As we went into lockdown, we found ourselves scrambling to put things in place for the closure of Churches and the suspension of public liturgy. One Sunday we were at Mass with no real awareness that the next Sunday we would not be there. No one had experience to draw on, and even if we did, there was no time to reflect. We did the best we could – in parishes, schools and at a diocesan level.
It is only as the weeks and months have unfolded that we have had time to reflect on our choices and our experience. During this time there has been an avalanche of theological reflection, inviting us to listen more widely and deeply to what the Holy Spirit might be revealing to us about our life as a church community, and our understanding and appreciation of what we are doing when we gather for the public celebration of the liturgy, particularly Mass.
The pandemic has bought enormous challenge and pain, as well as unexpected opportunities and new life. It could be said that the pandemic has ‘pivoted’ us all, out of our old ways and more towards God’s ways. Such conversion is at once exhausting and energising.
In such unprecedented times the Diocesan Liturgy Council (DLC) recognised the importance of to the collective wisdom and harnessing the liturgical energy and creativity that was let loose by the pandemic. The wisdom of all the faithful is necessary to discern the path forward and to develop a ‘Liturgical Crisis/Pandemic Plan’ for the next time we are faced with lockdowns, closed churches and the suspension of the public celebration of liturgy.
Since July, the DLC has been working with Dr Miriam Pepper from National Church Life Survey to develop a survey that will enable us to listen to the diverse experience and reflections of the whole Catholic community. Because of the importance of the task, the DLC saw the need for a professional survey that respected people’s time commitment and shared wisdom. Miriam’s experience in drafting questions and in data analysis has been invaluable.
We are working with Ashleigh and Brooke from the Diocesan Communications Team to ensure that the survey is distributed widely. We need your help with that. Now the survey link is available, we hope you will share it with people in your networks. We also hope you might help those you know without internet access, to complete it. For those unable to complete the survey online, a paper version will be available from the diocesan liturgy office at 841 Hunter St, Newcastle West. Please ring Sharon on 4979 1134 and a hard copy can be mailed to you.
Recently I heard a medical professional say that we are only in the beginning phase of this pandemic. That said, at this point we have a range of experience to reflect on, and considerable insights that will help us discern our path in the months and years ahead. So now seems the right time for you to speak, and us to listen. The survey will be open for a month so there is plenty of time as long as you don’t forget!
It is important that the widest possible cross section of Catholic people engage with the survey. As we journey towards Advent, let us with Mary ponder these things in our hearts and make our voice heard.
“We must live this moment – really live it, not just endure it – because this very moment, for all its imperfection and frustration, because of its imperfection and frustration, is pregnant with all sorts of possibilities, is pregnant with the future, is pregnant with love, is pregnant with Christ.”
Walter Burghardt (Preacher and theologian)