It’s been over a year now since we began to feel the effects of lockdown and the disruption to our life as a parish. We did try, with limited success, to overcome the limitations with live services but even those proved too risky for us to continue. And so with careful thought and much imagination (and also technical finesse on the part of the rector) we found alternate ways of keeping up contacts with one another – at least some of us but not all. Philip has offered up to eleven services every week, with weekday morning prayer and compline and Sunday service. What is surprising is how large that audience has become as we have grown in online numbers as many have chosen these platforms as a way to keep in touch. Clearly, the medium is also the message and we need to keep alert to the possibilities raised by including virtual congregations in our community.
Most of you can understand how much has changed with the pandemic. The office runs online for the most part with Philip and Jack in several times a week and Maria as needed (she does not live within walking distance, so she largely works from home). Most communications are by phone or mail. The Advocacy Office is operating with a skeleton crew but an important service is still being delivered via email and the telephone. The situation there is also affected by our Advocacy Office Director, Ellen, having surgery and her plans for retirement next year.
The Labyrinth is almost complete from an extensive refurbishment but is not open to the public, an important service that has been in abeyance for over a year now. In a way, the public face of the parish is no longer recognizable. The building is there but it is empty with little obvious sign of life.
And yet, there is much going on that continues to demonstrate the vitality of our parish. We are blessed with an energetic Rector who has responded to the challenges and continued to steer a steady course through the pandemic. And in that he is supported, in spirit, if not in presence (via Zoom, email, telephone) by an equally energetic team who are now carefully working on how the parish will emerge from this long “pause” enforced by the most unusual of circumstances. Our finances have been carefully managed by Jack and Robyn and assisted by some unusual and unexpected bounties provided by increased parish contributions, good investment returns, diocesan financial assistance and government programs. The Spirit has really been looking after us in that regard. So be thankful.
There is nothing like enforced ‘rest’ to allow the opportunity for creative thought. Parish council, church committee, stewardship committee, Pendrellis Society in their deliberations have come up with new ideas and constructive approaches to how we can make the pandemic a stimulus for change and improvement. The music director has also been hard at work on how we might develop our musical program, revive our choir, and make music central to our worship. We have already established new links with local community organizations. Even now we are engaged in a food delivery program with Gordon Neighbourhood House and more discussions are taking places with other parishes and organisations. How can we make our parish more relevant to the wider community? How can we use our space more effectively? So while we might appear to be inactive, there is much going on in the parish at the present time.
We look forward with great excitement to engaging all of you more actively in our parish life. For those of you on your own and feeling displaced from your parish life we have not forgotten you. Clearly, we need better ways in future to stay connected with you.
As wardens, we hope that this summary will keep you informed and be welcome. Drina and I look forward to the joyous season of Easter and to meeting all of you soon in our beloved spiritual home.