The challenge of the past few weeks for those, lay and ordained, who minister in the Church of England (and by that I mean all who have a vocation as Christians) has been how to keep the life of the church at the centre of our communities. If the Church of England is truly there for all of the people of England how do we minister to the needs of our communities from behind closed doors, and how indeed do we emerge from behind those doors when this is all over, to what we are told will be a ‘radically different’ nation and world. There are those who prophesy that on financial grounds alone there will be a reduction in the number of open parishes and a reduction in the number of clergy the Church of England is able to support. There will no doubt be surveys and inquiries and Deanery Synods up and down the land trying to work out what, or who, we can get rid of first. And yet it could, and should, be argued that this is not the time for retreat, this is not the time to abandon any part of England but rather to be reaching out more and more. In recent weeks it has been easy to make caricatures of the different positions in the Church of England regarding when the churches will re-open; on the extreme you are either to be seen as obsessed by the liturgy and status at one end or desperate to see all churches closed and a new sort of church at the other. Neither caricature is fair or accurate. Here at New Directions I expect we might be thought to be in the former category, although some readers might rather it be the latter. And yet up and down the country parishes with a strong liturgical life are reaching out into their communities in new ways, or ensuring that support is maintained. There have been new foodbanks, social care groups, and a whole range of other supports rolled out. These all need, however, to be grounded in prayer. As Catholic Christians we understand the need to begin all work in prayer and central to that life of prayer is the celebration of the Mass. Whilst it is undoubtedly true that Mass can be celebrated anywhere, and that the sacrifice offered brings the salvation of the world, it is also true that the Mass celebrated in the heart of the community, the parish church is an important (and one might argue vital) sign and symbol. The presence of the priest in the parish church might be the cause of pain and longing for those who cannot enter the church, but it is also a sign of comfort; and perhaps most importantly a sign that the love and power of God endures all things. This is not about some desire for liturgical one-up-manship but rather a sign that the Church of England remains at the centre of each community, reaching out into the community both at the altar and at the table in service. It will be through acts of service in this time of crisis that we will build trust and support in our communities. We will not win that support of our communities if we retreat behind closed doors and do not reach out; or indeed if we begin the ‘new normal’ by closing churches and reducing our presence, and here I know I am preaching to the converted. This important work at altar and in service to our communities will be vital in the rebuilding of our nation and our society, and the church can and must be at the centre of this work. The church cannot shy away from the difficult discussions and decisions that will have to be made as we seek to emerge from lockdown and it is to be hoped that the church will place itself at the forefront of rebuilding our communities. Now is not the time to withdraw or to hide away but rather to reach out as we always have to our communities and to the world to proclaim the love of God for all people.