Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: AGREE TO DISAGREE (05/04/17)
TITLE: A Striving for Grace
By Ann Grover
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“I am the Resurrection and the Life. He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.”
I brush away the water trickling down my cheeks. It is then I see Samuel hovering at the edge of the churchyard. Samuel Westwick, brother to my Mary. I have not seen Samuel for years, not since the turmoil over the new prayer book. He left then, to live in another village.
Finally the priest prays. The other mourners depart after offering brief condolences, but Samuel remains. I collect my courage.
We embrace. After all, he is Mary’s brother.
“Would you come for tea? Have you accommodation?” Mary prompts me with subtle nudges.
“Yes, thank you. And no, I haven’t.”
“Please come then.”
We walk in the downpour, the only sound the drizzle whispering on the cobblestones.
Mrs. Bickle has tea ready, and swiftly assessing the situation, adds another cup and plate to the table.
“Mother’s china,” says Samuel.
“Yes, it is.” The sting fresh, I add, “Now that Mary’s gone, perhaps Anne would like it? Have you a daughter?” Belatedly, I ask, “How is Anne?”
“Anne is well. I do have a daughter. Charlotte.”
We were young and freshly married when Samuel and Anne left. The king’s insistence that the new prayer book be employed by all churches performed the first incision, but it was our incensed stubbornness that dissevered us altogether.
“It’s been a long time, Samuel.”
He sets down his teacup. “It has. Unreasonably so.”
“Yes. I ...”
“We were young. Unwise and hot-tempered.”
“Indeed.” I sigh. For it was not the unswerving defense of our convictions, but that we them with such iron-hearted imperiousness and self-righteous superiority.
The question must be asked, though. Even as the words form on my lips, I wonder if I am not taunting the tiger, baiting the bear. “How is it with you, Samuel?”
He hesitates before speaking, understandably so, given my former attitude toward him. “I still believe we ought not be ruled by the Church of England or the king. I still object to the persecution of those who refuse to adopt the new prayer book.”
He refers to John Bunyan, I know, among others, who were incarcerated for their defiance. Those who were labelled as Dissenters and Nonconformists, those whose churches were closed when they failed to abide by the king’s wishes.
“And you, Edmund, where do you stand?”
The dissension involved greater issues than the new prayer book, strivings beyond the comprehension of such simple folk as Samuel and myself. Yet, the proposal to dilute the precepts that formed the warp and weft of my faith had torn at my spirit.
Nevertheless, the trudging of time had compelled me to earnest contemplation.
“I am yet partial to the tenets I was born to. I cannot relinquish that the elements of the Eucharist become His flesh within me.”
At this, Samuel hangs his head.
I continue. “But I have come to realize that unity must be the overarching essential, beyond our chosen traditions, above our differing opinions.”
Samuel looks up.
“Thus, it matters not whether we sit or kneel or even recline when we take communion. And are not all congregations liturgical in some sense or another? We are a diverse lot, yet diversity ought not incriminate our faith, but rather strengthen it.”
It is difficult for me to say, but it is truth.
And truth is the foundation of faith.
“I have come to the same conclusion,” Samuel says. “Unity is of the utmost importance, even though we are not utterly alike in practice. We are called to be one. Christ Himself prayed for our oneness. Perfect oneness, borne of love.”
“I must apologize, Samuel. Grey hair and aching bones compels one to rethink and repent. I was wrong. Forgive me.”
“I, too, Edmund. I, too.”
It is befitting, even obligatory, to seek grace in the midst of disagreement. For who among us can say, “This alone is right?” Who can know and comprehend the thoughts of Almighty God? Our lofty, high-minded thinking is like unto an infant’s understanding of the stars or the sea.
Sunlight pierces the storm clouds as Samuel smiles.
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