Newsletter 6th February 2022

Dear Parishioners

When we hear the word “convert”, we usually think of someone who goes from belonging to one faith to joining another or from one Christian denomination to another. But “conversion” has a wider meaning that applies to every believer and that is the sense of a spiritual “awakening.” Our spiritual life can drift along in a kind of lethargy and then something happens to awaken us. Our readings today at Mass capture three such moments of spiritual awakening in three very different places: a Temple, a highway, a seashore. 

Spiritual awakening can come in so many different forms. Our culture tends to put us into a spiritual coma. Then, something happens such as illness, a death of a loved one, the birth of a new baby, the discovery of a lump on our body, and suddenly we have a spiritual awakening to a deeper part of life that we call God.

Spiritual awakenings can come in so many different forms. It might be in church or Temple as with Isaiah. It might come as our plans are interrupted as with St. Paul. It might come when the Lord does an unexpectedly great thing through our simple obedience to His word, as with Peter. A spiritual awakening comes often when we least expect it and in so many different ways that will be unique to us. But it is never given for us alone. It is also for others too.

In the story of the man who was healed by Jesus and who then wanted to follow Christ, Jesus told him instead to go home to his family and let them see what the Lord has done in his life. At some point in our own lives each one of us is given the grace to know deeply some dimension of the mystery of God. That truth about God is what we bring to others and what others need to hear as well. As with Isaiah, St. Paul, and St Peter, in whatever way God has touched our lives and awakened us from our spiritual slumber, it is not for ourselves alone. It is also to help us to lead others to God. 

I announced last weekend at all the Masses, the changes now being put in place for Acts of Public Worship by all the Diocese’ of England and Wales, following the lifting of the Governments Plan B Restrictions, on January 27th. These are as follows:

  • There is still a risk associated with gathering for sustained periods of time in enclosed spaces and therefore there needs to be continued caution by us all against infection. This however has to be balanced against the need to move forward safely towards a normal lifestyle and these two positions will always be held in tension. The holding in tension is the key to living safely with Covid-19, namely keeping infections from a virus that cannot be eliminated to levels which minimise disruption to people’s lives.
  • The Church in England and Wales fully endorses the vaccination programme and encourages all people to be vaccinated.
  • There is no longer the requirement to book for Mass nor use the NHS QR Code or leave contacting details on the sign in sheet when attending an act of public worship.
  • Those attending an act of public worship may continue to wear face coverings, but it is now not mandatory to do so.
  • The clergy and those assisting them will still sanitise hands before administering Holy Communion and the Faithful are encouraged to do the same upon entering and leaving a church building.
  • There is no longer the need for formal social distancing however in the short term we shall at St. Mary’s be continuing to offer a designated area of the church, when it is possible to do so, for those who may feel more comfortable keeping a social distance from other members of the congregation. We ask that everyone is sensitive to the needs of others around them.
  • We shall continue to ensure there is good ventilation of the church after Mass but there is no longer the necessity for church cleaning to take place directly after each Mass. However regular church cleaning will continue to take place in the normal way, as previously done before the pandemic.
  • Holy Water stoups may now be refilled and ours have all been filled from last weekend. The Holy Water will be changed weekly, and we shall continue to offer the dispensers with small plastic bottles to buy for those who wish to take Holy Water home with them.
  • As we return to a more normal mode of celebrating Mass. The sign of Peace may now be exchanged, as previously. However Holy Communion for the time being must continue to be given under one kind only (The Sacred Host).
  • We hope to resume home visits to the sick and housebound by Eucharist Ministers, but this will be highlighted in greater detail after my meeting with them.
  • Whilst the reduction of restrictions brings about a more normal way of living, the Covid-19 virus is still in circulation and this should be in all our minds as we participate in the liturgical life of the Church, holding in balance the need of personal safety and taking responsibility for that safety. The Church and our diocese strongly suggest that those who test positive or are unwell do not attend public worship and isolate as recommended previously, even when the legal requirement to do so has been lifted.

With prayer and best wishes for the coming week ahead,

Your parish priest and friend,

Fr Jonathan

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2022 6th February – Newsletter – Download

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Message from Bishops Conference of England and Wales