Some years ago a city-centre church, open all day for prayer, suffered some thefts and vandalism. The insurance company said it would not pay out unless there were people on watch during the day. The parish priest asked for volunteers. No one volunteered.
He closed the church except at times of mass. People protested loudly and he explained that he wanted the church to be open but without volunteers they could not afford the risk of further damage and theft.
An elderly priest, living in retirement there, said he wasn’t surprised. “Every parish deserves a good priest sharing God’s love with the people – but the parish is the people. It is they who look after maintenance, cleaning, decorating, general work, who visit the elderly, housebound, care homes and hospital. In a good parish everyone feels involved, part of the community.” He said that what the critics wanted was the open church for their prayer but they wouldn’t volunteer to watch so that other people might come to pray.
An old lady I was visiting grumbled that no one from the church came to see her. I do, I laughed, and I bring you Holy Communion. So you should, she said, but no one else comes. I asked her if she visited the old and housebound when she was younger. She was too busy, she said. Maybe today’s people are too busy, I suggested? They aren’t, she snapped, they just can’t be bothered.
So there it is. If I don’t volunteer, it is because I am so busy: if other people don’t, they are just making excuses.
Will it happen here at St Joseph’s? We are planning our opening for prayer and mass and a few volunteers are ready to help.
Everyone who comes to pray will be asked if they would volunteer. If we don’t have enough volunteers, at least three on duty say the strict guidelines, each time the church is open, then we shall have to close the church until we have enough.
Last week at a funeral, my friend was on duty and the number in church was limited to 30. He had a list of those invited and stood at the door. A lady tried to push in. I’m sorry, he said, but you are not on the list. You mean I can’t pray? she said. Truly, he replied, I have to ask you not to come in because the mourners have not yet all arrived.
What would you have done in that situation? I wouldn’t blame him if he resigned. No one wants to deal with selfish inconsiderate people. Our church opening for prayer and mass will only succeed if we keep to the strict rules and everybody understands.
Please help make it possible for everyone to be able to come. Volunteer.
(16th August 2020)