Touch Base July / August 2020 - Lord of all Beauty

Touch Base is the parish magazine for the York City Centre Churches of All Saints Pavement | St Denys | St Helen with St Martin | St Olave

Touch Base Contents
July/August 2020

Lord of all Beauty

O God, whose beauty is beyond our imagining and whose power we cannot comprehend: show us your glory as far as we can grasp it and shield us from knowing more than we can bear until we may look upon you without fear; through Jesus Christ our Saviour.

Please send contributions for the September edition of Touch Base by 23 August

For the time being Touch Base will continue as an online magazine and be hosted on the St Olave’s website. The intention is that as soon as the City Centre Churches website is ready it will move there but in the meantime we are most grateful for its temporary home and for Tina Sanderson who is helping to edit and publish it. For the time being please send any contributions either directly to Tina at website@stolaveschurch.org.uk or to Derek Earis at derek.earis@stolaveschurch.org.uk.

Letter from an Empty Vicarage

by Revd Canon Dr Malcolm Grundy

Malcolm's Tool BoxThank you for all your recent good wishes. It has been quite a week for remembering.

I lost my mains electric drill when we moved to our new house five years ago. Cleaning out my garage last week I saw there was a ‘secret compartment’ in the top of my very classy tool cabinet. It had been covered in a pile of ‘essential’ junk. Then I remembered where I had put the drill, being sure I would remember when we arrived at this house! I replaced it with a smart new cordless one, so now have two drills. No ‘hole-ier than thou’ jokes please.

This season of Trinity gives us space for the green of growth as we say about our liturgical colour. My enforced leisure is giving more time for novels alongside the usual necessary reading. Many bring back long-forgotten memories. I like to be in Scandinavia for one, The USA for another and somewhere else for a third. I know more about the drug culture of Oslo and Stockholm than I hope many of my friends there. The internal workings of the Los Angeles Police Force could be my specialist subject on Mastermind!

When I come to what I think is a familiar bible passage, either for study or in the lessons for the next Sunday it is all too easy to skim over the detail, the background and the context thinking I have done all this before. There are certainly the times when I have had a brainwave type of moment and say to myself, ‘I will always remember that’ about a passage, only to find I had completely forgotten my little gem. A little more reading soon reveals that later research has had much more of interest about whatever it is, and of course, I say to myself ‘I will always remember that’!

In many of my novels, alongside the main story I often get hit by an author’s occasional phrase. One has just allowed their character to say that they hate photographs as they remind them of times and events better forgotten. Having just rummaged through photographs of my 50 clerical years, this certainly made me question the value of uncritical nostalgia.

Many of the settings for favourite novels do stir long-forgotten memories in me. Others begin a new train of thought. Some shine a light on towns and cities I thought I knew. Some reveal a darker side. Yet others provoke the natural revulsion and on occasion empathy for those caught in drug trafficking or in the prison of addiction; few help to send me to sleep.

One of my bookmarks links my reaction to these novels with parts of faith long forgotten but which I should now remember, this bookmark just says, ‘Messages from the Soul’.

Malcolm Grundy

FOOTNOTE BY DEREK EARIS

In his “Letter from an Empty Vicarage” Malcolm gives thanks for the recent good wishes. As I’m sure most of you already know these arose from Malcolm’s celebration of the 50th anniversary of his Ordination on Trinity Sunday, when he preached and celebrated at the St Olave’s online service. We would like to thank Malcolm for all his encouragement, work and wisdom on our behalf well into his “retirement”. We are most grateful for his generosity in giving so much time to helping and supporting St Olave’s and the other city centre churches. DE

A message from the Revd Liz Hassall

Revd Liz Hassall will be the new priest-in-charge from December

Greetings to all of you. One of the very strangest parts of lockdown for me has been accepting the role of Priest-in-Charge of your group of churches without having met anyone on the team face to face. All I can say is that your parish representatives come across very well on Zoom! Although I will not be arriving until much later in the year, I’ve been asked to introduce myself briefly now so I am more than just a name.

