As I sit here one week into our lock-down, I am reflecting on the nature of our community and how we can be ‘Church’ or ‘School’ with no Chapel, Church or school buildings.
I was one of about 20 people who joined in worship at St Luke’s Church in Havelock North on Sunday 22 March and marked the last service to be held in the building for the foreseeable future. I generally worship at the Cathedral in Napier, but they had already closed their doors due to a visit the previous week from visitors from the Ruby Princess cruise ship.
In the days before schools were closed, Churches had made the decision to close their doors. The question was, how can we be Church without a building? The week that followed that Sunday was surreal. At school, we were limiting the number of people who could gather together and had been practising our social distancing skills. Chapel on Monday was an unusual experience, but quite lovely as we met in different areas throughout the School and partook in the same liturgy.
My reflection was based on the story of the Samaritan woman who met Jesus unexpectedly at the well as she was getting water. She was isolated from her community due to her culture and life choices yet Jesus chose to drink from her cup, and in return gave her living water. She returned to her community and became a leader who brought others to a knowledge of Christ. We reflected on the nature of community when we have the need to be isolated.
The end of the week continued to be unusual as we strove to be ‘school’ with no classrooms and it is even stranger this week to be on holiday, yet not being allowed to leave home.
So are we a Church with no Church, a school with no Chapel or classrooms, and what is important to hold on to at this time?
The other day I met, via Zoom, with Clergy throughout the Diocese and we were able to discuss this very matter. Churches no longer have services, funerals, weddings or Communion. Schools no longer have classrooms, or Chapels and assemblies. Yet, as one vicar said, “we are a dispersed community celebrating the ministry of the word in different ways and sharing in different ways”.
The Church is not the building in which we meet, but rather the people who gather in the building. I am reminded that the early Church did not have buildings; they met in one another’s homes and shared together in the word of God and in fellowship. We obviously cannot meet in one another’s homes, but then they didn’t have Schoology or Zoom so I guess that evens it out.
When talking to Old Girls of our school I am often reminded that the Chapel is the heart of Woodford House. What does that say about our school if we cannot use our Chapel?
I think it is much more that the Christian ethos we hold is at the core of our school and that is our heart. The Chapel is important, and it felt strange as I closed the doors for the last time on Wednesday last week. I said a little prayer for us all as we are separated from each other and our buildings; but we must remember that the Chapel is only our geographical heart.
The heart of our school is the people that make our community and how we hold that community together even when we are dispersed.
The need for, and importance of, spiritual nourishment has not diminished because we no longer meet for Chapel, and for many of us it has increased due to the feeling of isolation and uncertainty.
We are finding new ways to be a separated community celebrating the Ministry of the word. We have seen many ways of continuing our sense of community emerging over the last week, from themed dinners to pet days, and I am sure that will continue as we go back to ‘school’ after the holidays.
Here are some other ways that everyone can continue to uphold the special character of Woodford House:
- Woodford House will continue to offer a simplified Chapel service that families can participate in in their own spaces and to add verses and reflections on to via Schoology.
- My husband Bishop Andrew is leading evening prayer on Wednesdays and Sundays, via Zoom which you are welcome to join:
Wednesday Evening Prayer, 7pm: https://zoom.us/j/162180462 Meeting ID: 162 180 462
Sunday Evening Prayer, 7pm for Night Prayer: https://zoom.us/j/986454499 Meeting ID: 986 454 499
- The ArchBishop of Canterbury has asked us to light a candle on Sunday evenings at 7pm local time to pray for all those affected by Covid19.
- There are some lovely resources for Holy Week and Easter and I will share these on Schoology.
So, as I pray, along with many others, for our community leaders, essential workers and those who are unwell, I hold on to the surety that we are a community with a strong heart and that we will get through this.
Mrs Raewyn Hedge, Chaplain