Are you coming back…?

Even if this is not a question for you, it is a conversation you will be having.

I feel a little like the preacher that gets up in the pulpit and berates the congregation because no one comes to Church anymore. I know that you are the wrong audience for this in a way. On the other hand, it is a convention you may be drawn into with friends and family. It’s a conversation we all need to have.

The strangeness of the pandemic

The pandemic has impacted on different people in very different ways. As we have this conversation, I think a basic first rule of engagement is – don’t presume anything. I am amazed meeting with people coming back to Church over the last couple of weeks, some of them have no idea that we have been open or active over the last few months. Even with our over 500 live streams, reaching out and delivering to over 40 households – even then there are people we have not reached. You can imagine that some people felt abandoned by the Church. It is hard for some to comprehend that the Church would “bow” to the call to close. On the other hand, some have never been so connected to the Church than over this pandemic. It is a real mixed bag…

The lifting of the obligation

At the beginning of the pandemic, the Pope, and then our Bishops, announced the lifting of the obligation to attend Mass on Sunday. The obligation to attend mass will be re-introduced on the 1st Sunday of Advent. For some, this is an important fact and milestone. Not just important – but a bone of contention. For others, the fact of the obligation is now a bit of an academic question. How conscious people are today of that “obligation” to attend. Certainly, from modern experience, this does not seem to affect the behaviour of a majority. It remains a fact of our Church discipline and one again that must be approached as we move forward. There is an objective and a subjective side to all of these elements – both valid – and both needing to be addressed. I certainly would want people to come because they want to. On the other hand, we are a Church of conviction and belonging and not simply of convenience. A challenging concept.

The role of live-streaming

Our Church was live-streaming well before the pandemic. In the pandemic, we had to up our game massively and expand our capabilities. There is a valid ministry to those who for legitimate reasons cannot get to Church. Streaming was a lifeline to many during the pandemic and kept that connection to the community alive. The growth of the community through our online connection was also a reality. Many who joined us online though found it a great support, but it is certainly not the same as attending and receiving Holy communion. It was convenient, with lots of stories being banded about of the joy of attending mass in your slippers, a cup of tea in hand. There are big challenges here concerning the reality of what a sacred space is and how we understand “real presence”. The domestic Church is also a reality and something that, I believe, has been strengthened over this year. But what about our sense of belonging and accountability. We are called to be a “real” community, and that is challenged and strengthens in our encounter – not from a distance. Our horizons have certainly been expanded and challenged. Yet more challenges to look at with an open mind.

The habit

Research from University College London has shown that it takes 66 days to form a habit. I have not seen research as to how quickly habits can be lost. But I am convinced that over the last months’ many habits have been formed and some lost. We all need to check what has changed for us over these last months.

What has become important that needs to be reevaluated? What is important that has taken a back seat that needs to be revitalized?

Don’t panic!

As we come out of the pandemic, we have a fantastic opportunity to join with one another in “building” our Church again. We have experienced and learned so much about each other and our faith over these last months. One of the great lessons for me is the fact that things can change, and that the change although challenging is not necessarily a bad thing. We have found new ways of doing things and see the weaknesses in how we have managed things in the past. Let’s build on that.

Fr Andrew

Noise-Cancelling Headphones

Reduce the noise – focus on the important

Over the past couple of years, I have really enjoyed being able to sit out in the garden when the weather allows. Last year at the beginning of the first lockdown this was a real blessing (I really feel for those who don’t have an outdoor space to call their own and use in these circumstances). This year is a little different – the weather has not been brilliant till the last couple of weeks – on the other hand work had been done to “upgrade” the space.

There is one issue though – the noise from Newbrook Road – and no – I don’t mean the neighbours – but the cars and lorries that are constantly on the move both on Newbrook Road and the motorway when the wind is blowing in the right direction. You will know that when you come to Church, there is rarely a service goes by when you don’t have at least one siren heading up or down the road.

I found a good solution for concentrating on the work I was doing whilst out – noise-cancelling headphones. A really great asset that does not shut the world out completely – but tones down everything around me so that I can actually focus on what I am doing. It can be a bit of a problem when someone walks up to me in the garden and I haven’t noticed them….

As the world opens up – with all the changes, challenges, and news reports in between. It’s good to think of how we can reduce the noise around and about us. Not shutting out the world – but reducing the noise so that we can get on with what we are called to do – love God and love our neighbour…

Fr Andrew

What are we free for…

We have a purpose that we need to open ourselves too.

Football had a bit of a sad ending last week. It was a great achievement which should not be underestimated – well done team. Sadder than the loss was the fact of the troubles taking place around and outside the stadium. The racial abuse and the misuse of social media and the violent break-in of fans and the sight of all the litter left behind by the moving crowds.

When you listen in to the news, there are lots of phrases being banded about, like culture wars and wokeness. Influences on our culture by Social Media has been highlighted, but also after the pandemic – the challenges of clear messaging by the government.

