The question I’ve been struggling with for over a week is, “How can we worship publically, when the church buildings are closed and gathering physically will put people’s lives at risk?” This coronavirus pandemic is changing the face of the country we live in, and challenging how we remain both ‘together’ and ‘public’.
After writing to everyone on the electoral roll of each church I’ve received many lovely letters and cards in return, together with contact details. This has made it possible (in this GDPR age) to email and telephone many people in our church communities to find out how they’re doing. I’m pleased to say that everyone I have spoken to is coping well, looked after by neighbours, friends and family, everyone seems to be getting enough food and some fresh air. I’m also delighted that all this communication isn’t all going through me: people are calling each other and it is so good to know that no one is being left in social isolation (to add to our physical isolation).
During the many conversations I’ve had over the past week, both inside and outside the church, I have learned what people are finding helpful. The most commonly requested thing is to have an agreed time when we all praying.
Sunday 10am Prayers
At 10am every Sunday during this pandemic lockdown, we will be praying. Even though we are apart, if we know everyone else is praying at the same time we get encouragement that we are not praying alone. How we pray is up to us, whether it is like a conversation with God, or a painting, contemplating God’s creation or simply saying the Lord’s Prayer: we know that our prayers are joined together in one voice before God.
Sunday Worship and Songs of Praise
Many people have told me they enjoy the BBC Sunday Worship or Songs of Praise. Sunday Worship is televised on BBC1 at 10:45am and Songs of Praise is on BBC1 at 1:15pm… these two programmes connect us with ‘hosts of saints and angels’ as we gather with many people from all over the UK to share a massive worship experience: bigger than any mega-church I’ve taken part in. Our shared context is the experience of lockdown during a pandemic, and the quality of the singing and worship far exceeds anything I could live-stream from my tiny study.
At 6pm every Sunday evening, I quietly and reverently say the service of Holy Communion from the Book of Common Prayer. For a priest alone, the words seem somehow appropriate. As I take communion, I picture in my mind everyone I’ve spoken to throughout the week, the homes and businesses… and as I eat this bread and drink this wine… I ask God, ‘would it be okay if this is for everyone?’
These four approaches spread our Sunday worship out across the whole day, give each of us a chance to connect to what we feel most appropriate, and to join in with something so public that anyone can access it.
One last note before I finish this letter – just to say once more: I pray every day. I use the Daily Prayer app and between 8am and 9am every morning I pray for the day ahead, the world around us, and the life of the church. I find great help and solace in the Bible readings, the psalms and the prayers and if you would like to know more I’d be delighted to share my experience with anyone.
God bless you, Graeme