It certainly is a time to pause and reflect on how we have been living prior to Coronavirus, what we normally have given our energy to, and what and who in this time we have come to value with renewed eyes!
Many parishes have been searching for creative ways to remain connected with one another, to continue to pastorally outreach during this time of isolation from one another and to keep being nourished in our living faith.
Our Mount Carmel leadership team has taken the approach that we are church, within our homes and within our families and those with whom we have connection, through friendship or through a sense of shared belonging or shared concern, we have therefore tried to supply resources for being church in our homes.
We are also very conscious of those within our community at this time, who carry the expectation of being, adult, parent, partner/ husband or wife, employee or employer, and now educator/teacher for their children. An unrealistic expectation for any person to carry even in ‘normal times’ but in this unprecedented time, extremely stressful and exhausting. Be kind to yourselves and each other!
Many of us are experiencing the loss of gathering as a community, and when the restrictions are lifted, look forward to rejoicing in the fellowship that we do share.
My hope however, is that when we can be together again, it will be in a changed way, where some of what we have come to value in this time, can be our ‘new normal’!
We might ask ourselves, will the ‘new normal’ be self-born, self-evident, self-nourishing and enduring and/or do we need to do something as a parish community to discern what is the ‘new normal’ and to find ways to sustain facilitate, and encourage it?
For example, what might our future gathering for Eucharist look like, when we can come together again in our church building?
Thomas O’Loughlin in a recent article in the Tablet, (28th March 2020) comments on the language we are using now, as many are taking up the practice of ‘watching mass’:
We talk about ‘getting Mass’ and ‘attending Mass, ‘of getting communion’ and ‘taking communion’. The image in our minds is that the Eucharist is something ‘out there’, which we watch or somehow obtain and make our own, as if we are theatregoers or consumers. But the word Eucharist relates to a verb: it is something we, the whole people of God, do. It is the activity of thanking God the Father as a gathered community - and we offer this praise and thanks through Christ our Lord……It is our basic activity as Christians, not some ‘thing’ that the priest does for us or makes for us.
For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them. Matthew 18:20.
Even the smallest gathering - just two people standing two metres apart so as to not spread the virus - has the risen Lord among them.
Wherever the things of the Lord are spoken about, there the Lord is present. Didache - 1st century disciple’s guide.
Every table can be a sacred place where Jesus can be encountered in gratefulness for the people we share our meal with and the food and the many blessings we receive in abundance each day.
Our tables can be a sacred place for remembering those within our community who are struggling: emotionally, financially, and in so many other ways.
Perhaps this current experience of discovering being church in our homes, can humanise and revitalise our more public gatherings in the future.
We need to tell our story, to listen to one another, to know one another as fellow disciples, and to find ways to give witness to what and who we care about.
Can we even change our language and realise the opportunities being given to live solitude rather than an experience of isolation being imposed on us?
A positive space to reassess our lives and to see where we place value and what we give energy to. A contemplative space!
Some have said, perhaps this event of life being lived in quieter, less stressful, calmer ways, with more quality engagement with each other, was needed as a ‘wakeup call’ to recognise who we had become!
The darkness is in the loss of life, the loss of income and the pain and grief of separation from loved ones, none of which can be trivialised.
Let’s remember, God the ‘architect of our hearts’, has created us for love, and so it is and will be.