This Week at St. Stephen’s: November 6th 2016

acr296553145151424-3168030The chairs aren’t quite as full this morning—another day where the pleasures of lingering a little longer over coffee win out over a barnburner of a sermon and some awesome hymns, right? Not quite. This morning, and later today, about 40 or more members of our congregation will be working with Feed the Hungry to set-up, prepare, serve, and tear down a complimentary meal for nearly 600 guests at St. Mary’s Cathedral.

Thanks to your generosity last month, we were able to contribute $2500 toward the food costs for today’s supper. Giving of our time, our talents, and our treasure is part of how we minister to a world beset by economic uncertainty and job losses. We work together with our partners at Feed the Hungry and our fellow volunteers to affirm our guests’ humanity, by greeting them, serving them a nutritious and tasty meal tableside, and providing them with a hospitality package at the end of the evening.

acr296553145151424-713033We know that it may be hard for some of our members to support yet another request for funds and assistance to people outside our congregation, while some of our own have themselves been affected by the very economic uncertainty we’ve been dealing with for the past 2½ years. We are called, in the words of the hymn and the Prayer of St. Francis:

Make me a channel of your peace,

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,

In giving of ourselves that we receive.

We ask God’s blessing on all who are being served at today’s Feed the Hungry dinner.

 

This Week at St. Stephen’s: October 23rd 2016

thisweek1In our fast paced existence it is all too common to allow our schedules and exterior demands to control what we are doing, what we thinking and how we respond to life itself. When we get bounced around from thing to thing….we can be tempted to listen to everyone else’s wants and desires on our time…. and all but lose touch with ourselves. It is as if “we listen for guidance everywhere except from within” (Parker Palmer – Let Your Life Speak.)

It is a belief of our Christian faith that we have all been touched by God and blessed by God’s grace, present and active in our lives, and our response is meant to be open and ready to receive the Spirit of God speaking into our hearts and blessing our days. This is meant to be lifelong journey of learning and growth. But how to stay in touch with that thisweek2blessing requires time and an intention to draw to the still and listen. Spiritual exercises help us to disconnect from the outer world, create inner peace, give us inner strength, help us to become more inspired or even name one’s purpose in life.

Weekly at St Stephen’s there are many opportunities to participate in cultivating our spiritual development through listening and learning. Look for the goldenrod handout in the narthex. Perhaps something found in St Stephen’s Spiritual Menu will entice you to embark on a new spiritual aspect of your faith journey, starting today.

This Week At St. Stephen’s: October 16th 2016

picture1It comes as a surprise to some that an organization like a church relies entirely on individual financial donations, and not on financial support from governments.   Additionally, many of the activities and ministries are done by volunteers, not paid staff.

St. Stephen’s is no different.  It is only through the ongoing commitment of its parishioners’ time and financial donations that this church can exist and function (with some help from building rental income).

But we don’t give to a church for its existence in and of itself.  This is not its purpose.  That is not our calling.  Instead, belonging, and being committed to a church, gives us individually and collectively the opportunity to give through the church to that what God is calling us to do.picture2

And it gives us the opportunity to receive the joys and blessings God wants for us when we realize, and use, the gifts we have for God’s mission here on earth.   Jesus conveyed this message repeatedly, as do many of the New Testament authors.

This Week at St. Stephen’s: October 9th 2016

picture1Recent political hijinks in the church and in the world lead us to think about the nature of leadership, and especially leadership in the church. We are reminded that, as followers of Jesus, “the greatest among you should be the servant of all”, which is a model of leadership more often preached than practised.

The exercise of power is itself neutral. Power is simply the ability to get what you want. Everyone needs enough personal power to manage their lives. If someone has been denied that ability they are said to be in need of empowerment.

When someone is given (or assumes) power over other people we call that leadership. Jesus noted that, among the Gentiles, their rulers exercised authority over them. “It shall not be so among you,” he told the disciples. “The greatest among you must be least of all”—a radical notion in our own time, as it was then.

Jesus taught and modeled “servant leadership”, where the strong give themselves for the sake of the weak, and the powerful serve the needs of the powerless. His ultimate lesson was on the cross, where he gave up his life for the sake of those he loved.

This is a model that calls us to deep bonds of self-giving love for one another. It is a form of service that does not come easily or naturally to many of us, which is why we look to church leaders to help show us the way—by word and example.

This Week: October 2nd 2016

Social MediaA few years ago, we dreamed a dream of our future buildings and property, imagining a community hub, a cultural centre brimming with activity. We saw St. Stephen’s not just as a place for church members, but for the neighbourhood, indeed, for the whole city. Our renovations opened the doors, and the people came—for music, for theatre, for art. This week’s Midtown Mosaic art show is the triumphant realization of our dream, crowned last year by the official visit of our mayor. Here, church members mingle with our citywide neighbours in a colourful testimony to the riches of community life, creating cultural circles of connection that move out beyond our congregation.

Meanwhile, another community meeting place was evolving, one that did not require hundreds of thousands of dollars in costly renovation. It began with our web site, designed to attract seekers and church members alike, where we posted past sermons and promoted upcoming events, and projected a people- friendly image of ourselves to the world. It remains our main vehicle for meeting people who are looking for a church.

But from nowhere, a cheeky upstart called Facebook surpassed our website as the principal way we now connect with the world. A post celebrating our recent blessing of a civil same-sex marriage attracted over 2000 views, as well as wildly supportive comments from people we don’t even know. We are not one community hub, but three: a street address, a website (ststephenscalgary.org), and a Facebook page (St. Stephen’s Anglican Church Calgary).

This Week: September 18th 2016

picture1Heading into the fall season, what are the personal habits and disciplines that will keep you healthy? A good diet, exercise, mental stimulation, meaningful relationships, and of course a balanced approach to it all! St. Stephen’s can help you with your spiritual health, which has both inward and outward components.

