So after more than 12 weeks of lock down the doors of St Nicholas church will open once again on Monday morning. Church will be open each day from 10am till 7pm. At last I feel able to say ‘Alleluia. Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia!’ Let us hope and pray that very soon we will be allowed to gather together to worship, physically. This has been without doubt the most extraordinary time in all of my 35 years of parish ministry and it is not over yet. It has been unbelievably difficult to see the church doors closed at a time when people wanted, needed, a space which would hold and help focus their prayers and longings. Yet even in the most difficult of circumstances new opportunities arise. The Bishop of Exeter, who is the Chair of the Liturgical Commission, recently commented thus:
“New challenges and opportunities continue to emerge as the result of this pandemic, including new ways of being Church and worshiping….people are dipping into worship, observing, watching, praying. We are connecting with ‘the fringe’ in ways the Church of England has longed to for years….people who have been unable for what ever reason from attending their parish church have been re-included in the life of their worshiping community. These good things need to be built on, not squandered in a casual return to former patterns of church life.
All of this is true and we will not squander this opportunity to re- think what it means to be the worshiping community of St Nicholas. There will need to be changes to the way we gather, but there is also the opportunity to create something different. I will talk of this in a later e-bulletin. One change which will remain a permanent feature of our church life will be streaming at least some of our services live, our electronic connection with people, however haphazard at times, will remain, it is something I hope we can significantly expand. However a word of caution; electronic communication is wonderful and has got many us us through this extraordinarily difficult time, but what I now long for is real physical engagement, the meeting of people face to face, what Stewart Dakers calls ’emotional engagement’, I was reading his article in the paper this week and I quote some of it below, it seems to sum up my feelings.
Stewart Dakers is an 81 year old community volunteer and he writes…
My elderly enclave is more connected than ever, but we crave the personal touch.
“The bard was right: the world has indeed become a stage – well, a screen – and the internet has made actors of us all. The problem is that virtual engagement doesn’t work in the way that real contact does…So I truly hope that we can wean ourselves of the convenience of e-connected affability and restore the less comfortable but essentially more comforting vocabulary of emotional engagement.”
I do hope you will be able to visit church over the next few days, linger, soak up the atmosphere and offer a prayer to the God who loves us and guides us all through this.
P.S I will be by the church tower on Saturday evening at 6pm whilst Fr Alan
rings a bell to remember the victims of the Grenfell Tower tragedy. Please
join me if you wish to offer a prayer.
This Sunday morning at our 9.30 Mass we shall be celebrating the feast of Corpus Christi, giving thanks for the sacrament of Holy Communion. It might seem a little bizarre to be celebrating this feast at a time when most of us have not received Holy Communion for several months, so in my sermon I shall be sharing some thoughts on why we can still celebrate.
A number of people have told me how much they like the poems I share from time to time. This poem was written by the priest/poet Malcolm Guite for Corpus Christi and is called ‘Love’s choice’. It’s from his book of seventy sonnets for the Christian Year and is reproduced here with his permission. The book is called ‘Sounds of the Seasons’, it’s still in print and available from many online booksellers.
This bread is light, dissolving, almost air,
A little visitation on my tongue,
A wafer-thin sensation, hardly there.
This taste of wine is brief in flavour, flung
A moment to the palate’s roof and fled,
Even its aftertaste a memory.
Yet this is how He comes. Through wine and bread
Love chooses to be emptied into me.
He does not come in unimagined light
Too bright to be denied, too absolute
For consciousness, too strong for sight,
Leaving the seer blind, the poet mute;
Chooses instead to seep into each sense,
To dye himself into experience.
With every blessing