This Week at St. Stephen’s–June 5, 2016

LOVE IS A TEACHER

June 05This past week St. Stephen’s took a major step toward helping Syrian newcomers settle into their new home. Dave Driftmier, of our parish, and Pat Glenn, a member of the cathedral, realized that language skills would be crucial to a family’s successful integration into their new life in Canada. Yet the ESL waiting lists for recent immigrants are interminable, leaving newcomers to languish, disabled, during their first months here. So the two former teachers envisaged a free ESL course offered here at          St. Stephen’s to any who need it.

Aided by George Odeh, a former Jordanian who now makes Calgary—and St. Stephen’s—his home, they have begun a bi-weekly ESL class supported by a team of over twenty volunteers drawn from here, the cathedral, and St. Paul’s. Their first classes involved a mother and her two preschool children as they sang songs, learned to read their names in English, and formed a rudimentary appreciation of their new language. More will come as George moves among the Arabic community, reassuring newcomers of both the safety and the good intentions of this program.

By the time our own Syrian family arrives, later in the summer, we will have an experienced team helping them to settle in and, most important, to learn English. The benefit to the family is clear. But to the big-hearted former teachers who started this program, they get to use their considerable skill and experience to help others, confessing, as Dave put it, “It’s hard to stop teaching!”

This Week: May 29th 2016

Picture10 It is sometimes said of our youth that they are the church of tomorrow. The saying implies that they are our insurance policy that the church will still be here a generation from now. But whatever our young people may be in the future, they are also the church of today—baptized, engaged, participating, inspiring the rest of us (as they did on Pentecost Sunday) by their energy and their zeal.

At St. Stephen’s we currently have a new “crop” of pre-teens soon to enter the dead zone of church attendance. Inevitably many will drift away as other interests compete for their time and attention. We have an opportunity before that happens to fill up their backpacks with resources they will need along the way—resources designed to equip them for an adult faith.

Picture11On Sunday evening, June 12, Charmaine Evans, currently the family and youth minister at Christ Church, Elbow Park, will meet with our young people—those who will be 12 years old or older in the coming year—and with their parents to talk about a youth program for 2016/17. If the interest is sufficient we will hire Charmaine to run a pre-Confirmation youth program beginning in September.

Unquestionably, parents are the most effective teachers of faith for their own children, young people learning by example what a life of faith looks like. But the church can support that learning with programs designed to engage our youth directly. We are excited by this possibility for St. Stephen’s.

This Week: May 29th 2016

Picture10 It is sometimes said of our youth that they are the church of tomorrow. The saying implies that they are our insurance policy that the church will still be here a generation from now. But whatever our young people may be in the future, they are also the church of today—baptized, engaged, participating, inspiring the rest of us (as they did on Pentecost Sunday) by their energy and their zeal.

At St. Stephen’s we currently have a new “crop” of pre-teens soon to enter the dead zone of church attendance. Inevitably many will drift away as other interests compete for their time and attention. We have an opportunity before that happens to fill up their backpacks with resources they will need along the way—resources designed to equip them for an adult faith.

Picture11On Sunday evening, June 12, Charmaine Evans, currently the family and youth minister at Christ Church, Elbow Park, will meet with our young people—those who will be 12 years old or older in the coming year—and with their parents to talk about a youth program for 2016/17. If the interest is sufficient we will hire Charmaine to run a pre-Confirmation youth program beginning in September.

Unquestionably, parents are the most effective teachers of faith for their own children, young people learning by example what a life of faith looks like. But the church can support that learning with programs designed to engage our youth directly. We are excited by this possibility for St. Stephen’s.

This Week at St. Stephen’s: May 22nd 2016

Picture32All our patience and preparation have paid off. Sometime in the coming months, a Syrian family will be arriving via Amman, Jordan , to begin a new life here in Canada. Together with St. Paul’s Anglican Church and the Cathedral Church of the Redeemer, we are their sponsors and we will become their support while they settle in.

 

The family comprises a mom and dad and four children—two boys, 14 and 12, and two girls, 9 and 5. The dad and the older three children speak some English, there are no known medical issues, and the dad has transferable skills for employment here. It sounds like they are well positioned to succeed in their new life.