For the last seven years, I’ve been living on top of the hill at Crayke, just a few miles north of York. Our house looks over the Vale of York and the minster can be seen silhouetted against one of the big power stations. I live with my husband, Phil, and two children: Toby (age 12) and Jenny (age 8 and a half). There would usually be a cat or two, but we are currently without a resident feline. This may change…

I have been in rural ministry since I was ordained, first at the Headland Benefice at Flamborough Head, and then here in a group of seven small village churches. I grew up in a fairly rural area in North Staffordshire, so feel very at home here. However, I have previously lived in York for some years as well. I used to walk through the parishes of St Denys and All Saints, Pavement daily on my way to work at Great Rail Journeys. I’m really looking forward to returning to the city and seeing it from another perspective. As I am sure many of you will recognise, there is something special about York that draws you back.

What do I do when I am not at work? I spend a great deal of time with the fibre arts, which means that I am rarely to be found without knitting or crochet to hand. In the last few years I have also learnt to spin yarn. If not knitting, I’ll be reading. Currently, I am reading some of the detective stories of Margery Allingham, one of the classic golden age detective authors I hadn’t read before. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings was a big influence on my teenage years and has left me with a love of doorstep-sized fantasy books where everything turns out OK in the end. Cake is also very important – both the baking and the eating. Actually, good food in general is important, if I’m being honest. Is anyone else finding the lack of sharing food with others one of the hardest things about lockdown? In order to make up for the love of cake, I’ve recently tried running for the first time since school. I’ll keep you posted how that goes. For those of you who are musical, I am an alto, a long-retired oboeist, a player of all sizes of recorders from garklein to bass and I have a piano-accordion which I play extremely badly.

Ministry for me is about the people of God. I am constantly fascinated by how people come to meet with God and travel onward with Him and it is a real privilege to travel with people on that journey. It is 15 years since I said yes to God’s call to the priesthood. It is a life of infinite variety and I look forward to sharing it with you in the coming years and discovering how God is calling us to walk more closely in the way of Jesus, in the power of the Spirit.

With every blessing – really hoping I get to meet some of you face to face soon,

Liz

Rosie playing to Marlborough Grove residents

Opening of St Helen and St Denys

by Anthony & Margaret Hammersley and Charles Kightly, churchwardens

Malcolm's Tool BoxFollowing the easing of Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, we are happy to bring the news that two of the City Centre Churches have opened for private prayer. The churchwardens share their experience below.

Opening of St Helen on Saturday afternoons

We opened St Helen for private prayer yesterday (Saturday) afternoon from 1pm to 4pm. You may like to know what happened.

It was warm and sunny. St Helens Square was full of families and people strolling in the sunshine. We left the doors open and had choral music playing for ambience.

12 people came in to pray during the 3 hours, in ones and twos. For more than 80 minutes across the 3 hours the church was empty. Those who did come in followed the one way system, were polite and apparently thankful. All used the sanitiser on entry. Everyone seemed careful not to touch anything. No-one made use of the prayers on offer.

We certainly weren’t inundated! At least by being there quietly welcoming people we were able to minimise the cleaning and sanitising afterwards because we knew what had and hadn’t been touched.

We will be interested to see if next Saturday is the same.

Anthony & Margaret Hammersley

Opening of St Denys daily

So far we at St D’s have had no problems with our unstaffed daily opening [10am-5pm]. Several parishioners have come to pray and so have others, one of whom left this anonymous thank you picture, as well as at least two ‘tourists’.

We have hand sanitizers, a one way system and notices about keeping apart. Both side aisles are roped off.

Charles Kightley

FOOTNOTE

For a variety of reasons the other churches in the group are not yet open for private prayer but this is under review as is when and how to open them for public worship.

GOOD NEWS! The weekly midday Eucharist will recommence at St Helen’s this coming Saturday 11 July.

