The timestamp on the photo I've used today tells me that it was taken in May 1994. At that time, I was 10 and my brothers - it was just the four of us then - were 7, 5 and 3. Mum certainly had her hands full! I'd say that we weren't as cherubic as the photo of the 4 of us on the wall of our Grandma's front garden suggests, but then I look at the smiles and realise that you can probably deduce the underlying mischief just by looking at our faces! So I'm sure it will come as no surprise that "Just what do you think you are doing?!" was not an unusual thing to hear...
In just a few days, on Sunday, you may well be asking - or at least wondering - "Just what do you think you are doing?!" as you realise that the clergy, like the rest of you, are at home and not in church for our services.
In response to the new measures being taken to try and tackle the spread of Corona Virus, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have announced that all church buildings are to be entirely shut, including for services, and have instructed that services should be streamed from home. So that is what we will do (still via Zoom).
On Sunday, you may also find yourself asking "Just what do you think you are doing?!" when you see that it is only the Eucharistic President (and perhaps others in their household) who receive the consecrated bread and wine. We keep saying that we are 'in this together', so just what do we priests think we are doing when we alone receive the Eucharist - something that you are unable to do at this time?
Well... 'Spiritual Communion' is what we are doing. Although you might not have heard about it, it's actually been around since the 1549 Prayer Book and it's for those occasions when people are unable to receive the bread and wine physically and so do that spiritually. St Thomas Aquinas said it was about 'an ardent desire to receive Jesus in the Holy Sacrament and a loving embrace as though we had already received Him.' I know that we'd all rather be together at St John's on Sunday but we can't do that; we'd choose to take the bread and wine if we could but we can't do that either.
We believe in God who knows us thoroughly, who knows our desires and holds us in a loving embrace and so God knows where we would rather be. We will continue in our celebration of the Eucharist on Sundays. It is part of the rhythm of our life together and we hope that it is something that will continue to sustain us all during these testing times.
O LORD, you have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from far away.
You search out my path and my lying down,
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
O LORD, you know it completely.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
(Psalm 139 verses 1-5)
The beginning of Psalm 139 is one of my favourite passages of scripture and I find it helpful to use it as a prayer sometimes. I also find Morning Prayer to be something that sustains me and provides rhythm in my own life and especially as I join others in saying it. We are saying Morning Prayer at 8:30am each day. You can join us here.
To help keep our sense of community and to support each other, we are also meeting for coffee, chat and prayer at 11:00am and you can join us here. A little later in the day, at 6:00pm, there is a virtual pub - bring a drink of your choosing; soft drinks are fine! - for some light-hearted connecting and chat. You may well get to meet others from various parts of mine and Scott's life too, as they pop in. It's been fun so far... Join us here.
And as we continue to make sense of what it means to be church and community in these times, I offer this prayer, written by the Dean of Southwark:
Ever present God,
be with us in our isolation,
be close to us in our distancing,
be healing in our sickness,
be joy in our sadness,
be light in our darkness,
be wisdom in our confusion,
be all that is familiar when all is unfamiliar,
that when the doors reopen
we may with the zeal of Pentecost
inhabit our communities
and speak of your goodness
to an emerging world.
For Jesus' sake.