarian, author, and retired Lieutenant-General who served as a UN peacekeeping commander in Rwanda and who—traumatically—witnessed the Genocide. This coming summer Emmanuel will return to Canada to teach an intensive week-long program at U of A on “The Genesis of Hate”.

Meanwhile, YEGO has been given an enormous boost by the gift of a house from the City of Kigali to be designated as an employment readiness centre, with a curriculum that will include English, computer training, and trades courses. Now, of course, YEGO is scrambling to equip the centre with the furnishings and the resources it will need—including the computers! We will continue to offer support through our Outreach-Beyond fund, and to give thanks for the enormous privilege of knowing Emmanuel Gatera!

This Week: Preparation [Sept 16th, 2018]

With the beginning of this new program season, we begin our preparations for the retirement of Brian our Rector in the new year, and the changes that event will bring to our parish. Clergy come and go like the weather, but congregations carry on, strengthened by each new incarnation of themselves through transitions such as this.

Here are some of the things we are doing to prepare ourselves:

  • A selection committee has been struck, chaired by Anne Brown and advised by Barry Foster, to begin the search process for a new incumbent.
  • A worship committee has been formed to guide our worship through the interim period following Brian’s retirement, to ensure its continuity.
  • Pastoral Visitors are being trained and supported to care for the sick, elderly, and shut-in.
  • All parish programs—from the meditation group to the nursery—are being overseen by Charmaine our deacon.
  • Similarly, all parish outreach—from our Blue Envelope projects to requests from social service agencies—are being attended to by Charmaine and the members of our administrative staff.
  • The Open Doors team will continue its work to find a way of redeveloping our property to create both a new revenue stream, to support parish life and work, and also new community outreach possibilities.

Change is never easy, and it is rarely welcome. But this change gives us the opportunity to redefine and to strengthen our church for the new future to which God is calling us. We are not bracing ourselves: we are preparing ourselves.

This Week at St. Stephen’s: “Look What We’ve Done Now!”

We do a lot of good work at St. Stephen’s—and we mean a LOT—like last year, in excess of $50,000! We help people get back on their feet after a setback, we send people across the country to take a new job, we support worthy outreach projects both locally and around the world. But our own members are sometimes the last to know!

So this year we are introducing a new feature that will appear in our weekly bulletin and e-newsletter: a brief information piece called “Look What We’ve Done Now!” It will highlight our many outreach initiatives and encourage our members to support our various outreach funds.

These funds have been created outside of the annual budget as donor-supported funds, some of them our “Blue Envelope” projects. They serve as pass-through accounts that directly support their intended designations, involving no administrative fees. They include: the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund; Outreach—Beyond; Community Outreach Projects; Feed the Hungry Dinner; and the Rector’s Discretionary Fund.

Our annual budget routinely offers outreach support through our staffing and our buildings, and these always deserve our attention. In fact, it is often overlooked that our regular support of St. Stephen’s already includes an outreach aspect to it, as our staff respond to local needs and our buildings provide affordable program space for community organizations.

But if you are looking for an effective way to make an immediate impact on someone’s life, please consider supporting our Outreach Funds. And stay tuned!

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!