This week the Archbishop wrote a letter to all the priests in which he said:
“The past sixteen months have taken their toll on each of us in different ways. We are, hopefully, moving out of the most severe experience of the pandemic, but we still have a way to go. As I said during the Mass of Chrism this year, we need to undertake careful discernment about the future: What have we learnt? What do we want to hold on to? What do we want to let go of? How can we encourage people to return to full participation in the sacraments? What can we learn from, and how can we harness, the creativity of our parish communities during lockdown?”
I think it is good for all of us here at St Thomas’s in Canterbury to mull over these questions. As a parish and as individual members of this parish what have we learnt about ourselves? What have we discovered or learnt? What is really important? What can we let go of? The question that some of my priest friends ask is; “Will people return after lockdown?’
I have been heartened by those who have faithfully volunteered each week. Through their volunteering some parishioners have got to know each other better and meet new people. It is clear to me that the church building is a wonderful place of prayer especially when we have been able to have the Blessed Sacrament exposed.
The pause in regular life has given me an opportunity to realise how much I and Father John miss contact with the schools and interaction with pupils. We have had to use online communication in the preparation of the children for First Communion and Reconciliation and for adults who are being prepared for Baptism and full communion in the Church. It is significant that we only had five children for Reconciliation and Communion.
The live streaming of Mass has been a wonderful new resource and our new website that came on line at the beginning of the first lockdown has been a tremendous help. We are beginning now to be able to visit once again those who are unable to come Mass and bring them Holy Communion.
Financially it has been a struggle and I would like to thank the Finance Committee for their sterling work. We have had to put some projects on hold but have decided to completely renew the shop. This week we received a report on the electrical survey carried out last month which means we need to do £5,000 of work within the month. There are also building fabric issues that need to be addressed.
The Gospel today reminds us that is it God who provides the growth. Jesus gives us two parables of planting and growing. We need to remember God enables the growth. We plant and water but have to let God do the rest. This a time to listen and be led by the spirit to do what God is asking of us and at the same time to realise that it is Gods grace and love that brings about new life.