One of the graces of church attendance is to meet and be greeted by fellow pilgrims in this ever more challenging journey in life. Life’s increasing challenges of acute isolation and subsequent loneliness mean that a welcome smiling face can make a huge difference. As we now move from churches of stewardship which ensured your safety during an unprecedented pandemic, I hope we are now returning to normality. There are differences however. We are all different people. Covid has changed the world. The responsibility is more on us as a parish community to reach out. We have done this wonderfully during lockdown, but now a new church, a new challenge. People still need the Sacraments, the sense of belonging, the warmth of welcome. The new face of a student from home or abroad; the newly arrived family in Durham. The list is varied but the need is the same – a place to be. One of the significant changes during lockdown was the link the webcam provided. Some found the webcam an important conduit between church and housebound. However, there is a growing sense that they are now being overused and may be a reason for not returning to church. Church is community. Church is people.
Religious practice is not something solely limited to my own preference for whatever church I wish to link in with on the computer, especially if I am physically able to attend the parish in person. It undoubtedly has been a blessing for many who are sick or physically unable to attend church. However, there is a growing fear that the webcam is impacting on numbers attending Mass, especially at the weekends! It seems also that for some, it might be a more comfortable alternative than going to church! We welcome Bishop Robert to our parish this Sunday for Confirmations. We pray especially for the many young people receiving this Sacrament from this parish and the surrounding parishes. I would like to pray especially that they find a welcome in the church, and that parents and parish will continue to be supportive. “This conference on religious education seems to your humble servant the last word in absurdity. We are told by a delightful ‘expert’ that we ought not really to teach our children about God lest we rob them of the opportunity of making their own discovery of God, and lest we corrupt their young minds by our own superstitions. If we continue along these lines the day will come when some expert will advise us not to teach our children the English Language since we rob them thereby of the possibility of choosing the German, French or Japanese languages as possible alternatives. Don’t these good people realise that they are reducing the principle of freedom to an absurdity?” Reinhold Niebuhr, ‘Leaves from the Notebook of a Tamed Cynic.