The watchword of the minute seems to be unprecedented. As we continue, at the time of writing, in lockdown each day seems to bring something new and something unprecedented; whether for good or ill. Two unprecedented moments that brought joy and comfort to many were the addresses made by Her Majesty The Queen to the nation and the Commonwealth. Her Majesty addresses the nation in a television broadcast as we all began to get used to the lockdown and then on Easter Day released a message of hope. This message is reproduced elsewhere in this edition of New Directions. In both messages The Queen spoke with clarity and compassion and reflected a deep faith. She spoke as someone whose faith and vocation are at the centre of all that she says and does; and who takes that faith and vocation seriously. The Queen offered an example to our leaders and also to each one of us in how to try to cope with life in the current pandemic. Thank you, Your Majesty for your leadership and guidance during this difficult time in the life of our nation, and for being willing to speak so openly about your Christian Faith.
We are also being told by many commentators that the ‘Church will change’ because of the current pandemic. It might certainly be the case that the focus of the ministry of the Church might change, that the Church might rediscover aspects of its calling that had been lost; but to say that the Church will change is fundamentally not true. The Church continues to be the Bride of Christ and the Ark of Salvation. Whatever agenda people may have for the life of the church and the way we do things, the role of the Church in bringing people to Christ through the sharing of the sacraments and through the Word of God does not and cannot change. We are called in all we do and say to stand up for this fact, to defend the nature of the Church as something created by God for the good of all human people. That is not to say that the Church is not made up of fallible and sinful people, but rather we must not lose sight of what is at the core of the life of Church, the means of salvation. It is from this that all of the works of pastoral care, worship, mercy and oblation stem in the life of each Christian.
All here at New Directions were saddened to hear of the death of The Revd Dr Geoffrey Kirk. During my first tenure as Editor I followed Geoffrey as Parish Priest of St Stephen’s Lewisham, he had still been writing for the magazine when I took up the editorial pen. He was a formidable colleague and predecessor, full of fun and always with something to say. He was also a faithful pastor and friend, and a great scholar (I well remember my first Editorial Board meeting, I rather felt I was in the presence of Austin Farrer!). I will always recall with fondness in recent years being rather grilled over Geoffrey’s splendid dining table, following a delicious meal, on the state of Church. Geoffrey died on Good Friday, a fitting day for one who had given his life in the service of God. As with so many it will not be possible for many to gather for Geoffrey’s funeral, but I hope in time a fitting memorial will be held. I want to close with an account of the funeral of Mrs Poppet Lawrence which Geoffrey wrote about with much fondness. It seems to me to sum him up – a faithful pastor, priest and friend. May he rest in peace. He wrote:
I was privileged to be with her when she recovered consciousness and praised God through the oxygen mask. But the courage he gave her in the face of overwhelming pain could not also, of itself, fight the cancer which was simultaneously discovered. She died six weeks after the surgery, during which period she ministered to many visitors. To those who came to her (afraid, as the young are nowadays, equally of sickness and of death) she poured out quiet wisdom and a serenity which belied the agonies she suffered. Over six hundred people attended a funeral Mass concelebrated by four priests. The choir gave us Darke-in-F (what else?) – on this occasion I fear, somewhat in the style of Guiseppe Verdi. There was Baristow (Nunc Dimittis), Purcell’s Funeral Music for Queen Mary, and the Russian Contakion.
As the coffin left what was now indisputably her church, I think I was not alone in feeling that this was in its small way a piece of history. ‘It will be like the Queen Mother’s funeral,’ I had said when I rang the police station to warn them that they would need additional officers for traffic duty on the High Street. No one was sent – or at least, no one came. And there was chaos. She would have loved it!