Writing in the 14th Century in Norwich, Dame Julian advised, ‘For this is our Lord’s will – that our prayer and our trust be alike, large!’
I know that many of you were able to get away on holiday during the summer and I hope you had a refreshing time. As schools and colleges begin again, September feels like a ‘new term’ in church too. In this our Patronal month – St Michael’s Day is 29th September – many of our ministry and task-based groups begin again, and of course the Chiswick Book Festival, which I hope you are enjoying.
When I last wrote to you in July, the restrictions and safety regulations were being lifted and I said we would negotiate them slowly and carefully. We have now reverted to one main Sunday Mass at 10am, and it has been a real joy to hear congregational singing again. It is something people have really missed.
We are constantly reviewing the situation: we are all aware the pandemic has not gone away. However, we do feel that we can move forward a little more as we enter this ‘new term.’
- Crèche, Children’s Church, Youth Church all begin again from this coming Sunday and the Choristers and Little Angels also begin again next week. We always need help with these groups, so if you would like to volunteer and give back to the church community, do let us know.
- The pews will revert to their usual format which will allow more seating space for those who would like to have more distance between themselves and others.
- We will begin to sing the service as well as hymns from this Sunday
- After Mass refreshments will return on Sunday September 26th, our Patronal Festival Sunday.
- Evensong will also return on the 26th September with Choral Evensong and Benediction at 6.30pm.
- Masks are not required but are still encouraged for those who prefer to continue to wear one in a public space.
- We will continue with Holy Communion in one kind for the time being and the priests will continue to wear face coverings for the distribution of Holy Communion. It will be distributed as it has been for the past year or so, so please follow the directions of the sidespeople.
- We will continue to acknowledge one another at the giving of the peace, without any physical exchanges.
- Mass is offered daily either at St Michael’s or at St Peter’s if you would like a quieter service with fewer people.
Like many of you I have been watching with great concern the unfolding situation in Afghanistan and the plight of refugees and those who would like to leave the country but have been prevented or, for various reasons, cannot escape. The images from Kabul airport of those desperate to fly out were painful to see and watch. The bravery of the women protesting in the streets of Kabul for human rights, despite being fired on, was astonishing. And not to forget those journalists who are reporting from a dangerous situation to keep us abreast of what is going on there.
St Julian urges us to enlarge our prayer and our trust. I have seen this as a challenge to my prayers of intercession. Rowan Williams describes the necessity of empathy as essential to the nature of being human. He writes:
“Empathy, that is, the imaginative identification with a perspective that is not my own, is not just an optional extra in our human identity… it’s
something without which we cannot know ourselves. Without identification with the other, I don’t know myself.”
I hope in this our Patronal Festival month, as we give thanks to God for our church and community life, we determine to make intercession our prayerful work each day. Please pray for our church, the priests, our community, the sick and the grieving, but let us enlarge our prayers and our trust too, as Julian bids us, and remember all those who are in need, of any kind, whether we know them or not, near or far. Let us spend a little time imagining ourselves in their situation, standing in their shoes, and let this inform our prayer and our action for justice in our world.
The Church Mission Society has suggested some things to pray for as we contemplate the situation in Afghanistan.
- We are grateful that presently, the situation in the capital is calm (though tense). Pray for things to be calm, not only for Kabul, but for the rest of the country.
- As the country goes through this period of transition, pray that those who want to leave will be able to, and for those who remain, that they will remain safe, particularly women and those from minority groups.
- Pray for the many thousands of people who were displaced, that they will receive humanitarian aid swiftly, and that they will be able to return safely to their homes.
- And pray that, as the country looks to the future, girls will continue to be able to go to school and university, that women can contribute to society and the light that was lit for so many during these last 20 years would remain visible.
May Our Lady, St Michael and all the angels and saints assist us with their prayers,