As we take the time to remember the souls of the departed in this month of November, as we take that minute of silence on Remembrance Sunday, I am struck by the life giving force that comes from this simple act of honouring and acknowledging. Far from being a morbid obsession, it really is about the life of the whole Church, the influence that God has on our lives and the life of the Church as a whole.
The act of remembrance spurns us on. What will we be remembered for?
I believe we will be remembered because we endeavoured to build a real community. We were there in times of real need and we were there to celebrate when the gifts that life brings become visible….
On a more mundane note… Read the newsletter – there is a lot of life there, that would be ever more lively if you were to be a part of it. While you are looking at the things you would love to join in – invite someone else along too…
I really don’t know where the time is going. There is a big feast not far away… A lot needs to happen between now and then. Keep an eye on the newsletter over the next weeks – there is a lot going on. We are remembering – not nostalgically looking back – but contemplating the foundations on which our church and our faith are built.
This month we have our Adult Formation sessions on Thursday evening. Believe and Belong is the theme. In a Church after the pandemic – how can we reach out and grow? How can we become more and more a community open to the needs of those around us?
In the build up to Christmas, we will be asking for gifts for our Christmas Raffle. This helps us help others as this money is for our charitable causes. As last year we won’t be having a “Christmas Fayre” where we are crammed into the hall – but will have Advent Sunday – with bacon butties and something a little more than tea and coffee…
During Advent, we will be contemplating the theme of the open door – and will be collecting food and toiletries for Red Door in Bury – one of our Caritas projects….
These politically burdened slogans can really get on your nerves. But they are observations about what is in the consciousness of our society at any given moment – and I think this one in particular sums up where we are at this moment. This weekend we will hold our AGM. A simple affair with a simple report from me on the last 18 months. The view is not just to look back – but to learn from what we have experienced – as well as looking ahead.
We are called to build the Kingdom of God here on earth – a little piece of paradise – that is our vocation. We were able to weather the storm of the pandemic because we have a strong and growing community. But that community needs work. The environment is changing (e.g., online), the situation of many people is changing – this needs a response. We are called to do something about the world and community in which we live. Building is an active process that needs the help of all.
This is not about turning the clock back. It looks at the reality of the massive changes we have been forced through over the last 18 months. We look at the fact that our Churches closed for a while – never heard of before. It takes into consideration the experience that we can do things differently without loosing our identity. Another side to this story is that we can be creative and adapt our practice in fundamental ways. It’s wonderful that different people stepped up to make a difference, along with those who had carried things for so long.
This word speaks to me of opportunity. It is a dynamic word, where we quite often choose only to respond passively. There are so many examples of how we can be better. I just keep in mind the fact that volunteers delivered newsletters to those without internet every week of the pandemic…
We need to grab and use the new opportunity. Our Church is no longer closed – but open for business. Choosing to actively “build” once again need not just be a part of living out our vocation, but also a time to strengthen us for any challenges ahead, that, like the pandemic, we could not foresee.
Don’t know about you – but I do have the feeling we are moving toward more normality. There is still some uncertainty in the air as to how things will progress – but on the whole – we seem to be getting there…
The month of September is the month we celebrate the feast of St Vincent – the month to celebrate our Parish life. Traditionally, we have also held our AGM in this month. As we get back to doing more things together I would like to hold our AGM as we did 2 years ago, after Mass on the weekend before the feast of St Vincent on the 27th September…. It will take about 15 minutes…
The AGM will be after Mass on Saturday 25th and Sunday 26th September – we will give you a brief report on what has gone on over the last year and a half. We will need to take time to share and catch up with one another after so much has happened, and we have not had the opportunities we have had now… The AGM will be the start of that process…
We are in a fantastic position. We are still here after a long absence, our community strengthened with the experiences that have shaped us the past 18 months.
We have the chance to start again with a blank slate. Not only that, but we have made new and different experiences over the pandemic that can stand us in good stead moving forward.
What do we want to get back to?
What would we like to be different?
What are new ways can we be community from now on?
With the reports, we will be letting you know about a couple of projects that are coming up on the horizon….
You are welcome to share your thoughts and impressions looking forward and looking back. Let’s see where God is guiding us…
These have been very different summer holidays. Even though I, as well as many of you, are not in school any more, a lot of our lives are moulded by the rhythm of the school year. That is always a pointer for me. I don’t remember ever having to live with such prolonged uncertainty on a day to day basis. Good that we have our faith to guide and comfort, to encourage and challenge us.
It is important for me at the moment to use every milestone – like schools starting up – to orientate myself. Through the pandemic time has stood still and accelerated at the same time. Being overwhelmed is an experience that is never too far from the surface.
