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Freedom, Then and Now

The Rev. Dr. William Rich
June 28, 2018

Freedom is never without cost, and one of the costs for freedom is courage. How did Samuel Parker, Phillips Brooks, and Theodore Parker Ferris find the courage to stand for freedom, each in his own time? I cannot know for certain, but I strongly suspect that their courage must have been buoyed up by the story of Jesus stilling the storm (Mark 4:35-41) that we heard in church this past Sunday.


Each of these men led Trinity in stormy times that demanded courage – Parker during the American Revolution, Brooks during Reconstruction’s turmoil in the aftermath of the Civil War, and Ferris during the upheavals of the 1960s surrounding the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War. Certainly each of them called upon Christ amidst the fears of their times, and found the Lord palpably present, calming them and providing the courage they needed to stand for what they all knew to be right: that Christ came to set every human soul free. (Galatians 5:1)


To help move Trinity forward, each had to find the courage to imagine a previously unknown future. For Parker, what would the church be when it no longer looked to the King as Defender of the Faith and protector? For Brooks, what would the church be if it risked building a new home that carved out space for all – black and white, rich and poor – in the new frontier of the Back Bay? For Ferris, what would the church be in the just-then-dawning era when institutions were no longer automatically granted trust and honor?


Trinity stands on the cusp of yet another new era, and we are set amidst a nation and world swirling with storms of change. All of us would like to arrive at a haven of calm, floating safely on deep waters of freedom, yet none of us can be sure right now exactly how we will get there.


But of several things we can be sure. Christ is in the maelstrom with us. And the God we know in Christ has the power to calm our fears, and to steer us into waters of an even deeper freedom than we yet know or can imagine. Christ is the trustworthy Captain of Trinity’s ship, as He has been for nearly three hundred years. Soon a new Rector will arrive, but s/he will be merely the First Mate, and Christ will continue as Captain. I can think of no better way of our re-committing ourselves to being Christ’s faithful crew in Copley Square during these stormy times than to keep praying together a prayer penned by one of Trinity’s previous First Mates, Theodore Parker Ferris.


Help us, O God, as we are overtaken by dangers and difficulties that are too deep for our understanding: grant that we may have no fear, and that putting our trust not in ourselves but in thy power and thy love we may go forward to new victories through him who saved us, Jesus Christ, our Lord.

(Prayers, Theodore Parker Ferris, Seabury Press, 1981, p. 54.)


As we sail together into Trinity’s future, know that I am praying with you and for you, confident in the Christ who is the Captain of our Salvation. (Hebrews 2:10)


Bill Rich
Interim Rector


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