This Week: Thank You: [March 2nd, 2019]

“Thank you!” from Brian Pearson …

What an overwhelming outpouring of affection Jean and I experienced through you all last Sunday! We will be forever grateful.

Your gifts were both exceedingly generous and genuinely moving:

  • the Youth Group’s voice-activated home controllers (“Alexa, turn on the lights.”  “Alexa, make me a peanut butter sandwich.”);
  • the truly magnificent Collings OM-2HG guitar (Orchestra Model—Rosewood

        back and sides / Herringbone binding / German Spruce top);

  • the Book of Memories, and all the other thoughtful cards and messages;
  • and yes, even Dan Hill’s “Sometimes When We Touch” (he and I were at summer camp together—me on the maintenance crew, he to go on to become a pop music icon).

And then, on top of all that, there was a cheque for an obscene amount that, it turns out, will pay the last installment of the cruise we’re taking in June with Maple Leaf Adventures on the converted tug boat the MV Swell, up the inside passage along the Great Bear Rain Forest, on B.C.’s rugged coast.

But the greatest gift of all is the friendships that have flourished, and that have sustained us, in our years together here at St. Stephen’s. We have the feeling that we will always know you, because that is how it is with true friendships. So, we don’t ask if we shall see you again, but only … when.

Thank you for everything! And every blessing as you seek a new priest to “love into being”, as this seems to be your special ministry.

This Week: A few last words from our Rector, the Reverend Brian E Pearson: [Feb 23rd, 2019]

A few last words from our Rector, the Reverend Brian E Pearson:

As St. Stephen’s continues on its faithful journey, but without me as your priest, what happens to us? What will our relationship look like now, after almost twenty years together?

For the next year, I am taking a sabbatical from church life. I need to discover who I am when I am not the priest of a “vibrant and diverse midtown congregation”, when I am not preaching each week, and accompanying people on their journeys, and supporting church structures. Also, my successor will need some room to establish themselves without me hanging around. Therefore, my ongoing participation in the life of St. Stephen’s is not an option. For this reason, it would be better if we did not have a lot of contact over the next year, even social contact. Regretfully, this also means that baptisms, weddings and funerals are out. The temptation will be too great to re-engage with St. Stephen’s, drawing me right back in—because I will want to know what’s happening!

Instead, let’s track each other in the ways of the modern world—on Facebook, for instance. Or visit my website (www.brianepearson.ca), where I intend to publish a weekly Monday blog. Or invite me to your

home as a musician, to do a house concert! Then, after a year, perhaps it will feel right for me to return to St. Stephen’s as a regular member, to rejoin my church family.

Farewell … for now.

This Week: What happens the Sunday after the Rector retires? [Feb 16th, 2019]

What happens the Sunday after the Rector retires? Understandably, people are anxious to know. Brian Pearson has been our priest for over nineteen years, meaning we have grown used to the weekly practices, customs, and peculiarities of our Sunday worship. But protocols are in place to ensure that things continue more or less unchanged until a new rector, or “incumbent”, is appointed.

While we don’t have any details yet, the Archbishop will be appointing an interim priest to serve until a permanent appointment is made. An interim priest has a specific role to maintain the patterns of worship and pastoral care that have already been established.

This may well be a part-time position, because Charmaine our Deacon is already overseeing the program and pastoral life of the parish. But the interim priest will preside on Sundays, provide pastoral services such as baptisms, weddings and funerals, and assist the churchwardens with the ongoing administration of the parish.

Meanwhile, whenever the interim priest is not available, or if there is a lapse in the appointment of an interim priest, our honorary clergy will step in to assist. So, Cathy Fulton and Dean Houghton are on standby, and a list of other supply clergy has been created (most of whom are already known by the parish), should we need it.

While the Search Committee continues to do its work in selecting a new priest, the day-to-day and week-to-week life of St. Stephen’s goes on, Sundays included, pretty much as before. Be not afraid.

This Week: Administrative Staff and Volunteers [Feb 2nd, 2019]

What is the glue that binds together a diverse parish church like St. Stephen’s through a time of transition, like the one we are facing? How do bills get paid, repairs carried out, finances managed? What holds us together? That would be our administrative staff and volunteers.