Prayers for Revd David Simpson

Prayers and best wishes for David’s continued recovery

As many of you may know David has not been enjoying good heath of late and has been having mobility and other problems. These were finally diagnosed in June as a benign tumour on the spine and he was rapidly operated upon at Hull Royal Infirmary. At present he is back in York District Hospital recuperating and is due to be moved to Pinderfields when a bed is available. We do send our very best wishes and to David for his continued recovery together, of course, with our prayers.
DE

Performing together … whilst apart

The creation of virtual choirs for online worship

by Keith Wright and Timothy Hone

Online Music at All Saints Pavement

by Timothy Hone

Since the lockdown began, I have been recording hymns and voluntaries at home for use in the virtual services from All Saints. There was quite a bit learning curve for me, because my knowledge of recording is more from the world of microphones and tape recorders than what you can do with your mobile phone! The process is more complicated and time consuming than I at first realised. Stage one is to record the music using the organ’s own internal recorder. Stage two is to use the mobile phone to record the organ playback. Then the digital recording is transferred to the computer, and each sound file is sent for editing. For one week only, I sent video files, but that took several hours just to send them across the ether!

When we decided to try our first virtual choir recording, my part was essentially the same: I recorded the accompaniment, which included an introduction to give the pitch and speed to the singers. This was sent to the singers with a pdf of the music. They had the task of listening to the accompaniment (on headphones or earpiece) while singing and recording their own part. All the files then went to James for editing. That’s where the separate elements became a choir! It’s great to see the result, because only at that point can everyone see the singers and hear how it all fits together.

Online Music at St Olave’s

by Keith Wright

The ‘lockdown’ conditions of the past few weeks have brought particular challenges for those whose regular activities require close contact with others, such as members of sports teams, drama groups, orchestras and choirs. Many people have been able to remain in touch with each other socially by remote means such as the telephone or meeting online, but for musicians this has proved a difficult way of practising their skills: the technology, unfortunately, does not easily allow musicians in separate places to collaborate in a satisfactory way, as even a small time-delay between playing or singing and hearing makes the notion of corporate music-making impossible (think how it feels to be at the very back of a large building such as the Minster when hymn-singing is going on, and then magnify the effect tenfold).

Choirs have therefore had to adapt to the new situation, and find ways of using new technology to produce pieces of music for online services, and one of the first fruits of this has been the growth of the ‘virtual choir’.

To record the pieces, there are some preparatory steps: a guide track or accompaniment to the whole piece is recorded (even if the piece is eventually going to be heard without accompaniment), with an obvious introduction or count-in (which is later removed) and then the conductor records a video of the piece, conducting in time with the guide track. This conductor/accompaniment is sent to choir members, along with a copy of the music, and they record their own parts individually at home. This involves listening to the accompaniment on headphones (so that the sound is not captured along with their voices), whilst watching the conductor, and recording their part on a separate device – modern phones are proving surprisingly good at this! Interesting teetering towers of tables, book-rests, music-stands and other props have been useful for getting the bits of equipment correctly placed, and some people now have a well-oiled routine for the whole process.

Once the parts are recorded, the audio is mixed (and small blemishes can be improved), and the videos are edited to synchronise them, before aligning with the audio. Beginnings and ends are tidied up (so we don’t see the scramble to find the ‘off’ button at the end). At St Olave’s, the bulk of the work has been directed by Jude Brereton, aided by her son Arthur and by a colleague, Kat Young. Together with Ed Snow and Ben Pugh, and some input from the Director of Music, the choir has now recorded seven pieces, including a wonderful miniature from the junior choristers, in which they produced multiple versions each of a round, using disguises to appear as 24 different ‘characters’ who manage to sing against and with each other. All the pieces are posted on the church’s website music page once released, and can also be seen on the St Olave’s YouTube channel.

Book Review: Just John

by Revd Canon Dr Malcolm Grundy

Just John, The authorised biography of John Habgood, Archbishop of York, 1983 – 1995
David Wilbourne, SPCK, 2020.

