Pastoral notes from lockdown

A priest writes on the challenges and experiences of parish life in lockdown. Philip Dyer-Perry is priest in the Catholic parish of Staines, Diocese of Westminster.

On the refreshment counter of our deserted parish hall there stands an aluminium teapot, forlorn and unused. Over two months have elapsed since anyone poured a cup of tea out of it, and so – lonely and dry – it’s acquired a layer of dust that thickens each passing week.

A different world
At the beginning of March, our hall, separated from the church by a partition, was abuzz. March is one of the busiest times in the parish calendar, with catechetical activities in full swing, a sense of excitement at the start of our Lenten journey to Easter, and the promise of better weather manifesting itself in sign-ups for the next parish trip. The Confirmation group was selling cakes for CAFOD, the St Patrick’s party was in the air, and after a difficult winter marked by a tragic bereavement in one of our families, everyone was looking forward to better times. That shiny teapot, solemnly blessed a month before, was already proving its worth.

It was into the ordinary, joyful, sorrowful, and exhausting world of parish life that the first hints of an approaching storm slipped, almost unnoticed. A couple of parishioners told me they were not taking their Gran to the Rite of Election at the Cathedral because they were worried about ‘going into London now’, but that weekend we were still administering the chalice and shaking hands at the sign of peace, and all three Masses were full and standing. ‘Keep calm and carry on’ seemed to be the order of the day – although the cake sellers wore gloves this time.

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