Sunday 10 May 2020

5th Sunday of Easter

Fr David reflects …

This is the 7th Sunday of our national lockdown. Until now my longest spell away from normal life has been the Summer Holidays of not only my school days but my teaching days too. The long break stretched out in front of me, in both periods of my life, as a time of great excitement and opportunity. The last 7 weeks haven’t felt quite so optimistic.
This last week we have received news from Bishop Julian, Bishop of Blackburn, that clergy may return to their churches for more than the weekly check to see if they’re still there. I’ve received this news with mixed emotions. Now I may go into St James’ and St Thomas’ on my own to pray. I must lock myself in. I can now record or stream services from inside church. Church can look a bit more like church again. No one else is permitted to come inside.
One of the greatest responsibilities I feel that I have as a priest is to hold the people in my parishes to God in daily prayer and in the Eucharist. Some might liken the parish priest as the go-between – the priest holds the people to God and God is held to the people through the Sacraments of the Church, celebrated and presided over by God’s priests and experienced by the people.
This responsibility is, for the parish priest, a privilege and I feel hugely privileged to be called to serve both the Church and God in this way. Returning to church buildings on my own, without God’s people around me and with me, at the moment, feels almost like an abandonment and hiding away. If we are, as I and other believe, in this together, then let’s be in it together. Although our Sunday services will be livestreamed from church buildings, not always our own, and possibly the weekday Eucharist, our prayers and daily services will continue from home. Hopefully, from the garden.
In this Sunday’s Gospel Jesus reassures his disciples about the time when he will no longer by physically with them. They must have been confused, angry, upset and anxious. Many of us, in the current pandemic, will understand what they were going through. The future, for them, was unclear and they were unable to predict outcomes. Jesus, though, spent his time with them together and this, if nothing else, might serve to remind us that being together, however that might be at the moment, can be a source of strength, of learning and reassurance.
As we continue to pray our way through lockdown, for however long it takes, I hope that we continue to feel united as Christ’s Church, as his disciples, with a common faith, a common hope and the knowledge that we are the Church, not bound by the stone, glass and wood of our buildings, however beautiful and inspiring they might be.