By Rev. Canon Christopher B. J. Pratt
Extensive periods of limited outside activity over the last year has led me to renew my acquaintance with, and to enjoy, the books of Edward Rutherfurd.
Pure escapism, to be transported once again to New York, London, Paris, Sarum and some of the other locations featured in his writings, allows me to walk the streets of places where I have either lived or visited. Rutherfurd draws back the curtain of history and sheds a light on the past. His perspective on the geological formation of the valley of the Thames River, for instance, has an ongoing impact on the narrative he writes as it sweeps through the centuries.
He presents the stories of families whose lives are interwoven through the years and how decisions made at moments which are lost in the mists of time influence and shape the framework of contemporary life.
From personal experience, I am very aware of the fact that decisions made by others and decisions which I have made of my own accord, have had an impact on where I am in my life today. All of us, I suspect need only to look at the brief time frame of our own lives to see how unique moments, special events, meeting others for the first time, are not only indelibly etched into our memories, but have influenced the pattern and direction our lives have taken.
Clergy may point to the example of how the combination of circumstance, episcopal guidance, search committee dynamics, gut feeling and the guidance of the Holy Spirit have either opened doors into new and exciting experiences or revealed that the opportunity for a shared ministry in a new setting was not a viable option. So many factors influence the direction our lives take. All of those elements are a part of our own history, our own story. Some we understand, others we do not.
The recent experience of Holy Week reminds us that we have a story of faith which we have received as a gift from the generations who have gone before us. The way in which the story is told, how it has been shared with us, is as unique as our family context. For some, the family setting may not be the place where our lives are rooted in the Gospel. However and wherever we become aware of the Gospel story, there comes a time when we have the opportunity to claim the story as our own.
One of the most profound moments when the Church creates an opportunity for us to be reminded of what offers us a strong foundation of faith upon which we may choose to build our lives is the Easter Vigil. The almost two dozen readings of Scripture which are included in the shape of the liturgy allow God’s People the opportunity to be reminded of the experience of previous generations whose stories span the centuries and whose witness bring us to this moment in our lives.
As you look into the rear-view mirror of your life, you have the opportunity of exploring what influences have shaped your life and what influences have impacted your own faith journey. This perspective not only helps you to value and appreciate your past, but also help you to discern how you may be able to build a bright future.
Recently, I became aware of a poem written by former President Jimmy Carter, entitled, “I wanted to share my Father’s World”. In a few, brief lines he writes of the reality of the relationship that he had with his father. He reflects on all that has been experienced in life and in their relationship and knows that he is looking at “the Father who will never cease to be alive in me”.
On a personal level, my guess is, that at the very centre of the circle of those who have had a deep influence on our lives, we may find the members of our families. It is through them that we develop an initial understanding of values and perhaps even of faith.
In a world which relies increasingly on technology as a means of establishing and nurturing relationships, those who are physically there for us when we lift our eyes up from our computer enhance our lives in ways unmatched by any touchscreen contact. These are the people who will never cease to be alive in us. If that is true of our immediate family, it also holds true for those who form the different branches of our family trees which reach back through the years.
At the core of our faith story we are drawn back to the Life, Ministry, Death and Resurrection of Jesus. We know the story because it has been told and shared by others through the centuries. It is a story which has never ceased to live in the lives of those who have claimed the story as their own. In a world which needs to be aware of the reality of God’s Love for God’s World, we are the storytellers of this generation.
May we all be faithful storytellers as we share the Gospel story through our words and deeds in our daily lives.
Rev. Canon Christopher B. J. Pratt has retired from full time parish ministry, but continues to offer priestly ministry in the Diocese.
(Photo: Dmitry Ratushny/Unsplash)