WE WORK TOGETHER
Leadership of a parish church in the Anglican tradition is an exercise in negotiation. Unlike the Catholic Church where “Father knows best”, and the Protestant tradition where the majority rules, we bring clergy and lay people to the table in an equal partnership that strives to be respectful of each other’s area of expertise. The congregation cannot change basic Christian theology, for instance, and clergy cannot commit the congregation to enormous expenditures. The two must work together.
At St. Stephen’s the executive oversight of the parish is shared by the members of “Corporation”—so-called because they form the legal entity of the parish. The Corporation comprises two churchwardens—one elected by the congregation, the other appointed by the Rector—and the Rector. Together they oversee the parish’s program life, its financial stability, and the maintenance of its buildings and property.
The Parish Council meets monthly to advise Corporation about the overall life and health of the congregation. It is Parish Council where strategies may be devised to better engage newcomers or to plan a Stewardship campaign. But Parish Council also receives the reports of the Rector and Corporation, thereby providing a platform for their accountability to the congregation.
In a week’s time, at our Annual General Meeting, we will be welcoming Mary Lou Flood as our new People’s Warden (elected as a deputy at last year’s meeting), appointing Louise Redmond as our new Rector’s Warden, and electing three new members to Parish Council. We ask God to guide our deliberations.
TRAVEL WELL, SALLY
This week we mourn the passing of Sally Sherritt, long-time and beloved member of St. Stephen’s. Sally was uniquely herself, some might even say a bit of a character. She was quick-witted, sharp-tongued, open-hearted, and tirelessly interested in the lives of those around her.
We knew her for years as our church secretary, working with both Errol Shilliday and Bob Purdy. She fostered a sense of community in everything she did, creating deep bonds of friendship among the staff and volunteers of the church. Twenty-eight years ago her son Michael, an immigration lawyer here in Calgary, introduced her to Eduardo Rodriguez, who had recently arrived from Peru and was looking to start a career in his new country. Sally brought him to St. Stephen’s as caretaker … where he works to this day.
Sally loved to talk and loved to laugh, and she laughed often. In her last days, even in the midst of a deepening dementia, she engaged visitors at her bedside with humour and grace, sharing jokes that sometimes only she was getting!
We would like to think that Sally typifies what happens at healthy churches. People get to be themselves, appreciated and enjoyed for precisely who they are. We laugh and we cry with one another, we work with one another, and then we grieve one another’s passing.
Travel well, Sally, into this next part of your journey. We should be half so free to be ourselves, and so to be loved within the Body of Christ.
“HOUSE” INTO A “HOME”
People build buildings. We shape them to reflect our needs, our aspirations, and our aesthetics. But buildings in turn shape us. We are finding this already with our newly renovated space.
In ways we could not anticipate while drawing up the plans, St. Stephen’s is becoming a more participatory place. Our new sound and lighting systems demand a level of expertise with which we are unfamiliar. So we are training a Tech Team to monitor the sound and lights on a Sunday, and we are making provision for a technical support person to be part of any rental agreement that uses our sanctuary as a performance stage.
We are also drawing upon a team effort for the weekly removal of our chairs so the public can gain access to our new labyrinth during the week. We are calling this group “Movers & Shakers” and it will be organized in weekly teams to place the chairs for worship and then stack them again afterward. The group will also be called upon when the chairs are needed during the week for special services and events.
We are also planning a Saturday workshop to help us turn our “house” into a “home”. Under the leadership of creative consultant Keri Wehlander, we will be considering how we decorate our new space, how we organize it, and how we offer it to others.
So our new building is re-shaping us. We are becoming a more active, more engaged, and more intentional congregation as a result.
IT’S BUDGET TIME AGAIN
It’s budget time again, which is always tricky. As a faith community we want to be open to the Spirit, to new possibilities, and to those little miracles that enable us to do things we didn’t think we would be able to do. But as fiduciary planners with the responsibility of managing the funds you have entrusted to us, we want to be realistic and sober in our projections. Too much risk and we could be paying for our miscalculation for years to come; too little risk and we could choke off the very hopes and dreams that give the church its vitality.
We are fortunate to have excellent churchwardens, Dariel Bateman and Neil Miller, who are working diligently to find this balance. We are even more fortunate to have Jack Walker as treasurer, who knows his way around investments and financial planning and who helps us all feel more confident when it comes to making our financial plans and projections for the coming year.
Behind our churchwardens and treasurer we also have helpers who count the weekly collection (the Sidespeople), deposit it (Peter Nettleton), track the donations by identifiable givers (Jean Springer), keep the books up to date and in good order (Janis Fenwick), and pay the bills (Lynn McKeown). And behind them we have … you the givers! Your pledged intentions (especially your use of pre-authorized debit) give us a base line from which to start. And your generosity, in its many forms, opens doors to new possibility!
One of the deep privileges of life in a faith community is the support we offer one another through difficult times. When the vulnerability of one who is suffering is met by the sincere care of the community it feels like “holy ground” and we are all transformed.
As we continue to pray for those who are sick, or troubled by life’s circumstances, or bereaved, in coming weeks we will be adding to our prayer list our Assistant Curate Clara King. Two years ago Clara broke her leg in a skiing accident. But the healing was sporadic and in the end incomplete. So this week she will be undergoing surgery to have a bone graft. This will mean at least a month of convalescence and physiotherapy during which time we will be upholding her in our prayers.
This is one of those instances that serves to remind us that in the Body of Christ we are all “ministers”, a fact that is underlined in the Anglican Church by referring to our clergy according to their designated callings as deacons, priests and bishops instead of the generic term “minister”. Ministry flows in all directions among the baptized, including the care we give to our caregivers … in this case Clara.
