Letter from (an empty) Vicarage
by Revd Derek Earis
My Grandmother used to love quoting proverbs so I was brought up with them from my earliest years. They are indeed one of the glories of the English language and express so much using so few words. The one that comes to my mind in the present situation is “necessity is the mother of invention”. I took the trouble of looking it up and the person who invented it was no less than the Greek philosopher Plato, so it has a good heritage from one of the foremost philosophers of any age.
Anyway finding our Churches closed because of the present crisis and thanks to the expertise of Churchwardens Ben Pugh at St Olave’s and James Ratcliffe at All Saints Pavement both churches had the idea of a “Virtual Service”. The first occasion was Mothering Sunday. In the case of All Saints Pavement this was pre-recorded on the Saturday but issued on the Sunday and at St Olave’s was live-streamed on the Sunday .
Both were much appreciated and brought many positive comments. St Olave’s was followed by around 70 on-line from start to finish with the added sophistication of those watching able to post on-line comments. The Peace was a particularly active session. It also happened to be Malcolm Grundy’s birthday so there were many birthday wishes as well. All Saints broadcast inspired a phone call from our old friend Ron Davies (former choirman and PCC member) in Portugal. Of course, in both cases there was preparation beforehand to get our digital records up-to-date so that we could alert church members and others to what was happening. But clearly this “invention” (for us) filled a very real gap and was an important means of bringing the congregation together. I understand that Holy Trinity Micklegate also streamed their service.
The broadcast of the Prime Minister on Monday 23rd has closed all churches and banned any gatherings more than two so continuing with virtual services in this way is not longer possible. However once again “necessity is the mother of invention” and both Ben Pugh and James Ratcliffe separately have come up with ways to continue a “virtual service” – by people recording contributions in their own home and this then being edited by Ben ( for St Olave’s) and James ( for All Saints Pavement) to provide a familiar and helpful liturgy and to keep congregational members in touch. We are most grateful to them. Many details need to be worked out but do “watch this space” and if possible we will continue offering something at the usual time next Sunday on YouTube for St Olaves and on All Saints Pavement Facebook page.
St Denys and St Lawrence were also inventive in their various ways of getting out their Mothering Sunday plants. Those who received them were very touched that they had gone to so much trouble to remember them. Both those churches have also been working on their digital register in order to keep in touch with the congregation and be of service. St Helen’s in its ideal position had undertaken to be the church in the city centre open for private prayer. I have been told by several people how much this was appreciated and found as a sanctuary. Now, sadly that opening of St Helen’s must also cease for the time being. There are still many resources for private prayer and devotion and I commend them to you. A list has been provided elsewhere in “Touch Base” from the resources listed on the Church of England website. Do make use of them.
So, yes, necessity is the mother of invention. But we must remember that all of this comes not from our human resources but from our God given ones. His Holy Spirit puts creative ideas into our minds and enables us to carry them out. In a time of crisis it is good that we can see the Holy Spirit active in our churches not only in prayer and worship but in a determination to help one another and the wider community in whatever way we can, both spiritually and practically, to cope with the present crisis. We are very conscious of the pain of the wider community with so many businesses having to close temporarily and so many people’s lives disrupted. Yet we rejoice that God’s love is being proclaimed, that our Christian communities with God’s help are rising to the challenge and we know that we have a safe stronghold in God’s mighty power whatever the “changes and the chances of this mortal life”.
For me the words of that glorious hymn “All my hope on God is founded” keep coming to mind. In the sublime and moving poetry of Robert Bridges it sums up so much of what our response should be in the present situation. :-
All my hope on God is founded;
He doth still my trust renew
Me through change and chance he guideth,
Only good and only true.
Calls my heart to be his own.
And all of this comes as we prepare for Holy Week and Easter. It will be a Holy Week and Easter like no other. We do not yet know quite how we will give it expression but do keep in touch with us to know what is happening and how the Holy Spirit is helping us to adapt. For here is the last and most powerful symbol of all, that on which the whole Christian faith is founded. So we proclaim that the persecuted and dying Lord triumphs over death and evil and rises again. Nothing can defeat him. No evil, change or chance can deflect his victory. That which destroys will itself be destroyed and Christ will rise again.
In this process of redemption he teaches us about his love. So, in the frightening forces which surround us at present we also are being taught about Christ’s love and our need to care for and support one another. All your clergy, readers and churchwardens join together in sending our good wishes to you and your families at this time. Maybe all of us are also learning a new way for our world – a better way, shunning the selfishness and greed which has so characterised our world society. For all of this we must be open to God’s guidance and aware of his risen power – and, yes, be creative in Him for “necessity is the mother of invention”.
May this Easter be full of hope for you all,