Lent blog: 17 – REAL PRESENCE

Published Mon, 08/03/2021 by

Margaret and I drove David back to Birmingham yesterday afternoon.  He was able to continue his studies at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire of Music after Christmas without too much difficulty during the lockdown as the University responded well, putting classes of all kinds on line.  But (like pupils at school, though their situation has been less high-profile) students have missed out not only on the more obvious aspects socialising with their peers – which is probably half the attraction of higher education – but also those more intangible aspects of inspiration and learning in their chosen subject that comes from the sheer human presence of their teachers and the ‘feel in the room’ of fellow students in the lecture hall, something that Zoom for all its virtues can never replicate.

The same has been true with the Church, of course.  I never supposed that a streamed YouTube Mass could adequately make up for the real experience of being part of a worshipping congregation.  I have felt uncomfortable that the focus of the camera has been so unrelentingly on me, while the worshipping People of God has been largely invisible, out of sight.  At least yesterday, with our first ‘Zoom Mass’, we got to see the small images on screen of the readers who were making an active contribution to the liturgy; and later there was an opportunity to join the chat room conversation with those who had been following the Mass unseen but whose faces could afterwards be shown (though I muted myself while changing out of my robes, and couldn’t then find a way to unmute!)

If real person-to-person human presence wasn’t important to our salvation, God the Son would not have become incarnate.  The communication of the Word alone would have done.  As it is, we needed to see how the Saviour lived and interacted as well as what he said.  “Full of grace and truth,” his dealings put flesh on the bones of the spoken Gospel for us (cf. John 1:14). 

There’s an important message for the Church here as we look to re-engage with the world after restrictions have fully eased.  It will not be just what we say that counts, but how we act too.  Actions count louder than words.

MICHAEL KIRKHAM