There have in the last few weeks been glimmers of life returning to normal. Whilst the shadow of the pandemic seems still to be cast across the country shops and businesses are opening up and communities are beginning to regroup and rebuild. The Roman Catholic Bishops in England and Wales have encouraged the lay faithful to return to Mass as soon as it is possible for them to do so, without reimposing the rule of Sunday Obligation. And so it must be time in our own parishes to encourage those for whom it is safe to return. If, as Pope Francis has said, the Church is to be a field hospital then we need to get on with the work of healing, comforting, consoling, and building up the people of God who have suffered in this past year. Whilst we are by no means in the clear there are many signs of hope. We would however like to suggest that the Church’s role goes further. Whilst the pandemic has left many of our churches and institutions feeling financial strain, now is not the moment to withdraw from the financial support we are able to give through employment, and in particular the employment of craftsmen, builders, artists, and musicians. Out of many crises in history have emerged a renaissance in culture and the arts, and the same could be true now. This is not the moment to be cutting back on our provision in the arts but rather to be exploring more how such developments could aid mission and ministry. If there is a possibility of supporting even an occasional musical programme in a parish, or employing a local craftsman to undertake some restoration work, then perhaps now is the time to do so. It is of course not as simple as saying: ‘there is funding available’, as very often the funding is hard to apply for. However each diocese does have people to help and support our parishes in this endeavour, and we must engage in this work so that our parishes can continue to be flagships not only of good pastoral care but also of places were the arts can thrive. In supporting local musicians and artists there are opportunities to reach out into out communities to engage people and draw them to Christ. Such work can also help support those in need and provide a safe financial base for people. Historically the Church has been a major employer of people and a source of economic growth. We have an opportunity now to invest in people and to rebuild hope in our communities, as well as supporting crafts, music and art; which are all surely endeavours which seek after the greater glory of God.
The death of His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh united the nation in prayer for Her Majesty The Queen and the whole Royal Family. The Prince’s funeral brought together all that is good about our Church of England. The liturgy was beautifully executed and the music sublime. The sight of the Queen alone in her stall, at a funeral service completely in line with the Covid-19 regulations, was a sign that she stands with her people. In sharing with us in this small way, the Queen once again demonstrated that resolution she made before God on her 21st birthday: ‘I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.’ As she marked her 95th Birthday in April and as we look forward to her Platinum Jubilee we can give thanks that we have as our monarch one who embodies so clearly the Christian virtues of service and sacrifice. The Queen continues to be an example to us all of a Christian vocation, solemnly undertaken and never relinquished.
Three hundred editions of New Directions have been published and we are still going strong. We remain a magazine not afraid to tackle the difficult issues that face the church. We might have our critics: from those who neither like our style to those who can’t abide our content but we would remind both friend and foe alike that we are a magazine run by volunteers and as such we believe we have something of which we can be proud. So, we offer our thanks to all those who have contributed to the last 300 editions, to you our readers (even those who won’t admit opening a copy!) and here’s to the next 300 editions as we continue to go FORWARD IN FAITH!