This morning we met some folks from the Parish of Shediac on the site of the former St. Alban’s Church in Cocagne. All that remains is a memorial stone and some graves. The ground is beautifully kept. As we set out on the journey to Shediac Cape I could feel a chill in the air. It was my hope that it would brighten up and now it has.
To be where a church once stood is a poignant reminder of the way in which things change. I am sure it was hard for the people who worshipped at St. Alban’s to let go of their little church all those years ago. There would have been memories of family events, Baptisms, weddings and funerals which had taken place in the building. I imagine that the people who first raised the building would find it hard to believe that only an almost empty lot remains.
As with many of the buildings which have closed there are similar memories for groups of people who have a connection both directly or indirectly. One of the things that we too easily forget is that for many people there are residual embers of faith, sometimes buried deep within and on other occasions fanned into flame.
We cannot know why the fire has burnt so low in their hearts and minds, yet there is something there. We as the Church need to be more proactive in trying to fan these embers into life. In Britain, where people are generally one or even two generations further from faith than we are, even the remnants of the fire have turned to grey dust, without even the tiniest of orange flames left.
Jesus faced something similar in his day. In that case the faith was becoming lost in temple formality, Roman domination and the religiosity of rule keeping. He walked the roads of Palestine seeking to fan the flame of real faith into life. “I have come for the lost sheep of Israel” he said. We the Church, Jesus’ body, have that role to fulfil as we are empowered by his Holy Spirit to do so.
Today we visited Bouctouche and walked the boardwalk which was placed there in the late 1990s. I travelled it last in about 1999 and heard that a few years ago it was badly damaged by a tidal surge. I am not sure how much has been taken by the sea, but it is certainly considerably shorter than when I last visited.
As we walked from the boardwalk to St. Lawrence’s Church in Bouctouche, a distance of 16 kms, one of the group began to speak to me about the problem of aging. I must admit whenever I undertake these walks I am reminded that my body is not what it used to be. Each year a different part of me has feels the strain, this year so far it is my ankles.
The sight of the shortened boardwalk, the conversation and my aching ankles made me think about the fact that nothing remains the same. There is a saying “Time and tide waits for no one”, and that is very true.
We live in a world where change seems to get faster and faster every year. There is also a sense amongst people that life is less secure and reliable than it used to be. Last week Manchester in England faced a random explosion at a pop concert. On the Sunday of Victoria Day weekend, we were asked to pray for those afflicted by famine. There are 4 of these major catastrophes happening in the world at the moment, more than ever before. In addition, we have refugees trying to escape the horrors of war and hunger. The list goes on.
As we come to the end of the Easter season we face the question of where our security comes from. If, as many suggest, things are spiraling out of control, is there hope? All we can do is to rest on the promises of God. We are told that there will be a new heaven and a new earth. That the former things will pass away.
The question arises: can God be trusted? In this evening’s reading from Isaiah I was reminded that God promised his people exiled in Babylon that they would return to their land, and they did, through God’s intervention. The Bible contains many promises which have been fulfilled. In the current uncertainty, we can trust God and his provision in a world which changes daily.
Today was something of a Baptism of fire. It is the first time that we have tried to walk such a distance on the first day, 21.1kms. We were joined by a number of people on the trail and one, Lennie, walked with us all the way from Brown’s Yard to Harcourt. It was great to have him because he kept up a steady stream of jokes along the way, which helped me take my mind off my aching limbs.
I was very pleased to celebrate Evening Prayer in St. Matthew’s, Harcourt. It is a little gem of a church on the side of the Rogersville Road. The parking lot is well known to me as it was the place where, if I was travelling from the North-Shore to Saint John, I would pull off the road to sleep. Having said that I have not been in the building before.
Part way along the road we stopped at the Fire Hall in Beersville. It is a beautiful new facility and we received a warm welcome from the volunteer firefighters. In addition, we had a great potluck lunch there, being joined by people from the parish of Kent. It was also a privilege to “bless the fleet”, the fire trucks and other vehicles belonging to the department.
The other exciting thing which happened was being able to climb into the number 1 fire truck to sound the siren and flash the lights. As one lady said, “Boys just never grow up”. Thanks to Vance, who let me sit in his seat on the truck.
All in all it is good to be walking again. Today I was reminded of the importance of our Christian witness as we work in our communities for the good of everyone. Chris Ketch, the Priest in Charge of the Parish of Kent is a volunteer firefighter and the Rev’d Sandy Sutherland, the local Presbyterian minister, serves as Chaplain to the department and is a firefighter.
Part of our task as Christians is to be witnesses as we volunteer with organizations in our communities. In our readings today we were reminded that Jesus calls us to be his witnesses wherever we are.
your ascended Son has sent us into the world
to preach the good news of your kingdom:
inspire us with your Spirit
and fill our hearts with the fire of your love,
that all who hear your Word
may be drawn to you,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
It is a damp Friday morning as I write this. I am about to go to ACPO to speak to the people who will be assessing potential clergy for the Ecclesiastical Province of Canada. It is a difficult task, because we live in such changing times, where it is hard to know the skills and abilities which people will need in future ministry. There is a baseline and without that we might as well not even begin. Those who minister need to love Jesus and love people. That much I know.
One of the reasons I undertake these annual pilgrimages is to meet people from all walks of life. People are a fascination to me. We are all so different with different joys and sorrows. Our life experiences have shaped us and made us who we are. The image of God shines through, but often for many of us it has become clouded by the events of our lives.
These life shaping inputs, both positive and negative, can affect the way we respond to God’s call for us to come home to him. He is constantly working through his Holy Spirit to draw people to him. The role of the Church is to listen to God, to notice where he is active and then to join in his ministry. A major part of this pilgrimage will be about trying to do this.
I hope that many of you will be able to join Trevor and me as we walk through the Moncton Archdeaconry during the next two weeks. I am coming to this pilgrimage rushed by the ministry God has called me to in our Diocese. It is my hope that we all can find pools of God’s peace amongst the waves of life.