May Editorial & Full Magazine

Here is 'The Messenger' downloable for free: May Magazine.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

It’s time to think about coming back to church.

We’ve had a very strange last twelve months, haven’t we? Churches closed and opened; closed and opened again. We’ve missed major feasts of the Church. We’ve missed singing together, and celebrating together. One of the hardest parts of the last twelve months has been not being able to mourn together. We’ve lost some good friends, long standing members of our church family, and we’ve not been able to attend their funerals. The last twelve months have been very strange, and very difficult indeed. But, at last, we seem to be turning a corner. The vaccine is now being given to those in their forties, and all the high risk groups have been offered their first jab. Numbers of those infected is well down, and our procedures at church, as with so many other areas of society, are well bedded in. As I write, we can now meet people in the garden, visit the sick, and have a pint in a pub garden. So now it’s time to think about coming back to church. Of course, many of you have been coming to church, but there have been so many others of our church family who have been rightly isolating, rightly protecting themselves and their families… and we’ve missed you, we’ve missed you very much. We are not back to normal yet, but we’re getting there, so now is time to think about coming back to church.

But why, given that there is now so much online? In the past twelve months churches have been discovering how to live-stream worship services, how to film videos which look like they have been made by the BBC. We’ve found new ways to do Sunday School at home, and we have rediscovered individual and family prayer times. We’ve benefited from the Diocesan Advent and Lent Devotionals as we have owned our faith in new and deeper ways. So why not carry on as we are? Why come back together physically at all? Well, because the Christian faith is a physical faith. Though individuals have to own the faith for themselves, once they have opted in they do not, indeed cannot, live the life of faith on their own. We need each other. We need to be encouraged by one another, challenged by one another, and supported by one another; and we need to do this physically, together, in the same building. We need to be baptised by physical water surrounded by our church family; we need to sing together and hear those brothers and sisters who are off-key and those whom have voices like angels. We need to kneel together, share peace face-to-face together. Most of importantly of all we need to receive actual bread and wine together, bread and wine which have been prayed over and which become, in one way or another, the Body and Blood of Christ. These things we cannot do over Zoom, or on YouTube, just as we cannot properly mourn while watching a funeral online, or properly celebrate a wedding through a TV screen. We need to be together; and we need to receive Jesus together in the Eucharist. So, it’s time to think about coming back to church.

For most of us that time is now. Church is much safer than Tesco’s, the pub garden, or the non-essential shops which we can now frequent. So safe in fact that the government allowed churches to remain open when most places were shut. I understand that the first time you come back you may well feel hesitant, but we have a number of things going for us at St George’s. We have LOTS of space. We can accommodate 200 people socially-distanced, and we are nowhere near that number at the moment. We have an excellent, and well trained, staff of volunteer marshals who have for many months now been ensuring that we all remain safe. And for those who want to start slowly and have time during the week, we have a small Wednesday morning service which usual has just 30 people attending. Church is safe to attend, and to stay spiritually safe we need to be back together; so now is the time to think about coming back. There will, of course, be a small number of people who will want to wait until 17th May (the next milestone) or even 21st June (when all restrictions seem likely to be lifted). If you are in a vulnerable category, I completely understand, that you may wish to wait until after one of these dates, but needless to say, even these dates are not so far away. So it really is time to think about coming back to church. It’s safe, we’re ready, and we miss you… so please whomever you are, whether you’ve been coming all your life, or never stepped inside the doors of St George’s, the time to come to church is now. We very much look forward to seeing you.

God bless,

Fr Mike