One of the pressing social needs of a big city like Calgary is the social isolation of seniors. Unlike former generations, when ageing relatives were taken into the home and cared for by family members, where they sometimes helped with childcare, modern seniors often find themselves living alone, in small quarters, with limited mobility, and with a myriad of health issues. The days are long, when no one calls, and worries and concerns have a tendency to intensify without caring companions with whom to share them.
So, last year Charmaine our deacon met with members of Grace Presbyterian Church and with social workers from the City to address this troublesome issue. The result is a seniors’ day program called Oasis. It started up in September and has been a raging success ever since. Several dozen seniors living in the area now meet bi-weekly, on Thursdays, alternating between St. Stephen’s and Grace, for lunch or for light refreshments and an engaging program that has included a visit from the dogs of PALS, an introduction to mandala-making, and, this past week, a performance by the children’s choir of Connaught Elementary School.
The City is grateful for the initiative we have taken, and it contributes toward the cost of the food and refreshments. But the staffing is provided by us and by Grace Church. It is a rewarding arrangement that allows us to reach out into the community with one of the great gifts of a Christian congregation: the gift of loving friendship.
Our priest, Brian Pearson, has finally completed a ten-year project to render the weekly Sunday Bible readings into language that is inclusive, non-violent, and intelligible. This labour of love, parts of which we have already heard, will soon be available in hard copy and online as St. Stephen’s Inclusive Language Lectionary.
A lectionary is a cycle of appointed weekly readings that ensures that, over a three-year
period, worshippers are exposed to a large cross-section of readings from the Bible. The readings themselves are taken from modern translations of the Bible—commonly, the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)—which remains faithful to the original text while, unfortunately, retaining anachronistic references that imply that God is a man, hating our enemy is okay, and archaic language is appropriate in modern times. These implications can be troubling to modern-day Christians, who understand that God is beyond gender, that we are to love our enemies, and that new times require new words.
While we often assume that “stewardship” is a euphemism for “fund-raising”, the call of the steward runs much deeper than that. We are called as God’s creatures to care for creation, and to treat our own bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit. We are called as Christians to be the Body of Christ, by showing God’s love to the world. Stewardship is about what we do with what we have been given. And we’ve been given, well, everything!
During our fall Stewardship program, we have heard the stories of church members as they have shared with us something of their spiritual journeys, including what brought them to St. Stephen’s, and what keeps them here. These personal stories are always heart-warming, and inspirational, as we are reminded that we all have a story to tell and that St. Stephen’s is a safe and receptive place to tell it.
But as our Stewardship program winds up, we turn inevitably to the question of how each of us will be good stewards of this extraordinary gift we have received in the Good News of Jesus Christ expressed and embodied here in our parish church. So, we ask everyone simply to tell us what their support for our church will look like in the coming year. We need to know this as we set our goals and create our budget.
Stewardship is about more than money. But money is one expression of our stewardship. What will you do with what you’ve been given?
This week we bid farewell to Jeff and Maureen Jones as they prepare to take up residence in Milton, Ontario. Jeff has taken a job with RBC in Hamilton, and Maureen will be working as a fitness trainer while continuing to pursue voice acting work in Toronto.
The loss we feel cannot be overstated. The Joneses have contributed so much to St. Stephen’s over the years—from the days when Simon and Hugh were servers, to Maureen’s stunning readings, especially during Christmas and Holy Week, to Jeff’s inspirational musical leadership as organist and choir director. The family embodied the commitment and participation upon which church membership is based.
Because so much of their faithful efforts were expressed in our worship, there are lessons to be learned from the Jones family. Simon and Hugh, as servers, found a way to remain connected to the church through their teen years when social pressure went in the opposite direction. Maureen’s expressive readings reminded us that the Bible is a living document that can spring to life in our midst when read with serious intention. And Jeff’s leadership of our musical program engaged us deeply and emotively in our worship themes while never allowing us to forget that, ultimately, Christian fellowship is fun.
Given the solemnity of Remembrance Day, we will not focus on our farewells this Sunday. Rather, we will wait until Jeff and Maureen return for the Carol Service, on December 16, to express our love and appreciation for this remarkable family.
We at St. Stephen’s like inviting the neighbourhood in to share some local culture. We’ve just wrapped up our hugely successful Midtown Mosaic Art Show, and now we’re gearing up for an evening of original music at “Live at Steve’s”, Saturday, November 3, a house concert featuring two up and coming local singer/songwriters—Justine Vandergrift and Ken Stead—recording artists who have both been featured on CKUA.
A smaller and more intimate setting than Calgary’s bars and concert halls, we offer an opportunity to get to know the performers, hear their personal stories, and share something of our human journey through their music. At this event Brian our priest, himself an accomplished singer/songwriter, will be hosting a songwriters’ circle, inviting conversation with our guests about how inspiration strikes, and about their life stories behind the songs, and then of course hearing some of those songs live, and up close.
The tickets are available ahead of time on Sunday, through the office, or online for $25; or for $30 at the door. The ticket prices are set to ensure that the performers are properly paid, as we continue to support the arts in this city. When you arrive, you will be charmed by our worship space, transformed for the occasion into a warm and inviting coffee house, with tables set close to the stage, and home baking to enjoy along with your tea or decaf coffee.