 Lynn McKeown, our Parish Administrator, oversees the complex comings and goings of daily life around the church, including the management of our rental groups, the collection of rents from our tenants, and the many details that require constant attention, such as caretaking, grounds keeping, insurance, and financial accounts. She also provides administrative support to the clergy and churchwardens.

Beverley Senko is our Administrative Assistant and she focuses on the administration of the congregation itself, including the maintenance of the Parish List and preparation of the Sunday bulletin with its many components, from worship to announcements.

Jack Walker is our treasurer who helps set the annual budget and then attends to our cash flow throughout the year. He is assisted by Janis Fenwick, our bookkeeper, Jean Springer and Joan Preece, our envelope secretaries, and Peter Nettleton, who assists Janis with the weekly bank deposit. And supporting all of them are our greeters who count the Sunday offerings.

This represents a small army of willing and dedicated workers who safeguard the structures that support our church life. St. Stephen’s is an active and busy place. But life goes on, even during times of transition, thanks to those administrators who work so faithfully behind the scenes.

This Week: The Structure Of A Church [Jan 26th, 2019]

The legal corporation of St. Stephen’s Church comprises two churchwardens and the incumbent priest. Together with one or two deputy wardens, these church “officers” are authorized to sign legal documents on behalf of the parish, including cheques, leases, and employment contracts.

Each churchwarden has a “portfolio”, or area of responsibility, including buildings and property, finances, and administration, as well as overseeing the staff and providing corporate representation on the Search Committee and the Open Doors II Committee. Supported by the treasurer, financial volunteers, and administrative staff, if anyone can be said to “run” the church, it is the Corporation. Meanwhile, Parish Council is the body to whom Corporation is accountable. Its members set a course for the parish between general meetings, such as the Annual General Meeting, which involve the congregation as a whole. At its monthly meetings the council assesses the health and welfare of the parish and develops strategies that might include new programs, the direction of staffing efforts, and the

provision of funding. It is Parish Council that will be maintaining a relationship with our diocesan bishop during the coming year. Together, Corporation and Parish Council, along with the clergy who serve as staff, provide the leadership necessary to ensure the parish remains strong and viable, especially through periods of transition, such as the one we are now entering, with the retirement of our rector. We are fortunate to have strong leaders at the helm of our parish, capable of navigating the uncertain waters that lie ahead.

This Week: Our New Music Team [Jan 19th, 2019]

Music is critical to our life here at St. Stephen’s. So we were not only saddened by the departure of our former music director, Jeff Jones, we were devastated. But it appears God likes us making music, so we have been sent a dynamic duo as our new music team: Ondrea Mann and Liz Tremblay.

Ondrea has played music all her life, earning a BMus in organ performance and choral conducting from U of A. Having “played her way through school,” she has served Anglican, Lutheran and United churches in Alberta and Saskatchewan. When she is not unwinding in the great outdoors, Ondrea teaches music to students from kindergarten to grade three for the CBE.

Originally from Great Britain, Liz has been in Calgary for the past six years where she has become a busy musician, playing with a variety of groups and running a music studio where she teaches piano and cello. She trained at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London and, prior to moving to Calgary, was music director for Christ Church (Anglican), Cataraqui, in Ontario, as well as cellist with the Kingston Symphony. She recently walked the Portuguese Coastal Camino—”290 km of will power, resilience and blisters!“

 These two gifted musicians bring much skill and artistry to this crucial part of our church life. For the next six months Ondrea will take the lead in our music program and Liz will assist. We welcome them and look forward to the exciting journey ahead.

This Week: Farewell To A Good Friend [Jan 12th, 2019]

This week we say farewell to a good friend and supporter of St. Stephen’s. The Venerable Barry Foster, one of our honorary clergy and, until recently, the executive officer of the Diocese of Calgary, has accepted a three-year contract as the executive officer of the Diocese of British Columbia, which comprises Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands.

We have not seen Barry often on Sunday mornings, as he was frequently on the road visiting parishes around the diocese. But we enjoyed his wit and his erudition whenever he was with us, filling in for our rector, or presiding and preaching at our annual outdoor Stampede service.

