By Rev. Canon Christopher B. J. Pratt
The world may know it as Boxing Day, but for those who follow the traditional calendar year marked by the Church, today is the Feast of St. Stephen.
It is also a more appropriate day to sing, “Good King Wenceslas”, than on the day offered by newer calendar revisions which presents August 3rd as an option! Looking around for snow lying ”…deep and crisp and even…”, in August, is not something to be highly anticipated in the midst of the summer!
Today is also the deadline date for this Huron Church News article, which draws me now to the keyboard.
As the conclusion of November 2016 was marked with the celebration of new episcopal ministry and leadership in the Diocese of Huron, the month of December has been a roller coaster month of experience and emotion.
The service honouring the life of Erin Dance provided deeper insight into the reality that each day of our lives is a God given gift. The relationships which we form, the friendships we share, the love we offer and receive each day, are all precious elements which make us the people we are. Each person and each moment is like a treasured, brightly coloured tile in the dazzling mosaic of our life.
As our Diocesan Family came to grips with the reality of the shortness and uncertainty of human life, we also had the opportunity to mark moments of fulfillment, new beginnings and celebration. Ordinations to the ministry of deacon and priest bring into the life of our Diocese individuals whose gifts for ministry will enhance our shared life and Christian witness.
Each December 14th, for the last 36 years, I have made a phone call to the Bishop who ordained me as a deacon and then as a priest. The date is important to me because it was the day my own father and I were each ordained to the priesthood. Archbishop Harold Nutter, of the Diocese of Fredericton, observed our shared date of priestly ordination with his own 70th Anniversary. Although circumstances no longer allow us the opportunity to make direct contact, I still connect up through his family members as the tradition has been a part of my life over the years.
The marking of ordination anniversaries has always been a moment of importance in my life. With the generous support of the Parish Families that I have served, the December Clericus, over the years, has been a time of celebration and feasting. The honour of being a priest in the Church is not an entitlement, it is a privilege and a joy.
As women from across Canada converged on Stratford to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Women to the Priesthood, there was an acknowledgement of the valued contributions which have been, and continue to be made, by women clergy in every facet of our shared ministry. As colleagues, the ministry we have shared over those years has been offered in the midst of challenging times for all those who offer their lives in the service of our Lord. As colleagues, the offering of mutual respect and support across any line of gender which defines us, continues to be a necessary and essential element of day to day life in the experience of shared ministry in the parishes, deaneries and diocese where we are called to serve.
As a priest of the Church, retired from full time parish ministry, I value and appreciate the opportunities which have been given to me to preside at the Eucharist and to share in the worship of different congregations. Each word of the liturgy has meaning and value to be savoured and treasured. It is difficult for me to comprehend how the liturgy can be rushed as if the community of faith was being asked to strain to reach an imaginary finish line. Words of worship convey Holy Mystery, Divine Truth and a Call to Service.
In preparation for ordination as a priest, I was asked to consider this simple thought:
Celebrate this Eucharist
as if it were your first Eucharist,
as if it were your last Eucharist,
as if it were your only Eucharist.
Words which I reflect on, when from time to time, I sit in the last pew, in the back of church.
Rev. Canon Christopher B. J. Pratt has retired from full time parish ministry, but continues to offer priestly ministry in the Diocese of Huron.