Just John

This is a good biography and David Wilbourne, as a former Chaplain to the Archbishop, was well placed to be able to write it. Alongside the book the publishers have offered readers an interview with David in which he explains its genesis. After suggesting the names of possible biographers to Archbishop John and Rosalie, his wife, and having them all rejected apparently exclaimed ‘then I will have to do it myself’ only to find he had their full agreement!

Continuing to be hesitant, we are fortunate that the publishing editor allowed David to use what he calls his ‘parabolic’ style, successful in his other books. The result is not a biography in a fully researched more classical style but a narrative in which the author expresses his own feelings within the text. This lends to an easy narrative style and allows the reader to gain as much of an understanding as could be expected of the reserved and patrician John Habgood.

Wilbourne says the work was begun just before he found himself invited to be Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of Llandaff. He was then not able to complete it until his retirement. Chapters follow the life of John Habgood opening with a family pedigree which seemed to overawe Wilbourne but succeeds well in demonstrating, following an Eton education, Habgood’s assumption that he was a born leader. The chapter on the Cambridge years is very good. We glimpse the accomplished scientist and the enthusiastic and then sceptical converted Christian. Wilbourne makes the fundamental point that it was here that Habgood’s analytical method of research was formed. An approach he brought to ecclesiastical questions and controversies from there on.

There is an excellent account of the revival of Queen’s College, Birmingham where Habgood went following a curacy at St Mary, Abbotts in London, his time at Westcott House and marriage to Rosalie. Before he went to Queen’s there is a fascinating account of his time as Vicar of Jedburgh. Once in Birmingham these experiences were put to good use alongside academic work and student support. Most importantly, Habgood made the place an ecumenical college working especially closely with the Methodist Church. It formed his commitment to the ecumenical movement which became so significant in his later career.

The account of a bishopric in Durham and his translation to York as Archbishop are described with great sensitivity. Rosalie’s burden of maintaining an active household at Auckland Castle amid repairs and frustrations is telling. The account of Habgood’s diocesan work is enriched through interviews with his staff and colleagues. In this way we are given a series of personal accounts, including that of Wilbourne himself. Mention of a possible move to Canterbury occurs several times but all colleagues agree that the Northern Province was well-served by his remaining at York.

There is a chapter entitled ‘Titanic John’ which is aimed at exploring some of the things which may have wounded this private man. It is given over almost entirely to the 1984 Crockford’s Preface affair and the suicide of its author the Oxford academic, Gareth Bennett. As a stand-alone subject, however tragic, it is given undue prominence. In the interviews available with the book we discover that this was the first and only chapter written by Wilbourne before his move to Wales. The issues clearly figured large at the time and did wound Habgood. This controversy would work well in a chapter examining Habgood’s role in making and defending senior appointments. Compared with the space given to Habgood’s magisterial role in the ordination of women debate and his key role in liturgical revision, the emphasis on this one situation seems misplaced.

The agreed style for this biography does leave space for another piece of research to be done, in that the Habgood archive does not appear to have been over-used. He kept every paper from his university examinations onwards. The result may mean that on occasions, when deeply buried material is quarried, evidence will tell a different story about some decisions which were made. We are given just enough to consider that this is likely to be the case over senior appointments.

The photographs are a helpful window into Habgood’s clerical and family life. The final two of him holding his infant daughter Laura with below it her holding John in his final days brings a tear to the eye. Here we have a valuable biography, compiled by an author who with his colleagues was there for some of the key moments described. There is a bibliography but no index. It is a valuable record of an unusually influential priest, scientist, college principal, bishop, archbishop, husband, and father.

Rev Canon Dr Malcolm Grundy is Visiting Fellow in the School of Humanities, Religion and Philosophy at York St John University.

St Olave’s Churchyard research – a historical journey

by Helen Fields

Around two years ago whilst tending the churchyard garden, I noticed a gravestone bearing an inscription which read: ‘This stone rescues from oblivion, the life of xxx’ . Intrigued, I began to look at other headstones and also memorials inside the church, wondering who they were, what they had achieved and experienced in their lives and their association with St Olave’s through the centuries.

