GENTLE STEPS FORWARD
It has been wonderfully rewarding to be able to celebrate public Masses again in both of our churches. I am grateful to the teams who have supervised each occasion and all of you who have been able to come.
Thank you for co-operating with the new protocols. Gradually we are finding ways of managing, especially as some of the original restrictions have been lifted.
However, with the new concern about Manchester and the surrounding district, we realise just how fragile everything remains and how vigilant we need to be.
In my ‘Thursday Message’ I asked you to consider some proposals, which may offer us a way forward in dealing with a number of issues, including the backlog of children waiting for their First Holy Communion and families hoping to have their children baptised. If you have not viewed the message, may I encourage you all to do so?
It seems to me that we will do well to take a few small and gentle steps to begin with and see how successful they are before trying to roll out an expansive programme. Therefore, I am hoping a good number of families will respond to the invitations I have offered and we can learn as we go along.
Meanwhile, for the next week or two we will continue with the Mass programme that is now in place and I will continue to record a Mass each weekend. It is especially important that anyone who is vulnerable or feels anxious should understand that there is no obligation or expectation that you should come to Mass in the present circumstances.
At the same time, it is wonderful to see the joy that so many of you are experiencing at being able to celebrate the Eucharist again. Therefore, I encourage all of you who are comfortable with moving around to come from time and time; and remember that families may sit together without the need for distancing.
Let’s be at peace and continue to pray for one another.
I will continue to record a Mass each weekend for the foreseeable future because, faced with the present restrictions, there is no way we can accommodate the regular Mass attendance and I am conscious that many of you may still be nervous about venturing forth, while some of you are still shielding.
At the same time, across the Pastoral Area we now have a good number of Masses each week, so I hope everyone who is able will come to Mass from time to time. May I especially encourage you to bring the children – remember you may sit together in your bubble in the one bench – and it would be a shame if we get out of the habit of coming: we are above all a Eucharistic community!
Please see the websites and bulletins for all the Mass times and may the Lord continue to bless all our efforts.
A THANK YOU FROM FR TIM
Naturally, I was sorry that my sister and some of the family were not able to join me to celebrate my Golden Jubilee.Likewise, it was disappointing that we were not able to have get-togethers in each of the parishes.
However, you made up for all that in spectacular style. I am truly grateful for the messages of goodwill and I feel very honoured that you took so much trouble to mark the occasion so generously and in so many different ways.
I hope I was able to express some of that at the end of Mass last weekend and in my Thursday message. It has been a roller-coaster week and I feel somewhat of an emotional wreck. But may I just say that my hope and prayer is that I will have the health and strength to continue to serve Bishop Eton and St Mary’s for a good while to come.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
As gradually we re-introduce public Masses in both parishes, I ask you to try and form a new mind-set, whereby as far as possible most of you will be able to get to Mass reasonably regularly. With the Sunday obligation no longer a factor, I am hoping that we will find a modus vivendi whereby we spread ourselves across the week and do not end up with people arriving for Mass and being disappointed. It will take time and patience, but I am sure we will manage.
I want to wish the staff and pupils of all our schools every blessing during the summer holidays and thank them again for coping so wonderfully in the face of all the problems that have beset them in the past few months.
We join in offering our condolences to the parish and school of Christ the King on the sudden death of their headmistress, Mrs Kate Griffin, last weekend. I feel a special association with them, not least because, with Freddie Freckles in tow, I was honoured to be invited to open their new library not long ago.
I think special occasions always evoke a mixture of emotions.
However, as I approach my Golden Jubilee of Ordination, the overwhelming feeling is one of gratitude and I look forward to celebrating that in the best possible way with the great prayer of thanksgiving that is the Eucharist. Our special Feast of the Most Holy Redeemer falls this weekend and provides me with a wonderful opportunity once again to ask the Lord to heal the hurt I have caused others and myself. The future for all of us is in God’s hands, so I invite you to join me in praying that together we may continue to love and support one another in every possible way, recognising that because Christ has redeemed the world, we are already temples of God’s Spirit, children of the Father, adopted brothers and sisters of the Lord.
During our recorded Mass this weekend I will share with you a wonderful meditation, attributed to Fr Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, which will sum up everything I want for you and for myself.
EASING OUR WAY INTO A BRAVE NEW WORLD
This coming week we will have three public Masses in Bishop Eton:
Monday at 11am; Wednesday and Friday at 6pm
We are working in conjunction with the other parishes in the Pastoral Area to try and provide, as far as possible, opportunities each morning, lunchtime and evening for those who would like to participate in the Eucharist. The restrictions under which we will be celebrating are considerable as you will know if you have viewed the short demonstration video, produced by Fr Philip Inch for the Archdiocese.
However, it will be wonderful to be able to share with you again and, if we are all patient and understanding, I am sure we will gradually find the right level on which we can move on peacefully. It is hard to predict how many may choose to come along for particular Masses, but I must ask you to be prepared to be disappointed. If the numbers have reached the church’s capacity then you will not be able to attend that Mass. On that score I am immensely grateful to the teams, who have done the training and are now ready to steward the churches and ensure that they remain sanitized.
