Today throughout our Diocese, we give thanks for the life and witness of John the Baptist. John the Baptist is the Patron Saint of our Diocese and is the only saint other than the Virgin Mary whose birthday (hence the term nativity) is celebrated by the Church in a liturgical feast. The Nativity of John the Baptist on June 24th comes three months after the celebration on March 25th of the Annunciation and six months before the Christmas celebration of the birth of Jesus. The purpose of these festivals is not to commemorate the exact dates of the events, but simply to commemorate them in a connected way.

The church is struggling to maintain relevancy in our ever-changing world. Many of us who have had a longterm relationship with our faith community find this fact very disconcerting. We hope that our church will grow. We want to attract young families and their children. We want to be financially viable. We want the church building to be attractive. We want our diocesan schools to be filled with children. Yet we struggle with embracing one another because of our differences. In fact, without our differences we would not enjoy the richness of life that is available to us. It is a pervasive struggle that affects all of us every day. As followers of Jesus the Christ, how are we to respond? Can we include people who are different? Are there limits to differences that are acceptable? Who would you exclude and why?

John the Baptist is a figure of great importance in the New Testament and all four Gospels praise him. However, John was quite different. John was the one chosen by God to prepare the hearts and minds of the people of his day for the coming Messiah, the Christ who will bring salvation to all humankind. We too, like John the Baptist, are chosen by God to prepare the hearts and minds of the people in our day for the coming Christ. John, the fore-runner, preceded Jesus to point others to Jesus; we are the disciples who follow Jesus to do the same. The life of John the Baptist reminds us that the calling to be a Christian is not about having a religious hobby among all the other hobbies of life, but rather as a calling that defines who we are and whose we are.

While in our own hubris we often claim authorship of our abundance, in our heart of hearts, we know better. Indeed, all that we have and all that we are is a great gift of the one who created us. Is it not to be expected that the diversity we have with one another is also part of that giftedness?

As we celebrate our Diocesan Patronal Festival let us reflect on the life, witness and contribution of the Church. Let us all continue to do our part to build God's kingdom and further our Diocese of The Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands.

Rev'd Fr. Colin Humes