Our churches opened today for public worship for the first since since our doors closed in March. ‘Churches reopen’ may be the newspaper headlines, but the truth is, we never closed. What exactly has our church been doing during this crisis? Father Jack, in his sermon today, elaborated.

Our ministry and pastoral care team have made over 350 pastoral calls to anyone needing support, as well as to our parishioners. Parcels of food and medication have been delivered to those in need. Many people, desperate for help and with nowhere else to turn, have been helped with emergency cash grants. Homeless people have continued to receive help.

St Mary’s parishioners, Juliette Harvey and James Paterson, set up Tin in a Bin collection points around Wanstead. So far they’ve collected and delivered over 10 tonnes of food for Redbridge Foodbank and other local organisations.

Despite the lockdown, we still managed to raise funds for Christian Aid, and successfully closed our crowdfund for our Syrian Refugee project (and the great news here is that we have now submitted application papers to the Home Office).

One constant was, sadly, funerals. Our ministry team not only conducted funerals, but sat and comforted people as they mourned their loved ones, often having to say goodbye through a device.
Our online worship reached hundreds of people, including many from outside our parish and even outside the country. Our Holy Week and Easter services on YouTube were viewed over 3000 times. Canon Ann has worked incredibly hard producing live and recorded worship, and her Time to Pray service was and continues to be a great comfort to many people.
Our young people at Signpost have continued to meet up with one another on Zoom. Parishioners helped those not online to participate in our live worship, by holding up the telephone.
Our choir also continued to make beautiful music (check them out on YouTube here).
In our recently released film about St Mary’s, Niall McLaughlin quoted noted church architect Rudolf Schwarz, who said that the church was not just a walled shelter, but everything together: building and people, body and soul, human beings and Christ.
Matthew 11:28 says “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” By ‘Me’, Matthew means Us. Here in Wanstead, we – our parishioners – are the body of Christ, and it is our community whose practice consecrates our churches and makes them a sacred space.
We are the church ….. and we were always open.