What many of our members will not know is how much Barry did behind the scenes to support and guide us, especially since our rector announced his retirement. Since the summer Barry has been assisting the rector and wardens in their transition plans by attending weekly staff meetings, as well as meetings of Parish Council, and offering advice to the corporation. His wisdom and experience have been invaluable.

Barry loved the worship life of St. Stephen’s, our lively and liberating faith, and our forward-looking witness in the world. We appreciated his advocacy and support within a wider church that sometimes appears to be headed backward rather than forward, and that has not always valued the work and witness of progressive parishes like ours. We will miss Barry, but we wish him well, pleased that his gifts continue to be a blessing for the church.

This Week: Healing Relationships [Jan 5th, 2018]

This week, at both our Sunday services, we welcome as our preacher and presider our diocesan bishop and metropolitan archbishop, the Most Reverend Greg Kerr-Wilson. Following several years of disagreement and conflict, we are seeking to heal our relationship with the bishop and move forward together in the appointment of a new priest.

One of the defining features of the Anglican Church worldwide is the central role played by the bishop. In the United States, where links to their English (“Anglo”) roots were politically unviable, the Anglican Church became known as the Episcopal Church, and its members as Episcopalians, from the Greek word episcope (epi=over; scope=sight), the basis for our understanding of the office of the bishop.

This distinguishing characteristic of our church retains from the Catholic tradition the unifying aspect of a central person as Christ’s representative in our midst. It is not a popular feature among Protestant churches, whose identity is rooted in the pre-democratic advances of the 16th Century, whose extreme form is known as congregationalism, where authority rests among the people.

In modern times, in the West, centralized authority in the church has come under fire, especially where such authority has led to abuses. But in the Anglican tradition, the authority of the bishop is balanced by the role of Synod, a body of elected representatives, that legislates the church’s institutional life. “Episcopally led; synodically governed” is the motto that determines the workings of an Anglican diocese. Ours is a negotiated relationship between bishop and people.

This Week: The wildest pageant in town [Dec 22nd, 2018]

Live animals are just so wrong in church. Remember the Christmas pageant a few years ago when Clip Clop the pony lost his load on our brand-new flooring? Is this the real reason they filled in the main entranceway of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem—(as one story goes) to keep the Crusaders from riding their horses into the church?

But live animals are just so right in church. Think of the squealing of a hundred children every year Clip Clop made his entrance at our pageant, and then the sad silence last year, when Clip Clop got too old to be with us. Or the pet lovers who line up at our cathedral church, and other churches too, every year on St. Francis’ Day, so that their precious cats, budgies and armadillos can receive a blessing from the priest.

Well, right or wrong, we’re doing it again! This year our Christmas Eve Pageant—already the wildest pageant in town—is about to get a little wilder! Only this time, it’s with a donkey, sheep, sheep dogs, and as many excited children as we can get into the sanctuary at one time! Our new friends at Butterfield Acres Petting Farm in Rocky Ridge could not accommodate us last year because of the lateness of the service; so this year we’ve moved the service forward to 4 pm, also making it easier for young families. We hope it works for everybody. Because really, what is Christmas without the animals?!

This Week: Festival of Lessons and Carols [Dec 15th, 2018]

The Christmas story is carried as much by the music as by the words. Without the carols we would have a curious folk tale about a young family facing enormous obstacles, yet getting through them with divine assistance. It would be a lovely story, but would it live in our hearts? Put itto music, sing it to our children, and the story embeds itself deep inside—it comes alive!

Music has this uncanny ability to take a thought, an idea, a story, and plant it in our hearts. This is why music is such a powerful vehicle for worship. Whether it be the ethereal strains of Gregorian Chant, the driving pulse of Shape Note singing, or the swinging choruses of Gospel Music, music takes the message from our heads into our hearts, by way of our bodies. In other words, it makes it real!

We have been blessed with a long line of musical directors at St. Stephen’s, each one putting their own stamp on our worship experience. Jeff Jones has been with us for thirteen years, but this weekend will mark his final performance as he leads the choir in our annual Festival of Lessons and Carols, with is wife,voice actor Maureen, narrating. Jeff’s leadership has found that subtle balance between musical excellence and personal accessibility. Our congregation has lingered every Sunday to enjoy his postludes, and our choir has loved working with him.

Thank you, Jeff, for placing the Gospel in our hearts, where it belongs.