Friday, 12 March 2021
Dear Friends in Christ,
This Sunday is Mothering Sunday, the day on which we are invited to remember and to give thanks for the mothers who gave birth to us and nurtured us as we grew into adulthood. Mothering Sunday marks the moment in the year when we also give thanks for the nurturing and love of our Mother Church. In earlier times, young people would have travelled home from their work in domestic service to visit both their earthly mothers and their Mother Church. As they travelled to their homes it was customary to round off their journeys by gathering with their families to worship God in those churches.
Just three days before Mothering Sunday 2020 all of the churches in this country were closed. For several months people were left in a state of confusion and disappointment. Of course, we were not the only country to close our churches. Church buildings were closed in many parts of the world as scientists and politicians looked for a safe way in which we might live our lives without feelings of insecurity and fear. The closing of our churches at such a crucial moment in the Church’s liturgical calendar meant that we were not able to gather in Church for Holy Week, Easter, Ascensiontide, or Pentecost. It also meant that baptisms, weddings and ordinations were put on hold. Even funerals were subjected to rigorous controls. Hardly a week has gone by over the last year without my being asked where the Church has been during the pandemic. For many, the loving embrace of Mother Church has felt remote and impersonal.
Of course, the reality is that the Church has not gone away, and it certainly has not been hiding. Church life has adopted a very different approach, but it has not gone away. Living at this point in the history of humanity has proved to be a great blessing. Thanks to the marvels of modern technology the Church has seen demonstrable growth during the last twelve months. The Christian message as we receive it in our Benefice is being shared with Christians around the world, in a way that could not have been dreamed of in earlier times. The services, prayers, reflections and sermons shared on our website are available as podcasts. It is so exciting to find that we feature in the top 30 religious podcasts in this country, and in the top 250 podcasts in the USA. This is truly powerful evangelism, and it is all rooted here.
As we celebrate Mothering Sunday 2021 we will hear of the moment in Luke’s account of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple when faithful Simeon says to Mary: And a sword will pierce your own soul too. We know what lies ahead for Mary: the mocking, the betrayal and the crucifixion of her dear son. The last year has given us the opportunity to enter into some of the desolation of Mary as she witnessed the end of Jesus’ earthly life. Many of us will feel that our own souls have been pierced too. But, there is a future ahead of us and that future is in the loving embrace of Jesus Christ as manifested in his Mother Church. The future is not going to be the same as the past. There is going to be a call to reconsider how services are conducted and by how many clergy. There are going to be demands for realistic contributions to the cost of the Church’s ministry in every corner of the country. Questions will be asked about how our churches are used. There are going to be moments when we feel as though the piercing of the soul is never going to end. But, our celebration of the joy of the resurrection is only a couple of weeks away. The joy of seeing a whole new world laid before us should be seen as exciting and not threatening. The thrill of being given the chance to follow our risen Lord into a different future should be coursing through our veins. Let us pray for the strength to meet the challenge and go forward with Christian joy and zeal in the hearts and souls that feel so pierced at the moment.
With every blessing to you all,