As we celebrate the Annunciation to Mary, when God first communicated to the Blessed Virgin, Fr Mark Broadway, Parish of Coity, Nolton, and Brackla with Coychurch, reflects on the seismic shift in the way the church is communicating during the Coronavirus pandemic.
There is a scene in David Mitchell and Robert Webb’s (often off-colour yet insightful) sitcom Peep Show, where Mitchell’s character finds himself alone in a restaurant. I seem to recall that he had been stood up, by a date. He reaches into his pocket, and exclaims “Still got the ‘phone. You’re never alone with a ‘phone”.
This week, many of us are finding ourselves alone. As we begin to feel that sense of loneliness and isolation, that I should imagine is common to so many people at this time, lots of us have reached for the ‘phone.
It’s a natural instinct to stay in touch, to communicate, and try to feel a sense of community in the midst of an often hostile world. One of the great ways I’ve been able to maintain a sense of community has been through online Church services.
In the Christian tradition, many of us share a set pattern of prayer and scripture readings every morning and evening. Ideally, we like to meet as communities of faith, but since that has been impossible of late, we’ve moved to sharing the services online; often using the ‘phone.
I’ve found communication to be central to the human condition. I’ve also found communication to be central to the Christian claims about God. From my perspective, God is a verbal God; a God who is not only present, but speaks. Who speaks through his word, and who spoke definitively for all time in his son Jesus. John’s gospel refers to God the Son as ‘the Word’. Communication is central to our understanding of God.
Today the Church celebrates the annunciation to Mary. That momentous moment when God communicated with the blessed virgin. Of course, he didn’t Skype her, or arrange a Zoom Meeting: she didn’t need a ‘phone to find herself transported from isolation to being the recipient of communication. Rather, scripture says he sent an angel to proclaim the good news: “Hail Mary, full of grace; the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women”.
Today I’m grateful for my ‘phone, which helps me stay in contact with friends and family; but I’m also grateful for the sense of community that comes from being a recipient of God’s communication to us, as we participate in daily prayer.