Amazing how one can forget things! For many years we lived in Oxfordshire, and what I forgot to mention yesterday – May Day – was the age-old celebration in Oxford itself, where at dawn on May 1st the choristers of Magdalene College would greet the summer by singing from the top of Magdalene Tower. Not this year, though. For the first time in 400 years Magdalene tower-top remained silent. Churches are, of course, closed.
I can understand the reasons for this. Churches – and other places of corporate worship in our multi-faith context – are where people gather together, not least in times of crisis. And to have left our churches open during the Covid-19 crisis would have invited exponential rates of infection. Churches were closed to save lives. But what I never understood was the rule that parish priests shouldn’t be allowed to pray in them on their own. And when on Easter Day Archbishop Justin Welby, interviewed on the Andrew Marr show, said ‘we have given guidance not instruction’, I was even more bewildered. It was a bit of a puzzle.
Thinking about this, I’ve come to the conclusion that I shall be back in church this Sunday, at the altar, praying the Eucharist. On my own, of course, but for and on behalf of the parish and its people, and the wider community. Our churches must be continuing places of prayer, most of all in times of crisis.