 

Our NeST team (Newcomer Support Team) will be submitting a formal application to the Central Processing Office for the Blended Visa Office-Referred (BVOR) Program, the federal program to place UN-approved refugees with private Canadian sponsors. Once approved, the application will be forwarded to the Visa Office in Amman and we are told the family could arrive between three to six weeks after that.

unnamedSo there are still some bureaucratic steps to follow, but barring any unforeseen stumbling blocks we could be meeting our family a few months from now—lots of time to raise both money and awareness and create room for them in our hearts. More information will follow as it becomes available. In the meantime you can direct any questions to Carol Rose Skelly, NeST Co-Chair.

This Week at St. Stephen’s–May 22, 2016

CONGRATULATIONS, IT’S A FAMILY OF SIX!

All our patience and preparation have paid off. Sometime in the coming months, a Syrian family will be arriving via Amman, Jordan , to begin a new life here in Canada. Together with St. Paul’s Anglican Church and the Cathedral Church of the Redeemer, we are their sponsors and we will become their support while they settle in.

The family comprises a mom and dad and four children—two boys, 14 and 12, and two girls, 9 and 5. The dad and the older three children speak some English, there are no known medical issues, and the dad has transferable skills for employment here. It sounds like they are well positioned to succeed in their new life.

Our NeST team (Newcomer Support Team) will be submitting a formal application to the Central Processing Office for the Blended Visa Office-Referred (BVOR) Program, the federal program to place UN-approved refugees with private Canadian sponsors. Once approved, the application will be forwarded to the Visa Office in Amman and we are told the family could arrive between three to six weeks after that.                                                                                                                                 May 22
So there are still some bureaucratic steps to follow, but barring any unforeseen stumbling blocks we could be meeting our family a few months from now—lots of time to raise both money and awareness and create room for them in our hearts. More information will follow as it becomes available. In the meantime you can direct any questions to Carol Rose Skelly, NeST Co-Chair.

This Week at St. Stephen’s–May 22, 2016

CONGRATULATIONS, IT’S A FAMILY OF SIX!

All our patience and preparation have paid off. Sometime in the coming months, a Syrian family will be arriving via Amman, Jordan , to begin a new life here in Canada. Together with St. Paul’s Anglican Church and the Cathedral Church of the Redeemer, we are their sponsors and we will become their support while they settle in.

The family comprises a mom and dad and four children—two boys, 14 and 12, and two girls, 9 and 5. The dad and the older three children speak some English, there are no known medical issues, and the dad has transferable skills for employment here. It sounds like they are well positioned to succeed in their new life.

Our NeST team (Newcomer Support Team) will be submitting a formal application to the Central Processing Office for the Blended Visa Office-Referred (BVOR) Program, the federal program to place UN-approved refugees with private Canadian sponsors. Once approved, the application will be forwarded to the Visa Office in Amman and we are told the family could arrive between three to six weeks after that.                                                                                                                                 May 22
So there are still some bureaucratic steps to follow, but barring any unforeseen stumbling blocks we could be meeting our family a few months from now—lots of time to raise both money and awareness and create room for them in our hearts. More information will follow as it becomes available. In the meantime you can direct any questions to Carol Rose Skelly, NeST Co-Chair.

This Week at St. Stephen’s–May 15, 2016

The Spirit is a-Movin’.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             May 15

This week we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost, fifty days after Easter, when the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles, filling them with sudden courage and zeal. Many call this the “birthday of the church” because the church sprang to life—preaching the Good News, performing miracles, growing exponentially. The Spirit is seen as God’s gift to the followers of Jesus Christ, now as then, firing our proclamation and stirring us to action.

May 15aBut is the Holy Spirit exclusively the gift of the church? Do not those of other faiths also exhibit the same inspiration to speak the truth and to act boldly? Do we not also see God working through civic leaders, artists, workers of charity, and good people everywhere—even those who profess no faith at all?

