Father Nicholas will be celebrating Low Mass on Tuesday and Wednesday this week enabling me to visit my mother in Sheringham. Live streaming will therefore return on Thursday morning. You do not need to sign up for daily Mass as is currently necessary on Sundays.

A reminder also that we have changed times of daily Mass. As we move forwards the new schedule in Pembury will be as follows:

Tuesday 9:30am
Wednesday 7pm
Thursday 9:30am
Friday 9:30am
Saturday 9:30am

Sunday 8am – 9am – 10am-11am.

A pause in liturgical parish life has allowed for reflection and one thing I have pondered is our erratic mass times during the week. Would it not be better to have a routine mass especially for those who are housebound and tuning in remotely? The one exception would be the Wednesday evening Mass as it is often followed by lectures, catechesis, meetings etc…

For this reason a new schedule of weekday Mass will begin from next Week.

Tuesday – Low Mass – 9:30am

Wednesday Low Mass 7pm

Thursday – Low Mass – 9:30am

Friday – Low Mass – 9:30am

Saturday – Low Mass – 9:30am

I shall be announcing this at all services this Sunday. Please remember that admittance is by pre-booking into a set ‘Pod’. Each Pod is attached to a Mass. These are at 8am, 9am, 10am and 11am.

Good news; our parish resumes public worship from this weekend. To ensure this continues into the future it is imperative people understand this next phase of opening up safely. So please take note of the following:

Nobody is compelled to attend. The Sunday obligation is still suspended meaning that if you wish to continue isolating you have our blessing to do so and nobody is judging that. Stay safe.

To attend Mass on Sunday you MUST sign up with me before hand. People are then placed in a designated ‘pod’, of no more than 30 people, each pod being linked to a designated mass. These are at 8am, 9am, 10am and 11am.

Spaces are reserved on first come and first served basis. We will operate an evening Mass at 6:30pm if all morning slots fill up. Thus far we have 100 signed up – which means around 30 -50 people on a normative pre-lockdown Sunday have not yet signed up. So do spread the word gently but under no circumstance put any pressure on anyone to attend.

A priest will check names at the door. We must have a contact number for each person attending to aid with track and trace in the event of an outbreak. This is a governmental requirement. People arriving without having signed up will be given a spare seat where it exists (currently minimal) or, more likely, sent home to sign up for the following Sunday.

Arrive at Mass early but not too early! We are to avoid congregating. People are asked to line up, socially distanced, in front of the main doors down the path towards the village green. Exit will be via the Sacred Heart Chapel and round the back of the church down the drive. In other words a one way system is in operation.

If you are attending alone please sit at the end of an available pew. Go to the far end if the pew is vacant. Two solo worshippers can safely occupy a pew. If you are in a family group take a pew together. We have roped off half the pews to keep a 2m gap. This means you are not obliged to use a face mask as would be the case had we opted for 1m spacing.

On entering and exiting church use the hand sanitiser provided. The celebrant will use sanitiser prior to communion which is under one kind. A server will wipe the altar rail after each use and only 4 people can come to the rails at a time. Keep social distancing when lining up for communion. Go to communion down the centre aisle and return via the sides.

Mass will be shorter than usual. Congregational singing is banned and so too are intercessions. At the end of Mass exit when requested. If you wish to pray before the sacrament come to Mass on a weekday as there will not be time for this after Mass on Sunday at present.

Smile, relax and be friendly. Whilst it is important to stick to these rules to ensure we can open up – it is equally important that we do not give in to fear. The good news is that deaths are now back under the yearly average and infections, especially outside of care homes and hospitals, in steady decline. It is wise to open up cautiously but there are reasons to be optimistic especially if you have a healthy immunity.

I want to thank everyone who has been praying for my father. Thanks to the power of social media this is quite a lot of people.

In January, following surgery on his prostate, dad collapsed at home and found himself unable to walk, disabled from the waist down. After several weeks in hospital he was diagnosed with sepsis and neuro-sarcoidosis along with several other serious complications.

