Can You Pass The Salt, Please?

What would we do without that simple flavouring? A little salt can go a long way to improving the taste of even the most unappetizing meal. Without it you may find the contents of your dinner plate bland, unenticing, and hard to stomach.

Of course, you can have too much. I made a meal of beef and broccoli for my family on New Year’s Day (there’s a limit on how much turkey I can face during the holiday season). It was quite good, but the consensus around the table was that, yes, it was too salty. Live and learn.

But if I took the salt out entirely, I doubt anyone would have eaten the meal at all, except that it was all there was for supper, and they would have otherwise been somewhat hungry.

We need the salt, in moderation.

When I think about the Church, back when we walked hand in hand with the state, holding all the power and apologizing to no one, I imagine it like having regular meals with way too much salt in them. We got used to it, and so we often didn’t notice the excess. But as our society chowed down on feast after feast, the salt built up, the blood pressure rose, and before long we had to quit the salt or face serious heart problems.

And it was a good thing to do. The separation of Church and state is vital, both for the fair and just operation of the government, and for the spiritual well-being of the Church. I would never have it go back to the way it was. A high-sodium diet is not the way forward.

But, truth be told, we still do need the salt. The Church still needs to have a voice in state matters.

Since the Church and state divorce, it seems we have become far too content to sit in our chilly buildings and watch the ups and downs of society, doing little more than saying prayers for the victims and asking for donations from the prosperous. We seem fearful to speak with strong voices about matters which have a very real impact on the people we are called to serve.

Maybe it’s because we worry that our voices will turn out to be small and easily ignored. Perhaps we fear backlash and reprimand from the very society we desire to help. Maybe we’re even anxious that we might be successful and start finding too much salt on the plate again.

It has always been the role of prophets and spiritual leaders to speak truth to those in power. Not because we are powerful, but because we are not. Our calling is to hear and see the struggles of the outcast, the left-behind, and the forgotten; those that the powerful often fail to be concerned with. And when we have heard and seen, we are called to act. To speak for them as have no voices. To stand with them who have been pushed down.

In our context, here in Newfoundland, that seems more and more important. How many of us serve in small, rural communities: places which have many elderly and few young, broken roads, and fewer and fewer public services? How many of us watch as the outport towns (the very icon of Newfoundland culture and identity) are forgotten, and everything compresses closer and closer to St. John’s? We speak to our parishioners, who each week tell us, “I need to go into town for a doctor’s appointment,” only to have it cancelled while they’re on their way. Fixed incomes struggle to make ends meet, while prices keep rising and rising.

How long before all our people have passed away, or moved away, the parishes fade, the roads crumble, and the only things left are overgrown and forgotten cemeteries?

We need the salt. We need it so that our people might not be forgotten… not be ignored. Our Church may not be the entity of worldly power it once was, and that’s a good thing. But it still needs to be heard, on behalf of every person who still sits in the pew, and those who cannot manage to do so anymore.

Pass the salt, please, because the food is getting pretty tasteless. 

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