Plan to join us to meet our neighbours, celebrate the arts, and support St. Stephen’s.
When we planned our renovations for St. Stephen’s, we were caught by a vision of becoming a home for the arts. This felt natural for us because so many of our church members are involved with the arts, either as patrons or as artists. But it was also a way of increasing our interaction with the wider community—a way of removing the street-side barrier created by our cinderblock walls, by playing host to our neighbours.
Five years later, it is gratifying to see the extent to which that vision is being fulfilled. Last weekend our church was transformed into an art gallery for our annual Midtown Mosaic art show, the sanctuary filled with art, and a constant stream of patrons flowing through the building. The place was alive with conversation, music, good food and drink. And our raffle and silent auction raised over $10,000, which, after expenses, will be divided between Kids’ Cancer Care, the Calgary Distress Centre, and the Rector’s Discretionary Fund.
On Saturday, November 3, the sanctuary will be transformed once again, this time as a coffee house, complete with both a barista and a bartender, providing a friendly venue for live music. “Live at Steve’s”, our second home-grown “house concert”, will feature country soul singer/songwriter Justine Vandergrift, Edmonton’s Ken Stead, and our own Brian Pearson hosting and playing a few tunes himself. (Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the door.) God gave us the vision, we built it, and now they’re coming! Sweet.
It would seem that God is preparing us for a new chapter in the life of our parish, one that we cannot yet fully imagine. It begins with Brian’s retirement in March, 2019, but it is anticipated now by the announcement that Jeff and Maureen Jones will be leaving us in mid-November to take up new work and a new life in Ontario.
Jeff and Maureen have contributed more to the life and character of St. Stephen’s these last thirteen years than we could easily measure! Jeff’s musical leadership has provided a dynamic rallying point for our congregation in his work with the choir, whose sense of fun rivals its devotion to the music itself. The music program—with its rich blend of the modern and traditional—has become a hallmark of our lively Sunday worship.
2016 Carol Service
Maureen has gifted us with her dramatic flare and masterful storytelling sensibilities. We first witnessed this in the Radio Nights series, dramatic readings of plays performed live in our sanctuary. And every year we were transported by her readings in church, most memorably at the Carol Service and the Good Friday Reading of the Passion.
But their sons, Simon and Hugh, are both setting courses that lead them east, and it seemed to Jeff and Maureen that this was a sign that the family was itself relocating. So Jeff is taking a new assignment in Hamilton with RBC and Maureen is finding her place in Toronto, the hub of our country’s professional voicing work.
Last week Archbishop Greg Kerr-Wilson announced sweeping changes in the staff of our synod office. Among the senior staff our diocese now has a new Executive Officer (Pilar Gateman) and a new Treasurer (Lorraine Betts). Among leading diocesan volunteers, he has announced a new Archivist, a new chair of the Property Committee, and a new member of the Legislative Committee. Carol Tubman will continue as diocesan secretary.
These new appointments signal the recent departures of Barry Foster (former Executive Officer), Steve Koning (former Financial Officer), Dorothy Schultz (former Assistant to the Director of Finance), Murray Tait (former Vice-Chancellor), and Cathy Fulton (former Archivist).
Yes, there are stories behind all these changes; no, this is not the place to tell those stories. But it is the place to invite you to a reception being planned for all the outgoing staff and officers of synod by a group of their friends. Friday, October 26, from 2 to 4 pm, please join us in the Crump Room at Christ Church, Elbow Park, to honour these devoted people who have served us so well over the years.
A “purse” will be presented to each of these faithful servants to thank them for their many years of service. We are, therefore, asking for donations toward those gifts. If you would like to contribute, please do so by October 21, made out to St. Stephen’s Church, with the memo “Diocesan Staff”. Change is sometimes unwelcome, but it is sweetened by thoughtful gestures of thanks and appreciation.
Midtown Mosaic. Sure, it’s an art sale. With twenty local artists displaying their wares, there will be art to hang on your wall, art to hang from your ears, and art to give away at Christmas. The buyer doesn’t choose the art; the art chooses the buyer
Sure, it’s also a fundraiser. With a silent auction featuring everything from Flames games to the stage lights of Vertigo Theatre to the romantic candle glow of La Chaumiere, from wine baskets to hairdos, and a raffle that will take you anywhere WestJet flies, all proceeds will support Kids Cancer Care, The Calgary Distress Centre and the Rector’s Discretionary Fund.
Sure, it’s a weekend of entertainment, with a wine and cheese reception, the catchy melodies of St. Stephen’s choir, and the smooth sounds of the Triptychs. It’s a day and a half of browsing and mingling.
But more than all that, it is a community gathering, a way to welcome our neighbours into our church home and extend to them St. Stephens’s’ legendary hospitality. Join us, wear an “ASK ME” button (if you choose) and become one of our many unofficial hosts, providing our guests with a friendly face.
Midtown Mosaic has become one of the flagship events of the year. Don’t miss it—as a patron or as a host, or as both! It is our way of breaking down the walls that divide and building bridges of friendship. Friday, October 12, 6– 9:30 pm; Saturday, October 13, 10 am – 3 pm.