It was with some trepidation that I went back into Holy Cross Church. I parked down the side, near the Cardale Chapel door, & gingerly went in, not quite knowing what I’d find.
It was strange, just as we’d left it, two months ago. All a bit “Marie Celeste”-ish. The last time I’d been in was to record four services, from Mothering Sunday to Easter, and everything was still there – the notice sheets printed out for Mothering Sunday by the door to be collected, the icon on the altar, held up by a pile of Bibles, a banner made by Junior church with all their hand prints on, an odd Palm Cross or two and – most poignantly – a little vase of desiccated daffodils we’d had to represent Easter, now long dead. It was dispiriting.
Our church buildings remain closed (thank you to all those who have been keeping an eye on them!), but the Bishop of Chichester has directed his clergy to now go in once a week to pray/film/stream. My initial response was to think that why should I have special privileges to go in when others from the congregations – with a much closer & longer association with these places than me – couldn’t. After reflection, though, I thought that maybe if I recorded an introduction to our weekly broadcast service in church, then maybe it would be a way of people sharing in worship, and “touching base” with our sacred spaces.
So I found myself in Holy Cross, filming equipment in hand, feeling dispirited.
Then I saw it. Last time I was in, it was Lent & all the Altar frontals were purple, the colour of the Season of Lent and mourning. But now they were white, the colour of Festival, the colour of Eastertide. Linda Frampton, the Holy Cross Sacristan, unbeknown to me had (just before the final lockdown!) been in & changed them, which involved moving c 300 hymn books which had been piled up on the Frontals’ Chest where they are stored. It actually made me cry. I phoned her up to thank her (thanks again now, Linda!). In the midst of all this inertia & Lockdown, the life & life-cycle of the Church, as symbolised by these Altar Frontals was continuing, gently & unobtrusively. Our buildings might be closed, but our Community & Prayer lives continue, and will, if anything, become stronger & more meaningful – and valued – in the time of liberation to come.
So. In the meantime I will go round doing recordings in St. Michael’s, St. Margaret’s and Holy Cross. And as I go, I will leave flowers as a symbol of new life. They will have died when I go back, but no matter. I will replace them until all of us are together again.Much love and many prayers, Fr. John, Rector