Saturday, 3 May 2014

Time Well Spent: My "By the Way" Column in Today's Medicine Hat News

Last Wednesday, April 30th, after after twenty three years ordained in the Anglican Church of Canada, I retired. The last fifteen of those years, almost to the day, I had the honour of serving as the Parish Priest at St Barnabas Anglican Church. It has been time well spent.

Living and serving in Medicine Hat has been a joy. The people of St Barnabas warmly welcomed and generously gathered Judy, my wife, and I into their worshipping family of faith. I have been blessed by my brothers and sisters in The Medicine Hat and District Ministerial Association as we spent time studying the Scriptures, and worshipping together on Canada Day. My Medicine Hat Evangelical Association friends have been a wonderful source of encouragement through time spent in prayer meetings, annual prayer summits, Good Friday services and Christmas lunches for city leaders.

Membership in both the Ministerial and Evangelical Association has given me an appreciation for the whole Church of Medicine Hat. The stories I’ve heard about how our city ministers and pastors have come to faith are remarkably similar. Every one has centred on Jesus and his impact on people’s lives. Every one of them responded to his call and set out to follow and serve him. I’ve heard Jesus preached in worship from Roman Catholic and Lutheran to Baptist and Pentecostal.

Yes, there are differences ranging from matters of personal preference such as worship style (and volume), the way we’ve always done it, and the language we use; to Baptism and the amount of water required at what age, how we celebrate the Lord’s Supper and what one must do (or not) and say (or not) to be saved. There are also prejudices which come from past hurtful experiences or, more often than we admit I suspect, from stories of unfortunately inappropriate actions which have grown into tales which cast whole groups or denominations in a bad light. It is all too easy to let our differences and such stories keep us apart. My prayer is that we will allow our belief in and love for Jesus to bring us together again.

Jesus prayed that we be one (John 17:11—read the whole chapter for more of what Jesus prayed for us). Here are three practical ways for us to move the Church of Medicine Hat even closer to being one for Jesus’ sake. What if we ALL go to the World Day of Prayer service on the first Friday of March each year? What if we ALL go to the Good Friday Service at the Field House and save our denominational observances, if we have them, until the afternoon? What if we ALL go to the service on Canada Day at 930am at Kin Coulee Park? There is nothing to fear because there is no fear in love (1 John 4:18). All it would take each year is around six hours of our time; about how long Jesus spent on the cross.

Time very well spent.