For lots of us, but for the church especially, 2020 will feel like the year that never was. That’s because the lockdown coincided with the greatest festival of the year, Eastertide, and Holy Week before it, and Ascension Day after it, and now Pentecost. Pentecost is particularly apt for our present circumstances because, you’ll remember, the Holy Spirit comes to set the disciples aflame with imagination and creativity and power. The Church, from HQ to the smallest, furthest-flung parish will need imagination and creativity and power, not only proclaim the gospel fo Christ but to sustain its life.
I’m back in church, I’m very happy to say, and while I’ve continued to offer the Eucharist and the prayers of the church at a makeshift altar in the dining room, it’s great to stand the High Altar, as Vicars of Finedon have done since the the 13th century; but I have a congregation of two – Daisy and Pongo – whose attentiveness is sketchy, and my chances of signing them up to Gift Aid are slim. This is going into be a tough year for finances, and for implementing our ideas to make us better able to face the future, but we’ve been here before, many times, and the church has endured through war and plague and famine, you name it. It’s done it because when people come together in faith extraordinary things happen.
I don’t know how long it will be before we are able again to gather as we normally would. Funerals and weddings, of the simplest kind, will soon be happening, and socially distant and carefully sanitised services will follow. But it won’t be choir and bells and children’s corner for a while. So I we will need to keep on looking at new ways to be together – online, following broadcast media, being in touch by phone – and sustaining the network of help and support in Finedon which has been part of the response to lockdown.
We have all learned much in lockdown, because we’ve all had an extended opportunity to think about what’s really important to us – our families, our friends, our communities, coming together. That’s fertile ground for the Holy Spirit, promised to us by Jesus, who forms us into a new community by the Spirit; and we, like the men of Galilee, look up to heaven and the promise of what lies beyond the pitch and toss of this life.
Yours in Christ,