Steward of the Gospel
Some of your thoughts from around the Diocese – collated by Steve Webb
About three weeks ago I put out an email asking people to share their positive thoughts with others. Attached you will find a very slightly edited version of the responses I have received. It is a good number of responses but by no means a complete poll of our diocese.
I wanted to share these with you for three reasons:
1) It is good to read positive things in times of difficulty.
2) We are in a particular moment and when that moment passes it is all too easy to forget the good that comes out of such a moment.
3) There may be lessons for us to learn from each other.
Thank you to everyone who took part. There is no rocket science in any of these positive things and much is obvious once you read it. Do read it though because if nothing else is achieved by this; you have all helped to keep my spirits high and I think it will raise yours too. Thank you.
I am enjoying the Masses streamed via the parish website. I know lots of parishes are doing this and it is a great way to keep everyone connected. In addition the Children’s Liturgy Catechist has prepared something at home over the last two last weeks with her son and this is also available on the parish website for the children to follow each Sunday.
Although watching Mass on a screen at home is not the same as going to Mass and receiving Holy Communion. By following the Mass and saying the prayer of Spiritual Communion, does feel good in the circumstances. This is a prayer that I have used over the last seven years at [the] hospital for patients who are Nil By Mouth or having other swallowing problems.
I think it would be good to continue with a ‘video Mass’ even when we are back to normal as I know there are lots of nurses and medical staff that work at the hospital whose shifts are 12 to 14 hours and unable to go to Mass over the weekend. Also, the house bound and sick at home would be able to participate in the Mass before the Eucharist Minister arrives with Holy Communion.
Possibly, video Masses could help priests in rural areas to stay connected to their parishioners? The other thing that I now enjoy is watching the Holy Father’s Masses in Rome, which I never did before and will continue to do so.
In many ways this new technology can reach out to so many people and I think we have an opportunity to think how we can explore more ways of outreach and spread the good news of a Jesus Christ.
At first I struggled greatly to think of any positives, but now, I can think of a few:
The kindness of strangers and neighbours
The unselfish and noble efforts of ALL key workers
The fact that our children are less affected by this virus
The continuing outpouring of prayer from relief from this virus, despite the lack of evidence that these prayers are having any effect.
The improvement in air quality
The fall in most crime
The positive effect that the lack of human presence is having on wildlife
The fact that the U.K. has gone 18 days, which is a record, without relying on electricity from fossil fuel.
The fact that the Oxford University in the U.K. Has a very viable vaccine in trials at present.
I guess this whole lockdown scenario has made our relationships with others in the parish different – there’s so many people to say “hello” to or “good morning” on a Sunday that you never get to “know them” – our phone chain has given me the opportunity to get to know people more fully – their likes and dislikes, their family circumstances, hopes, fears and intentions. Opening up the art of conversation – I’ve spoken to music lovers and shared YouTube links for Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and blues (with an 80 year old lady), talked poetry with a confirmed football fan, heard about setting up a Care home I the 70’s and running carer training programmes, prayed a decade of the rosary in Urdu …. the list has been amazing. Our newsletter’s now a weekly electronic magazine and we’ve followed Mass in Chelmsford, Walsingham, Basildon, Royal Docks and Loughton. A Parish lay ministry of extraordinary ministers may never be the same again.
Keeping positive – with hands washed and fully socially distanced. These weeks have given me time and space for reflection and for reading and exploring the daily readings in more detail . Prayer time too feeling closer to our Lord and Saviour .
I, of course, miss being at Mass in Gods House but there are very thoughtful mass times on line . It’s also given me time to tell and talk to particularly those Parishioners who live on their own .
Fr ….. says the Angelus and Rosary with Parishioners every day through Zoom at 6pm
People are much more inclined to communicate by phone and virtually and the importance of regular communication by any means will be much more appreciated. Virtual communication enables group prayers, e.g. praying the rosary in a group.
Leaving aside Sunday Mass attendance, many more individuals are attending daily Mass by live streaming and are enriching their spiritual lives on this way.
The SVP and Eucharistic Ministers are maintaining contact with their clients and communicants in this way. [Someone] has remarked about being able to hear Mass in different languages from cities around Europe and others about being able to virtually attend Mass from outside a parish that has no live streaming. The prayer group that I attend keeps in regular contact via a WhatsApp group but we have not yet tried using Zoom!
