Will things be the same? asks Paul Hutchins
A common thread in the life of the church at the moment is the feeling that ‘things will never be like they were before’ in reference to how we live out our discipleship now in the post-pandemic world. For many of us, we sit back and wonder. Perhaps dazed and blurry eyed bearing the bruises of what we’ve experienced and perhaps wracked with anxiety as to what the future will hold. There seems to be different pathways being taken by ground-breaking initiatives to cope with the changes that we are experiencing and living through as the Church, rather than brow beat it , it may well be that we take the Gamaliel principle and await the outcome with hope or trepidation.
Something as familiar as confirmation preparation was begun by me and the ordinand on placement with us. It may not seem extraordinary and yet it felt like it may well be a pointless task. Despite a return to public worship and parochial life, would things be the same again? Would anyone want to take up the baton and run the race? Would Zoom be a better answer in delivering it? Would there be anyone to deliver it too? I now found myself as parish priest of not one but three parishes, how could I possibly prepare any candidate’s all at once?
Well, I heeded the words of an elderly parishioner many years ago now who when he became immobile said to me: ‘There’s no point in complaining, I’ve just got to adapt to my circumstances’. The time for naval gazing had passed.
Jumping in with both feet two centres of preparation were set up, transport arranged for those who needed it and crossing over if you couldn’t make one venue come to the other. It wasn’t particularly rocket science just bread and butter parish ministry and to my great surprise it worked. In the end we found ourselves preparing twenty three candidates from ages 11 to 17 and two adults also. The immensity and awesomeness of this was brought home to me at the actual Confirmation Mass itself, what an achievement, what an example of growing the Church, what a wonderful movement of the power of the Holy Spirit.
In our time of vacancy in the See of Beverley, the Bishop of Burnley crossed the Pennines to administer the sacrament but he also made a point of meeting with all the candidates and teaching them too before the celebration; it was majestic. It is certainly something the confirmands will never forget.
‘Things will not be like they were before,’ yes this is true. St John Henry Newman said ‘To live is to change, and to change often is to become more perfect’. We have and we strive to be, and thank God he is in charge of his Church and we adapt to our circumstances to proclaim Christ the same yesterday, today and forever.
Fr Paul Hutchins SSC is the incumbent of Holy Family, Failsworth, in the Diocese of Manchester.