Whither the Church 2
As I mentioned in last week’s consideration of the matter, the Church is living in very strange and difficult times, as are we all. We are having to adapt to new circumstances for which we have had no training and very little psychological or spiritual preparation. It is, of course, something to which we are having to adapt quickly and, no doubt, it will take us time to learn the new skills and approaches and there will doubtless be many mistakes made. However, it is God’s work in which we are engaged and we must trust that he will provide the support necessary.
One of the great changes to our life as the Church has been the impossibility of continuing pastoral visits. Funerals have to be arranged by phone, Skype or Zoom (or another such platform), the clergy may no longer visit their flock nor even take Holy Communion to them in their homes and the hearing of Confessions has become very difficult indeed. Our whole pattern of life has been thrown into the air and, at present, we have very little idea of where or how it will all land.
One of the ways in which pastoral care may be carried forward is through the creation of small hub groups. These would be made up of fixed groups of people who could keep in touch be phone or by any other means with which members of the hub are comfortable, with a co-ordinator for each who could involve the parish priest when needed and keep him informed of any needs which might arise. This would be a variation of the face-to-face visiting groups which we experimented with a few years ago. Ideas such as this are not unfamiliar to the parishes and can be readily utilized.
Also, although it would not be possible for confidential matters, a visit to someone’s garden, maintaining appropriate distancing, is always possible and, in fact, can already be done at any time.
Certainly, there are also opportunities. The present crisis has caused us to re-examine ways of doing certain things, of how we reach out to proclaim the Gospel and how we educate people. Also, we have been finding that many people have engaged with the local church online from their own homes and have not had to make that daunting journey through our front door but can engage with us from familiar surroundings and anonymously, should they so wish. We have had to learn new skills, new ways of doing things and some of these are, no doubt, highly beneficial. Certainly, whatever happens, there will be no going back to exactly how things were before the virus came.
At the end of the day, we will find ways of overcoming the present difficulties, even if it means having to wait until an effective vaccine becomes available or until the virus burns itself out. However, it is much better to be proactive! We must never forget that it is our mission – the mission of the Church – to go out into the world and make new disciples for Christ, however we have to do it, whilst at the same time ensuring that the existing sheep are fed! Christ has overcome the world (John 16:33), including whatever viruses there may be, so our ultimate victory is assured.
I wish you all the very best at this time and pray that you are keeping well, safe and positively engaged.