By Rev. Canon Christopher B. J. Pratt
January is a moment in congregational calendars where the observance of the Christmas Season concludes with the celebration of the Feast of the Epiphany, followed closely by the Baptism of Our Lord.
That is certainly one way of looking at the calendar month of January. There are some members of many congregations (wardens and treasurers come to mind), where a key focus of the month is the experience of the Annual Vestry Meeting.
The amazing thing about the liturgical life of the community of faith and the reality of the day to day life of the church, is that the message of worship and congregational life meld together in a very natural way.
The message of the Holy Days and seasons which have been referenced, highlight an increased, and in some cases, a profound and sudden awareness that the message of Divine Love personified in Jesus, is a message which is being conveyed to all God’s children in every part of God’s world. Those who gathered in Bethlehem’s stable, those who followed a star, and those who stood on the banks of the River of Jordan, all witnessed moments which are unique in the ongoing story of humanity. Those key moments are essential parts of our faith journey as they lead us to claim that God loves the world so much, that Divine Love finds its full expression in the person of Jesus.
Having our lives impacted and transformed by the Birth, Ministry, Sacrifice and Resurrection of Jesus allows us to claim that we are forever linked to him through the experience of Baptism. An added element to that identity, is that, in our generation, we hear the words of the Risen Christ, as he commissions us, like those who have gone before us, to ”bear witness for me.” (Acts 1: 8)
Right there is where we begin to make ministry complicated. As individuals and as communities of faith, we expend a great deal of time, energy and resources trying to figure out and define what it means to “bear witness “, in our own lives and in the life of our community, our country and in God’s world. The shape of our worship reflects our desire to praise God in a way which is unique to the community we serve. As an example, not every congregation has a Praise Band. Not every congregation has an experience of traditional Anglican chant. Each has their place and not every congregation has to be all things to all people.
Being a part of a community of faith means that we become aware of the fact that we do not live our lives in isolation. By not sharing in ministry opportunities offered in our Deaneries, our Diocese, or even in the wider community, there is a tendency to retreat into familiar, and sometimes, even comfortable, silos that insulate us from…… (fill in the blank). It is the kind of mindset that leads to Church Kitchen cupboards being locked up, so that the property of all, is controlled and possessed by an exclusive few. The concept of being mutually responsible and interdependent members of the Body of Christ, which is at the heart of our Anglican self – definition, means that, at annual parish vestry meetings, congregational decisions regarding the shape of missional ministry build on the unique nature and gifts of the community of faith and have a vision which looks beyond the four walls of the church building.
That translates into our personal experience, as we face, in our own way the question of what it means to be a “witness” to our Lord. Within the context of our families, with our friends, as a part of our community of faith and the wider community, God given opportunities are presented to us. What do we do when those moments come along?
The call to engage in Mission and Ministry in 2018 is a call with an impact on the life of each and every one of us. We are called to know our story of faith and to share our story of faith. We are called to have a vision of our place in God’s world and to commit ourselves to respond, as part of the community of the church and in our own way as individuals to ”bear witness” to our Lord.
May all of us resolve anew to respond with energy and zeal to that Great Commission.
Rev. Canon Christopher B. J. Pratt has retired from full time parish ministry, but continues to offer priestly ministry in the Diocese of Huron.
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