By The Rev’d Canon Christopher B. J. Pratt
We need some good news.
As I write these words, weeks have gone by where much has been written and offered through the media with a focus on little else but illness, death and sadness. Quarantine restrictions and regulations offer reminders of those moments, growing up, when a stern parental voice could be heard, saying, “Stop doing that!”
At a time and in a world, where there is a common desire and prayer for healing, health and wholeness to be a reality in our global village, some people, out of the depths of their isolation, have begun to envision what the future holds for us. They look, with hope, to an unknown future.
As people of faith, we are reminded that Jesus spoke to his disciples and told them not to be afraid. We, like them, may feel that to live in response to those words, is a challenge. There are those who have found in isolation a peace and tranquility for which they have yearned. Others feel as though they are living on the edge.
Social media provides an opportunity to view idyllic scenes of individuals taking time to read, meditate, or lose themselves in creative time in the kitchen, preparing gourmet delights which cause viewers to salivate. These images stand in sharp contrast to families whose budgets are stretched beyond imagination. In other settings the vivacious activity of young children does not diminish unless they are glued to some screen or when their heads touch their pillow at the end of the day. In those settings, adult energy is tested, emotions fray and relationships may become stretched.
We need some good news.
Often, especially in times of crisis, people of faith have turned to the 23rd Psalm for strength and comfort. The words, “Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life”, gives us all the opportunity to claim that we are not experiencing these challenging days alone. We walk through them. We pray that as we walk through ”the valley of the shadow of death”, however unique that experience may be for us as individuals, that we do not undertake that journey alone. The words of the Psalmist allow us to exclaim to our God the gratitude we feel knowing ”you are with me”.
As she wrote “Sad Cypress”, the mystery writer Agatha Christie allowed her little Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot to muse: ”There is, sometimes a deep chasm between the past and the future. When one has walked in the valley of the shadow of death, and come out of it into the sunshine – then, mon cher, it is a new life that begins.”
Part of the good news for the Family of the Diocese of Huron, is that in the midst of our individual isolation, parish clergy, all across the diocese have shared our journey through innovative ministries and the use of social media. Whether or not they offer reflections from the setting of their homes, or if they are vested in the familiar surrounding of the parish sanctuary, the consistent message they offer is that we are not alone.
The success of this new style of ministry may serve the Church well in the future.
Ongoing contact throughout the week, may indeed be the kind of support which many people will be able to lean on, as they move out, “into the sunshine”. Freed up imagination and innovation balanced by and nurtured by the foundation of faith which the Church has offered for centuries, will only be limited by our openness as we move into whatever the ”new normal” may prove to be.
Perhaps the greatest challenge for us all as we move forward into the future may prove to be the temerity which may be holding us back from the opportunities which are yet to be defined. Grasping the future without fear, stepping out with faith into the unknown is a transitional moment for us all.
Years ago, in a different century, and in what feels now, like another world, I was asked to provide a quotation for my high school yearbook which I envisaged as a framework for my future. I turned to a work called “The Unknown Country”, by Bruce Hutchison. As we look towards our collective future, I share these words with you:
“We are young, my (friends), and full of doubt, and we have listened too long to timid men. But now our time is come and we are ready.”
As the future unfolds before us, may that sentiment be true for us all.
Rev. Canon Christopher B. J. Pratt has retired from full time parish ministry, but continues to offer priestly ministry in the Diocese of Huron.