What strange times we find ourselves living in! An invisible virus has changed our world and our lives. We don’t shake hands. We keep our distance. For many weeks, we were unable to visit relatives and friends, including those who were sick or vulnerable. Grandparents and grandchildren missed each other. Children missed their friends and teachers. We’ve missed being together as Christian communities.
It’s our nature as a Church to gather. This is what we do. It’s who we are. Like the early Christians, we gather on Sundays knowing the Risen Christ is present among us when we gather in His name. We thank our priests and lay people for their work during the lockdown, finding creative ways to make the Mass available at home through local radio, Facebook and webcams. But we have missed coming together as community to celebrate the Eucharist. So, it is good for us to gather, even with limitations on numbers. We can now look towards future community gatherings, to celebrate the Eucharist, baptisms, First Holy Communion, Confirmation, weddings and to remember our dead.
Despite the difficulties we’ve lived through, there is a lot to be grateful for. We owe so much to our health care workers and to those who kept all essential services going. We thank the Lord for the goodness of so many generous, brave people who have given so much, often putting themselves and their families at risk. They are the face of Christ for us. Times of crisis brings out the best in people. People have stayed at home and stayed apart because it saves lives and lessens suffering. All age groups, young and old, have shown that they care for each other. We acknowledge the collaboration of many people across the Diocese who have prepared our churches so that we can come together safely.
These past months have been a time of worry, but they have also been a time of learning new ways of doing things, new behaviours, new approaches. It has also been a time of coming back to what matters in our lives, to what sustains us when the chips are down, to questioning what values we want for our communities and our society.
As faith communities, we are walking together into a changed time. In March, the Diocese had started a process of thinking and envisioning possibilities for the future. Like everything else this had to be put on hold. But the challenge remains of sustaining our Christian communities, of going further as people of faith and hope, as people called to make visible something of God’s love and compassion in the places where we live. In the coming year, the Bishop and Diocesan Pastoral Council will invite all of us to be part of thinking about these challenges and planning the path forward together.
All of that is in the future. For now, we must continue to care for and support each other. As Christian communities, let us keep reaching out to each other, and to our neighbours, with encouragement, with practical help and with prayer. And let us remember: ‘the Church does not close, only the building closes; because we are the Church, the living body of Christ, and we are everywhere’.