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

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

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

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

To download this weeks newsletter – CLICK HERE

Advent or Lent…

Those of you who know me well know that I get the seasons mixed up on a regular basis. When it’s Lent I have the tendency to talk about Advent – when Advent then Lent – Happy Christmas can easily become Happy Easter… On the one hand I am feeling more confused than ever. I really can’t remember having celebrated Easter this year and it seems just days ago since we were together for Christmas.

Thankfully there is a common denominator – Christ.
The challenge for us is to focus on him. There is so much to see and learn, so much to change and to improve. These festivals of faith are of course about remembering the person of Christ, his life, death and resurrection – but they are more about the continuation of his mission – the salvation of the world. Focusing on faith and the action that it calls us to is what we want to focus on this week. Moving from back to basics to “belonging” with all the rights and responsibilities that go along with it.

Quick notes and reminders:
– Remember to book your Christmas Mass – 07508 831238 –  Monday to Friday between 9am- 5.00pm…
– You can now get your raffle tickets – CLICK HERE
– We are still collecting for Caritas and for our Crib Collection
– We have an Advent Service on Wednesday…
– We are out of Lockdown and have Masses with congregation on Saturday, Sunday, Wednesday and Friday…

God Bless

Fr Andrew

Restrictions…What Restrictions?

These last months have been mad – to say the least. Testing certainly!  But also a chance to open ourselves to lots of new ways of doing things, of reaching out to each other, of supporting, of praying. Lockdown 2.0 will come to an end on December 2nd. We will return to communal worship from Saturday, 5th December – The Second Sunday of Advent. After that our normal rhythm of Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday Mass being for the public and online. The other days will be online only.

This newsletter brings our Advent and Christmas Program. For me this marks the beginning of a new season. A new chance to open myself to the plan of God. Amidst all the planning take time to step back, give thanks, praise God and embrace the challenge of living the faith today. I know many want to just go crazy this time of year – can we go crazy doing the right things for ourselves and for others.
I hope it brings us all great joy…

Please download our Advent and Christmas Flyer – CLICK HERE….


Christmas Masses – Please BOOK – !!!!! Important !!!!! 
For our Christmas Services, you will need to BOOK by calling the telephone number below from Monday, Nov 30th onwards.

To make a booking – Call 07508 831238 
Monday to Friday between 9.00 am-5.00 pm.

Crib Visits
As well as the Christmas Masses – Church will be open on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of Christmas Week from 2-4 pm. For those who are not yet comfortable coming back to a service – you can come and visit the crib – you can pray quietly – I will also be available in Church to distribute Communion and give a blessing.

I wanted to get that news out front and centre. But I would ask that you don’t forget – it is not Christmas yet – it is Advent – a really special time of the year. Don’t let this time pass by without paying attention to your heart and to God!

God Bless

Fr Andrew

Different Times – Different Responses…

What can you do in this time of Advent.

We are living through uncertain times. I am certainly feeling it right through to my bones. The difficulty with this is that a lot of things we would like to be “normal” to offer us a sense of control, are also not achievable….
This run up to Christmas will be very different. We are planning as best we can – but we will need to wait for Government guidance on what is possible or not.
We continue to stream live – and we will add lots of stuff for Advent and Christmas…
We can’t have our Fair – a real shame. But we can continue to help others through our actions…..

Advent and Christmas Action
We are collecting in Church and in the Presbytery for three things:

1) Christmas Raffle
We are asking for donations for the Christmas Raffle. 5 prizes will be put together from what we gather…
1 A TV….
2 A food hamper
3 A drinks hamper
4 A smellies hamper
5 Some high street vouchers.
Anything we don’t use for prizes will be used for Caritas – locally and on a Diocesan level.

2) Our Caritas Collection
We are collecting to support the Diocese of Salford Caritas
They need the following items….
• Cereals
• Tinned Soups and Stew
• Pasta, rice and pasta sauce.
• Tinned meat or fish, beans and frozen vegetables and fruit.
• Long life milk or natural fruit juices.
• Liquid hand soaps, sanitisers and personal hygiene products.
We will make sure we make provision for local families before passing on the goods to Caritas.

3) Our Crib Collection
 We are collecting money donations for three Charities we support every year at this time. Frances House, Derian House and the Mother and Baby Unit close by.
This will be a crib collection. You can donate in the collection bucket at the crib, we have envelopes you can use – or you can donate online on our website.

Please give what you can – we will do the rest…… Just dump it on our doorstep…

God Bless

Fr Andrew

Are we essential…?

It was certainly a shock to me – as I imagine it was to many of you – when we were forced to close our doors for common worship again in this second national lockdown. We had worked hard to make our Church COVID – Secure – and I think we had done a great job. Those of you who know me, know that I do tend to compliance. This time it was hard.

The key for me was the solidarity with many other organisations whose closure and whose sacrifice, to bring down the number of infections and consequent deaths, was really necessary. I certainly had no wish to be moving to the “celebration” of Christmas with a death toll higher than it normally would be at this time of year…
For us life is sacred.
This is not a political post, or a rant. 
There is a definite need for dialogue within society about the role of Churches. On the other hand there is need for dialogue amongst ourselves about what role faith plays in our daily lives. For me two major focuses on what is “essential” for us – and what makes us essential to society at large – are Eucharist and community.
Of course we know the Mass going population has been decreasing over the last years – but Eucharist is “essential”. The same can be said of our social life and social action – but community is “essential.”

There is a great opportunity as we move toward the greatest festival of the year to share with one another and to learn the lessons of an incredibly different year. With that we too may experience a “new birth” of our faith in the love of the Eucharist and the joy of belonging to a community.

God Bless

Fr Andrew