“A new day is dawning” – Joy as churches reopen
Parishioners and members of the wider community in Rathmichael were joined by Archbishop Michael Jackson on Monday May 10 as churches reopened for public worship after four and a half months of lockdown. The Rector, the Revd Sean Hanily, led the service of Compline and welcomed people back through the church doors for the first time since Christmas.
The service was attended by local public representatives including Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill TD and clergy from neighbouring parishes, Fr John O’Connor from St Anne’s in Shankill and the Revd Trevor Stevenson from St James’s, Crinken. Also present was former Rector, Canon Billy Marshall and his wife Margaret as well as Canon George Salter. The service was streamed live and safety measures were in place for the congregation. The Rector said he felt it was important to mark the easing of restrictions in a public way with people from the whole community present to celebrate.
In his sermon, the Archbishop noted that for almost half a year churches had been closed except for the saddest of human events – funerals – and a very muted version of the happiest events – weddings. He paid tribute to all who worked so hard while church buildings were closed and added that the reopening of churches heralded a new beginning.
“We are all about to start afresh. It is important for those of us who can do so to come to church and to start as we intend to continue. It is equally important that those who come to church continue to look after those who now cannot come to church and to ensure that they are not and do not feel excluded from the worship of God as we move forwards. I want to thank all of you who have made the continuity of worship possible. I want to thank you for looking after yourselves, your families and your neighbours. Much done; much still to do. A new world is opening before us as a new day is dawning. Let us rejoice today,” he said.
Drawing on Psalm 122, the Archbishop asked who our fellow pilgrims are as we move out of the time of the coronavirus. He suggested that only the incautious and the irresponsible would predict that things would return to where they once were soon. While we still live in altered times and in the shadow of anxiety, he pointed out that most of the time the sun was shining and new times beckoned.
“Like the pilgrim who has arrived in Jerusalem, and on this day when places of worship may open again to worship lawfully, let us shut our eyes and open them again and look around us and count the blessings and the opportunities of being in church again. We love our churches. We love to be in them. Let us rejoice in them and treasure them. They are our Jerusalem that points us towards eternity and towards our God,” he concluded.