On Tuesday, 17 March the Archbishops of Canterbury and York took the unusual step of suspending all public worship in the Church of England.
Clergy were still encouraged to offer their Morning and Evening Prayer in their churches; they were also urged to either continue or institute a daily celebration of the Eucharist.
On the evening of Monday, 23 March the Archbishops revised their instructions and instructed that all churches should be closed to all, including the clergy.
Clergy were still encouraged to continue with the same pattern of daily prayer, but now within the confines of their vicarages and rectories.
The Archbishops have acknowledged that these measures are extreme and unprecedented in nature, but they are sure that they are necessary. The leaders of our Church are clear in their belief that the Church should be leading the way in following the Government’s instructions in respect of social distancing and self-isolation, and that our church buildings and churchyards should not provide places where these instructions can be flouted.
And so, here we are in a very strange and challenging place.
Our churches, the very places where we might expect to be able to seek shelter and consolation, have been taken away from all of us for the duration of this national crisis.
But … our prayer and praise to God is not on hold.
That prayer and praise does go on.
The clergy are praying for and with you, and I know that you continue to pray as well.
We are just finding ourselves in a different place, a place where change and evolution is being forced upon us.
As the Archbishops said at the beginning of this journey we are having to rethink and reimagine how the Church of England works.
In response to all these changes the Corby Glen Group Virtual Church website has been developed as a source of spiritual encouragement, refreshment and consolation.
There are texts and recordings of services, as well as pastoral letters, sermons and other reflections.
This particular message is fundamentally about how we might all engage in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, even though it is being celebrated by your priest alone.
Celebrating the Eucharist
The Eucharist is one of the two sacraments that we were specifically commissioned to participate in by Our Lord himself, the other being Holy Baptism.
The Eucharist is the core service of the entire Anglican Communion and, as such, is all the more important during these challenging times.
The celebration of Holy Communion is just that – it is a celebration.
- It is a celebration and honouring of Christ’s command to do this in remembrance of me.
- It is a celebration and memorial of Christ’s atoning sacrifice made for all, and for all time.
- It is a celebration of Christ’s victorious resurrection, hence Sundays never being days on which we fast or allow our celebrations to be overshadowed by the commemoration of saints.
It is enshrined in the practices and customs of the Church that a priest should never celebrate the Eucharist alone, and yet that is exactly where we find ourselves now.
So, how can this be justified?
For the majority of priests the answer can be found in the response of the Roman Catholic church to various 20th century calamities.
Like Anglican priests, Roman Catholic priests should not celebrate the Eucharist alone.
But … in 1949 this instruction was modified with the words: except for just and reasonable cause.
While this was an amendment to Roman Catholic Canon Law, it was generally adopted by the Church of England hierarchy as well.
That concession seems particularly relevant today because the modification went on to specify a time of pestilence as being a just and reasonable cause for the private celebration of the Eucharist.
And that is where we find ourselves today.
No one can deny that we are in a time of pestilence.
Our Archbishops have encouraged the clergy to continue their offering of the Eucharist for and on behalf of the people they are called to serve.
In order that you might pause and pray as the Eucharist is being celebrated in our Benefice, I have put together this timetable for the week. As well as giving you times, I have included a list of ‘special intentions’ for each celebration. These are merely the ways in which prayer will be focused day by day. If you would like to add people or concerns within each community please send me an email and I will make sure that your prayers are being offered by me as well.
|Sunday||10.30am||A time of prayer and celebration for the whole Benefice also offering prayers for the well-being of the whole world and God’s creation|
|Monday||9am||The people of Bassingthorpe and those who are working in the National Health Service|
|Tuesday||9am||The people of Bitchfield and all those who are working to supply our daily needs|
|Wednesday||10am||The people of Burton-le-Coggles and those who are feeling vulnerable and isolated|
|Thursday||7pm||The people of Corby Glen and for those who fear the financial and social effects of the current crisis|
|Friday||9am||The people of Irnham and those in positions of leadership, and especially for our Government and others leading the response to current crisis|
|Saturday||9am||The people of Swayfield and local services and businesses and for all who are working for the wellbeing of those less resilient than themselves|
Morning (8am) and Evening Prayer (4pm) continue to be offered every day.
As a help and support to Church members Guidance on Spiritual Communion and Coronavirus has been issued by the Church of England.