I’ve always thought that Postman Pat is the real priest in Greendale. And, in recent weeks, whether I’ve been delivering meals or prayers for Holy Week, I’ve come to believe that’s quite true. Pat gives us an inspiring model for priestly ministry. True, Reverend Timms has a vital role, but Pat is the one who embraces the community, enables it to flourish, cares for the lonely and calms the fearful.
In these strange, isolating times, the church faces radical challenge and change. The way we care for the lonely and enable the community to flourish, while nurturing a sense of togetherness is no easy task, especially in a rural community. Since restrictions on social movements began, it’s been easy to feel a sense of inadequacy faced with such challenge, and opportunity.
Here in Newnham, closing services was difficult, but closing the building, and then churchyard was so deflating. But the barriers to ministry are found mainly in our imaginations rather than our social restrictions. And despite difficulty, there’s been much to celebrate.
We’ve organised volunteers from around the community to help the most vulnerable; help varies from shopping to paper deliveries and keeping allotments alive. We’ve given craft bags to families who may be struggling with home schooling. We also offer a remembrance pack to people who cannot attend funerals, a simple reflection giving time to lighting a candle, sharing stories and prayer. Most days I deliver meals around the benefice. One man said to me, ‘we pray “Give us today our daily bread” – never before has this prayer meant so much to us.’
One lady said, ‘I feel more connected now than I did before!’ This is wonderful, and also, enlightening. It reveals that so much good can be done in these times. It also reveals that what we had before may not have been as good as we thought. Bonhoeffer said, ‘community is not a given,’ but community is a gift of Christ and is maintained by the prayers of its members for one another. I think, in these strange and isolating times, we’re realising that this is true.
And so, as I continue my deliveries, I do so with prayerful hope and lively imagination, wondering, how will all this shape us as the people of God, who embrace our community, enable it to flourish, who care for the lonely and calm the fearful? How can we share the gift of Christ, and grow together, though apart?