From the Vicar
Recording the morning service in Church, on Mothering Sunday 22nd March, immediately
before the lockdown, little did any of us know just what was ahead of us – and what a three
months it’s been! There is still of course uncertainty, anxiety and no doubt plenty of
obstacles to be overcome as we emerge, gradually and cautiously, from lockdown, but one
thing is crystal clear – the spirit of people across the country remains strong and signs of
hope are everywhere to be found.
It’s difficult really to think of a short period of time during which so many momentous
events and happenings have occurred – from worldwide lockdowns, emergency hospitals
being built, Thursday demonstrations of respect and gratitude for NHS and key workers with
the associated rainbow pictures and drawings, the whole Black Lives Matter movement (and
the toppling of statues) to the incredible efforts of groups and individuals to help others in
these unprecedented times – exemplified best perhaps by Captain Tom and Marcus
Rashford, among many others of course, notably the late Dame Vera Lynn.
What a time to have lived through and, sadly for over 42,000 people now, what a time to
have died in. None of us has been unaffected by what we’ve all been going through over
these last three months and, coming out of it, none of us will be unchanged.
At a very deep and personal level, and as a Christian, I think that what we’ve all been doing,
in different ways of course is, to coin a phrase from the 1980s, “going back to basics” –
discovering afresh perhaps what our real “treasure” is and “losing our lives for Christ’s sake
in order to find them” as St Matthew records Jesus’s words in the Gospels. Simple phrases
but, as we’ve discovered over these last three months, incredibly powerful and meaningful
as well as being hard to do.
In Antrobus and here in Great Budworth both churches are now open for individual private
prayer, and funerals (public worship and weddings will follow, in due course and after
further discussion and planning and preparation, as per the government’s announcements
on 23 rd June) following extensive preparation, planning and consultation. As Canon Angela
Tilby made clear in one of her recent Radio 4 “Thoughts for the day” the phrase “individual
private prayer” is slightly misleading, as no prayer, whether made in the privacy of one’s
home, where so many people have of course been praying during lockdown (and before,
and will continue to do so afterwards), or in an “empty church” is ever really “private”. God
is with us always of course, wherever we are, and we are also surrounded by that “great
cloud of witnesses” according to the writer of the Book of Hebrews, by the saints and
martyrs of the church and all those who look to Christ, yesterday and today – hardly private
prayer even if we happen to be on our own! Like Canon Tilby, and yourselves I’m sure, I am
always conscious and appreciative of these countless prayer companions, as it were, and am
always lifted up in church into “the communion of saints”.
I have looked forward greatly to being able to re-open the doors of our churches, as I know
many, if not all, of you have (and I’m sorry that it has taken a little while longer to do this
but our main concern has been the safety of all who visit our churches) and to being able to
worship again with at least some people present, different as it undoubtedly will be to begin
with. I am also clear however that what we have learned and gained from these
unprecedented times must not be lost, but must be built on for the continuing growth of
God’s kingdom here on earth.
So, thinking about this next stage of our collective journey through the Covid-19 crisis, and
all those who will be visiting our churches and other places of worship, let me finish with
part of TS Eliot’s “Little Gidding” from The Four Quartets:
“If you came this way, taking any route, starting from anywhere,
at any time or at any season, it would always be the same: you would have to put off
sense and notion. You are not here to verify, instruct yourself, or inform curiosity
or carry report. You are here to kneel
where prayer has been valid. And prayer is more than an order of words,
the conscious occupation of the praying mind, or the sound of the voice praying.
And what the dead had no speech for, when living,
they can tell you, being dead: the communication of the dead is tongued with fire
beyond the language of the living.
Here, the intersection of the timeless moment
is England and nowhere. Never and always.”
I couldn’t have put it better myself!
May God’s richest blessing be with us all in this coming month. The Revd Alec Brown.