By Rev. Canon Christopher B. J. Pratt
The measurement of time is something which may be proving to be a challenge for many of us these days.
The experience of our Covid lockdown as we protect ourselves and others from viral infection gives us the gift of time to manage in ways which are new and different from the crowded calendars which many of us have been used to in our pre-Covid life.
There is the temptation to commit ourselves to Zoom meeting after Zoom meeting in an attempt to keep our lives percolating along at a pace which gives us both comfort, and our lives purpose. We miss the face to face personal connections. We miss the opportunity to reach out and touch another person without fear. We miss… (you fill in the blank here). Yet in these days we are reminded that the changes that are happening in our world reflect an ongoing process of change which has been lived through by previous generations.
As an only child, it is my sole responsibility to deal with the boxes of pictures and papers which belonged to my Grandmother and my parents. The project was identified as a personal Lenten discipline a few Lents ago and, for one reason or another, was something that I put off. Recently, as I went through the black and white, and a few sepia-toned prints that go back more than a century, I saw pictures of my great grandparents who were born in the 1800’s in England. It was a different world then. Times have changed.
Another box yielded the treasure of a recording done in 1977 of a 120th parish anniversary service which was made when my father was the rector of Holy Trinity Church, Rittenhouse Square, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Part of his ministry in that setting was linked to the fact that the Sunday service was broadcast on a local radio station. I closed my eyes as I listened to his voice and thought of the experience of growing up in that setting. It was a different world then. Times have changed.
The approach of the fiftieth anniversary of my graduation from high school, next year, motivated me to re-connect with the school community via Zoom as a small group gathers to share in a monthly Meeting for Worship.
The school I attended has a history which stretches back to 1688. The Society of Friends who settled in Philadelphia recognized the importance of education as an critical element in the life of the new community and established a school which has, at its core, the Quaker tradition. As a part of the Zoom connection a picture of the Meeting House where the school community used to gather on a weekly basis was put on the screen. This evoked a flood of memories for many of us who were connected across great distances and international borders. Memories of people being inspired to stand up and speak about opposition to the Vietnam War, in support of Earth Day, Black Power and the sorrow surrounding the assassinations of President Kennedy, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Senator Bobby Kennedy were all connected to the visual reminder of the setting where those thoughts were expressed. It was a different world then. Times have changed.
In my own collection of pictures and papers I have been reading, re-reading and remembering events in my own life and ministry and my family life. Newspaper clippings, articles, pictures (most of them in colour!) all bring to mind moments of life lived and experiences shared. Travel and spending time together in a world when free movement and gathering with others was not constricted by governmental regulation are the stuff of happy memories. It was a different world then. Times have changed.
Black and white pictures... cassette tape recordings worn newspaper print may be unfamiliar concepts for individuals in other generations, but for me, they are all helpful in appreciating the past. Stories of the past are not simply told as an exercise in nostalgia. Stories are not repeated to bore the next generation and lull them to sleep. They remind us of who we are and where we came from. Stories of the past help us to understand what influences have shaped our lives. They have value, purpose and meaning. If stories of the past disappear in the mists of time, the loss would be great.
While visiting the community of Dawson City in the Yukon, I discovered this insightful quotation taken from the play, “Beat of the Drum”, which was written in the 1990s. It is a story which comes from the oral tradition and life experience of the Han Nation, for whom that land is home.
It was too late.
Our heritage and tradition had started to fade and disappear…
It’s hard to keep time without the beat of the drum
or sing songs when you no longer have the words.
Raven, you must fly away with our songs, dances, stories and drums
and store them where they can be protected until there comes a time
when we can share them with pride and honesty
A time when we have found our power.
As people who seek to live out our commitment to Jesus within the context of the Anglican tradition of the Christian faith, we are blessed with many stories to tell. The dynamic and imaginative leadership of so many clergy and laity these days has been unleashed in the pursuit of different ways to continue to engage with and connect people to congregational community life. In different ways and in different generations the story of our faith has been told and re- told. It is a story of hope which goes beyond the imagined limits of time. It is our story, not to lose, but rather to claim, perpetuate and share. The world changes, times change, the consistent Good News of the Gospel is our story to treasure and to tell.
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.
(Featured photo: Reuben Juarez/Unsplash)