So began my journey, uncovering the past lives of many people either buried or memorialised at St Olave’s. The task I set myself soon became an obsession, I simply could not stop! Having engaged previously in family history research, I was familiar with web resources such as Ancestry UK, but this task required more in-depth study of parish records, books such as Drake’s history of York, newspaper archives, together with visits to the Borthwick Institute at York University. Staff there were so helpful, supporting my visits and allowing me to examine artefacts, Wills, and other documents, some of which were old and fragile, dating back centuries. It was a thrill and a privilege to access them, especially when I found what I was looking for.

Parish records could be either revealing or disappointing. It was a real advantage to come across a ‘Dade’ entry. Reverend William Dade (Vicar of St Olaves 1771-1790) revolutionised parish records in terms of the amount of information they contained. Family historians love to come across such entries because amongst other things, they record the parents of the deceased, their occupation, marital status, cause of death, place of burial and sometimes a brief biography. Wonderful information! Sadly, many clergy complained over a number of years about the burden of recording such detail and the method was eventually abandoned.

The people researched represent a mix of notable individuals, well known in York and beyond during their lifetime and other lesser known parishioners and members of the congregation. Each have contributed to the social and cultural heritage of the parish and York. Some developed national and international reputations such as the artists William Etty, Joseph Halfpenny and Francis Place and the eminent Victorian geologist Professor John Phillips. Highly skilled craftsmen and artisans include sculptors, architects, woodcarvers, watch and clockmakers; together with surgeons, apothecaries, musicians and actors.

There are several interesting clergymen. Reverend Daniel Isaac for example, was a Methodist itinerant minister and author who opposed slavery and championed factory reform in the 1820s and 30s. He was probably interred at St Olave’s because York had no Methodist burial grounds when he died in 1834.

Reverend Daniel Isaac

Reverend Daniel Isaac

The churchyard also harbours a dark history, being the final resting place for many people who were committed to the infamous York ‘lunatic asylum,’ when little was known about mental illness and where most poor patients were treated inhumanely. At least four men hanged at York’s ‘Tyburn,’ four centuries ago are also buried here.

The first known burial, Earl Siward of Northumbria, (founder of St Olave’s) is recorded in the Anglo-Saxon chronicle. Other burials reflect significant historical events; the plague and other disease outbreaks, the reformation, the English Civil War, the industrial revolution, the coming of the railways, the world wars. Each of these periods posed opportunities and threats for York, it’s people and the city’s heritage.

The churchyard is a fascinating and a sacred burial place for many who worshipped here before us and with whom we still have much in common. The research revealed some amazing lives and stories. So much so I seem to have come to know many of the incumbents and often greet them by name when gardening! None of this could have been achieved without the help of many friends and colleagues, particularly those who advised, proof read, received and commented on countless emails and spent hours aiding me with the layout of the booklet. Thanks are due particularly to Bill Read, Canon Dr Malcolm Grundy and Jacqui Edwards.

The churchyard history booklet (second edition!) will soon be accessible on the new St Olave’s web site, where there is a full page dedicated to our beautiful churchyard with links to all the booklets. A paperback version of the booklet will also be ready to buy in a few weeks.

Hopefully, when safe and able to do so, more regular churchyard open days and tours can be arranged in the future.

Helen Fields

Doing Maths at Trinity College

by Peter Wells, Reader

“So, there are three things: he who Loves, that which is Loved, and Love.” These words are from St Augustine’s account of the Holy Trinity. Augustine had lived with his lover, the mother of his son Adeodatus, long enough to know that when two people love each other, their love ‘takes on a life of its own.’

Detail from the East window of Holy Trinity Goodramgate which illustrates the Holy Trinity

Detail from the East window of Holy Trinity Goodramgate which illustrates the Holy Trinity

1+1=3

Augustine realised that, in God’s world, this image becomes a reality. The love of God for the Son, and of the Son for the Father, immediately and in eternity bring into being a Love Who has a life of His own: the Holy Spirit. John Taylor, a former Bishop of Winchester, called Him ‘The Go-Between God.’

