Closed but active

The notices on our church doors remind us that while our church buildings are closed, the Church is very much alive and active. For many people, the Church may seem indistinguishable from the wonderful buildings in our villages which have been bequeathed to us by previous generations. The Government white paper which came out on 11th  May was vague in respect of many things, but it was at least clear that we should not expect our church buildings to be open for services again before July at the earliest, which is why I have not included the list of services that we had planned for June in this Benefice News. So, it is just as well for those notices to remind us that the Church is not its buildings: it is its members, those who are prepared to call themselves Christians, whether or not they manage to get to church services each week, who share God’s love in their lives, and the hope that he has given us for eternal life.

Our Zoom services each Sunday morning have brought back several members who have not managed to get to church recently. It is wonderful to see so many familiar faces each Sunday as parishioners log on and the ‘chat’ period from 9.30am until the service starts is very valuable. We can worship God from our homes as well as from our wonderful medieval buildings because fundamentally that worship comes from our hearts and minds. We should regularly worship God in whatever way we can, giving thanks for all the things that we enjoy in his creation, even if perhaps our enjoyment has been a bit curtailed by Covid-19.

We celebrate Pentecost – or Whit Sunday – on 31st May. It commemorates what some regard as the birth of the Church, when Jesus’ disciples were gathered together to celebrate a traditional Jewish feast, 50 days after the Passover, hence the name Pentecost. They were, I am sure, nervous and uncertain as to what the future held, but they did have hope. They had witnessed the crucifixion of Jesus, then his resurrection from the dead and his Ascension to heaven. He had promised that they would be baptised with the Holy Spirit and had told them to go and make disciples of all nations, a pretty daunting task for a group of fishermen and other working men. They must have wondered how on earth they could manage that. But when Pentecost came along, they experienced something miraculous. St Luke tells us in the Acts of the Apostles that ‘Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability’. It was the beginning of the Church proper, long before it had buildings, and it was built on those first disciples, led by St Peter, who went on to accomplish what Jesus had asked them, building a Church that is now 2.4 billion people strong, one in three of the world’s population, existing in every country of the world, not to mention quite a lot of buildings.

The lockdown that we are currently experiencing has forced many of us to accomplish things that we did not expect to do: I had never anticipated broadcasting a service of Holy Communion over Zoom each week, indeed I had never heard of Zoom before the virus struck. But out of this very frustrating period, many of us have been reminded of what Church really means.

I can’t give you any definite news on the recruitment of a new Rector for the Benefice yet, but I hope that we will at least be advertising soon, and interviewing candidates later in the year. I hope too that when the successful candidate finally arrives in post, they will find a somewhat different set of congregations, who have been reminded that the Church is built on all of us, on our hopes for our futures here on earth, in the world to come and through our efforts to share the good news with all that Jesus Christ overcame death.

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John Tattersall