During this period, where we are unable to meet together in church, Fr Ray Hemingray has shared his thought for today, Sunday 5th July 2020.
The easing of restrictions on church services leads me, in a roundabout way, to choose ‘Sacraments’ as my theme for this Thought for the Day.
The Church of England recognises two sacraments as being instituted by Jesus – Baptism and the Eucharist. At the end of Matthew’s Gospel, we find Jesus saying to his disciples: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew, Mark and Luke all record the institution of the Eucharist by Jesus on the night before he died. For example: “Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” (Luke 22:19-20).
The Roman Catholic Church recognises seven ‘sacraments’ in all: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist (Communion), Penance (Reconciliation, Confession), Matrimony (Marriage), Holy Orders (Ordination to the diaconate, priesthood, or episcopate) and Anointing of the Sick and Dying (formerly called by the Roman Catholic Church “Extreme Unction).
During the current pandemic, the ‘sacraments’ that are affecting most people are the Eucharist and the occasional offices of Baptism and Marriage. There have also been restrictions regarding funerals. From this weekend we are going to be allowed to have Communion services, but there will be restrictions as regards social distancing and sanitization; it will not be possible for some time to share the wine; and we will have to be scrupulous about cleaning in the churches. So it is not going to be easy, and it may not be possible to accommodate everyone who would like to attend the first Eucharists that we celebrate post-lockdown, due to the restrictions on spacing. The Rector will shortly be announcing when the first Eucharists will take place (if he has not already done so in today’s newsletter). So watch out for news of when Eucharist services will resume. I know a lot of people are looking forward to receiving Communion again.
We have had to suspend baptisms during the lockdown, but it will now be possible to have a baptism, provided that not more than 30 attend. Likewise we can now have a wedding or a funeral in church, provided that not more than 30 attend. These services will all have to be well-supervised, as regards distancing and sanitisation, for the time being.
We had at least 20 weddings booked for this year and almost all of them have had to be postponed till at least next year (including my daughter Caroline’s wedding – so I have a bit more time to save up!). So let us all pray for all the couples whose plans have had to be so dramatically changed.
Of the other ‘sacraments’, another topical one is Ordination (Holy Orders). Our own Keir Dow, having finished his ordination training, should have been ordained at the Petertide Ordinations, planned for last weekend, but unfortunately cancelled. Please pray for Keir as he looks forward hopefully to being ordained Deacon at Michaelmas (the end of September). Keir has joined the Kings Cliffe group of churches, but will have to begin his ministry as a layman until the Bishop can ordain him.
Up until now, Visiting the Sick (and anointing those who are sick or near to death) has not been possible for the clergy during the lockdown. The clergy have not been able to visit the sick in hospital or in nursing homes. We hope it will soon be possible to continue this important ministry. In the meantime we try to keep in touch with many members of our congregations, including particularly the elderly and those who live alone.
All Confirmation services will have been delayed during the lockdown. We look forward to the time when we can prepare new candidates and present them to the Bishop for confirmation.
The only ‘sacrament’ left for me to mention is Penance. This involves confession, reconciliation with God and absolution. We don’t get many requests for confession in the Church of England, but of course it has always been an important feature of the Roman Catholic Church. I am reminded of the story of an 82 year old Roman Catholic lady who went to confession. “I wish to confess to adultery with an 18 year old gardener”, she said to the priest. “When was this, Mary?”, asked the priest. “60 years ago”, said Mary, “but, as much as I enjoyed it, I still feel that I need to ask for forgiveness.”
Whatever you are planning to do during the coming week, don’t leave it too late!
The Peace of the Lord be with you all.