By Rev. Canon Christopher B. J. Pratt
Now that I have your attention – (I will be interested to see how large and how bold the editor allows the first word of this article to be published) – I suggest that we need to address our attitude towards our experience of the last year and the days which are before us.
Our individual and collective lives have been and will be, forever changed by our experience of having to face the painful reality of a worldwide pandemic. Our collective battle against the COVID-19 virus has reached a new stage. As British Prime Minister Winston Churchill said at a pivotal moment during the Second World War, ”This is not the end. This is not even the beginning of the end, but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning”. (11.10.1942)
The use of militant language may not be presently socially acceptable, but it has been a framework around which the Church has shaped a call to commitment and action over many years. In the Supplementary Instruction, which is a part of the Book of Common Prayer Catechism, a person preparing for Confirmation is asked,” What is the vocation of a Christian in this world?” The response is clear and direct. “To follow Christ and bear witness to him; to fight the good fight of faith and lay hold on eternal life.” (BCP pg. 555)
Although this reference may, at first glance appear to be very old fashioned and out of touch with our present day and age, the simple reality is that we currently use terms which encourage individuals to participate in the battle against COVID by getting a vaccination. We have acknowledged that those serving on the front lines are heroes. In days past, individual efforts on the field of military conflict have been celebrated as mighty deeds. At this moment, many lawn signs around our neighbourhoods simply state our reality: “OUR HEROES WEAR SCRUBS”.
We are being called to become more aware of who we are and whose we are, as we engage in a world-wide battle against an invisible foe. We are being called to renew our commitment to our Lord whenever we reflect on the statements we make at the time of Baptism – when we say that we will renounce Satan, all spiritual forces of wickedness, evil powers of this world and those sinful desires which draw us from the love of God. We are being called to truly personalize our declaration and to live up to our commitment when we say that we “turn Jesus Christ”, that we “put (my) whole trust in his grace and love”, and the we will ”promise to obey him as (my) Lord".
The call to live up to our commitment does not leave us totally vulnerable. The writer to the Ephesians encourages people to ”find your strength in the Lord”, and to ”put on all the armour which God provides.” When we arm ourselves, when we” take up God’s armour; then you will be able to stand your ground when things are at their worst.”
As a Diocesan Family being called upon to be a learning community of faith, we are reminded that we are to arm ourselves well. The belt of truth, the coat of mail of integrity, the shoes of the gospel of peace, and the great shield of faith are all essential as we face the challenges of each day. The helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit complete our preparation for the conflict ahead. (Ephesians 6)
The conflicts which mark our Canadian reality have the potential of being marked with indifference. As we hear of calls for environmental sensitivity, we recall times when our Diocesan Family responded to the challenges for action, and where congregations were lauded and awarded for their achievements in seeking to be good stewards of God’s Creation.
We remember when it was possible to gather at Synod and in other settings to experience a Blanket Exercise and come face to face with the need to engage in an experience of reconciliation with those whose history on the land is measured in millennia and not decades. Calls for action to address social imbalances were made by synods past, when the Diocesan Family raised our collective voice to speak to those occupying the corridors of governmental power and when we cried out for Justice to be a reality in our province and in our nation.
Being wise in the use of the resources available to use as we deal with these challenges means that we are being called to engage in a process which allows us to answer the question of what ministry looks like in the Diocese of Huron in the years ahead. Moving away from the silo parochial shaped thinking which has shaped our ministries in the past means that we may move in directions which are built on the eternal truths we hold dear, yet find new ways of being expressed. The expression of our shared ministry as we proclaim our faith through the words and deeds of our daily lives, becomes even more significant during these troubling times.
In a pamphlet written almost a century ago, entitled ”Why I am an Anglican”, Huron’s own Archbishop David Williams identified the call to witness of faith in Jesus Christ in every facet of every person’s individual daily life to be the Mission of the Church. He wrote:
“Until we get this sense of Mission from God, both as regards he Church and ourselves we shall neither pray, work nor give with pleasure and enthusiasm; with that sense of Mission, then to further the Church’s work becomes the chief concern of our lives. We shall feel ourselves to be in the grip of a Divine necessity; and no work of the Church will be too arduous...”
As many of us have dealt with, and continue to face, the inconveniences of restricted travel, delayed hospitalizations or operations, and being distanced from loved ones, other members of the community of our global village have had to face the challenge of simply surviving through the day. Wildfires and floods, bombs and rockets, social injustice and civil unrest are realities faced by many.
The battle for environmental action, the call for peace, the cries for justice must be engaged in by all people of faith with renewed commitment.
A prayer used in time of war has much to offer to us in these days:
O Lord God,
when thou gives thy servants to endeavour any great matter,
grant us also to know that it is not the beginning
but the continuing of the same until it be thoroughly finished,
which yieldeth the true glory;
through him that for the finishing of thy work laid down his life,
our Redeemer, Jesus Christ.
(BCP pg. 435)
Rev. Canon Christopher B. J. Pratt has retired from full time parish ministry, but continues to offer priestly ministry in the Diocese.
Illustration: Holy Warriors (Manasija Monastery, Serbia, 1408)