I hope that by the time you read this e-bulletin you will have noticed that we are back in church streaming our services. I have to say that being strongly advised by our bishops, backed up by the threat of disciplinary action if we failed to comply, to lock our churches, to abandon them, in fact to do something that our bishops do not have the legal right to do was difficult. However, I am an obedient priest so I did as I was told. Well, we are back – obviously in a very limited way, but it’s better than the previous situation.
Over the last few weeks I have been venturing over to church to check that all was well and secure. Entering the building was like discovering the Mari Celeste, or happening upon Miss Havisham’s wedding feast, it was strange and eerie, as if we had abandoned the place in a rush; there was a musty smell, a sign there had been no fresh air in the building for weeks, the spiders had been busy creating new webs, it’s still Lent inside the building, the purple hangings are still up and Stations of the Cross still adorn the church walls, the building hasn’t heard the Easter cry this year – Alleluia! Christ is risen., the fresh air of new life, of resurrection has not been allowed to cleanse the building. However amidst this dormancy, like a seed in the ground waiting for the spring rain, there have always been silent signs of hope, of God’s presence, waiting for the refreshing air of new life. The sanctuary lamp, which burns in the Lady Chapel before the Blessed Sacrament is just such a tiny sign, it burns 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, every year and in St Nicholas’ case for hundreds of years. A simple, small, unobtrusive sign of God’s presence, waiting for the doors to open once again, for the people to return. Churches are more than stone and cement, they are signs of God’s continued presence in a community, of his loving patience. Well the drought is over, there are signs of new life, the clergy are back in church doing what they are commanded and ordained to do, to pray for the Church and the world, to pray for YOU and to thank God for his goodness. and in a quiet corner of the church the sanctuary lamp continues to burn…
I hope you are all keeping safe and well.
I must apologise for the disjointed streaming of Mass on Sunday when I was presiding. Having already streamed Mass on Thursday without incident Gerald and I were very frustrated when it kept breaking up on Sunday. Many thanks to those of you who sent us sympathetic and supportive messages, they were greatly appreciated. I discovered later that several of my clergy friends had problems with live-streaming services via Facebook on Sunday – not sure why. The cartoon below illustrates the situation and I hope might amuse you!
I was one of the clergy who signed the letter to the Times on Monday, asking whether the bishops might permit us to use our churches for live-streaming services, while still remaining locked for other visitors. Information emanating from the House of Bishops’ meeting on Tuesday suggests that this should be possible again soon, which would be great news!
The weather has been glorious recently, which is wonderful for those of us with gardens, or the ability to venture outside our homes, but very challenging for families with children confined to modest flats. On most days I take my allotted ‘exercise walk’ round Chiswick House grounds and have really enjoyed watching the flowers and shrubs blossom, the ducks and geese swimming on the lake and hearing the sound of birds singing without being drowned out by traffic noise. It reminds me of the poem ‘Pied Beauty’ below, written by Gerard Manley-Hopkins, a 19th century English poet and Jesuit priest. I hope you enjoy reading it.
Glory be to God for dappled things –
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
With every blessing