This morning began gloriously. There were more people in church than we’ve had so far since conducting ‘live’ worship with so many new ‘regulars’, plus the return of some well-loved faces; those who have not ventured out in months but chose today, after having their vaccinations to return to church. I must say that to see these lovely people return truly warmed our hearts as we prepared to begin our service.
We are so fortunate to have a large church building and today we utilised it to the full, including opening the Gallery alongside the Chancel to accommodate everyone who came along and still cater for them to be socially distanced.
We are not currently allowed to sing in church, but we are fortunate to have a wonderful organist who has been playing regularly for us. This morning he played a wonderful Processional version of ‘Jesus Christ is Risen Today’, as a crucifer and three priests made a joyful and dignified entrance to the service – this particular priest grinning from ear to ear, like a Cheshire Cat under my mask!
The service was fully projected on screen – again to ensure Covid-19 safety – and all went well. The Paschal Candle was relit, the congregation confirmed their Baptismal vows, and then the traditional Easter Day Charge.
My address followed the reading of the Holy Gospel and incorporated a section of text from the children’s classic ‘The Lion, the witch and the wardrobe’ by C.S. Lewis. All was well received, all was going so well.
And then, just before moving to the Altar to begin the Eucharistic Prayer, I chose to remind the congregation of the safety procedures around the administration of Holy Communion. It was as I did this that I observed a lady in the pews on the left aisle slide to the floor. A nod to my husband and Wardens at the back of church, and they were instantly there to assist, but the natural concern and compassion of us all brought the service to a halt for a while.
The lady in question was taken to the back of church and given a drink and all seemed OK to continue. After giving everybody Holy Communion, I made my way to the area where the lady was now lay across several chairs as I had the whisper from my Church Warden that she wished to take Holy Communion. As I administered it she informed me that she was dying and that receiving Holy Communion would ensure she went to Heaven.
Needless to say, with all this going on, the ending of our service was rather more subdued than its beginning. As we awaited the arrival of an ambulance the lady concerned held on to me for reassurance as she continued to prepare herself for death. When the Paramedics arrived they found all her basic functions to be normal but decided to take her to hospital as a precaution.
Happily, later this afternoon, I received a call to say she is doing well, sitting eating sandwiches, but still awaiting some further tests for pains in her chest.
The thing that has stayed with me most from this morning’s events, is the fear, the raw fear this lovely lady was experiencing. She truly believed she was dying and yes, I quietly administered the ‘Last Rites’ for her.
Once she had been reassured by the Paramedics, the fear of dying gradually subsided but was instantly replaced by a fear of being taken into hospital.
Fear is so debilitating and no matter how much we reassure or are reassured, it takes time, and more often than not, it takes a real change in circumstance to alleviate fear. The lady in my church experienced fear of death, a fear of the unknown, (she was continually praying that death wouldn’t hurt) Her second fear of the hospital was borne out of previous experience. Whatever the reason, her fear was real and so must be respected; as was the fear of those who returned to church today for the first time in over twelve months. Their fear was of being in an environment and situation where they might catch the virus they’ve been avoiding for so long, despite all our risk assessments and their double vaccinations.
Without doubt, our present situation has made so many people fearful and it will be an issue for months to come.
I do believe that there is a second Pandemic brewing, and it is in the field of Mental Health.
Perhaps another post on this one…