By Rev. Canon Christopher B. J. Pratt
In a different century, I used to sit at what was known as “The Children’s Table”, whenever my mother, her two sisters and brother convened a family gathering.
I remember my Grandfather smiling as he watched his family come together, most especially as we celebrated Thanksgiving. Everyone had a part to play in this family production. From setting the table to washing the dishes, and everything in between, each person had their role and function.
When the family gathered last November, in New Jersey, things had changed. I had moved up the generational ladder and was sitting at the adult end of the table, while a daughter of one of my cousins and her son provided the lead for the feast. Instead of a store bought turkey, the bird that was the focus of the meal had been raised by my niece especially for the occasion! Her son brought his chef skills to the celebration and added new elements to the traditional menu. Everybody still pitched in, as a new generation shaped the day.
As I looked around the table at the different generations, it was possible to note the growing number of family members who never knew my Grandfather or even the Aunt upon whose china platter the turkey rested in the centre of the table. All of my Mother’s siblings have died, as has my Mother. One of my cousins died a number of years ago.
Family members used to live in a tight knit geographical area around Brooklyn, New York. Now we have members of the clan living in New Zealand, Canada, California, Arizona, Florida, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Vermont and Massachusetts! During dinner the phone was being handed around, so that those who were not able to make the trip, were still able to feel a part of the moment.
My Irish Grandparents, unknown by the younger generation, were known by me and my cousins. We are the “bridge generation” for a living family history that stretches from the late 1800’s to present day. Some at the table did not know the stories of the past.
My cousins and I shared stories and memories of moments important to us and our limb of the family tree. Some were attentive to the stories told, others drifted away to watch a football game, or were simply drawn to other priorities.
The life of the Church is a lot like the family experience that I have just shared with you. We are living in a time when the foundational stories faith need to be told to a new generation. Not the stories which begin, “We have always done it this way”, but rather stories which begin with “I remember when I became aware of God in my life / went to church for the first time / experienced prayer as a reality / shared in the Sacramental life of the community of faith I now call my Parish Family….”
Who is the audience for our story of faith? Our family? Our friends?
Individuals God places into our life who are seeking to experience the reality of Divine Love which we feel in the presence of Our Lord? Who…? Whoever they may turn out to be, we must be prepared to seize the moment and engage in sharing our journey of faith in a way which invites others to experience the journey with us.
Half a century ago, when our family held hands and we offered our Thanksgiving to God for all the blessings of our lives, we sang the Doxology as the mealtime Grace.
Everyone knew the words, the tune and sang with gusto (even with a harmonious “Amen”!). This year, the voices who carried the prayer ranged through the different generations in different degrees of certainty and volume, reminding me of the need to tell the stories of family and the need to tell the story of faith.
Rev. Canon Christopher B. J. Pratt has retired from full time parish ministry, but continues to offer priestly ministry in the Diocese of Huron.
(Featured photo: Priscilla du Preez/Unsplash)