Away from the superficial conversations, the main issues are being drowned out. There are massive inequalities in our society and the gap between the haves and the have-nots is getting ever bigger. A second issue is that so many live in fear. Wether real or perceived – it has the same effect – allowing a sense of insecurity to take root, which can provoke a response.

As a community, we can make a big difference. Looking out for one anther and those we can reach – doing what we can. We can also as a community help to replace fear with hope. Real practical, as well as moral support, is called for.

How does this fit in with our worship of God. The God we worship is a good of love who says to us, “Do not be afraid” again and again. A message we can pass on to others.

Fr Andrew

Freedom Day

Step by step we move ahead….

The big challenge for me at this minute is to remain calm in the midst of the perceived great insecurity. TV experts debate ad nausium about each aspect of the changes coming. You have to be careful not to be completely sucked in to the eternal debates and discussion.

The 19th July will mark a significant milestone on our journey through this pandemic. Although we have not received any direction from the diocese as yet, the key factors are clear for us moving forward.

  1. We still have the same mission we had before, during and after the pandemic.
  2. Rules on social distancing and other restrictions will change.
  3. We will respond as a caring community.

We have planned through to the end of July. There will be stewards in place for all masses, so we can calmly manage the transition. Our rhythm of public masses on Wednesday and Friday – the others online only – will continue.

The suggested changes are:

  1. We will remove the ropes to make all benches available and so be able to fit more people in.
  2. We will keep mass as it is now – people going to communion when called by stewards at the end and leaving immediately. There will be no singing.
  3. We want to keep the need to wear a mask to offer a sense of security to all.

It would be great if you could get in touch and let me know what you think…

God bless

Fr Andrew

Where are you up to?

Do we need to change our perspective?

Last week saw the resignation of the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock. One of the astonishing thing for me was the general consensus – he resigned for breaching social distancing rules. Where I accept that this is true, I still find it difficult.

How focused are we on the rule of man and how much do we integrate the rule of God in our lives, our Church and our society.

Social distancing aside, we were seeing 2 marriages, including 6 children, being broken.

Of course there can be many things in the story that I am not aware of and this is not about judging anyone – just the perspective with which we look at these things as a society.

There has been certain “laws” of the Church put to one side for the time of the pandemic. The Bishops removed the obligation to attend mass on a Sunday.

When are lives now get busier and things open up – what dose it mean to us to be “obliged” to be a part of the Eucharistic community of the Chruch.

Dose the Church and my community come in 1st or last place – perhaps in between.

Going to be important how we look at things as we move forward.

Fr Andrew

Attitude

Gratitude is an important attitude. Scientifically it is known to enhance well being if nothing else. In our consumer, throw away age, we can take things for granted. It can become really hairy when we not only take things for granted – but when we take people for granted.

We started our recognition and learning last week with a group of volunteers that is very visible. What is important to note is that there are many groups that work invisibly to make sure that we can come to Church safely week after week. I would like to pick out one of those groups today.

Cleaners


A great team has been working extremely hard in the background. As you can imagine, with COVID there has been a great need for enhanced cleaning in our Churches. In fact we have had to clean after every use.
I am so grateful that we have not closed un-necessarily on any days that we were allowed by law to be open. This is due to the fact that we had a great team that covers these extra events and keeps us going. Thanks go especially to Susan Boddy and all those who worked along side her over those weeks and months….

Lesson

There are many people who do their part to support our parish whom you will never see. From experience, I know that many people volunteer for the great and the grand tasks and offices. But without these important, seemingly menial, tasks being taken up quietly in the background – we would literally grind to a halt. It’s amazing how much needs to happen in order for us to function….

Thank you all!

I would like to encourage everyone who comes to our Church to find. Little “hidden” task that they can help out with. It all adds up to the complete picture of who we are.

God bless

Fr Andrew

Listen – Grow – Share…

There is great need for listening at this time as we come out of Lockdown. When we listen we learn. But things should not stop there. When we learn things, when we find truth, there is an imperative to now make necessary changes, there is a challenge to grow.

Let’s look at growth…

I have always subscribed to the description of growth by the author Robin Sharma. He repeats again and again: Change is hard at first, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end. It is not an easy process and we are bound to get things wrong. There is a need for flexibility and experimentation. If we want to bring about change there must be an openness and willingness. Things will go against the grain, things will go wrong. Some things will have to go back to how they were before change started, but some things will be new and exciting.

This growth is not an abstract theory or dream, it is something real, but the “we” will only change if the ”I” can make the changes first. Changing my life and ways is the only way to help others to change too. One thing is certain, although it often does not seem this way, change in one person changes the whole of a community.

Soon we will celebrate Good Friday. That day we remember the sacrifice that God is prepared to make to bring about change in a world he created.

This pandemic has show how capable we are of change in our society. We can work from home, we can school from home, we can deliver food to a neighbour, we can make sacrifices for the good of others, we can volunteer, we can get the help we need from a food bank started by someone from another faith… I could go on…

Let’s not let things go back to “normal”, let’s keep and develop the good changes that we have learnt to live with as we help each other up and out of lockdown.