During the coming week St Mary’s will open for the first time with two periods for private prayer:
Tuesday between 2 and 4pm; Thursday between 6 and 8pm.
As you know, throughout the past four months I have been encouraging you and myself to reflect more deeply on the mystery of Christ’s presence among us and how we experience that presence. I believe the Lord is encouraging us to expand our vision and hence my use of examples like Fr Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s Mass on the World. We will continue to reflect in this way, both during the recorded Masses at the weekend and as we gather in church.
MY GOLDEN JUBILEE OF ORDINATION
As many of you know, this falls on Tuesday 21 July, and originally we had hoped to celebrate in both parishes this weekend before the schools close at the end of the week. I had also hoped to be able to celebrate Mass on the day itself at St Mary’s, Clapham, where I was ordained. Since none of that is now possible and many of you have been offering me wise counsel, we think the simplest way in which we can all celebrate is by joining in another streamed Mass next weekend.
This is very fitting because it coincides with our titular Redemptorist Feast: the Solemnity of the Most Holy Redeemer. Therefore, we will wait until the following weekend before introducing Sunday Masses. I trust you will all see the wisdom behind these decisions. May the Lord continue to bless and protect each of us and reward us with patience and understanding.
MASS AND SERVICES IN CHURCH
I am hoping that as many people as possible will have access to the message I recorded on Thursday afternoon about the gradual return to the use of our churches for Mass and the Sacraments as well as Funerals and Weddings with limited numbers and without the celebration of Requiem or Nuptial Masses.
The sentence above provides a stark reminder that we are not returning to anything remotely approaching the situation we had to abandon when our churches were last open for public worship in the middle of March.
Archbishop Malcolm has issued stringent guidelines, to which we will have to adhere including the wearing of facemasks, which may be lowered to receive Holy Communion.
You can read the guidelines for the cautious opening of churches by clicking here
Additional guidelines on the celebration of confession can be read by clicking here
The Archdiocese has provided a guide as to what to expect when you attend Mass click here.
In view of the fact that there is much to reflect on and digest, I hope you agree with me and our parish teams that we should approach this development with great caution. In that way we can ensure that we have put contingency plans in place that will enable us to implement any new programmes, confident that we can keep one another safe and avoid friction and upset.
ACCORDINGLY WE NEED MANY VOLUNTEERS TO HELP TO KEEP THE CHURCHES CLEAN AND ACT AS STEWARDS ON EACH OCCASION.
IF YOU ARE ABLE TO VOLUNTEER, PLEASE GET IN TOUCH VIA THE PARISH EMAILS. THANK YOU.
For the coming week, Bishop Eton will be open for private prayer on Monday and Friday afternoons between 2pm and 5pm as for the past two weeks. During the following week we hope to have St Mary’s open for some periods of private prayer and introduce the first public Masses at Bishop Eton. Information about how we intend to proceed thereafter will be published each weekend. Archbishop Malcolm stresses the fact that the Sunday obligation has not been re-instated and that we encourage you to consider gathering on a weekday, rather than a Saturday evening or Sunday, to release pressure on weekend Masses!
PLEASE NOTE - I WILL CONTINUE TO RECORD MASS EVERY WEEKEND UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE.
THE FORTHCOMING OPENING OF CHURCHES
You will have noted that the Government has given the go-ahead for churches to be re-opened for public worship from Monday, 6 July. However, it is important to be aware that, as with all other permissions for schools, shops, hotels etcetera, this permission may only be implemented after all the risk assessments have been done and all the safety measures are in place.
THEREFORE WE WILL NOT BE RETURNING TO LIFE AS IT WAS THREE AND A HALF MONTHS AGO.
I will be meeting this week with the other clergy of the Pastoral Area to determine how we should approach this next phase in the process of coming out of ‘lock down’ and hope to have more information next weekend. For now, may I make the following important points:
1. For now the Sunday Mass obligation is not being reintroduced.
2. Accordingly, I anticipate continuing with the streamed Mass each weekend.
3. Sunday and Weekday Masses will be limited and the churches will have a considerably reduced capacity, so people may be disappointed. This will call for great patience and understanding on the part of everyone.
4. Other services and sacraments will be available, but again it is going to take time to re-organise the programme of baptisms, weddings and First Communions, so I beg again for patience and understanding.
5. Churches may be used for funerals services, but there will be no Requiem Masses for the time being.
6. With Fr Andrew Burns (Rector) having to undergo a lengthy period of cancer treatment, I anticipate that for the most part, I will be shouldering responsibility for everything in both Bishop Eton and St Mary’s. We will need to look after one another and avoid unnecessary stress.
Let’s renew our trust in the Lord and ask the prayers of our Lady of Perpetual Succour as we calmly work our way through the coming weeks. And remember the great phrase of the mystic, Mother Julian of Norwich: “ALL WILL BE WELL.”
The letter from the Metropolitan Archbishops can be read at http://www.liverpoolcatholic.org.uk/index.php?p=2160
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