By Rev. Canon Christopher B. J. Pratt
"Have you ever been shot or do you have any shrapnel lodged in your body?"
Hearing that unexpected question prior to a medical exam left me speechless. (For some of the people that know me well, that may be difficult to imagine!)
The immediate silence was caused, not because I did not have an answer, but because my mind immediately went to a very different time and place: I remembered a moment, a few years ago, sitting as a visitor, in the congregation of St Chrysostom’s Episcopal Church, Chicago, where my father had been the rector when I was born. It was a moment of connection with family history. Yet my memory of that visit has forever been coloured by the fact that in the midst of the service, the Prayers of the People included the names of all of the individuals who had been shot and killed through acts of violence during THAT WEEK, in the city. The list was long and very disturbing.
Not too long after my medical exam, I listened to Archdeacon Elm preach at St George’s Forest Hill, Kitchener.
She did not offer a set of pre-formed suggestions about what needed to be done by groups or individuals who sought to engage in the process of reconciliation. Instead, she encouraged people of faith to be guided by the Holy Spirit to discover where to put their time and energy into an experience of learning history they had never been taught, to hear the stories of the First Nations that they had never heard, and then discern where they could truly make a difference.
Every time that I have heard her speak, I have been disturbed by the fact that when she has gone home, she has been unable to turn on the tap and consume clean drinking water.
As I began writing this article, Canadians were called to participate in a federal election. Without any reflection regarding party loyalty or choice, it was a process which is envied by many people throughout our global village.
Creating a nation where a free electoral process is a reality which we take for granted, has not been, nor is it now, an easy task. Melding together a national identity which stretches from sea to sea to sea, continues to be a work in progress. It has been a concept so highly valued that some individuals, seeking to ensure the freedoms our system of government provides, have ventured out onto a field of battle, wearing a Canadian uniform, never to return. Yet, in 2021, the participation rate of people who could vote, has continued to spiral downwards. It is a very disturbing trend.
This fall a number of congregations will be holding special services where pets will be brought to church for a blessing to mark the Feast of St Francis. Across the Diocese of Huron, there are parish families who have spent time, effort and energy to establish community gardens and butterfly gardens, not only as a means of outreach, but as opportunities to build up an awareness within our communities of faith of how it is possible to make our response to our Baptismal Covenant promises come alive. The variety of environmental ministries are a cause for thanksgiving.
The fall season is a time when the church calendar and the civic calendar blend thoughts of remembrance, reflection and thanksgiving together.
Earlier this fall, these themes were at the forefront of our lives as we marked the twentieth anniversary of the attacks of 9/11, experienced the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, and then, each in our own way, celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving.
Later on, we moved through the observance of All Hallows Eve, All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day. The nation will pause, ever so briefly, as we mark the Feast Day of St Martin of Tours, which is more widely known as Remembrance Day.
Then, as the month of November draws to a close, a new church year begins and we focus our attention on the experience of the Season of Advent, a time of new beginnings.
What will those new beginnings look like? What changes will we make in the pattern of our lives that will have a positive impact in God’s world? What can we do to enhance the lives of everyone in the communities which we call home? What efforts can we support to ensure that clean drinking water is a reality for all Canadians? What small initiative can we take that will renew the life of God’s Creation?
Perhaps this opportunity for new beginnings will be a call to action for you as you think about the things that disturb you, or stir up feelings of thankfulness, or simply, in moments of reflection, help you to identify the blessings which you experience in your life.
May I suggest that you begin by simply putting down the paper, going to the nearest tap in your home, filling a glass with clean drinking water, reflecting on all that went into enabling you the freedom and opportunity to do what you have just done, taking a sip… Then another…
And with each sip reflect on how, being nourished by the water you are drinking you are being called, through your words and actions, to bring peace, healing and renewal into God’s world.
For the curious: Fortunately, my answer to the question which began this article was… NO!
Rev. Canon Christopher B. J. Pratt has retired from full time parish ministry, but continues to offer priestly ministry in the Diocese.