By Rev. Canon Christopher B. J. Pratt
My grandmother was born in the latter part of the 19th century in England. Listening to her reflect on her life growing up in that setting was a truly fascinating experience. She was born into what seemed to me, as a young person, to be a truly different world.
When my father immigrated from England to the United States, much of his worldly possessions fitted into a large wooden trunk (which I still have). The experience of transition to the “New World”, and to New York City, was just one of many stories that shaped the story of my grandmother’s life. In her latter years, my grandmother avidly watched the Watergate hearings and saw a man walk on the Moon.
In 1992, she died five months shy of her 100th birthday.
I often wonder what my grandmother would think of the changes which have been so much of life in the last two decades. To begin to enumerate the way in which our expectations, our patterns of living, and the immediacy of our awareness of events around the world which impact our own lives would generate a truly lengthy list.
The simple reality is, that the experience of change is a constant.
The Nobel Prize winner in literature (2016), Bob Dylan, reflected on the experience of change as early as 1964 when he wrote:
As the present now will later be past
The order is rapidly fadin’
And the first one now, will later be last ‘
Cause the times, they are a changin’
(The Times They Are A-Changin’)
How do we live with the changes that are happening all around us, that impact our lives and our relationship with other human beings ?
[Cue the violins…]
I remember when it was possible to pull up to a gas station, where a smartly dressed individual would come over and say, ”How may I help you? Shall I fill up the gas tank and check the oil?” The windows would be washed and, without leaving my car, I would hand over payment and be on my way. These days I cannot personally fill up my car unless I pre-pay for the privilege!
I remember when I used to call an office and a real live person would answer the phone. These days, as a sign of “efficiency”, or perhaps as a cost saving exercise, an automated voice directs my call to an individual, who may, or may not, choose to pick up the call, because they are aware of who is on the line. I am aware that when I shop for groceries, I have a choice at the end of picking up the items on my list. Do I check myself out at the automated station, or do I go to a real live person, whose employment depends on me waiting patiently for my turn in line?
These illustrations are mentioned as examples of how we are experiencing changes which have an impact on how we come to grips with living out our Baptismal commitment to ”respect the dignity of every human being”.
Anything that stands in the way of us being able to make a connection with another person is a barrier that we must face and overcome.
Many of us will have already made our resolutions for the new year of 2023. As we continue to live through the experience of a continuing global pandemic, we are often being encouraged to encapsulate ourselves within a personal bubble so that we may protect others and ourselves. Yet at the same time, we are also called as people of faith to not only love the Lord our God with all our mind, with all our soul and with all our strength, but also to care about and to be in relationship with others.
I suggest that in addition to whatever Resolution or Rule of Life you may have already written as you begin this pilgrimage through the calendar year of 2023, that you take a moment, in this ever changing world, to discern and define a way in which your love for Our Lord may be seen in the way in which you love for, care and respect those whose lives touch yours.
O Immortal Lord God,
who inhabits eternity,
and hast brought thy servants to the beginning of another year:
Pardon, we humbly beseech thee,
our transgressions in the past,
bless to us this New Year,
and graciously abide with us all the days of our life;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
(BCP, Collect for the New Year, page 115)
Rev. Canon Christopher B. J. Pratt has retired from full time parish ministry, but continues to offer priestly ministry in the Diocese.
(Photo: Anita Jankovic/Unsplash)