While the wildfire ravaged the city of Fort McMurray last week, while the first responders were risking their own lives to ensure the safety of others, offers of assistance came flooding in from all sectors and regions of our country, and from beyond. The offers came from Muslims and Sikhs and atheists and agnostics and, yes, from Christians.                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Mayb

It is an extraordinary thing to witness the movement of God’s Spirit in the hearts of people. It fills us with hope and with gratitude. Just as we Christians celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit into our midst at Pentecost, so can we also give thanks for the many ways God breathes life into our world. Together we can say: God lives!

This Week at St. Stephen’s–May 08, 2016

Empty Seats

May 8Five years ago, as our building committee bore down on plans to renovate St. Stephen’s, we said we wanted our church to become a community hub, a cultural centre, a gathering place for the neighbourhood. It sometimes seemed a remote dream, especially as the challenges mounted up and plans had to be trimmed back.

But today we witness the fulfillment of that dream. St. Stephen’s is busy most weekends with concerts, art shows, and theatrical performances. Renowned performance groups like Cantare Children’s Choirs, Luminous Voices, and the Calgary Instrumental Society thrill local audiences that sometimes burst the seams, sending patrons up into the balcony.

So it is curious that we ourselves are seldom numbered among the members of the audience, even when we are co-sponsors of events offered here. True, we designed the space for use by the wider community. But we host some of the best talent in the city right here in our sanctuary, and for the reason that (we said) we love the performing arts.

So this is just a reminder that we are part of the community too. When our neighbours come to see a performance, they are also coming to see us—not just our buildings, but the people who reside here. In coming weeks we will host a program about Sound and Spirit, and bring back the Donald Ray Johnson Blues Band, among other events. It would be unfortunate if we were to miss out on the very blessings we offer to the world.

This Week at St. Stephen’s : May 8th 2016

Picture2Five years ago, as our building committee bore down on plans to renovate St. Stephen’s, we said we wanted our church to become a community hub, a cultural centre, a gathering place for the neighbourhood. It sometimes seemed a remote dream, especially as the challenges mounted up and plans had to be trimmed back.

But today we witness the fulfillment of that dream. St. Stephen’s is busy most weekends with concerts, art shows, and theatrical performances. Renowned performance groups like Cantare Children’s Choirs, Luminous Voices, and the Calgary Instrumental Society thrill local audiences that sometimes burst the seams, sending patrons up into the balcony.

So it is curious that we ourselves are seldom numbered among the members of the audience, even when we are co-sponsors of events offered here. True, we designed the space for use by the wider community. But we host some of the best talent in the city right here in our sanctuary, and for the reason that (we said) we love the performing arts.

So this is just a reminder that we are part of the community too. When our neighbours come to see a performance, they are also coming to see us—not just our buildings, but the people who reside here. In coming weeks we will host a program about Sound and Spirit, and bring back the Donald Ray Johnson Blues Band, among other events. It would be unfortunate if we were to miss out on the very blessings we offer to the world.

This Week at St. Stephen’s–May 01, 2016

“FROM THE GROUND UP”

Feb 28Following the suspension of Calgary’s Inn From the Cold satellite program, where churches like St. Stephen’s offered food, shelter and hospitality to the homeless, many of us wondered how we might continue our work with those in need in our city. Serendipitously, a respected broad-based community organization has arisen in Calgary that may help us continue that good work, creating and sustaining a community that offers respect, equality and justice to all its citizens.

The Metro Alliance for the Common Good (MACG) is a new iteration of the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), an alliance of faith-based and community organizations that transformed the inner city of Chicago (the “Industrial Areas”) in the 1940’s. It now operates in over sixty-five cities worldwide developing leadership, coordinating civic-minded organizations and galvanizing citizens to create local communities of which we can all feel proud.

The Calgary chapter of MACG is currently offering a series of three listening events where citizens gather to explore the areas of greatest need and concern in our city. (The second in the series is being held Monday, May 2, 7 – 8:30 pm, at Beth Tzedec Synagogue.) St. Stephen’s has been invited to participate and several of our members will be in attendance.

To help us become better acquainted with MACG and with the social demands of the Gospel, The Reverend Ryan Andersen, Lutheran minister and lead organizer of MACG Calgary, is our guest preacher at both services on May 1st. You can also visit the IAF and MACG websites online.