As I drove up to my daughter’s house yesterday after driving for well over an hour I heard the news that the prime minister had, that morning, announced that people should not go to visit their mother. Oh dear….. a bit late! And any way I wasn’t visiting my mother, and my daughter had not driven to visit me. A minor technicality, I know. I had been looking forward to seeing her for a few weeks, since she invited me and as the coronavirus situation worsened last week, my fear was that all movement would be stopped.
It had been many years since I was last actually physically present with either daughter on Mothering Sunday – somehow phone calls are not the same. Sunday working/worship and living miles apart had prevented it. I had been so excited and thrilled to see that my 3pm congregation (Croxden) were going to join with one of the 10.30am ones (Hollington) for their special service meaning that I would be free all afternoon and evening without any services. Yay! As it happened, I only had one service, at 10.30am, anyway. And that was VERY different to any other I had held in the past.
Upon the announcement mid-week that all public worship would be suspended, I, like many other church leaders, started to consider the possibility of recording worship for people to participate with at home online. I embraced the idea – yes, let’s go for it – then I got cold feet. I had one of those insecure moments of thinking that everyone else’s would be so much better than my offering. Videos had been appearing on Facebook of vicars giving messages of comfort and hope etc. What could I say? I had been busy all week and not even given Sunday’s sermon a thought! Surely people would be better tuning in to a cathedral broadcast or some other quality worship experience.
As I sat in my study at my computer working on the service and coming to the conclusion that it was all too much effort and I wouldn’t be any good at it, one of my congregation contacted me via Messenger:
Hi, Technical question I’m guessing the church is now on lock down? Could there be a Facebook live service?
What else could I reply but: “working on it now. A bit scary”.
I took this as a reply to silent prayer. God was giving me a kick up the backside to just get on with it. And so I did. The result was deemed by all involve a success.
We held a service of holy communion for Mothering Sunday, recorded and transmitted live through Facebook, starting at 10.30am. There were a few technical hitches, including at about 10.28am the realisation that my cassock alb was not hanging in the vestry where it should be. The protective cover hung limply on the hanger with no sign of the alb. I checked the floor, the other hangers but to no avail. So I ensured the music video for the ‘gathering’ for worship was started and walked briskly home for my black cassock and surplice (so glad I hadn’t washed it as intended so it wasn’t in the ironing pile). It was a rushed start. I then realised that I had forgotten my phone so I could link it to my ipad as an internet 4G hotspot and participate with people making comments online. I was going to invite them to type names of their mums and also things for the intercessions. Unbeknown to me my beloved and thoughtful husband rushed home to get it, which explained when we got to the New Testament reading that he was going to do I couldn’t see him anywhere in church…… he rushed in just in the nick of time and did the reading, somewhat breathlessly. What a hero!
And so it was that I got home afterwards, had a cup of coffee, and a surprise knock on the door with the delivery of one of the plants the youth group were delivering to women who would have probably been in church. OK…. so not a surprise, but I was glad that they remembered I am a woman. I have had many a Mothering Sunday service upset and holding back the tears when all the women in church are given flowers/plants … except me…. I am the vicar, stood at the front in a long frock….. but not seen as a woman… And not seeing her children either that day, nor her mum who died years ago. Oh well.. I am glad this group of parishes. My previous parishes were lovely too – lots of lovely, Godly, caring and loving people, but sometimes needed reminding that I am a woman too.
So I am typing this whilst drinking my morning tea from the lovely mug that was a present yesterday from my elder daughter and thankful for her, and her sister with whom I had a video chat the evening before from New Zealand. I feel blessed and loved and glad that I seemed to have helped others to make the most of a strange Mothering Sunday. I go into this week with no idea of how things will work out, what further restrictions will be announced and what phone calls I may receive. But I go, confident that God goes with me and praying that others will know His presence too.