At St. Stephen’s we maintain two prayer lists: a confidential Prayer Chain and our public Sunday Prayers for Those in Need. Contact the clergy to add names to the Prayer Chain; or the office to add names to our Sunday Prayers.
THE CHRISTMAS STORY
This week we celebrate the most beloved of all Christian holy days: Christmas. Surprisingly this feast developed rather late in Western Christian history, its present form and popularity owing more perhaps to Charles Dickens than to traditional Christian practise.
In the early days of the Church it was Easter that received the greatest attention. In fact, the earliest writings in the Bible show no awareness of the details of Christ’s birth at all, suggesting the Christmas story as we know it developed rather late in the process. But the 4th and 6th centuries saw great controversies about the meaning of the Person of Christ which drew attention to the Incarnation—literally Christ’s “enfleshment”—which is celebrated at Christmas.
While early dating of Christ’s birth placed the feast on May 20, Roman practise eventually settled on December 25, perhaps to counteract the pagan feast of the Nativity of the Sun God. In the East however, even where December 25 became the normative date for Christmas, many churches placed greater emphasis on the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6, and many still regard that day as the greater festival.
Christmas in the West traditionally has been celebrated by three Masses: at midnight on Christmas Eve, at dawn on Christmas Day, and again later in the day. Popular custom allows us to offer a variety of worship services to meet a variety of needs, as we do: the Pageant for families, a late-night Christmas Eve service, and the quieter Christmas morning service.
FIGURING IT ALL OUT
Last week we reported on some things still to be figured out as we settle into our newly renovated space. This week we turn our attention to the finances required to run our new facility.
The vision that guided our renovations focused on a more welcoming and flexible building complex that supported our own program needs while engaging the wider community, especially through the arts. That meant, among other things, washrooms appropriate for larger crowds and sound and light systems suitable for artistic presentations. But both come with a price tag beyond their installation costs.
Larger useable floor space in the church and the new washrooms require cleaning, as do all the hallways with their increased weekly use. So we have offered Eduardo our caretaker a full-time contract, doubling his hours. Similarly the advanced technology up in the balcony requires an experienced hand to set and monitor the sound and lights, both for worship and for public performances. Chad Dudley our web site designer is that person, and he is training a team of volunteer techies to help him out. Then to coordinate special events—either our own or the community’s—we need a House Manager, someone to oversee the building’s use. We are still searching for that person.
The funds for these new expenses will come partly from the groups that use our church, who are surcharged for any additional staffing they require. The rest comes from our own members—from you!—who support us through your regular offerings.
Last Sunday we hosted two concerts in our new space: a choral concert in the afternoon and in the evening a benefit concert for Madison House, a residence for veterans who might otherwise be on the street. The second event was particularly telling, and also very encouraging.
The program—“Christmas at Madison House”—was a parade of young musical talent, each act performing three or four songs in a wide range of styles, from pop to jazz to Latino to folk. Our rector was invited to close the program with a few compositions of his own.
The new stage proved equal to the task, as did our sound and theatrical systems. But it took a deft hand—by which we mean Chad our technical support person—to manage the sound levels and the lighting for such a diverse program.
But the organizers could not have been happier with their new venue. They raised over $1000 to help give the residents of Madison House a Merry Christmas. They praised what we had done to the place to make it so accessible. They also thanked us for our willingness to make it available for their fund-raiser. Clearly they will return, perhaps making their program an annual event at St. Stephen’s.
This was our hope: that our building might serve as a way of connecting with the wider community through the arts … and especially the developing arts, the young up-and-coming artists who will make their mark in years to come. We’re launched.
“We’ll Figure it Out!”
Well, we’re in! After six months of displacement, dust and disorder, we are finally back into our church for worship, along with our new Sunday School space, ramps, an elevator, and washrooms. It’s all shiny and new and there is much we now have to learn about our renovated space.
In fact that has become our motto in recent months as we have been planning our return—”We’ll figure it out!” It was a default position for us when we could not imagine with certainty how things were going to be. Here is a partial list of some of those things we still have to “figure out”:
– Who will move the chairs and other furnishings when we need to change the configuration?
– How do we secure the church offices now that the elevator stops at the third floor?
– How do we let people know where the new washrooms are? (They’re down on the basement level.)
– Who will monitor the sounds and lights during regular worship services?
– Now that we have a ramp, how do we make the doors accessible for wheelchairs?
You can help us with this. Please give us your observations and suggestions and also your offers of assistance as we settle into our new space. If the sound isn’t working for you, tell us. If the arrangement of chairs is confusing, let us know. If signage is unhelpful, point it out.
We’ve travelled a long way together. Now we need to work together to inhabit our new space.
Next week our renovations wrap up, with only a few eleventh hour deadlines still to be met. These include the arrival of the new chairs (slated for Monday or Tuesday), the replacement of all the light bulbs in the church and chapel (including one defective spotlight), the installation of the new cabinets in the sacristy, and the completion of the worship accessories (processional cross and torches).
Two worship services will help us celebrate and reoccupy our new space. The first is the Blessing of the Furnishings—our new font, ambo and altar—on Thursday, November 21, at 7:30 p.m. The Bishop will be present to lead us in this dramatic spot-lit service as we move in procession through the church, ending in a large circle around the altar for communion. A wine and cheese reception will follow, with BRAG members available to lead guided tours through the renovated parts of our building.
Then on Sunday, November 24, at 10:30 a.m. we will celebrate “The Return of the Exiles” as our combined Sunday morning congregations process up from the lower Memorial Hall into our new church! The service will include our first baptism using the new font and a novel arrangement of chairs to help us gather in a new way. The coffee hour that follows will take place in the church itself, with BRAG members available again for guided tours.