When Covid struck he was moved to an outlying care home, one that specialises in rehabilitation, and told to prepare for the fact that he is unlikely to walk again. The focus was to help him build up strength to enable him to move from his bed to a wheelchair unaided.

Sadly dad’s rehabilitation was cut short when he was rushed to hospital a couple of weeks later with full septic shock. The photograph above shows just how hard it hit him. The doctors telephoned to warn the family that, in their professional opinion, he would not survive another night.

Thus it was that I rushed to the Covid ward where he was inexplicably placed until he tested negative. He was unconscious and struggling for each and every breath and, having seen many dying people, I anointed him immediately, beseeching the prayers of St. John Henry Newman.

In the early hours of the next morning the telephone rang and I was braced for the worst. But to everyone’s surprise, not least the medics, it was my father who spoke. He had not only pulled through but regained consciousness. And so, with glorious English understatement, he informed me in a groggy voice “I wasn’t feeling too good yesterday.” More amazing still he later tested negative for Covid for a fourth time and was moved to a safer place.

Dad is now back in the rehab centre and is being well cared for. He is obviously weak and easily tired, the last few weeks having been grim. However he is making extraordinary progress much to the delight of his carers. Yesterday, for the first time since lockdown, I was allowed to visit and couldn’t believe the change in him. His colour has returned, he was in good spirits and determined to get better.

With 12 co-morbidities present the family need to be cautious, apparently the septic shock could return any time. He remains a sick man who will need care moving forward. Nevertheless his recovery has exceeded all expectations- so thank you to those who have been praying for him, quite clearly those prayers have been efficacious.

The ever wonderful Fr. Alexander Sherbrooke has been producing some wonderful reflections throughout lockdown. This latest offering brings attention to Ss. John Fisher and Thomas More. As these great Saints flank our altar in Pembury I thought I would share this with you all.

I am delighted to report that our pod system, for signing people up to a set mass on Sunday, is working well. We currently have 18 signed up for 8am, 22 signed up for 9am, 17 signed up at 10am and 15 signed up at 11am. Do keep those names rolling in. If we require overspill then we can offer an additional evening Mass on Sunday or else during the week.

Please note that the public celebration of Mass will resume in Pembury on Sunday 5th July. At this point our wonderful volunteers, who have helped open the church for private prayer, will be stood down and we return to a normal pattern of worship. Low Mass at 12pm on Tuesdays, 7pm on Wednesdays, 10am on Thursdays and Fridays and 9am on Saturdays. (However please note that there will be no Mass on Tuesday 7th July)

Because many isolating and isolated people have benefited from our live streamed Mass this practice will continue after normal worship resumes. And do please note that the Sunday obligation is still suspended. This means there is no pressure for you to attend Mass if you prefer to stay home. The risk of infection has not gone away entirely and it is for each person to make their own decision regarding when they return to church life.

I am yet to hear from diocesan authorities. So what follows is subject to change. However, assuming governmental guidelines of 30 worshippers at each Mass when it resumes, then I propose the following plan comes into effect for our congregation at St. Anselm’s.

Each Sunday a short Mass, with no congregational singing, will be celebrated at 8am, 9am, 10am, 11am and 6:30pm. My understanding is that the Sunday obligationwill remain suspended. We can therefore mop up any overspill at the Wednesday Mass which will move back to 7pm.

To ensure everyone gets an opportunity to worship the congregation will be divided into ‘pods’ of no more than 30 people. Pod A will gather at 8am on Sunday. Pod B at 9am and so on and so forth. People can join a pod (on a first come, first served basis) by contacting me via text, telephone or email (edwardtomlinson@rcaos.org.uk) or via the parish facebook page.

We will only move to a pod system for Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday Low Mass if numbers prove unmanageable.

Watch this space for further information, especially as the diocese might have a different scheme in mind. Until then let me know which Pod you wish to join and I shall make up provisional lists.

Another great nugget from Fr. Benedict Kiely.

Our Church has reopened for private devotion. Each day from 10am-12pm people can come and pray before the sacrament thanks to the generosity and help of our volunteer team. So far we have seen a slow but steady trickle of visitors, which is exactly what we want. It enables us to remain well within the protocols set by the diocese to minimise risk of infection.