Inwardly, we think of those practices that keep us rooted in God’s loving presence—like prayer, study, and meditation. Our meditation group will be starting up shortly for those who want to learn a simple practice of mindfulness. The labyrinth group is working on some special events this fall to introduce you to the benefits of a walking meditation. And our weekly adventure in Bible study stimulates your thinking about the Christian life.

Outwardly, we think of service, of ways we can contribute to the needs of others, and support our community life, both in church and in the neighbourhood. St. Stephen’s is exploring a new relationship with the Metro Alliance for the Common Good to identify and meet the city’s greatest needs. Our refugee committee is awaiting the arrival of our sponsored family from Syria. And cultural events such as the upcoming Midtown Mosaic Art Show help connect us with our neighbours.

All of this comes together in our worship, which offers many ways to become involved from choir to greeting to chancel work to the tech team. So pick up a copy of this year’s Spiritual Menu from the entrance foyer and choose your own new spiritual habits.

This Week: July 17th 2016

51a56e50-0531-43c3-beff-910d25b48aacA few weeks ago, as we awaited the outcome of General Synod’s vote to permit same-sex marriage in the Anglican Church of Canada, Parish Council debated the merits of hanging a rainbow flag outside our church. It would have been a sign of our solidarity with our LGBTQ+ members and friends … while the church debated the legitimacy of their relationships! In the end we decided not to fly the flag, at least until such time as equality and justice was achieved nationally.

Then, in a surprise turn of events, same-sex marriage captured the support of over 70% of the popular vote at General Synod while losing by one vote in the House of Clergy. Within 24 hours that count had been corrected and the motion passed. So now we anticipate its return to our national body three years hence for ratification and implementation.

In the meantime, three dioceses have already declared they are proceeding with same-sex marriages without General Synod’s ratification and several more are considering similar actions. Where our own diocese stands on this issue remains a mystery: our bishop (who voted against the motion) has not issued any public statements. Nor is it clear if, in the wake of General Synod’s decision, he will now permit same-sex blessings.

So … is it time to fly the flag? Would it be a sign of solidarity, or would it confuse our hopes with our actual ability to act? What do you think? Tell us. Operators are standing by …

This Week at St. Stephen’s: June 26th, 2016

wellness6To everything, the Bible tells us, there is a season: a time to plant and a time to till; a time to mourn and a time to dance. We might add, a time to work and a time to play. And summer, in this part of the world, is a time to play.

We have worked hard this past year at St. Stephen’s. We have sheltered the homeless, prepared a place for refugees, and advocated for those whose sexual orientation has left them sidelined by their own church! We have welcomed the neighbourhood and we have taken delight in the arts. And behind it all we have worshiped exuberantly and grown ever deeper in our faith.

But now is the time to rest, a welcome respite that will be reflected in our quieter weekday buildings and our lighter Sunday worship. We call summer worship at St. Stephen’s “Summer Lite”. At both 8 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. the service will be shortened to allow for people’s summer plans. In place of the usual three readings and sermon we will hear one reading—usually the gospel—and the sermon will be more a brief meditation than anything more expansive.

Our faith—including both our prayer life and our good works—does not take a break in the summer. But our emphasis shifts to the many recreational pursuits that help to rejuvenate us and prepare us for the work to come. Let St. Stephen’s become part of your summer re-creation. You’ve earned it.

This Week at St. Stephen’s: June 26th, 2016

wellness6To everything, the Bible tells us, there is a season: a time to plant and a time to till; a time to mourn and a time to dance. We might add, a time to work and a time to play. And summer, in this part of the world, is a time to play.

We have worked hard this past year at St. Stephen’s. We have sheltered the homeless, prepared a place for refugees, and advocated for those whose sexual orientation has left them sidelined by their own church! We have welcomed the neighbourhood and we have taken delight in the arts. And behind it all we have worshiped exuberantly and grown ever deeper in our faith.

But now is the time to rest, a welcome respite that will be reflected in our quieter weekday buildings and our lighter Sunday worship. We call summer worship at St. Stephen’s “Summer Lite”. At both 8 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. the service will be shortened to allow for people’s summer plans. In place of the usual three readings and sermon we will hear one reading—usually the gospel—and the sermon will be more a brief meditation than anything more expansive.

Our faith—including both our prayer life and our good works—does not take a break in the summer. But our emphasis shifts to the many recreational pursuits that help to rejuvenate us and prepare us for the work to come. Let St. Stephen’s become part of your summer re-creation. You’ve earned it.

This Week at St. Stephen’s–June 19, 2016

Picture1When Calgary’s Inn From the Cold Society closed the doors of all its community inns, including our own, we felt something was being taken from us: a great opportunity to serve and a source of great blessing both for our guests and for ourselves. We will gather to celebrate that ministry, which started here at St. Stephen’s, and also to give thanks to God for such a rare and rich experience. But then we will move on to seek a new way of applying our considerable talents and energy to those who need it most in our city.

 

So this Sunday, June 19, at 5 pm we will gather in the Memorial Hall for a Gala Potluck meal, reuniting volunteers and coordinators from almost twenty years of service. At 7 we will move up into the church for a service of thanksgiving, singing songs of hope and taking inspiration once again from Bob Purdy as he reviews this great chapter in our history.

 

Then on two Sundays this summer—July 24 and August 21—we will participate in intentional listening events to identify needs in the city and ways of working together to meet those needs. This is part of a city-wide conversation hosted by the Metro Alliance for the Common Good (MACG) as churches, not-for-profit organizations, labour unions and interested citizens work together to build a better world. Sign-up sheets are found in the narthex, introducing us to MACG and inviting our participation … if we love our city.