For over twenty years St. Stephen’s has been blessed by our relationship with Emmanuel Gatera, an Anglican priest in Rwanda. Emmanuel and his wife Athanasie suffered unimaginable loss during the 1996 Genocide. But they have used that suffering to inspire their healing work among the Genocide’s survivors and among a new generation of young people, many who have grown up as orphans in the shadow of that tragedy.
We are pleased to report good and promising developments from YEGO, the foundation Emmanuel created to heal and empower vulnerable women and youth. Since earning his doctoral degree from St. Stephen’s College, University of Alberta, Emmanuel has become a sought-after speaker on the Rwandan Genocide. In August he shared the stage with Romeo Dallaire, a Canadian humanitarian, author, and retired Lieutenant-General who served as a UN peacekeeping commander in Rwanda and who—traumatically—witnessed the Genocide. This coming summer Emmanuel will return to Canada to teach an intensive week-long program at U of A on “The Genesis of Hate”.
Meanwhile, YEGO has been given an enormous boost by the gift of a house from the City of Kigali to be designated as an employment readiness centre, with a curriculum that will include English, computer training, and trades courses. Now, of course, YEGO is scrambling to equip the centre with the furnishings and the resources it will need—including the computers! We will continue to offer support through our Outreach-Beyond fund, and to give thanks for the enormous privilege of knowing Emmanuel Gatera!
Early in the summer, a young woman graduated from high school in the BC Interior, left her home, and came to Calgary to meet her online boyfriend. They had never met in person. A month later she showed up on the doorstep of the Mustard Seed abused, destitute and badly shaken. The Mustard Seed appealed to us for help. Through the Rector’s Discretionary Fund we bought her a bus ticket home, accompanying her right to the steps of the bus. It was a hard lesson learned, but with our help she could begin picking up the pieces and starting over.
With the beginning of this new program season, we begin our preparations for the retirement of Brian our Rector in the new year, and the changes that event will bring to our parish. Clergy come and go like the weather, but congregations carry on, strengthened by each new incarnation of themselves through transitions such as this.
Here are some of the things we are doing to prepare ourselves:
- A selection committee has been struck, chaired by Anne Brown and advised by Barry Foster, to begin the search process for a new incumbent.
- A worship committee has been formed to guide our worship through the interim period following Brian’s retirement, to ensure its continuity.
- Pastoral Visitors are being trained and supported to care for the sick, elderly, and shut-in.
- All parish programs—from the meditation group to the nursery—are being overseen by Charmaine our deacon.
- Similarly, all parish outreach—from our Blue Envelope projects to requests from social service agencies—are being attended to by Charmaine and the members of our administrative staff.
- The Open Doors team will continue its work to find a way of redeveloping our property to create both a new revenue stream, to support parish life and work, and also new community outreach possibilities.
Change is never easy, and it is rarely welcome. But this change gives us the opportunity to redefine and to strengthen our church for the new future to which God is calling us. We are not bracing ourselves: we are preparing ourselves.
This week John Ngeth Deng is returning to his village of Alian in the South Sudan to be reunited with his family and to continue his work of equipping the local primary school with paper, books, and pencils. John is an active member of St. Stephen’s, but also a priest in the Episcopal Church of South Sudan who leads a Sunday afternoon congregation here in Calgary. It will be a difficult journey for John due to political instability in the region. He will go with our prayers and with a grant drawn from the “Outreach—Beyond” and “Rector’s Discretionary” Funds.
We do a lot of good work at St. Stephen’s—and we mean a LOT—like last year, in excess of $50,000! We help people get back on their feet after a setback, we send people across the country to take a new job, we support worthy outreach projects both locally and around the world. But our own members are sometimes the last to know!
So this year we are introducing a new feature that will appear in our weekly bulletin and e-newsletter: a brief information piece called “Look What We’ve Done Now!” It will highlight our many outreach initiatives and encourage our members to support our various outreach funds.
These funds have been created outside of the annual budget as donor-supported funds, some of them our “Blue Envelope” projects. They serve as pass-through accounts that directly support their intended designations, involving no administrative fees. They include: the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund; Outreach—Beyond; Community Outreach Projects; Feed the Hungry Dinner; and the Rector’s Discretionary Fund.
Our annual budget routinely offers outreach support through our staffing and our buildings, and these always deserve our attention. In fact, it is often overlooked that our regular support of St. Stephen’s already includes an outreach aspect to it, as our staff respond to local needs and our buildings provide affordable program space for community organizations.
But if you are looking for an effective way to make an immediate impact on someone’s life, please consider supporting our Outreach Funds. And stay tuned!