As we come towards the end of our 8th week of lockdown, locked out of our Church & our workspaces, I read a fine article in the Tablet last week about prisoners in their lockdown, terrified of catching the virus in establishments where there is no social distancing, either for inmates or for prison officers. Like the victims of the pandemic & migrants living in holding camps at Calais, prisoners can too easily become a statistic; over 32,000 deaths through coronavirus; 1200 migrants in Calais awaiting an easing of restrictions not to shop but to live; 82,676 prisoners in jails in UK. Some shoots of new growth & resurrection; the Shannon Trust sending into prison materials for the 50% of prisoners who have a reading age of below 11; the national figure is 15%. Storybook Dads is still finding ways to help prisoners to read & to record bedtime stories for their children. Fine Cell Work was set up to enable prisoners to produce stunning pieces of needlework from their cells; they sent in 664 sewing packs on the eve of the lockdown. For Lee, prison life was transformed when an officer left a pencil in his cell by mistake. He began to draw; when paper ran out, he drew on prison issue soap. Officers & fellow inmates began to give him photographs of their loved ones to draw, paying him with food & toiletries. On release, he won a coveted place at the Royal Drawing School. “when we clap for the NHS at 8pm every Thursday “says Kerry Huck of Shannon Trust “I’m clapping for the prison staff too.”..& will you? for staff & for our fellow prisoners?..
..for those of you, like me, missing the live action of a Sat evening with Match of the Day, the BBC are doing their best to compensate by showing repeats; however, I’m discovering that, because I remember so little, it is like watching some epic matches as if for the first time; I am sharing with you in Outreach some sections of earlier homilies as a reminder for some, & a first time for others, as a prayerful means of encouragement, with steady reoccurring themes of migrancy & journey; little did we realise only 8wks ago that we would find ourselves, discover our real selves, out of the harbour of our Church & on a journey in life & faith unprecedented, as we become “the Covid generation” “I was there!” as we quoted Max Boyce a few weeks ago..not just as witnesses but as crew..this weeks “repeat” is from the Epiphany 5 Jan 2020.. “our feast is the story of a day in the life of migrants; three migrated from Nazareth to Bethlehem as the result of a census; shepherds on a hillside beyond Sproxton, itinerant mendicants /nomads, were called to the manger as the first visitors/ guests..& three kings, called inspired to travel a vast & dangerous distance to meet a different king of a different faith, whose life & importance was predicted they thought, not in tea leaves, but in the stars; ridiculed by fellow members of their national society of astronomers, they set out..a feast of migrants for migrants, & for those of us prepared to set out for the manger..to leave the baggage of our usual traditional Christmas behind & travel light..I wonder how many of you, who have been here since Christmas Eve, have taken the courage to step up to our manger & offer the greatest gift you could ever give him..& he to you..I wonder?..& to listen to our angels. I am drawn back to 29 Sept 2019 feast of St Michael & All Angels; World Day of Prayer for migrants & refugees, when Pope Francis blessed a new sculpture by Timothy Schmalz “angels unaware” depicts shallow boat full of migrants of all ages all standing/squeezed, hoping for best & fearing worst..a feast today of migrants for migrants, three kings for three outsiders “God speaks through “remember our logo for this, the Church Year of the Word?..where God speaks through gospel, & through you every-day..& today through this weave & the importance of migrancy..our local migrancy in the parish amalgamation, where journey is much, much more than travelling a short distance of an extra 3 miles..[our Catholicisms migrancy now as we are locked out of our Church, a journey much much more than just being excluded from a building, a new way of life & of being Church in person] & what of “our” migrants in tented villages outside Calais, visited by one of “ours” in last few wks, by Helen Moss, Louis Moss our young organists mother..a story of a day in the life of Helen Moss..prospective migrants meeting hostility from today’s Herod’s “perturbed & so was the whole of Jerusalem” & others too close to home to name..disturbing the status quo on which insiders prosper “we’ve always done it this way” who see presence of migrants in UK as a threat rather than an opportunity “no room at the inn” as many would have voted for their exclusion, or for a points system of entry, grading their economic worth to us before allowing entry; a doctor yes; a nurse perhaps; [& now in Covid a nurse & a bus driver from the West Indies or the Philippines who have lost their lives, having caught the virus at work.. absolutely yes!]; a carwash cleaner who lives in a stable, four to a room, no thank you..”angels unaware”..the infant Christ today is shown to all nations, celebrating the gifts & worth of migrancy..Christ himself sent by his Father, put at risk on his journey of migration from divinity to humanity; despised & rejected by the very people he came to save..ridiculed “this surely is the carpenters’ son?..& he could work no miracles there; he was amazed at their lack of faith” Our Lord’s eventual exclusion deportation was through a puppet trial & the death sentence..& his reaction? “Father forgive them for they know not what they do..” “angels unaware”..[..how many angels have you been in contact with so far today?..or they with you?” ]
In these extraordinary times of change crisis & challenge in our life & faith, our Community is deeply blessed to have two young men in formation; Br Edmund who has just received his third perseverance as a novice, & our Portugese postulant Tiago, who was clothed in the habit on Tuesday evg & has been given the monastic name Francisco..please pray for them, & for their families in their sacrifice in offering their sons to Our Lord in His service, & for our Community, that we treasure them lovingly as we & they reshape one another in our way of life. Please pray for Judith Spence, daughter of Bill [& Joan] Spence, who died peacefully at home last Friday morning after battling against a virulent form of cancer. Geraldine Anne & Duncan were with her. Please keep Bill in prayer, in respite care in a home in Alne. Once the lockdown is lifted, we will celebrate a number of Masses to remember those loved ones of our Parish who have died in recent weeks for whom we have been unable to celebrate a Requiem Mass. Could I remind you please that this coming Thursday is the Feast of the Ascension? It is normally a Holyday of Obligation; I hope you will find some time for special prayer on the day Jesus, having appeared to his disciples as the Risen Christ for 40days, left them for heaven, confident they [& now us] were fit well & able to continue his work of care & mission.
Remember please, & share news of, our Church food initiative, set up by Rev Catherine Reid & myself with great help from Deb & Ray in the Village Shop; those in need can go in & quietly ask for a bag of food essentials, which Deb will prepare & then deliver to the persons doorstep; our two Churches [increasingly one Church] will source funds to meet the cost. It has begun gently & well, so please let it be known. A new initiative began in the locality last Tuesday “Community Kitchen” where meals, prepared & cooked in Hovingham by generous volunteers, are delivered on Tuesdays each week to those in special need. Some of our own in our Village are beneficiaries. Middlesbrough Food Bank remains open & in desperate need of help, now offered direct to them by cash transfer, or by cash in an envelope please, posted at St Benedict’s House. Please keep all of these intentions & many more in your prayers. With my love & prayers. Keep safe. Fr Bede