The Bishops of England and Wales have this morning made the following announcement:
“In response to the Coronavirus pandemic, so many aspects of our lives must change. This includes the ways in which we publicly express our faith. It’s very clear that, following official advice and in order to keep each other safe, save lives and support the NHS, at this time we must not gather together for public acts of worship in our churches. This will begin from Friday evening, 20 March until further notice.
Although we won’t be gathering for public acts of worship, our churches will remain open. They are not closing. They will be a focal point of prayer, where you will find solace and strength. In visiting our churches at this time, we will observe with great care the practices of hygiene and the guidance on social distancing. However celebration of Mass, Sunday by Sunday and day by day, will take place without a public congregation.”
What does this mean for Saint Anselms?
That this week’s Mass on Friday morning at 10am is the last public mass until the restriction is over. I had originally wondered about holding private mass at the usual times and leaving doors open but I no longer think this prudent as it clearly compromises what is being asked of us by the government who are trying to contain this virus to minimise casualties.
My change of heart was partly inspired by the fact that several of the congregation, being firm of faith and not fearing death at all, have said they are willing to take the risk. A fine sentiment in terms of faith but not far thinking as regards the present situation; putting ourselves at risk might lead to a hospitalisation that blocks a much needed bed from another. None of us wants to make orphans by our selfish action.
How then CAN we hold together as a worshipping community?
- By taking solace in the fact that Mass has not ceased. Fr. Nicholas and Fr. Benedict will offer it privately at home. And, for as long as I am physically able to climb the steps of the sanctuary, I shall be at the altar in Pembury each day to offer the Mass on your behalf. Feel free to email me intentions.
2. Via this blog. From Saturday I will post the readings from Mass and the daily collect, and a sermon on Sunday, as well as the devotions for making a spiritual communion. This daily devotion can be used at home by all the congregation uniting us in prayer. I am also investigating the possibility of live streaming the Mass- and will let you know if this proves possible.
3. By ensuring the church is open for private prayer. I shall open up each day at 8:45am (unless isolating) until noon. Feel free to come in and pray but please remain at least two meters from other people and push the door open with an arm instead of touching the handles.
The current situation is troubling and I know some are anxious. This is perfectly understandable but remember this phase is temporary, and only being imposed for the safeguarding of all. We must ensure the NHS is not too overwhelmed and that is what this is all about. One day things will go back to normal with most having survived. Take heart in that fact.
Finally don’t watch too much news, the tone is not good and they only report on worst cases and death. To this end get off social media for a period too! If we only surround ourselves with Coronavirus facts our inner-dialogue is affected and fear is an inevitable result. We need hope instead. So limit such time, make something crafty, play with children if you have them, walk the dog, cook something, say your prayers, keep smiling and phone a friend Why not make that friend one of the clergy? We have not gone away and will help in any way we can. Even if you just need a chat.