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By Rev. Canon Christopher B. J. Pratt

“A sea of flickering candles shining forth the Light of Christ in the midst of surrounding darkness. As Christians we must more and more come together in unity of prayer, unity of deed and unity of Love. Only in this way can we begin to fulfill Christ’s commandment to Love God by Loving our neighbours as ourselves."

These words were offered by Archbishop Hosam Naoum in St George’s Cathedral, Jerusalem, during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity earlier this year. The Archbishop presented a reminder of the visual  experience of the Easter Vigil. In this case, the “flickering candles”, he referenced pointed to the experience of Anglican communities, especially in Gaza, who, in the midst of death and destruction all around them are offering a faithful witness through their worship and service.

The month of March 2024 marks a significant part of the Season of Lent. Many individuals will use this time for prayer, reflection and study of the Biblical record of the Birth, Life, Ministry, Death and Resurrection of Jesus.

As March draws to a close with the experience of Holy Week we move towards that moment when we are able to joyfully declare the core statement of our Easter faith:

Christ has died. 
Christ is risen.
Christ will come again.

We live in a world which increasingly views that declaration as an exclusive statement owned by an ever-diminishing number of people. The challenge for people of faith is how we change the perception that belief in Jesus Christ is marked by insurmountable walls and boundaries, to an understanding that Jesus is the expression of Divine Love for all.

The boundaries and barriers which have been established over the years are human constructs. Politics and power, expectations of cultural norms, theological esoteric discourse and exclusive ecclesiastical language known only by church “insiders” serve to bolster the perception that a relationship with Jesus is limited to the few who can fully “understand”, and that those who do not comprehend and do not follow a defined path are ”wrong”, or are, at the very least, “lost”.

In a world where many are seeking simply to survive another day, people of faith need to hear, yet again, the words of the Great Commission of Jesus:

…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will bear witness for me in Jerusalem, and all over Judea and Samaria, and away to the ends of the earth.     
(Luke 1: 8)

In the comparative safety of a Canadian perspective the declaration of our Christian faith may be offered without being drowned out by the sound of bombs. However, the simple reality is that in our own setting the declaration of faith, Christian or any other, causes a reaction. People of faith may be told,” Hush…be quiet!”, because words of faith may offend others.

I recently attended a service where the Anglican Church Women who had been an integral part of the life of a parish for decades concluded their ministry as an organization. As this experience of ministry drew to a close the congregation was reminded through the words of the ACW Prayer that we are all called to be the means by which the Love of God is revealed through lives of ”prayer, work and stewardship”.

That vocational call was echoed in the words of one of the hymns chosen for the service, written by Dean Herbert O’Driscoll:

The love of Jesus calls us, that we may always be 
companions on a journey, where all the world may see
that serving Christ is freedom which time does not destroy;
where Christ’s command is duty, and every duty…joy.
(Book of Common Praise - Hymn 434 verse 2)

The joy of Easter 2024 is that there are places where the “flickering candles” of faithful witness are burning brightly.

Commissioned by Pope Francis and Archbishop Welby, Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops have been paired up to work together to define where opportunities for ministry and Christian witness may be offered to make a difference at a diocese to diocese / parish to parish level.

The commissioning followed the route of St. Augustine from Rome to Canterbury. From that experience the bishops are going back home to continue their work of reflection and discernment of those opportunities where, working together, the Light of Christ may shine brightly as a beacon of hope in the world.

Faithful readers of this column will remember that in the past, I have cited a significant moment in the life of the Anglican Communion as a touchstone statement of ministry. Written more than half a century ago, I constantly return to a phrase that was penned by a committee working at Huron University College as a part of the Anglican Congress of 1963. The concept was proposed that Anglicans throughout the global village may be described as “Mutually Responsible and Interdependent members of the Body of Christ”.

This Easter, let us grow in our awareness of how much we need each other; as committed participants in the life of our Parish Family, as members of different congregations across the Diocese of Huron; how much we need each other as followers of Jesus, even living with our denominational definitions, how much we need each other as individuals who are drawn into lives of service by our faith experience.

This Easter, let us discover the strength to proclaim with boldness, not only through our words of worship but also through our lives of Christian witness:

Alleluia, Christ Is Risen…

The Lord Is Risen Indeed, Alleluia!

Rev. Canon Christopher B. J. Pratt has retired from full-time parish ministry but continues to offer priestly ministry in the Diocese.