April 2021

New wine in old skins?

One of the simple joys I find at the moment is to go round the garden first thing in the morning and spot the new growth. And every day, there is new growth - whether it is shrubs shooting, bulbs appearing, seedlings starting in the greenhouse or whatever. It is just wonderful to see nature working its own magic. And it is highly unpredictable magic: there is a rhododendron that has been in flower in the garden for the last few weeks.

It is, I feel, not insignificant that this time of new growth is coming at the same time as Easter. For Easter is - and must always be - a sign of growth. There is a wonderful instance of this in our own Cathedral, where the earliest piece of stained glass - not originally in the Cathedral but taken there when discarded by All Saints - is an image of the crucifixion. But the cross on which Jesus is hanging is green - the sign of growth. (Once the Cathedral is fully open and you can wander where you want, go and take a look: it is on the south side of the Lady Chapel.) Jesus himself said, ;Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.’

Easter is the time when we as a church remind ourselves - and I fear we do need to remind ourselves - that we are about growth, about drawing others to the light and the love of Christ. 

A number of people have said to me, talking about church life, ‘When will we be going back to normal?’ And I fear I have always said that the church has never been about going back: it has always been about going forward - forward in faith, in trust and in love. And there have been plenty of instances of this during the lockdown. There has been our YouTube worship, which has regularly drawn together hundreds of people - and I mean ‘hundreds’ - from all over the deanery and well beyond. (The fan mail from Nova Scotia was dangerously flattering!) Our Zoom worship has again brought together people from a far wider area than would ever be the case with normal parish worship. And with both YouTube and Zoom, we have all experienced and appreciated a greater variety of worship led a by a greater variety of people, with some of the most inspiring worship being led by people  unbedecked by dog collars. And then there has been the outdoor worship. It is, to be honest, not very often that you come across real joy in worship, but with outdoor worship, that has certainly been the case with astonishing regularity. Instances spring especially to mind, such as the service in Craswall Priory, the Carol Service at Clodock and the Christmas Day service in Llanveynoe. Christmas Day! Outdoors! In Llanveynoe! 

Many people have said to me that what they really liked about outdoor worship was the fact they they could see each others’ faces. I have been really pleased to hear this, and have stored up all these comments in the case of any arguments about taking pews out of churches!

This month, we are starting ‘real’ worship again with a service every Sunday, preferably outdoors. And it will be good to be able to worship in each other’s presence again. It will be especially good to be able to celebrate Communion again. And I hope that this will be a new start. A new start for answering the questions, ‘How should we worship? Where should we worship? When should we worship?’ A sad answer would be ‘Just let’s go back without question to doing the things the way we did them in the distant past.’ A brave answer would be ‘Let us see together how we can move forward from all we have discovered and learned about ourselves and others during the past year and see how we can better make Christ’s church grow.’

Let’s be brave.