A VIEW FROM THE BACK PEW
By Rev. Canon Christopher B. J. Pratt
My grandparents began their lives in rural Ireland and England. During a visit to County Longford, I sat down with my cousins in the farmhouse where my Irish Grandmother was born, and heard stories of family history for the first time. Life in that setting was a challenge as we looked back over more than a century.
Years ago, a visit with my Dad to his birthplace in Banbury, Oxfordshire, gave me the opportunity of seeing the house which my Grandparents had called home. It was a place I had heard my English Grandmother talk about, as, even in the heart of the community, the house lacked many of the elements of housing that we take for granted today (indoor plumbing!).
After her recent Baptism, as I held my Granddaughter in my arms, her technologically savvy Godfather noted that with the rapid changes happening all around her, that her present experience of technology in the her world would be the worst that she would ever experience in her life!
Keeping up with all the changes that seem to be an inescapable part of life is a challenge each of us has to face in our own way. Our world is moving away from almost anything that cannot be experienced online. It does not matter if we see that as either a positive or a negative transition. That is our reality.
The world of the past is, in essence, only available through stories and memories which have either survived the oral traditions of family story – telling, or have been written about in letters or memoirs. As each generation dies, so does the source of first-hand accounts of the life experience of individuals who built the foundations upon which our own lives stand.
Efforts made and energy expended to shore up institutions which were the mainstay of the lives of previous generations appear to be perceived as a waste of time. Concepts held to be essential, like places of worship being places of safety and sanctuary, fade away, as individuals gathering for worship become victims of violence.
In the midst of all of this transition and change, in the midst of what may be felt to be immense turmoil and upheaval, it becomes even more important to be reminded of the words found in the Epistle to the Hebrews,” Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)
In a world where individuals and institutions (yes… even the church community), expend time and energy seeking to be “relevant”, the essence of our identity is that which does not change.
In times past, individuals sought to experience God’s Love within the context of a worshipping community encapsulated within a physical structure that was prominently placed in the heart of the secular community. Those who were associated with that worshipping community were clearly identifiable, because they showed up consistently for worship and saw their connection with a Parish Family as something of which they could be proud of and publicly claim as a central focus of their life. There are those communities where this still holds true.
However, I suggest that these days, rather than a physical structure, or a particular liturgical style, the seeker looks primarily at the lives of individuals around them. They look at what makes others unique. They listen to how others speak and how they act and what motivates them in their daily lives.
The seeker searches for others, who not only seek to respond to human need by acts of loving service; who not only seek to transform the unjust structures of society; who not only seek to sustain and renew the life of the earth; but also, who are grounded and energized by a power which sustains them in their lives.
Each of us, in our own unique way, is the way in which God’s unchanging Love is proclaimed in God’s changing world. In the maelstrom of change, the consistency of God’s Love expressed in the person of Jesus is a constant upon which we can rely.
As a disciple of Jesus Christ, what you say and what you do, matters. If a person who is seeking God, watches you and listens to you, will there be something that motivates them to learn more about what is at the heart and soul of who you are?
Generational changes are an inescapable reality as we navigate our way through life. Our faith in an unchanging expression of Divine Life and Love in the person of Jesus is a stable reality upon which we can depend and place our trust.
Rev. Canon Christopher B. J. Pratt has retired from full time parish ministry, but continues to offer priestly ministry in the Diocese of Huron.