On this fourth week after Pentecost, the theme of our Scripture readings is – welcome. ‘Welcome’ is a persistent theme throughout scripture, and welcome and hospitality for everyone, including the travelling stranger, was central to community life in ancient communities. One of the key hospitality stories is of the patriarch Abraham and his wife Sarah who welcomed three travelling strangers, providing them with food and drink for the journey, before it was revealed that these strangers were in fact angels who came with a message of hope and the impossible promise of a son and heir. The key to this story is that we never know when we might be entertaining angels! Angels don’t normally arrive with great wings and trumpets to bring a message from God, but in ordinary people who come to us doing ordinary things.
One of the really difficult things over the past months has been the difficulty of sharing hospitality with those we love, but also the loss of our regular church community life. One of the other key losses for our All Saints community of course, has been the interruption to our Safe Shelter program, where we offered hospitality to men who sleep rough during the cold winter months. Although it was of course, impossible to continue this ministry under COVID restrictions, and in a strange way out of care for the health of the men, it has been a sad loss, and we look forward to resuming this important ministry of hospitality in the future. In the meantime, as we sit in our warm houses and sleep in our warm beds, please keep these men in your prayers.
As our COVID committee continues its essential work of preparing for re-opening and the resumption of Mass in the near future, I remind you that Church may be different and not as we expect for some time. Yes, we will need to have a booking system, so that people are not turned away at the door when we reach our socially distanced capacity, although we will be devising a system that cares for and accommodates those who are not internet-savvy. We may not be able to sit where we like, and there will be clear social distancing in the pews. We may not be able to sing together at first, and we will not be able to have a choir for some time, as singing has been identified as a possible super-spreader of infection. Our Diocese and our Parish Council will continue to stay across the latest advice at all times, and as things open up (providing that there is no second wave) we will make the necessary changes.
In this situation, the principle of hospitality and welcome requires us to care for the most vulnerable among us, and to keep them as safe as we possibly can. This is why the Diocese and our Parish Council are exercising caution about re-opening. During the transition period, when are able to worship together under some strict guidelines, we will continue to offer an online presence. If you feel vulnerable coming back to Church and mixing with other people, or if your health is compromised, you are most welcome to continue worshipping online.
Face to face hospitality is difficult in this COVID world, both for us personally in our homes, but also for the Church. And yet it must remain a key feature of our life together. And we must not forget! Angels come to us in ordinary ways and in ordinary people, and as we entertain them we never know what message they might bring to us from God!
In peace, Mother Lynda