This year our young people are presenting more than 250 birthday bags to the Calgary Interfaith Food Bank. The Food Bank receives up to 270 requests each month from patrons seeking something a little special for a birthday in the household, but such requests lie outside the Food Bank’s mandate. So, our youth asked for the congregation’s help, received it, and assembled birthday bags containing cake, party hats, balloons, as well as small personal and cosmetic gift items. We are proud to see our young members stepping up to take their place in our midst … and in the world!
Lent isn’t just about giving something up. It’s about taking something on. So every year we offer opportunities for people to broaden their spiritual journey, deepen their faith, and increase their understanding. This year’s offering will comprise three Saturday workshops: “Three Days in Lent”. The focus will be on naming, telling, and walking our personal stories.
It begins on Saturday, February 24, with “Naming My Story”, a contemplative meditation on three questions: What is my wound? What is my work? What is my Way? These questions will guide our consideration of the ways in which life has set us on a path that is as unique as it is life-giving.
On Saturday, March 10, Joanne Ettsy-Schmitt will lead us in a workshop on how to tell our stories, both the stories of our faith tradition and the stories of our own lives. Joanne is an Episcopal priest from Boston and a favourite workshop leader at the summer sessions of the Sorrento Retreat and Conference Centre. She will also be giving a public lecture on the same topic on Friday, March 9, preaching at our worship services on Sunday, March 11, and leading a workshop for our readers following those services.
Then, on March 24, we will take our story “on the road”, as it were, by walking the labyrinth, carrying our burdens to the centre, leaving them there, and emerging to take up the next steps of our sacred journey. So this year, take up your cross, leave the cannoli.
Churches are like small towns. We spend time with people who leave an indelible imprint on our lives, people who get to know us, and we them, in familial relationships that sometimes last a lifetime. We mark each other’s milestones, the good and the bad alike, laughing and weeping together until one of us takes our leave … and the entire community feels the loss.
This past week we celebrated the life of Marguerite Picken. Marguerite was one hundred years old, and most of those years she spent with us as an active member of St. Stephen’s. It was her habit to attend our early Sunday morning service so not everyone knew Marguerite in recent years. But even as she seemed to shrink before our eyes, her genuine interest about each person she met meant that you didn’t forget her once you’d met her. And she didn’t forget you.
The brightness that shone in her eyes, born of intelligence and curiosity, showed a love of life and a daily delight in God’s fascinating world. Children figured prominently in that world and her natural family had to “draw the circle wide” many times to accommodate all those whom she regarded as family. Right up to the end, as her world closed in upon itself, her smile could light up the room at the appearance of an old friend.
We are diminished by Marguerite’s passing, but she has left her mark on all who were lucky enough to have known her. RIP.