In God’s world, therefore, according to Augustine, 1+1=3. And this spiritual truth permeates every aspect of our life on earth. A birthday present involves Giver, Recipient, and Gift. Learning requires the Understander, the Understood, and the act of Understanding. If we do something as slight as saying hello to a bus driver, the Holy Trinity is there in the triad of Greeter, Greeted, and Greeting.

The most common example of love in our world is the family. If Alan and Barbara fall in love, then, as with the Holy Trinity, though on a human level, there are three ‘Persons’: Alan, Barbara, and the relationship between Alan and Barbara (the two together): A, B, and AB.

And if Alan and Barbara have a child, Charlie, there will be A, B, C, AB, AC, BC, and ABC, (three loving pairs and all three happy together) which gives 7 Persons: not a Trinity, but a Heptad!

 

2n-1

It is not only families that form loving groups. Four musicians can play in 15 different combinations:

four soloists: A, B, C, D;
six different pairs of duettists: AB, AC, AD, BC, BD, CD;
four possible trios: ABC, ABD, ACD, BCD,
and the whole quartet together!

The formula for working out the number of possible combinations of a given number of people is 2n-1, where n is the number of people involved. For a group of 5 conservation volunteers, the sum will be 25–1, or 31, and for a team of six charity collectors, 63. How quickly the numbers rise when the increase is exponential in this fashion, or, one might say, when the Holy Spirit is at work!

If this spiritual mathematics works anywhere, it should be in churches, where the Holy Spirit inspires us to help and support each other day by day with advice, prayer, encouragement, and hospitality. A little village chapel with 10 faithful members would be the spiritual home of no fewer than 1,023 Persons (210–1), from the individual member at private prayer to the whole congregation in full song on Sunday morning. How much greater the cohesion as the church grows and spreads! The internet tells me that for a church of 100, firing on all cylinders, the number of possible combinations is 1,267,650,600,228,229,401,496,703,205,375. Wow!

 

Life is about relationships

Life is about relationships. Knowledge, for example, is not a collection of unrelated facts, but a systematic understanding that works by building up connections. The human brain contains about 86 billion neurons, which sounds amazing, but these neurons couldn’t do anything without being connected to each other. What makes us the remarkable animals we are, able to play ping-pong, to appreciate symphonies, and to love, is the 1,000 trillion synaptic connections between the neurons, connecting each neuron to up to 10,000 other neurons. The universe was a formless void until the wind of God blew, and Adam was dust until God breathed.

A group of people, whether a pair, a church, or a neighbourhood, is nothing unless the Spirit creates relationships between its members. Jesus said, “Love one another” (John 15.12). It was the dream of Tertullian, the 3rd century theologian, that pagans would look at churches and say, “See how these Christians love one another!”

Loving is not easy, because we are all different – different characters, careers, backgrounds, ages, gender. One of the functions of the Peace in our Eucharists is to purge us of even the slightest impediment to a loving relationship with each member of the congregation – including the one with the posh (or uncouth) accent, or the weird views, or the one who irritated you twenty years ago over that dishwasher business … Consider for a moment what a tragedy it is when a church, that Spirit-built structure, is fractured by factions, rivalries or cliques.

 

21-1=1

One is one and all alone and evermore shall be so. 21–1=1 is the definition of Unitarianism (the theology of Judaism and Islam). It is not good to be alone. Christianity, uniquely, teaches that God contains plurality, enabling reciprocity and communion within God’s self. This is not easy to comprehend, until you ask, ‘How could it be that God, from whom all good things come, would not possess this best of things?’ Other religions know of love, but Christianity is the only religion whose God is love (1 John 4.8). What a challenge to live up to!

 

20-1=0

Finally, 20–1=0. Where there are no people, nothing happens. This final equation puts in their rightful place the starry heavens, the wonders of the atom, organisations, buildings (even churches), theories, isms, arts and sciences, heaven and earth. All these will pass. What matters is people. They last for ever.