2020 has been a dark and challenging time for our nation. Many people remain frightened and pessimistic as we face the dual threats of pandemic and economic collapse. Part of this fear is due to an unbalanced media. My pastoral advice then is to turn off the TV and stop reading gloomy articles ad nauseam. Instead try to look for positives without denying the challenge. Here then are five earthly reasons, and five spiritual reasons, to give thanks to God this day.

5 Earthly reasons for good cheer:

  • The virus is on the wane throughout the UK. It may resurface, there may be future waves, nevertheless it is GOOD NEWS that both infection rates and deaths are falling on a daily basis.
  • London recorded below average deaths for June. This confirms the fact that many of those who have died of Covid were going to die this year anyway. Which means the risk to healthy people is much lower than it might appear on paper. Death in old age is perfectly normal and not to be feared and we must hold this fact before us.
  • Medical knowledge is improving. You will have read about a new drug that cuts deaths of the gravely sick by a third. This is excellent news and shows our ability to tackle Covid 19 only improves as time goes on. So does the chance of finding an effective vaccine.
  • The virus is safer than first feared. When the nation went into lockdown forecasts from Imperial college suggested a worst case scenario of 500,000 deaths. In reality the situation globally has been better. This virus is nasty, especially for those with compromised immunity, but we are not yet facing a situation as bleak as the bubonic plague.
  • We will get over this. History shows that pandemics come and go. And a virus tends to decrease in potency over time so as not to kill off its host just as the hosts gain strength as herd immunity is reached. There will be an end to this disaster.

5 spiritual reasons for good cheer

  • Death is not the end The central message of Christian faith is that we need not fear death, indeed worst thing that can happen to us like loss of supernatural faith! We believe in eternal life with God. So even if we should die of Covid, or be buried under the patio by a lunatic- we need not despair. Christ awaits his fold with a heart of love.
  • Churches are open for prayer Whilst we all want to see Mass resume and the life of the church open up again church doors have now opened. Time before the sacrament in prayer is good for the soul.
  • Daily mass has continued. Every single day of this pandemic the altars in our little church were active. You may not have been able to attend but priests, across the world, offered Mass on your behalf.
  • Hedonism challenged Throughout scripture man tends to lose God when life is comfortable and rediscovers him in times of challenge. Man lost faith in Eden but found him again in the wilderness. Many people are now questioning life in a serious way. I believe this could lead many to find Christ if we evangelise effectively.
  • God is good Whenever economic collapse and pandemic face us we can fear for the future. It is easy to grow gloomy and focus only on what has been taken instead of looking to the future with hope. But reflect a moment and there are plenty of reasons for cheer even in the midst of crisis; families have had time together, nature is flourishing, people are challenging injustices like racism. Good will come from this period of history as well as bad. Seek it in prayer.

Good news! St Anselm’s will be opening for private prayer from Monday 15th June. Thanks to a great team of volunteers (if any others want to help let me know) this will happen seven days a week from 10am until 12 noon.

Mass will continue to be live-streamed at 9:30am. At the end of Mass the sacrament will be placed on the high altar. People will then be free to enter church to pray. Social distancing rules will apply and volunteers will direct you to a pew. Please note that toilets cannot be made available for public use during this phase of lockdown. Children are allowed to visit but must be closely supervised at all times.

If capacity is reached people will be asked to form an orderly queue outside the church and around the outer wall of the sacred heart chapel. Please bring suitable clothing should inclement weather be forecast. To avoid the need to queue people are advised to space their visits sensibly.

We look forward to seeing you. Come and spend some time with Jesus in the most Holy Sacrament.

NB: PLEASE CHECK SOCIAL MEDIA BEFORE you come to church. Should we be unable to open as anticipated, for whatever reason, this will be announced via this blog and on our Facebook page. We need a green light from the diocese and guarantee of at least two volunteers on any given day.

This article originally suggested a new time of 9am for Mass but following feedback of those who have got into a routine at 9:30am, we shall continue to offer it then.