Dear Friends in Jesus Christ,
I am writing this letter to all our parishioners; all our lay faithful and all in our schools’ communities. To everyone of good will, and to anyone searching for God, and to all who seek to know his Son Jesus Christ. I say to all of you: Come Back! Come back to Mass! Come back to Church for private prayer! Come and visit Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament! You are always welcome – we have missed you!
These past six months have been extraordinary! This pandemic has caused great harm, physically, mentally, emotionally and financially. Sadly, many have fallen sick and some have lost their lives. At the same time our medical staff and key workers have responded incredibly with unconditional generosity and courage. We have learnt to become creative in live-streaming which has taken place from day one. Keeping in touch with our parishioners through WhatsApp, online Newsletters, Phone calls. I have attended the Hospital several times in end-of-life situations celebrating the Last Sacraments. Now our schools, colleges & Universities and many others are returning to work; we must keep up this good work. Let us all keep safe and well. And let us pray to the Lord for an ending to this pandemic, the invention of a vaccine and the restoration of ordinary life.
I take this opportunity of truly welcoming back the many parishioners who have already returned to Weekly Mass. I’m also very aware that many parishioners may still be very nervous about returning. Some are still self-shielding, the sick & vulnerable. Moreover, I am aware that the infection-rate is varying, and there may even be the possibility of facing local lockdowns. For everyone this requires care, prudence and adjustments. As the autumn and winter rapidly approaches, rather than focusing on what we cannot do, let us focus on what we can do, so that the great mission of the Church can continue to move forward, and that the Gospel of Jesus Christ may continue to be preached.
Ultimately, this pandemic has shown us how fragile life can be. We cannot become complacent. It has caused us to review our priorities. For 14 weeks our churches were closed; there was no public celebration of Holy Mass, we have had to face our own mortality and the question of God. I know many people felt bereft of the Sacraments, and especially in receiving Jesus in Holy Communion. Many have followed Mass online and spoke of their hunger and thirst for the Lord. Online has its place; but nothing can replace being present with the worshipping community and receiving Jesus in Holy Communion. ‘Come back to me!’
This is the reason why I invite all of you to: Come back to the Lord to be nourished by his Word & His Sacraments. We have adapted the Church to meet all Governmental & Diocesan guidelines; social distancing, hand sanitisation, face coverings, etc. Sadly, few families have returned to weekly mass, even though the children have returned to full-time education. Please seriously consider your return to the practice of your weekly faith with the worshipping community. The church has now been opened for ten weeks. Jesus said: “The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice, I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27)? What about his promise: “Anyone who eats my flash and drinks my blood lives in me and I in him” (John 6;56)? What about his invitation: “Come follow me” (Mark 1:7)? His offer: “I have come that you may have life and have it to the full” (John 10:10)? Surely, we do not follow Jesus our Lord and Master simply out of habit or duty? No, we follow Him because we love Him. We follow Him because He has called us by name. We follow Him because He is our Saviour. He gave His life for us.
May Our Lord & Our Blessed Lady, our patrons St. Edmund of Canterbury & St. Thomas More, pray for you and protect you. May they obtain for you freedom from fear. May they inspire in you a generous response to the Lord’s call – Come back to me!
With Peace & Love
God Bless you All
Rev Canon John J Harvey