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

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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WOW, WHAT A YEAR…

Every year is different – none as different as this one…

Wanted to write a few words of thanks and of hope at the outset of our celebration of Christmas. In one sense everything is different – but so much is the same in different clothing. Our focus at this time of year is the presence of the new life of Christ born again in our midst. If you think about it – that is the focus of the whole life as a Church all of the time – keeping Christ present in our lives, our homes, our Church and our world. On the journey of the past year we have been asked to learn a lot.
 
What does it mean to be community.  We have never been so separated “physically” from one another – and yet community has been ever more important. Not just our Sunday community – but our whole life of Caritas, receiving people into the Church, first Holy Communion of our children, our social life…. and so much more.  I believe we have grown stronger as a community.

How do we communicate with one another.  We are so used to meeting together physically and sorting things out in passing. There was so much to learn about keeping people up to date – more than that – the challenge of involving people when they are separated from us physically.  We were in a good position as we were already up and running with live  streaming – but a lot of work was done to improve and develop that side of our parish life and not enough can be said about each individual phone call that passed from one to another. It was amazing to see how many people took the plunge and became involved in social media for the first time… This also brought with it a virtual parish community – an additional group of people who had no access to their own Churches and found a home in ours…. We are one Church…

Not everyone is online. How do we keep those who do not have these tech possibilities in the loop. A new beginning for a parish SVP  (that’s my understanding) was a great answer and response – lets see where that exciting development takes us.

There has been a great sense of perseverance. The world has changed and we are still there for one another and God is there for us all. So much of what was taken away has only emphasised the great gift that our faith and our Church is – but also challenged us to be open of the Spirit of Change – God’s Spirit….

What is the meaning of Eucharist for me and for you.
We have grown in so many ways… Our Online presence and possibilities have taken on a new life. These once peripheral tools have become integral parts of our life and open up great new exciting opportunities…. We are a different community now – but one made up of the same people (with a few added and a few sadly who are no longer with us on our earthly journey). This external event has forced us, but freed us up to find and embrace new ways of doing things – an attitude and skill that will be of great help going forward. A crucial theme for me is how Eucharist and community belong together… This is a powerful truth that motivates me moving forward.

I enter this Christmas celebration with a great sense of gratitude for the new life in us and with great hope as we move forward as God’s family…. 

 Apart from that I am shattered….

Have a blessed Christmas and may God  continue to guide us in the New Year.


God Bless

Fr Andrew