In these days of closed churches and social isolation as a result of the Coronavirus many churches are doing remarkably creative things to live out and celebrate faith. ‘Live streaming’ has become a common word in church circles! We see clergy in their living rooms celebrating a Mass or leading a service, sometimes by themselves, sometimes with other members of their household. It can be a strange sight to see the priest sometimes wearing full vestments celebrating and even preaching alone at a coffee table in a living room or in an office. Sometimes it is simple and moving.
We’re taking a different approach at St Chrysostom’s. Mass is being said by our priests but it is being said privately and these masses will not be streamed. The priests are offering Mass on behalf of the people, prayerfully and carefully away from the gaze or pressure of the camera, and not in a way which emphasises that priests can receive the sacrament at present and laity cannot.
This is a time of separation from one another, a fragmentation of the Christian community for the safety and good of all. We cannot meet together to worship, we cannot shake hands, sing together, or share bread and wine together. This is a great loss, especially for us at St Chrysostom’s who as a very varied people are united in our focal act of worship – Holy Mass.
We will not be gathered as Church for several weeks or months. In this time we are exploring how we are church in a different world. We are seeing more and more that church is not a building, and not the preserve of the priests or bishops. Although we don’t feel it appropriate for us to ‘stream’ a celebration of Mass we are creating worship for our Facebook page each day and often it is lay lead. We use elements of our tradition but adapt to these strange circumstances. Lay and ordained, are taking a lead in this, and there has been a tremendous response. Our Easter Vigil was entirely led by lay people – and how beautiful it was. In addition at 5pm Vespers is said by differing people in their homes day by day.
We are also discovering that we can be people who can, though apart, encourage one another to lift our hearts in worship, to give thanks – to be a thankful, eucharistic, people, though isolated from the Mass. This attitude we are finding is beginning to be pervading life, not just at something we watch, or through something we receive. We are discovering the Eucharist, the Mass, to be a way of living each moment.
Finally, in the face of the anxiety and fear of the coronavirus we are discovering Christ among us in the inclusive care of NHS workers, and other carers and in the love, attention and support within our own church members.