This Week: “Open Doors II”

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!

This Week: “Every Story Is Sacred” [March 25th, 2018]

“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.

This Week: “When Is A Church Member Not A Church Member” [March 18th, 2018]

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 Week: “Joanne Epply-Schmidt” [March 9th, 2018]

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!

This Week: “Nursery and Sunday School” [Feb 18th, 2018]

We are approaching the third month with our newly configured Nursery and Sunday School. By all indications, it is a resounding success: happy kids, happy parents, and happy church! And it was already a pretty happy place before the new program!

Under the leadership of Charmaine Evans, our deacon and program coordinator, the Nursery and Sunday School now share the Creation Space, the multi-purpose room beneath the Canterbury Room. This means the younger children are closer to the older children, making their eventual transition to Sunday School easier.

Using resource materials that relate to the lectionary, Sunday School teacher Maya McKirdy engages the children with age appropriate worksheets that can be taken home and shared with the family. Some of our young adults assist Beverley Senko and Leila Quinones with the Nursery, and with the Sunday School as well, providing a meaningful way for them to contribute to the church when the worship service itself has lost some of its lustre.

Overall, the use of different age groups helps create a truly inclusive sense of community, where our younger church members learn as much from one another as from the formal lessons being taught.

Also, beginning March 18, Charmaine is inviting the young adults of the parish to a monthly meeting to take place during the first part of our Sunday worship service. This will be an opportunity for dialogue and experiential learning about the Christian faith, religions of the world, and issues youth deal with in the modern world.

This Week: “Three Days in Lent” [Feb 18th, 2018]

Every year during the season of Lent we offer programs designed to assist people in their spiritual journey. In the past we have read books, heard speakers, explored different forms of prayer, written creeds … and enriched our Lenten observance with such engaging activities. This year we offer “Three Days in Lent”—three Saturday workshops that will help us explore our faith journey:

NAMING OUR STORY, on February 24, will provide guidance for recognizing the ways God has moved in our lives, asking three key questions: What is our way? What is our work? What is our wound? Led by Brian, Charmaine and Cathy, participants will gain a new appreciation that God has been there all along!

TELLING OUR STORY, on March 10, will engage us in the art of storytelling. Led by master storyteller Joanne Epply-Schmitt, an Episcopalian priest from Boston, and a popular summer presenter at the Sorrento Conference Centre, we will learn how to put our stories into words, and into action, beginning with the biblical stories that move us.

WALKING OUR STORY, on March 24, will give encouragement to us as our journeys continue into a promising, but unknown, future. Led by Brian, Charmaine and Cathy, we will ask how we can remain open to God’s leading and so live the lives we are called to live.

Please consult the bulletin and our social media for details, and sign up early either by phone or in the narthex. Lent—a time to attend to the journey.

This Week: “Lent” [Feb 11th, 2018]

Lent. Forty days of prayer, penitence, fasting, and reflection that prepare us for the celebration of Easter . It draws our attention to the frailty of the human condition (“Remember you dust,” the priest says on Ash Wednesday, while imposing ashes in the form of a cross on the penitent’s forehead, “and to dust you shall return”), and invites us to examine our lives for impediments to God’s grace and love. Lent reminds us that, life being short, we need constantly to return to God and remember who-and whose-we are.

Historically, Lent has been a time to feel bad about ourselves-to deflate the ego and mortify the flesh-so that we might rediscover God’s mercy. But in modern times we are more concerned about fulfilling our potential than cutting through our hubris. So we speak of “taking things on” for Lent, not just giving things up. We find worthy causes for the expenditure of our time, talent, and treasure. We read edifying books, or attend study groups. We think about our lives, and where we’re going, and make corrective course changes.

Lent is reflected in our Sunday worship by a solemn tone, the sounding of the prayer bowl, by silence, and by an ancient rite called the Reconciliation of a Penitent, that is, confession and absolution. The scriptural themes revolve around Jesus’ call to a life of humility, discipline, and generosity. It is a reflective time that prepares us to receive God’s love and become who we are.

