Fr Ross writes...
‘I am not praying for the world but for those you have given me, because they belong to you.’
On the Thursday just gone we celebrated the solemnity of The Ascension, that moment when the resurrected Christ returns to be with God his Father in heaven. As Jesus does so he promises two things to his disciples. Firstly, that He will send an Advocate to be with them - the Holy Spirit; and secondly that he will be praying for all of us who are his disciples. This was not just a promise he made to those first disciples, he made it to all of his disciples down the centuries to us today.
Next Sunday we celebrate the first of these promises with the coming of the Advocate with the solemnity of Pentecost which concludes the fifty days of Easter. Pentecost remembers that energized moment when the Holy Spirit came upon those rather frightened and dejected disciples and changed them forever. The Holy Spirit came upon those now twelve apostles and gave them the courage and conviction to quite literally take the Gospel out to the known world.
The second promise of Jesus praying for us to his Father are ever more needed as we enter the dawn of the post lockdown world. What is becoming ever clearer as the day’s pass is that we may not be going back to the normality we once knew for quite sometime. This so called ‘new normality’ will impact upon all of us and the way we interact and do things where two or more are gathered.
I got an insight into what this ‘new normality’ will look like for schools this week at a St Patrick’s School governors virtual meeting. Yes, I can well imagine some of your faces on reading that I attended a virtual governors meeting! As many of you will know the staff of St Patrick’s School have been working tirelessly behind the scenes to keep the school open for the children of key workers during the Covid- 19 Pandemic, even during the Easter School Holiday. Since I generally rely on Victorian Technology such as the telephone, postal correspondence and email (which I have decided has become a replacement for the telegram service) this virtual meeting for me was a first and it certainly had some amusing moments! Since my very basic computer has no camera or microphone I was like the silent listener, I could see and hear what was going on, I just could not be heard or indeed be seen. I was however able to type my thoughts every now and again via the text/telegram option. There was a sense of disbelief as we looked through the governments confusing guidelines for the reopening of schools for some year groups from June. Every school is different and the design of a school plays an important role in the logistics.
The ‘new normality’ for schools is going to be very complicated and a logistical nightmare. The same will be for the eventual re-opening of our churches and every church will be different in how they can respond, depending on the number of volunteers available and the design of the building. Things will not be as they once were with social distancing in place, areas out of bounds with tape, and numbers restricted. We simply won’t be able to all turn up on a Sunday like we once did. Things will be very different.
During this pandemic as I pray in Church, when Lucky the parish cat is not distracting me, my thoughts sometimes wonder as to how my saintly predecessor Canon Ibbett would have dealt with this crisis. I have found myself praying for his intercessions lately and I honestly believe he is listening to me and interceding for us all from the heavenly realm of the Saints above. Even before my arrival in the Parishes of Woolston and Netley I had heard of the saintly Canon Ibbett from Canon Dominic Golding. He remembers fondly Canon Ibbett walking around the playground at St Patrick’s School when he was a child and many of the young children actually thinking that Canon Ibbett was Jesus or indeed God himself.
Since my arrival here Canon Ibbett’s name comes up in conversation at least three times a week and I have never heard anyone say a bad word about him. He was clearly a very saintly priest and much loved and the fact that so many people still talk about him forty plus years since he died in post is testimony to his saintly character. I have been praying for Canon Ibbett’s intercessions in how we deal with the Covid-19 Crisis and the issue of church finances as we go ever into debt at St Patrick’s due to the loss of income from hall hire and fundraising. Something Canon Ibbett would have had experience of during his time at St Patrick’s I am sure.
As well as asking Canon Ibbett to pray for us, it should go without saying that I have been praying to the Holy Spirit to intervene and to help us too. All of us I am sure have our own experiences of the Holy Spirit at work in our life at some point. During this time of pandemic and crisis I am praying the Holy Spirit will guide all of us safely into this world of a ‘new normality’. Whatever the future might bring we as the Church and as two parishes look forward to time when we can welcome everyone back to Church for prayer, worship and the most Holy Eucharist.
Over this next week, let all of us enter into an ever deeper and more fervent prayer, asking for the abundance of the Holy Spirit in our lives that we might boldly proclaim Christ in word and deed to all we meet in the socially distanced world and that our churches will soon be open and welcoming back the faithful to prayer and the Eucharist.
God bless you all
23rd May 2020