The three aspects of my internship this summer have been guided by an understanding of mission that seeks primarily to uphold the sanctity of human life. It is the thread that holds them together. The three aspects are as follows: fair trade, French bible study, and pastoral care. Each of these witnesses to care for human dignity in progressively smaller dimensions, namely: global, local/parish, individual. Yet there is always a dialogue to be had in relating each of these back to the church.
Fair trade as a global movement that seeks to establish supportive partnerships between producers and consumers needs, in the context of Christian concern for upholding human life, a theological framework that articulates the reasons our faith moves us to address this particular issue. That has been part of my role in relation to fair trade. In the course of aiding in creating a fair trade support network within the church in Montreal, I have been exploring the theology of relationship as something fundamental to the Christian vision of life and that the call to right relationship with God, the earth and each other is a call to sustainable and dignified ways of relating. I careful study of the creation narrative is, I think, a good place to start!
The French bible study group is a group of parishioners who attend the French service on Sundays at Christ Church Cathedral. They come together bi-weekly to share a meal, personal reflections and study of scripture. The focus here for me has been on mission as nurturing the already present and active community within the church. There is an imperative for us to continue providing nourishment for those who call the Anglican Church there Christian ‘home.’ As with fair trade, there is work to be done on articulating the theological reasons for sustaining relationships. The particular angle with which I have been approaching this idea is through the lens of, as mentioned, upholding the sanctity of life. This is important for the church because, I believe, the church is essentially the gathered body of Christ. And just as we would expect to care for our own bodies, so to must we care for the gathered body. Similarly, thinking globally, working with the principles of the fair trade movement one sees a similar concern for ensuring the healthy vitality of global human relationships.
Finally, the third aspect: pastoral care. Over the course of the internship I have been visiting an individual in her home to provide companionship and spiritual support. The focus on a single human life has been the most rewarding part of my work. It is a privilege to be invited into that intimacy of relationship that is such a major part of ministry. It has been an opportunity for me try out for myself what the role of a minister in this intimate context looks like. ‘When do I speak?’ ‘When do I keep silent?’ My experience has taught me at least one very important truth, namely, that more than anything the ministry of one in pastoral care is one of presence and witness. Presence, in the sense of ‘beholding’ the other person and moving alongside them in conversation, and witness to the conviction that if I believe God is at work in this person and in our conversation, that it is not my job to control so much as it is to facilitate the work of God. And to tie this all up neatly, I would say that the theological work to be done here is to articulate the call for Christians to witness God’s care for humanity through, in this case, individual loving attention. If the individual feels cared for, the community is stronger. And if I have accomplished anything in this internship it is, I hope, that I have made those bonds a little stronger. If that is the case, then I have can say I managed to uphold the sanctity of human life.
Benjamin Stuchbery is a student at the Faculty of Religious studies at McGill University. He is an active parishioner at Christ Church Cathedral, Montreal and an associate of the Montreal Diocesan Theological College. Having grown up in British Columbia, he has been living in Montreal for the past two years. This summer he has been a participant in the Montreal Mission Internship program, a program that seeks to provide young adults with the opportunity of creating and implementing their own projects that participate in and speak to the mission of the church. Benjamin is also an accomplished flutist and drummer.