It was one of those moments I shall never forget. It came at the end of a beautiful liturgy commemorating the 100th anniversary of setting the cornerstone of the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, in Saskatoon, September 2012.
Earlier, in April, the cornerstone had been removed as part of an extensive restoration program. A copper time capsule was removed. Inside were a Bible, a prayer book, pictures of missionary clergy, some coins and copies of the newspapers of the day. Now, this time, into three new time capsules to be opened in 2112, were placed a copy of The Order of Service, local newspapers and books telling the story of the continuing faithful witness of this cathedral.
At the end of the liturgy, the wardens and the chair of the anniversary committee came forward and picked up the time capsules, then led the entire congregation around to the east end of the cathedral for the resetting of the cornerstone.
As we gathered, Bishop Tom Morgan, serving as priest-in-charge, took care to ensure that Isabella Rhodes, a much-loved member of the congregation, was able to see all the proceedings. She was born the same year that the original cornerstone had been laid, just 10 days later to the day.
At 100 years old, Isabella has a special radiance. The children gathered around her. Their eyes, her eyes-indeed, all our eyes-were drawn upward to the stone masons on the staging.
The masons happily received the time capsules and sealed them in the cornerstone. They reset the stone with
I will always remember the silence that followed. It was marked by gratitude for the witness of previous generations, and humility in the call to follow their good examples.
As I shared this holy moment with these dear people of God in the diocese of Saskatoon, I thought of the nature of the communion of saints. To celebrate this communion is to know that we are part of a continuing story of faithful witness to the gospel of Christ through time.
When that cornerstone is removed 100 years from now and the time capsules opened, few of us, if any, will be here. But there may well be an Isabella in that gathering, one around whom the children will gather. They will be one, as indeed we all are, in Christ Jesus, who “is the same yesterday and today and forever”
Archbishop Fred Hiltz is primate of the Anglican Church of Canada.