NEWS

Removing visible signs of our faith: what should we do?

By Rev. Canon Christopher B. J. Pratt

During the summer months various stories are shared about special places which have been visited and enjoyed. Days filled with either high adventure or peaceful reflection have ended with an opportunity to enjoy dazzling sunsets and restful nights.

The whole concept of any moment of our lives being given over to a time of recreation allows for the opportunity for the “re-creation” and the healthy renewal of our minds, our bodies, our spirit and our faith.

While some have been able to benefit from the experience of seeking those special places for renewal this summer, life has moved at its usual rapid pace around us.

Those who followed the experience of General Synod saw our community of faith dealing with essential pastoral concerns which will have an impact on our lives as we move into the future together.

Decisions reached regarding church leadership and how we as Anglicans respond to the opportunity given to us to be mutually responsible and interdependent members of the Body of Christ will shape the ministry offered in our diocese and will influence the conversations in our congregations for the foreseeable future.

Our thoughts and prayers need to be with Archbishop Nicholls, as she moves into a new ministry. Serving as the Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada will renew her awareness of the diversity of our national denomination. At the same time, our church community has a place within the wider Anglican Communion as a catalyst for dialog and as a model of how the experience of striving for reconciliation may not only serve as a focus for ministry, but may also serve to energize and renew the ministry and the life of the wider church.

As the church grapples with significant issues of ministry, this summer, the world in which we live has not been idle when it comes to dealing with matters of faith. One of the most profound photographs which appeared in a newspaper in July, showed a member of the staff of the National Assembly of Quebec, climbing a ladder, wearing white gloves, and removing the crucifix which has been hanging on the wall of the Salon Bleu for more than 80 years.

The act of removing the crucifix from the wall was mandated by a section of the newly passed secularism law. One of the other elements of the law prohibits those who work in Quebec’s public sector from wearing religious symbols at work.

Some readers of this article may be moved to ask the question, “What does that have to do with me?“

Much of the history of Canada has been impacted, for good and for ill, because decisions reached by individuals, institutions and even governments, over the years have been made as a reflection of the interpretation of core values of belief and faith. The thread of faith and the thread of governmental action have in the past been so inextricably interwoven that it may be prove difficult to delineate and define the difference. Now, it would appear that there is a concerted effort being made in many quarters to turn away from and disavow any connection between faith and action which may have an impact on our community life.

Staying engaged with the community at large is an essential function, I believe, of any community of faith and each of its members. As individuals, we do have the option of not investing ourselves in the conversations taking place around us.

On the other hand, speaking out regarding the important priority of justice and peace among all people and respecting the dignity of every human being, is not simply one of the statements included in our Baptismal Covenant, it is a rallying cry for a witness of personal and shared ministry.

In our global village there are individuals who share the Christian faith we profess with our lips, who suffer persecution and daily put their lives on the line as they are publicly identified as followers of Jesus. The motivation for us to make a difference and enhance the life of our community, wherever we are, is to be found in the guidance given to us by Jesus to “love one another, as I have loved you”. (John 15:12)

If laws change around us, and wearing outward and visible signs of our faith is not an option, then let the love, and care that we have for this world and all the people in it, be the outward and visible sign of the faith which we claim shapes our lives.

Rev. Canon Christopher B. J. Pratt has retired from full time parish ministry, but continues to offer priestly ministry in the Diocese of Huron.

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