Dear Friends, 

Blessings as we begin the month of March.  Many thanks to all those who attended Sunday's annual meeting.  The 2016 'charge' that I preached on Sunday and that a few have refereed to as my 'manure' charge is below.  Please take a moment to read it if you missed hearing it Sunday. 

 In March we continue our journey towards Easter.  The Holy Week and Easter services are highlighted in the sidebar.  Please come to as many as possible as instead of 'individual' services Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday are better thought of as one long service or drama that we walk with Christ and with Christians throughout the world.  If you plan on attending the Maundy Thursday meal and service please sign up by replying to this email or writing you name on the sheets in the narthex.  It is a simple meal of salads, pita and dips followed by the Last Supper.  All people of all ages are welcome.  I also hope you will join us for the Good Friday service we will once again share with Lakeview United.  This year the service will begin at 10 am at Lakeview United and we will process to St. Laurence. 

Yours faithfully,

Anna Greenwood-Lee
St. Laurence Anglican Church
403-249-6184 x. 2
Rector's Charge 2016

Last year in my charge to the parish I suggested it was time that we, as a parish, turn outwards and direct our energy at engaging with and serving those outside our doors.   The result of this was that, during the spring of last year, we did some work discerning what social justice issue we as a parish might be called to work on together. Food emerged. We already do a fair bit regarding food aid. A dedicated group volunteers at the food bank on Fridays. Sandwiches are made for the Drop in Centre. We also, thanks to the Fred Says campaign of our Primate, are connected to international work on food security. But we felt called to go deeper into the whole theme of food security here in Calgary. Over the past year we have connected to various other groups in Calgary and learned more about what is already going on in our city. We have educated ourselves more about global and local food aid and food security. What we seem to have landed on is an exciting project coming to Calgary wherein The Alex has partnered with Community Food Centres Canada to bring a Community Food Centre to Forest Lawn.  After  hearing about this project from Renee McKillop we look forward to being involved with this in the year to come. 

Looking outward in 2015 also meant paying attention to the huge number of migrants and refugees in the world and knowing that we must do something to help respond. I am so proud that a dedicated group from St. Laurence is working with people from St. Martins, Good Shepherd and Knox Presbyterian and that, sometime in 2016 we look forward to welcoming at least one refugee family here to Calgary.   The response to this project has been superb. Not only have people volunteered for all sorts of tasks but over $73 000 has been contributed to or promised to this project.

Both our work on food security and our work to sponsor a refugee family are tremendous examples of looking outward.

Those of us who have been participating in the Animate Faith Lenten study recently were watched a short video by Mark Scandrette. In it he tells a story of how early on in his ministry he was preaching one day and he had a bit of a meltdown. He realized that all he did was preach and all the people did was listen but did anyone actually go out into the world and live the faith?

Mark went on to suggest that perhaps instead of churches, Christians should have dojos. You know, those Japanese places where people go to practice karate.   He didn't mean this literally, but was reminding us that just as you can't learn karate just by reaching a book or listening to a talk about it. Instead you have to practice, you have to train.   So it is with the Christian way.

Interestingly enough a dojo, is, literally, a place of the way. Did you know that the earliest Christians were called followers of the way? This church, this dojo, should be a place where we as followers of the way learn how to better practice, how to better live, the way of Jesus.
As we begin 2016 it's getting harder and harder to make people into church-goers. Attendance at this and other churches is down. Even when new people do join as members they don't necessarily come every Sunday. Newcomers don't necessarily want to do all the church going things we would like them to do. This presents me as your rector with the occasional restless night and with some of you with a certain amount of anxiety and frustration.
But really, we are not called to make church goers. Jesus never said, go therefore and make churchgoers. No, he said, go therefore and make disciples, make followers of the way. Teach others how to live my way of radical love, hospitality, forgiveness and justice.

Our primary purpose as a church, as the body of Christ, as the people of God, as followers of Jesus, should be to be practitioners of the faith. Everything we do here in this building should have that end in mind. Our worship, our committees and structures, our social events and outreach work, all of it is aimed at helping us become more faithful, more steadfast, more loving, disciples of Christ or followers of the way. All of it should always be aimed at inviting others to follow with us or, to be learn something of the way of Jesus by observing us.

I know that the only things anyone ever hears about the Anglican Communion is when something ridiculous happens like when the primates are rude to the Americans for their stance on same sex marriage. But, if you did a little deeper than what makes the news, there is tremendous beauty and wisdom in our Anglican way. Anglicans throughout the world hold to what we call the five marks of mission.

