I have noticed that one of the results of everything that is happening at the moment is how the media latch onto certain words and phrases. Big for the last week or so has been the notion of communities. It struck me that in the reporting there was the idea that this was a new phenomenon, but when I considered it I remembered that I’m already, and have been for some considerable time, a member of quite a few different communities. I suppose the big change is in how some communities are having to adapt in order to remain together.
Writing this reflection, the obvious community that comes to mind is our parish. We are bound together by not only our faith, but by the friendships we have within our number. We might not always get along, we might not always agree with each other, but we have a common bond that is stronger than the things that might otherwise divide us. Until a couple of months ago, if I had asked the question of ‘what shows we are a community’, perhaps one of the commonest answers would have been that on any weekend in excess of 800-900 people come together to celebrate Mass as a parish. This doesn’t take away from everything else that happens on a weekly/daily basis, but that sign of being physically together, albeit at different times and locations, is a good description of St Francis’, Maidstone.
Then all of a sudden that changed – but that didn’t stop our community! In fact it has opened up some other opportunities. Last Sunday, once again the Mass was made available via YouTube. By Monday morning the posting had been viewed over 750 times. Whilst we aren’t all together physically, we can say we are certainly one community in sharing both spiritually and in prayer. The other great spin-off as well is that our community is growing, certainly geographically, including internationally. What is bringing us together, virtually, is our faith. That faith centred on Christ, who promised that where two or three gathered in His name, He would be in the midst of them. We gather in His name, and we can be certain that He, who isn’t constrained by physical boundaries, is right there with us.
As we continue in this period of uncertainty, it is comforting to know that our faith community is right there with us in all that we are experiencing. We continue to worship and pray, and to perhaps give thanks for the new and unexpected outcomes of change that come our way.
Last week many of the staff from our St Simon Stock Catholic School, came together for a virtual prayer and reflection service via social media. For me it was a very powerful expression of how much faith is still very much alive in our school and parish. I have adapted the prayer that we wrote for that service, to share with us as a parish community.
Loving Father, we have gathered today as a parish community in the certain knowledge of your promise that where two or three are gathered in your name, you are with us.
As we continue to face these testing times help us to be,
Your comfort to the anxious,
Your consolation to the grieving,
Your light in the darkness,
Your love in the lonely times,
Your hope in our future,
And your joy in our successes.
We look forward to the days when we will all be together again in our church, and ask you keep our community safe in the knowledge that you walk alongside us.
We make this prayer through Christ our Lord.
Let us give thanks and be cheered by the fact we are one strong community in the much bigger community of the universal Church.
Deacon Ian Black