Sunday, April 21, 2024
HomeNewsBehold, I stand at the door . . .

Behold, I stand at the door . . .


THE closure of the church and the suspension of Mass is a grievous error. Can our priests and pastors really be serious about not opening this Easter? Such abnegation of responsibility raises worrisome questions about the very future of the church. 

I for one have had enough of overbearing authorities telling us what to do. Bureaucrats and bobbies running amok, persecuting pensioners, sunbathers and cyclists, are trashing our historic freedoms. Can this really be what a Conservative government meant? What in God’s name is the matter with those who assume such authority over us? Worst of all was the sight of the church lifting its skirts and scuttling off just when we needed it most. Whatever happened to Pope Francis’s idea of the church as a field hospital? It’s not just the Catholics (I am a Catholic) but the Anglicans and the evangelicals too. The whole sorry circus has packed up and left town. And please don’t insult our intelligence by saying you can watch it online. Catholic theology stipulates you are obligated to attend Mass on Sundays. Doubly galling is the thought of our priests carrying on as usual saying Mass in private. What better illustration could there be of the contempt in which the laity is held? Nothing has made me feel less like a part of the church than the flight of its servants. 

I know and appreciate all the arguments for closure. Like many, well before the lockdown, I have for the last few weeks avoided crowded places. I wear latex gloves when shopping and wash my hands at every opportunity. Meanwhile flights from China, Iran, Italy and Spain continued to land. Eurostar trains still ran and their passengers disembarked without let or hindrance. 

It is precisely at such a time that the church has work to do. Enforced isolation and the break from work has enabled many to re-consider what is really important in life. Leading the list for many of us is spirituality, mindfulness and connecting with the source of all that is. The Bible itself acknowledges our hunger: ‘For God has set eternity in the hearts of men.’ The answer, I submit, lies in the carpenter crucified on Good Friday nearly 2,000 years ago. Whatever the travails of his followers, we have been celebrating his resurrection annually and together every Easter, ever since. We have never missed an Easter. Yet the doors of his fellowship are locked and barred now, sealed with an unmovable stone. 

Why single out the church? Supermarkets, greengrocers, bakers and butchers are open, aren’t they? These all outnumber churches a hundred times. Christ himself said that man cannot live by bread alone. Please let us have our chapels and churches back.

Of course we should be careful. Who could object to priests wearing masks, using surgical gloves and standing well back? Nor do I mind the host being offered on a platter. But closing up the church is just plain wrong.

It seems odd to be asking for an act of popular revolt through The Conservative Woman website but may I urge all Christians of whatever denomination to turn up at their church on Easter Sunday morning at 10.00 BST? Christ’s victory over death should be celebrated and affirmed. It is the most important historical event of all time. Write and tell your pastor what you intend. Many will be delighted to accede to your wishes. What do you do if the building is closed and bolted? Thump upon the wood and quote Our Lord: ‘Behold I stand at the door and knock.’ 

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John Musgrave
John Musgrave
John Musgrave is an author living in the West Country. His first novel Radio A-Go-Go is out now.

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