They are
  • To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
  • To teach, baptize, and nurture new believers
  • To respond to human need by loving service
  • To seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation
  • To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth
Nothing at all about making churchgoers mind, but a whole lot about following the way of Jesus and inviting others to be part of that journey or, simply, serving others as Christ did, simply because that is what Christ called us to do. This turning outward stuff must always and everywhere be what we are about.

But before I finish today I must say that there was a fascinating bit of scripture that turned up in the lectionary today, one year after I gave a charge about turning outward.

Then Jesus told this parable: "A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none.
So he said to the gardener, 'See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?' He replied, 'Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.'

A parable about patience. I think we all have moments in our lives, especially when we are doing social justice work or the world of turning outward and trying to be Christs hands and feet in the world when we want to give up. When say, look, I've been at this a long time, I've done my best, I've really tried to make a difference and there is no evidence whatsoever of fruit. Can we not just cut the tree down, give the project up, stop?

I get that, I very much get that, but bless the gardeners, the faithful ones who say, not yet, let's add a bit of manure, let's give it another go, at least another year.

Which brings me to same sex blessings.  

We voted overwhelmingly in favor of blessing same sex unions almost 2 years ago and there has been, dare I say, no fruit. Despite the fact that 14 Dioceses across this country permit same sex blessings, despite the fact that the national church is moving in the same direction as our American brothers and sisters and voting on same sex marriage, the Bishop of this Diocese has not given permission in this Diocese for clergy to bless same sex unions.
But let us not give up my good and faithful friends. It's time for a bit more manure, shall we say, a bit more faithful tending of this garden for I am quite sure that same sex blessings will indeed come.

Many of you have been around long enough to know that the Diocese of Calgary is not exactly known as a hotbed of radicalism.
The Anglican Diocese of Calgary was one of the very last in the country to permit the ordination of women. But of course we now all have the pleasure of worshiping and serving in a Diocese with a plethora of, dare I say competent and gifted clergy both male and female. I think we've all come to realise that anytime we discriminate based on sexuality or gender we are in the wrong. And so, stay faithful, stay strong.   And remember, just as it was in no small part due to the efforts of male clergy and lay people that women were ordained, so too is it the work of us straight people to advocate for sacramental equality for our LGBT brothers and sisters. This is where the rubber, shall we say, of loving our neighbours as ourselves, needs to hit the road.

And so, in short, for 2016 let's stay the course. Let's add a little manure!  If and when it's hard work and it's hard to see the fruits of our food security or refugee or same sex blessing or whatever it is, hang in there.   Add a little manure, give it another year.   Keep following this ancient and life giving way of Jesus . Amen.
March at St. Laurence
Tuesday, March 1
Animate Faith Bible Study
1:30 pm with The Rev. Anna Greenwood-Lee
7:30 pm with The Rev. Carolyn Herold

Thursday, March 3
9:30 am Contemplative Prayer Service  

Sunday, March 6
10:00 am 4th in Lent  Holy Eucharist with The Rev. Anna Greenwood-Lee 

Tuesday, March 8
Animate Faith Bible Study
1:30 pm with The Rev. Anna Green-wood Lee
7:30 pm with The Rev. Carolyn Herold

Thursday, March 10
9:30 am Prayer Group with Stuart McKay

Sunday, March 13  
10:00 am 5th in Lent 
Holy Eucharist. with The Rev. Carolyn Herold

Tuesday, March 15
Animate Faith Bible Study
1:30 pm with The Rev. Anna Green-wood Lee
7:30 pm with The Rev. Carolyn Herold

Thursday, March 17
9:30 am Contemplative Prayer Service with Geri Urch

Sunday, March 20  
10:00 am Palm Sunday 
Holy Eucharist. The Rev. Anna Greenwood-Lee

This is also Food Bank Sunday. Please remember to bring your donations.

Thursday, March 24
9:30 am Prayer Group with Stuart McKay

Maundy Thursday Meal and Service 6:00 pm
If you are planning to come please sign the sheet on the bulletin board in the narthex. We are looking for volunteers to help with set up and clean up.

Good Friday March 25
10:00 am beginning at Lakeview United Church and processing to St. Laurence. 

Sunday, March 27  
10:00 am Easter Sunday 
Holy Eucharist. The Rev. Anna Greenwood-Lee