This Week: “Clergy In The Congregation” [Feb 2nd, 2018]

We are fortunate at St. Stephen’s to have a number of clergy who call our congregation home and, among those, several who act as “honorary clergy”, providing worship relief and other assistance with our church programs. All are either retired, or employed elsewhere, but they enrich our parish life with their presence.

Don Axford is retired and now approaching the 40th Anniversary of his Ordination to the Priesthood! Philip Behman remains active as part of the Spiritual Care team at the Alberta Children’s Hospital. Barry Foster is the Executive Archdeacon of the Diocese of Calgary and spends most Sundays on the road visiting Anglican congregations all across Southern Alberta, from Rimby to Pincher Creek. Cathy Fulton is retired, but continues to work as the Archivist and Registrar for the Synod. Both Barry and Cathy are honorary clergy here.

And now to this august group we are pleased to welcome Dean Houghton. Dean retired recently from thirty years of parish ministry, crossing denominational and interfaith boundaries along the way, and ending up here in Calgary with eleven years at St. George’s and several years since then as interim priest at both Church of the Good Shepherd and St. Barnabas.

With a background in outdoor adventure leadership, Dean shares with his wife Anne a love of fly-fishing, the culinary arts, and music. He also likes good liturgy, church music, the “ever-unfolding story of God here among us,” and, fortunately for us, the “good folk of St. Stephen’s”. We are well blessed indeed!

This Week: “Summer camp” [January 21st, 2018]

It may only be January, but it’s not too soon to be making your summer holiday plans. And when you do, regardless of your age and stage in life, be sure you consider the possibility of summer camp. That’s right. Summer camp.

The Sorrento Retreat and Conference Centre, on the shores of beautiful Shushwap Lake in British Columbia, is “Anglican in tradition, ecumenical in programming, and inclusive in welcome”—a recreational gathering place for all ages that offers restful surroundings and stimulating programs from May to October, but especially through the summer months.

From private rooms to family camping facilities, on-site accommodations help create a multi-generational community. Day programming keeps children active and engaged while adults participate in hikes, discussion groups, and arts workshops led by world-renowned speakers and facilitators.

This year’s adult programming includes story-telling, a weeklong music workshop titled, “Singing Locally, Thinking Globally,” water-colour painting, and Creative Journaling, just to name a few.

Worship is part of every day life at Sorrento, held mostly in the wooded outdoor chapel overlooking the lake, and a weekly public lecture by one the program leaders welcomes the wider community. The programs are not compulsory and many people sign on for a week of individual rest and recreation.

The Sorrento Centre is supported by Anglican dioceses and parishes across B.C. and Alberta and of course by individual patrons and donors. To learn more, visit their website: http://www.sorrento-centre.bc.ca Or ask around—St. Stephen’s has a number of “happy campers” with stories to tell!

This Week: “Open Doors II” [January 14th, 2018]

In a bustling parish like St. Stephen’s, advance planning is a way of life. Whether it’s this week’s worship, next year’s retirement, or five years down the road, we are always thinking ahead. Our new building committee, Open Doors II, is a good illustration of this

When we completed our last round of renovations, in 2013, we knew we were not done. Phase I was complete, including radical changes to our worship and program space, our accessibility, and our infrastructure. But Phase II was already on our minds. The church offices and Canterbury Room were dying a slow ragged death and the Memorial Hall was literally falling apart!

Open Doors II is our attempt to articulate a new vision for our ageing buildings and to coordinate their revitalization through a new renovation project. At the core of this vision is the Memorial Hall and its potential as a community hub for our neighbourhood.

 

The lower floor of the hall, where we used to host Inn From the Cold, boasts a kitchen and banquet hall, ideal for redevelopment as a community kitchen. The upper hall, which now houses a dozen artists in affordable studios, is in fact a full–sized community hall with stage and wings. The office space provides homey administration for small organizations.

So our team is busy these days meeting with city planners and other potential partners to flesh out a vision, to be followed by parish consultations, and then some feasibility planning. There’s no moss gathering here!