The benefit to our God given environment by avoiding pollution has been mentioned more than once. Vapour trails in the sky have almost completely disappeared and there has been a substantial reduction in road traffic. While both transport by air and road will increase after lock down it is hoped that people will be more aware of the benefits of minimising this.
CAFOD is apparently working on some proposals to make these improvements to the world environment. This is in line with the thinking of Pope Francis who is encouraging rethinking of our social behaviour, e.g. flying off for weekends away.
Evidently less food is being wasted which means there is more for those with less if we devise ways of getting it to them and maintain the habit. For my part I have come to appreciate “the simple things in life”. Thoughts from members of the family are:- 1) Living in the Present Moment and 2) An enforced opportunity to “slow down” from the fast pace of modern life.
Our parish …. have set up an on line prayer group involving about 30 of our parishioners so far. More joining us as the word gets around. As well as daily thoughts, prayers and readings we are a great support for each other during this dreadful time.
The live streaming of all the service’s from Fr ……………….. is also a blessing to us all. During these difficult times, I feel that social media has been of a huge benefit to those who are able to employ such media to stay connected.
For those who are not confident or do not have access to such technologies, some parishioners / friends have made regular telephone calls.
Live streaming masses have been wonderful and meant a lot to my family of 3 boys.The messages coming through from the Pope have been so spiritually up-lifting and have impacted our hearts to deepen faith and understand/ get to know him as a person.
There has been a greater sharing of positive information and in times of need, requests for prayers, to enable parishioners to connect and support one another during difficulties.
The catechisis within our parish has remained strong. I have one child making their confirmation and we have received emails and guidance on following the programme at home. We have taken time in calm to do this and had some lovely discussions, there are also opportunities for the young people to connect over media and discuss this as they desire.
I am preparing a group of 10 children for their First Holy Communion, my youngest being part of this group. I have used my what’s app group to stay connected, promote Easter activities, reflections and also request parents to continue delivering specific elements of the programme/ book we are using. There is a parent guide with it but I provide guidance and links e.g live stream mass to link learning about the parts of the mass. We are then going to use zoom to gather as a group in the privacy of our homes to reflect upon the chapter covered. I have received good support from all families and some very positive feedback. Once we can resume to some sort of normality, we will revisit in brief the chapters missed in the book and I also have worksheets which further develop ideas/teachings and links to the Bible.
It has really brought to the fore our community spirit which we have always had in both our parish & village community!
The cohesion between [parishes in the partnership] has been enhanced. We have completed our shared Lenten Charity to raise sponsorship for Bibles for Christian Refugees. Between us we have sponsored 103 Bibles, despite our churches being closed through many weeks of Lent. The positive here is continuing to think of others suffering in face of our own crisis.
Spiritually, Fr ………. has passed on all COVID-19 updates from the Bishops Conference via Cathedral House, and I in turn have kept Fr…………, our Church Renewal Group & our electronic Parish Newsletter appraised of all live streamed Masses, Papal Blessings & prayers, Rededication of England as the dowry of Mary & Holy Week. Parishioners have enjoyed Mass from the Vatican, Walsingham, Saffron Walden, Leigh on Sea, & one couple from their old parish in Manchester! The positive here is that we are all communicating and interacting more freely & positively.
One young man … emailed me to offer his time as a volunteer to our community since he had been furloughed from his job in the city. This was gratefully taken up!
We are contacting the elderly & vulnerable in our parish & making sure they are OK & have everything they need. People are thinking less of ‘What can I do for me’ & more of ‘how can I help others’. This is a huge positive!
We all have more family time, walks in the countryside around us make us more aware of God’s beautiful world, scarcity of certain foods have made us aware of others for whom hunger is a daily worry. Time has slowed down for everyone & we have time to appreciate all the things Christ has given us. Spiritually, we are praying more & sharing Mass in our homes as a family unit & inviting Christ to enter our homes & remain with us. All positives.
Some positives and hopes for lasting change:
1. The contribution of those on the lower rungs of society financially has been brought to the fore. I’d hope there would be lasting change to their conditions.
