The summer has flown by and Labour Day is here again. Many of us enjoyed a time away this summer whether it was going to family cottages or trailers, or travel. I hope that you found time this summer to relax and recharge.
As many of you know, Stewart and I travelled out west this summer, starting in Vancouver, driving back to Calgary with stops along the way. One of my favourite stops was the Heritage Park in Calgary, with the historical buildings, live interpreters and other activities that bring history alive. Their newest building is a replica of Nellie McClung’s home. Nellie was part of the Famous Five women, made famous for challenging the definition of “person” in the British North American Act, our constitution at the time, to include women. Eventually the case went to the Privy Council in England, the highest court of appeal at the time. As a student I had studied and written essays on these women and the case, so I was particularly interested to see the house and go to the talk being offered.
As I listened and later reflected on the talk, I was struck by how the reasoning for final decision could also be applied to our faith. In particular Lord Sankey who wrote the decision, said that the British North American Act was a living document that cannot be applied literally without consideration of current context. In other words, lived experience and our changing context, must be considered in interpreting the law and making decision about its application. This reminded me of the Anglican approach to faith, as we are encouraged to interpret and practice our faith based on a combination of four factors: scripture, tradition, reason and experience. This means that over time our interpretation may change, as does how we practice our faith, as reason and experience evolve over time.
Over the years the Christian Church and Christians themselves have been challenged about what we believe and how we live that out. One example would be the place of women in the church, something I have a vested interest in. There was a time when priests could only be men because we interpreted scripture and tradition as saying that a woman must be silent in church, that priests as representatives of Christ should resemble Jesus, so be male, among other arguments. Then in 1974 the Anglican Church of Canada, upon reflection and study, changed that understanding to allow the ordination of women, for which I am very thankful. Another more recent example has been the years of study, refection and discussion that resulted in the change to the Marriage Canon to allow for Same Gender Marriage.
One of the things that I appreciate about the Anglican Church is our ability to engage in conversation about these challenging issues and to allow the Holy Spirit to speak into them through our reason and listening to shared experience. In this way our faith and how we live it out is an evolving or living part of us. As the world around us changes, as our experiences change us, so too is our faith being shaped and refined. This is true in our practices as well as our beliefs. As a Church that highly values tradition, reason and experience also shape who we are and what we do, which is why we continue to see the development of new liturgies like the trial use ones that were used this summer when Sheryl MacPhail led the service, or new hymns that reflect our current experience, or world issues.
As we move into the fall, as programs and activities resume, I pray that you too will find your faith to be a living, evolving, changing part of who you are, what you believe and how you live that out. Either of our study groups which will resume this fall, are an excellent way of engaging with others around our faith and practice.