by Christyn Perkons
The Venerable Doctor Stephen Hopkins, known to all as Steve, had a profound impact on people, parishes and the institutional church, both locally and nationally. Steve helped reshape who we are and how that identity is expressed.
A lifelong Anglican who was active in the church as a child, teenager and young adult, Steve’s first vocational call upon moving to Toronto from Montreal was at the Fred Victor Mission, where he facilitated long-lasting and positive change in the lives of homeless people. That passion for transformation and facilitation brought Steve to Niagara as the Director of Program after nine years as a Program Consultant in the Diocese of Toronto.
Steve had an intense curiousity about the inner workings of the church—how people and the institution might interact at their best. He functioned as a “guide on the side” for parishes seeking to reclaim their vision of their role in God’s story, hoping to engage parishioners more fully in their spiritual journeys and connect with people in the larger community.
Steve was deeply committed to the connection between faith and daily life. He consistently communicated that people are loved by God as they are and invited by God to become all that they can be, their most authentic selves.
Steve’s authentic self eventually included ordination.
The worshipping community, under Steve’s guidance, became a safe space in which all were welcomed and included without judgement or barriers. Encouraged to learn and use interpersonal skills that better reflected God’s love for them and others, people became more vulnerable to one another, less defensive in their daily interactions.
Driven by a deep sense of integrity, Steve modeled those behaviours in one-on-one relationships, small groups and in his facilitation of community gatherings. Steve also modeled how to mend the fractures we inevitably create, humbly expressing remorse and a deep desire to restore relationship. Those relational skills he encouraged, rooted in an abiding sense of God’s love, went well beyond those with whom Steve personally interacted—they permeated family life, work life, civic life and diocesan life.
Out of Steve’s commitment to authenticity came an insightful appreciation for the value of contextual liturgy—liturgy written to reflect the aspirations and experiences of particular faith communities. He repeatedly brought together people with various skill levels, in an atmosphere of prayer, exploration and play, to craft multifaceted explorations of scripture and its correlation to daily life.
Flourishing at St. Christopher’s, contextual liturgy written by teams of laity and clerics reflecting themes chosen by the congregation created a powerful impact, not only in the worshipers, but also in the broader church. Steve’s writing and presentations to other parishes, dioceses and denominations saw the spread of parish-developed liturgy across the broader church.
Perhaps the most significant of Steve’s gifts was reminding people that while they have little control over what happens to them, they do have control over the story they tell about their lives. People can choose to tell their life stories from the perspective of injustice, grief and blame or they can frame their stories in terms of gratitude for the gifts of particular people, places and experiences, the moments of God’s grace and the delights of love, received and given. Steve chose to live out of grace and gratitude … and invited others to do likewise.
Steve died on October 28, 2017 having served Niagara as Program Director, Secretary of Synod, parish priest, territorial archdeacon and Archdeacon for Ministry Leadership Development.
This world is more compassionate and just because those whose lives he touched continue living his legacy of faith, vulnerability, authenticity, gratitude, integrity and grace.
Canon Christyn Perkons is Director for Congregational Support and Development in Niagara Diocese and a member of St. Christopher’s Burlington.