God Bless

Fr Andrew

Continuing the Journey…

I don’t know about you – but life has been very different for me over the last year. Drastically different. This has meant that there were many new lessons, challenges and opportunities to learn from. Everyone is going through things and it has been apparent how challenging this has been for all.

We live in a world that judges quickly, in binary terms and despite our diversity we shield ourselves from one another by keeping “ourselves to ourselves”. This pandemic and its isolation has highlighted how much we need each other. Also look and see how many examples there are in our community of how help and support has come from some unexpected places. It came because some people can “really” listen.

In order to learn we must listen. Listen to our own hearts and to each other. I am talking here about real listening. Not the background noise of Social Media, TV and radio, but the real listening one person to another, of one community to another. We need to come out from behind our phones, screens, and homes, look each other in the eyes and really listen.

We will soon be in Holy Week – Easter. In this week we celebrate a Triduum – three major feasts. Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. It was at the first of these feasts that we are challenged by Jesus to lead lives of service. He washed his Disciples feet. An important example as we move out of this pandemic. Can we break a cycle of selfishness and self-centredness that plagues our world.

For many the goal is to move on from the turmoil and tragedy and put it behind them. For me there is a need to identify and understand the lessons of this pandemic. One lesson being that we need to learn to really listen to one another if we want a blessed world for all.

God Bless

Fr Andrew

Lenten Program – Get Ready

It is time to get ready. Lent could be a new beginning more than ever before…

I don’t know how you are doing under the recent set of restrictions, I personally am finding this time a kind of stalemate – we are not at the beginning – but not quite at the end either. But I do think there is something to be said for starting to prepare for the end…. That is what Lent and Easter are all about…. There are many things we really want to put behind us. There are also many lessons to be learned and ground to be re-conquered. We have a chance… Lent.

Let’s do something positive
We will be doing our bit from Church to bring Lent and Easter to you as best we can.

  • Tuesdays, we will have our **Adult Formation Zooms**. I think the theme will be around St Joseph, (we are celebrating the year of Joseph and March is the month of his feast day).
  • As always in Lent we will pray the Stations of the Cross on Thursdays. That celebration will also be online – so you can watch from the comfort of your home.
  • Our Sunday and daily Masses will take on the theme of St Joseph.
  • Our children should watch out for the Children’s Liturgy Zoom and the Children’s Stations that are coming up.

A Lent to remember
The above is what we are offering. Be conscious in your own preparations for this time of the year, it could be the best preparation for coming out of restrictions – and into a new life for our Church – that you could make.
– Do something daily
Mass is available online as well as there being many prayer and meditation programs in books and apps and online. Choose something to do – even if it revolves around simply making the Sign of the Cross.
– Do something Weekly
Go to Sunday Mass or make a little pilgrimage on foot. There are lots of offerings online for conferences and inspiration – why not hook up with a Lenten Buddy and have a time sharing your Lenten experiences.
 – One off
Look for an opportunity to take part in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. If your Churches are closed – or you are not going out as you are being careful – visit the Blessed Sacrament for a time of Adoration.

Do share what you are doing yourself and in your family. What you share might inspire others!

God bless


Fr Andrew

Dare to Dream…

God spoke to Joseph in dreams… Do we dare to dream today…

I don’t know whether you have heard already, but the Pope has called on us to celebrate a year of St Joseph. The Church often calls these years to focus on a particular attribute of God – we had the year of the Word for example – or on a Saint or other aspect of our life of faith that can help us, through our focus, to take steps of faith.

Pope Francis has a great devotion to St Joseph. Soon into his pontificate he made sure the name of Joseph was spoken after the naming of Mary in our Eucharistic prayers. We have heard the story many times now of the little statue of Sleeping Joseph that he puts prayers underneath for safe keeping.

But why call on Joseph now….
– We are experiencing a time of great danger (not just in terms of a pandemic), our faith is challenged and our Church questioned. God entrusted his Son into Joseph’s care and they fled to Egypt. Joseph is the protecter of the Church.

– Pope Francis wants to encourage us to dream. We can get so lost in the difficulties of life it is hard to look beyond the horizon. God spoke to Joseph in dreams 5 times. Joseph can help us listen to the voice of God, but above all to act on what we hear.

– Joseph was known as the worker. There is dignity in work. Many of the social and economic models that exist today do not reflect the dignity of human life and work. St Joseph stands not as a theoretical argument, but as a shining example of how a life of family and work can form the basis of great happiness…

– We could go on…

We are lucky at St Vincent’s to have a beautiful statue of St Joseph given to us by the Sisters of Marcy, Werneth Convent. In this year let us look to Joseph to help us build our community from the experiences and challenges that this last year has brought. 
We can dream…
We can take action…
We can help one another through the uncertainties going on in the world….

God bless


Fr Andrew

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