I called up to our local church tonight, a church for which I’m undertaking an oral history project. I’m recording the memories of the older members of the congregation, those who hark right back to the beginnings of the church and its parish in which I live.
Of equal interest are the personal stories, how all of these different people, of different denominations and from different parts of the country, ended up belonging to this new Anglican Church serving this new housing estate.
I know this idea had been broached before, but for whatever reason it hadn’t got off the ground, and several stalwarts of the congregation had since departed. I volunteered because I hated the thought of these stories being forever lost, and sadly a few people passed away before I could speak with them, while others have succumbed to dementia. As a result I’ve targeted the older ones first. Sometimes it feels like I’m racing against the clock, there’s this line of people marching towards a cliff edge and I’m running to try and keep up.
Anyway, I digress a little. Tonight should have been an evening Eucharist service in the chapel, except when I got there it was in darkness. The priest was in the main church building, however, where the candles on the altar were lit.
Apparently, in the ongoing battle against this spreading Coronavirus, all Church of England services, like most other mass meetings, (no pun intended), throughout the UK, have been cancelled. Cancelled, that is, in relation to members of the congregation, for in every church the priests are still performing these services alone.
Allowed to sit in on tonight’s service, the echoing litany was recited in the shadows, accompanied only by the cars passing by on the main road. I’ve always said that a church has a whole different feel about it in the evening, and tonight was no different, especially so in this intimate setting.
I think it’s profoundly moving that, no matter what your faith is, or even if you’re religious or not, these priests, throughout the country, are conducting all services in solitude and faithfulness, mostly unseen and unknown, praying for their beleaguered and beset communities that are continuing the fight against this virus just beyond those liminal church doors.