I hope that this little mathematical excursion will encourage us all to give an even higher value to our relationships with each other than we already do. Wonderful things have been happening in our churches during this period of so-called ‘isolation’ – new friendships have been forged, the importance of personal contact and pastoral care has been revalued, and the Body of Christ strengthened. May we continue to allow God’s Holy Spirit to do His work in us!

The Credo Group

by Revd Stephen Griffith MBE

The background

At the beginning of the lockdown I suggested an online discussion group. To begin with there was not much interest: some people were feeling frail and of course a good discussion group will be thoughtful and challenging. Some people needed comfort rather that vigorous debate. After a few weeks the mood had changed and a dozen or so met every day for a week for half an hour on Zoom.

The Internet

Zoom has become one of the great resources for group communications. It works particularly well in smallish groups. One of the benefits was being able to see people: a real joy in particular for those who were really isolating on their own. However not everyone found the technology easy to handle and there were various problems which most of us found really trying. Some people had weak internet connections or poor cameras or microphones. I had to decide when it was necessary to mute people because their quality (sound quality!) was becoming a real issue, and there were times we finished somewhat frustrated. One good thing is that sometimes people would say they were not joining for a session because they were ‘too grumpy.’ We all understood that.

After a week’s break we decided to have a week on evening sessions so people working could join. The sessions were 30 minutes: too short maybe, but it was what Zoom offers for free.

Tension about being in isolation

To begin with we found ourselves making sense of faith (in a very wide sense) as we are re-configuring things in isolation. For one person in particular that although across the world people were in isolation, of there was a sense connecting with the whole universe, with all people, with creation. From a more specifically Christian point people felt that what matters is that Jesus is the window through which I see God, that his Cross is at the heart of our lives.

There was an interesting tension about being in isolation; it emphasised for most that the gathering together for worship is integral to being a Christian community, and of course such a community offers a moral frame. But some really appreciate not having to work with people and enjoyed the space.

There was a sense that, despite the dangers from COVID-19 and the complications of the lockdown, whoever we are we are being held by a loving God.

Unlike most discussion groups we spent little time on theology but much more on what sort of community St Olave’s is and what we would like it to be. As many in the congregation come from outside the parish, this is a challenge to how to be a community.

Frequently mentioned was the weakness of a pastoral care system. The expansion of the vicar’s job to take in more and more of the city centre has had a detrimental effect on it and there is a clear need for a simple structure, such as a telephone tree.

Belonging and caring

A particular strand spoke about pastoral care: One member said ‘it is not enough to rely on goodwill to make sure that no one who is in any need is neglected because no one happens to hear about it. This, like it or not, requires a degree of organisation, as long as it is not intrusive. And if we want new members to join us, a better organised pastoral system will be all the more necessary.’

Another member said ‘This has started happening a bit more during the lockdown in an informal way with people phoning or emailing each other to check they are okay or just to have a chat with someone especially with those who are sheltering and can’t get out at all. It shouldn’t be too difficult to carry on with this in future. A number of volunteers are given a list of names from the parish directory, a personal note is sent introducing yourself as being their pastoral contact should they need help in any way, and then – vey importantly – followed up with phone calls every so often. You can soon judge those people do not want to be ‘pestered’ with a regular phone call and those who welcome it.‘

Certainly St Olave’s has suffered with the growth of the City Centre Churches and a failure to create a clear structure of pastoral care, and I think the diocese simply has not grasped how lumping together these disparate churches under one priest-in-charge has undermined pastoral care. But it was felt among the Credo Group that oddly a sense of belonging had grown under lock-down, and difficult as our Zoom meetings were, we all felt that we were part of something very special.

I mentioned at the beginning how difficult the technology is: people were not easily heard, or they seemed to be missed out; sometimes we ended feeling frustrated rather than nourished; there was too much remembering better days when we were trying to imagine a new way of doing things.

But I certainly felt a great sense of privilege to be part of St Olave’s Church, and a greater sense of commitment to our mutual future.