Amazing things have happened to the people of our parish community.
There has always been concern for others in our parish but now people are using every kind of social media to support each other. WhatsApp groups have been formed, churning out a constant stream of helpful, spiritual and amusing information.
People have texted, emailed, sent videos of all sorts, spiritual, political, some very profound, some very, very funny. They make people laugh, they let them know that they are acknowledged and loved. Terms of endearment and affection are used as never before. We have 200 email addresses which daily receive prayers, readings, newsletters, information of all kinds.
I am redundant, well not quite. Out of this lockdown a new kind of ministry is emerging! People are visiting, enquiring from the front gate. My big fear is that I don’t have contact details for a number of our parishioners, and so I don’t know how they are coping. I am told – you’re over 70, leave it to us.
Being over 70, I am barred from the hospital and care homes, forbidden from entering anybody’s home, even to visit the sick and take them Holy Communion. I am unable to hold funerals in the crematoria and by the graveside. There are no services in church, in fact all churches are locked. Out of work? Happily, not. A new online ministry has developed.
Once it was hinted that churches may be closed we made the decision to have Mass online. Our technician friend, Peter, obtained a webcam for us, did all the technical things, got us on YouTube – and all we had to do is to type in St Anne and St Bernard, and, amazingly, we found ourselves online.
The Mass is crucial for Catholics. So every day, in my little house chapel, Mass is streamed around the world.
Thank God, all is going well. Our online congregation far outnumbers what we would normally have. 1,700 is the most “hits” for a weekday Mass, but during Lent it was daily between three and four hundred. Sunday has many more.
It is something that has, at some point, touched all our lives.
From cradle to grave, the National Health Service, and the incredible professionals within it who care for us, is a part of British life.
Today, more than ever, we should cherish those who dedicate themselves to our care, heedless of their own health as they work tirelessly to care for people in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
Nurses and others – employed by the NHS and any other part of health and care – we have never needed them more.
So let’s show them some love, and create a living map of gratitude from every corner of Britain.
Click HERE to drop a heart on the map, and show you appreciate the efforts undertaken daily in the NHS.
Thanks a million, NHS workers – we love you.
Early signal problems have been overcome. People have responded with texts and emails, saying how important this service has been to them. Without it they would have been floundering.
So that is my ministry – offer prayer, good news, hope, encouragement – online.
Funerals, or the lack of them, are a great concern. Only a few people are allowed in the crematorium or at the graveside. Our daily Mass online can become a Requiem Mass or we can hold a service from my chapel. Then people marooned abroad, people hospitalised or housebound, people in other parts of the country can all take part. Our first online funeral Mass is next week.
There are those who do not have access to YouTube or to email. Since I am unable to visit anyone makes this very difficult, and many must be feeling lonely and isolated. Our message is that we must keep phoning round, it is a help, but we look for ideas all the time.
So things are different ,and they carry a cost, but new and in some ways better types of ministry are emerging.
This is the latest in the ECHO’s series of Coronavirus Diaries, focusing on people’s individual experiences during this unprecedented time. If you have a story to share, email firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below.