It is a time where we are not just ploughing forward, but need to come together and listen to one another. Help each other heal and so be healthy for the journey ahead. This is not just true of our schools but for our places of work, our homes, our places of worship and in our dealings with one another in our town.
When the traffic builds in the next week – remember to not only slow down in the car – but in your life too.
Its easy to know what others must do. The questioon is what is asked of me.
This week has been an important week in the history of our Amateur Dramatics Society. Like many organisations they find themselves in difficult circumstances after 25 great years of entertaining audiences twice a year. As with many other societies, and many parts of our Church, there is a challenge, not to find actors for the stage, but to find people to put out the chairs. This, of course, is a caricature, but it is also a challenge for us as we attempt to define a new normal.
We do live in a culture that provides services. This is a fantastic thing – especially if you are hungry for a Big Mac at three o’clock in the morning. But it does bring with it a culture of passivity and high expectation. As well as catching myself doing it, I attend many gatherings where I am informed in no uncertain terms what I “should” be doing. We love having an opinion on what others ought to be doing.
How will things go with Dramatics?… Well, I am pleased to say that a production is in the pipeline. Beyond that, time will tell. Be on the look-out for info and think whether you would want to get involved.
As we move to a new normal, please consider two things.
Firstly, it is more important than ever that we have to learn to work together. In my experience, people want to know what they are meant to do and then get on with it without any bother. If we don’t learn to work together and spend time not just on the task, but on the community that that task is to serve, we have missed a trick.
Secondly, even if you can only do something small here in the community – that thing is important!
What will the new normal be? Will it be the old repeated or something new and inspired, coming from the many new experiences and lessons of these past months?
I am hopeful for us, and for our Dramatics Society.
We live in a country where the weather changes rapidly and often.
Many years ago I had an experience in India. I was working there in our seminary. I was involved in the organisation of one of the large feast days, where 6-8 thousand people would attend. It was the beginning of the rainy season and the planning meeting was scheduled for 5pm. At 4pm on the dot, the rain came down. Wow. It was torrential. The streets were like free flowing streams – a bit like in the many flooding scenes we have seen over the last months. Un-deterred, I headed of to the house of the Schoenstatt Sisters, where the meeting was to be held. I arrived around 4.55pm. I knocked on the door and a sister opened with a surprised look on her face. “Why are you here?” She asked. “I’ve come for the planning meeting”, I replied. Her answer has stayed with me until today. “But it is raining.”
For us, if we were to cancel meetings every time it rained – we would not get very much done.
There are many storms at the moment. We just need to switch on the news to see wildfires and floods. In the Church and in politics, there are so many cracks and issues, it can become overwhelming. Add on to that the heavy toll of the pandemic, and there is a danger that we will not find the energy to look for God’s plan as we move forward in our life as a community.
I am asking everyone to use a portion of the energy to be creative about our Parish life. To invest in it. To get involved and to bring ideas. So many things have changed and there is a longing to get back to normal. I want us too, long not for the past – but for a better future. Not only long for it, but, make it happen.
As we celebrate the feast of the Assumption – let’s ask Our Lady to raise our eyes to heaven, to raise our eyes to God and to have the courage and conviction to ask him where he wants us to go.
As we move out of lockdown, we are looking to make sure we do not lose the many people who have been helping us out through lockdown. We have learnt a lot about communication and building teams to look after the different aspects of our community life. Of course, we have our Masses and services, but our Church is about so much more.
Looking at the pandemic, we were a lifeline to many. If I think of those who were isolated or sick. If I think of the grieving. If I think of those who had no one to help, A big lesson learnt from the pandemic – community is important. I am looking at our young people and wondering how we can support their journey. I am thinking of our knowledge of our faith and how that can grow.
Over the last couple of weeks, people have been returning to the Hall, including our Dramatics Society as well as our coffee mornings. Soon fish and chips will be on the menu. Our volunteers are still taking out newsletters and info to those who don’t have access to the internet.
A key element of sustaining our community in the long term is enabling the community to manage itself and grow. We have worked on the traditional model of the priest being available at the heart of the community. Decisions can be made quickly, and it is a model that makes things “easy” (depending on who the priest is of course). But as we know, both from a theological and a practical point of view – the Parish is much more than the priest!
There is a lot to be done – and the only way we can build a self-sustaining community is if we have enough people to make things not only work – but thrive. People can be confident that when they volunteer, they can make a difference. It is not enough just to turn up on Sunday – it is not enough just to say “give me a call if you need anything” – get involved. I am asking everyone to give one hour of their time to our community each week…
Over the coming weeks, there will be more info on how to get involved…
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.
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?
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.
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…
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