Ends, beginnings and a state of being adrift

Published December 1, 2001

What we call the beginning is often the end

And to make an end is to make a beginning.

The end is where we start from.

T.S. Eliot

ENDS AND BEGINNINGS are inextricably linked, especially when they are tied to something as arbitrary and as fundamentally meaningless as a number on a calendar. We approach the year end acutely aware of how irrelevant a date can be. There has been altogether too much movement in the tides of humanity in recent months to be overly impressed by a date that heralds the passing of one year and the arrival of another, save perhaps, on a strictly symbolic level.

The sun had barely set on the epochal day of Sept. 11 and it was already a cliché to say that the world was changed. There remained only for subsequent events to make the nature of those changes known to us, and that was not long in coming. There were palpable changes at both micro and macro levels. So many bodies to be found; so many lives shattered and to be rebuilt; rubble to clear; a city which many consider the capital city of western civilization to rediscover and reconstitute itself. Then bombs and missiles rained down on Afghanistan, a very distant country whose tragedies we barely know and do not understand. One tragedy, as so often happens, bred another. Western governments reacted to terror and threats of terror, as governments will, with measures and legislation, which some will say are a necessary part of living in the changed world before us, and which others will say constitute the most concentrated assault on human rights and civil liberties since before the days of Magna Carta. We walked in fear: fear of more Sept. 11s and fear of new things such as biological terrorism which are so strange and so horrendous that they have previously been contemplated chiefly in the minds of those who write fiction.

It has been said that fear and God cannot live in the same house, but in their fear, people sought God. People asked where God is in all this, and in search of an answer, they flocked to churches where there was a great deal of rhetoric but few answers. There may, in some places, have been solace to be found in the churches; there may even have been illumination and inspiration, but churches no less than governments are incapable of telling the people what they wish to hear – that it is all over now, that the nightmare has ended, and everything will be all right.

The year 2002 dawns with all of humanity suddenly adrift, on a course that is new, with a destination that is unclear, and under leadership that is as bewildered at the highest level as it is at the lowest. *** Canadian Anglicans, for the most part, have a great deal of difficulty with the concept of leadership. They miss it desperately when they perceive it as absent and many of them resent it when it is offered. The final months of the year 2001 was, according to forecasts a year ago, to have included among its passings that of General Synod. These forecasts were wrong. The diocese of Cariboo is tragically lost, but General Synod will continue into 2002.

The year ending has been one of acute frustration for Anglicans and their leaders. This has been especially felt by General Secretary Jim Boyles, directly involved in negotiations with the federal government over residential schools, and by Archbishop Michael Peers, the primate, who remains on the sidelines for strategic reasons and yet who still leads and guides the church in a truly holistic sense.

It is trite to say, although it is too often forgotten, that our leaders pay an incalculable price, personal as well as professional, for the work they undertake on behalf of the church. For those of us who know them and who see them, this graphic truth is seen in their faces. The negotiations with Ottawa all tend to assume an Alice-In-Wonderland quality. They remain mysterious happenings. There ought to be no mystery, however, about the quality and dedication of the leadership the Anglican Church of Canada has been blessed with in recent times. There are no historical parallels to the situation the church finds itself in as 2001 ebbs away. And there are no historical equivalents to the quality of its leadership. *** Bethlehem, the site of the divine birth, will likely be abandoned again this year, as Christianity nears one of its holiest days. Tanks and guns, rather than shepherds and kings fill the streets, called to war, not worship. Those who in previous times thronged to the site of our most joyous holy day bringing with them thoughts of love and peace as gifts to the Prince of Peace, now stay away out of fear. *** Terrorism world-wide. ? The Anglican Church of Canada poised still, on the edge of ? something. ? The stillness of Christmas nights shattered by gunfire. ? Ends? Or beginnings?


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