2. A slower pace of life, and more time with family. Catching up with wider family more, time to read and watch films we’ve long intended to but somehow never found the time.
3. A greater awareness of resources. We are making food go further, and the principle of only going out if essential will reduce the pressure on the world’s resources, most obviously fuel, which we know is a growing concern for its impact on climate change.
4. Virtual meetings have had to concentrate more on what is essential. I’d hope this remains the case. I’m sure anyone who has ever worked will be familiar with the frustration of meetings being extended unnecessarily.
The first positive thing I found is that people now smile and talk each to each other more, that is just from a day’s walk that I did in this lock down. I used to walk a lot and smile at people and people were very busy to give back a smile. Now you get back a smile and often a bonus greeting, hi, have a nice day etc. it sounds great.
Another positive thing is that there is a greater feel for the spiritual or god element within each individual. It may not be for all but of course has increased a lot more.
Thirdly there is a great and genuine human concern for each fellow humans. To go with the words of Christ, love your neighbour as yourself, and this is very much put into practice literally.
An example of being a good neighbour.
Our next door neighbours are Chinese. When the lockdown started ……. was in China visiting his parents. He got back a week later. A couple of days later his wife left a carrier bag of goodies on our step from China. It included : face masks, plastic gloves, sanitisers and paracetamol. All unobtainable here.
A life line. Fr ………live screening of daily services………..
Since the lock down I have found several positive things which are a bit life changing. We have a YouTube Mass each weekend and it is nice to sit in a quiet room and listen to our Parish Priest celebrate Mass. Last weekend a beautiful letter penned by Bishop Alan was lovely and everyone knows he continues to pray for us. My daughter helps with the Children’s liturgy at 11am Mass and she suggested to Fr………that she could also provide a utube version for the younger Children to watch and this was well received. In addition, the bidding prayers are going to be reinstated by the Children and again on our Parish web site. I personally have found great consolation in these past weeks with my personal prayers- thinking more of what I am saying and not always just giving but receiving the word of God. I hope and pray we all come out of this better people.
We also know that parishioners in the far flung islands of the South Atlantic are also watching, which makes us realise that we are part of their community too.
Another great benefit is that my son does our weekly shopping. Not having to slog round Tesco’s once a week is a big bonus.
For me one huge thing that has come from this pandemic we find ourselves in is the sense of community spirit. I have been involved in helping set up the …………….. Coronavirus Volunteer Group and the group is going from strength to strength with local people wanting to help and do their bit for their community. We have volunteers collecting prescriptions for the vulnerable and elderly, community workers shopping for the vulnerable and elderly, we have set up a hub where volunteers are manning helplines from 8am to 6pm daily and we are about to set up a befriending network…. Honestly, it is quite remarkable how people just want to help other people, really puts your faith back into society.
Also, the pace of life is so much slower, not so many cars on the road poisoning the environment, people are walking places and are out walking with their families spending quality time together. I see so many families out doing their daily exercise, myself my daughter do our powerwalk daily in the woods and it is always a joy to meet other people out doing the same, everyone is saying hello and smiling and having a little chat from a distance, of course.
I hope that after all of this is over we come out of this a better society.
Three benefits/points of growth for our Church during lockdown:
1. Absence makes the heart grow fonder and in these times when we are unable to gather together as a Parish community for Mass we are reminded of the importance of this collective worship and are drawn to a fuller appreciation of the parish community, its collective worship, and (in particular for me) singing together
2. As we tune in to various services across the country and further afield we are reminded of the universal nature of the Catholic Church and know that when we “visit” another Catholic church we know what to expect from Mass. This universality is both reassuring and powerful
3. In the absence of meeting together as a community, other ways have been sought to communicate with each other, via phone, email, skype or zoom. This enhanced communication has not only encouraged members of the community to get to know each other a little better but to reach out in mutual support of each other. This outward expression of our Christian faith has also been manifest in an increase in volunteers for parish organisations such as the SVP which ensure that those in need or alone are offered support and friendship.
Several parishes are using their websites and social media platforms to share information from parishioners with specific gifts or talents. These are wide ranging from music to wellbeing, safeguarding to humour and spiritual talks to shopping services.
Finally, can I take this opportunity to wish you and your family well. Stay safe and healthy and carry on supporting one another so beautifully.
Director of Development