Being Church in the time of Covid-19
Monsignor Paul Smith is the parish priest of Saint Ambrose Barlow, Swinton and Pendlebury, in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Salford.
At parish level it’s a sign of our growing familiarity with I.T. that in the local deanery parishes were able to embrace it for this challenging time when our churches were closed. I nevertheless find it frustrating, if not painful, that many will feel cut off because they have not subscribed to the mailing list for newsletters or do not have access to a computer. Our outreach organisations are doing their best to reach out to those who are isolated in this way.
A number of parishes were already set up with facilities to live-stream Masses and other services. Our cathedral has been able to do this and Bishop John has made that a regular way of communicating with the diocese. Devotional celebrations have also been streamed, e.g. Marian devotions and May.
I am not now alone in adopting Zoom as the platform for making Mass available to an online congregation. This is convenient as there is no Wi-Fi connection in our church and I say Mass in the living room. A number of my neighbouring parishes use it in church. Some stream Mass each day, some, myself included, just on Sunday.
The blessing that Zoom brings is a sense of intimacy at a time when people really feel the lack of being together for worship: there is a real interaction both in the Mass and in chit-chat before and after. The drawback we have found is the “Zoom bombing” that we have experienced once, but thankfully found a way round. (see the article on The Tablet website 24 April)
In addition to Mass a number of priests share reflections daily. One I know writes it on the parish website. I record a reflection on the Gospel of the day via my phone and upload it to our website.
Some parishes have also tried to reach out to those who do not have I.T. facilities with a “Phone a Mass” resource that enables people to listen to Mass on their phone, mainly the elderly. At the other end of the age spectrum, our diocesan Youth Service are providing a “One Minute Word” – a one-minute summary of each Sunday’s Gospel shared by various priests.
May the Archangel Gabriel, patron of communications continue to pray for us!
Father Paul's parish recently formed from the amalgamated parishes of Saint Charles, Swinton, Saint Mary’s Swinton (in the process of being demolished) and Saint Mark’s Pendlebury. He has served there for the past 22 years. He also is the Roman Catholic Diocesan Ecumenical Officer serving on Greater Manchester Churches Together.