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

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

The Journey Has Begun…

We have started off on our journey through Lent. Not sure how you are getting on – there is so much out there to try and to do – it can be a bit daunting. 

If you are wondering want you can do – or if you just want  a little suggestion you don’t have to think about and search for – take time to look at our Facebook Page (https://www.facebook.com/stvincentsbolton) – there are plenty of insights and impulses to keep you going through these days of Lent.

We’ve also had the “Roadmap” from the Prime Minister which will see us moving forward out of lockdown. Despite the announcements there is still much uncertainty.

That’s the way of progress – a map – but a certain amount of uncertainty.

This is where faith comes in. We have to journey – we have to follow the path that is laid out before us. The goal is not in question – what we experience on the way is.

Like on our faith journey, so too on this way out of the pandemic, we need to step out in faith and learn the lessons God is placing in our path. Use the time to think about yourself and your priorities. Where does Church, and, where does God fit into the picture of your life? What are you going to focus on as the restrictions are eased?  What has this past year taught you that means certain things from the past have no place in your life any more….

Keep safe as we journey together,

God Bless

Fr Andrew

Vaccination…

It is so refreshing that the narrative around us is beginning to change. Of course, the high number of deaths is and remains shocking, but, the perspective is shifting to a time where there is no threat from COVID – this will take time – but the prospect is visible and tangible.

I don’t know about you, but I find myself in a certain sense of limbo. We are not at the thrilling beginning, the Christmas rush is over, and we are poised for something new. I certainly experience a sense of tiredness. Everything has been so “different” and that has been challenging.

Openness to what is new – what the Holy Spirit will guide us through this experience is key. It could be that we want things to “just go back to how they were”, but what can be “new?”

We will soon begin the season of Lent, a season of conversion that leads to the mystery of new life in the Risen Christ. I pray that this time of conversion will not only be key to us as individuals but also to us as a community as we are “lifted up” out of the experiences of the last year, to a newness of life only God can offer. (It will also be nice to get out for a coffee!!!)

How can we prepare for the newness God always wants to give:
1. Get a vaccine. Until it is safe we need to persevere with all the things that need to be done to protect each one of us and our communities.
2. Take time to think and pray. Don’t forget to dream. Ask God to show you what he wants you to give and to receive.
3. Share your thoughts and your prayer with others.
4. Smile. Where there is life there is hope….

To Downlad this weeks newsletter – CLICK HERE

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