At the time of writing our churches are closed for the duration of the Coronavirus epidemic; an end to business as usual. What is unusual, however, is that a new virtual church has come alive.
Some 18 months ago at St Mary of the Isle in Douglas we invested in live-streaming equipment. Some thought it extravagant. It soon proved its worth with the housebound every Sunday and with those unable to be present at significant family events such as weddings, christenings, First Holy Communions and funerals. Many of our parishioners in the Isle of Man are accustomed to being separated from their families in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Even more are separated from families further afield. However, I never imagined that our live-streaming facility would take off so spectacularly with the Coronavirus epidemic.
These last weeks have witnessed an amazing response to our daily Mass. I celebrate Mass each day in St Mary’s on my own, behind closed doors with a much wider group of people than I did when the church was open. Each day I receive emails, not just from our own parishioners on the island, but from all over the world: from Cincinnati, Chicago, Indiana, Maryland and Maine in the United States; from Canada, Kenya and South Africa, from India and Australia, from Ireland and from all parts of the UK. It’s a surprising example of how in God’s economy, loss becomes gain; death leads to life.
We are all part of God’s family. The human spirit cannot be crushed. As St Paul tells us in the Letter to the Romans: ‘Neither death nor life, no angel, no prince, nothing that exists, nothing still to come … can ever come between us and the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord.’