‘Go and repair my house, you see it is falling down.’
These words spoken to St Francis of Assisi many centuries ago acquired
a new meaning for me throughout the twelve months of 2020. I had
retrodden the pilgrim’s steps in January, delighted to be back in
Assisi, having last visited as a student thirty years ago. Over a week’s
retreat I entered into the silence and beauty. I returned home with an
invigorating sense of renewal. Weeks later the spire of one of the Jersey
churches entrusted to my care was judged to be at grave risk of falling
down. The church had to close. When COVID-19 then proceeded to
shut down much of normal life, it felt like I was being told, go and help
to repair not only a church but your world.
How do I repair a world damaged by my own disregard for the
environment, my apathy at social injustice and shame at the Church
whose grave failings I know but which I still believe in and love? Where
do I start?
During those weeks of lockdown, when churches and much else was
closed, when we were told to only venture out for short periods; when
ministry meant hours of telephone calls and online ‘events’; when I got
confused and tired of ‘government advice’ but surprised myself at just
whose company I missed, I came to appreciate that the repairs I could
do needed to be slow and steady, patient and kind. In many ways, I
would need to be like the stonemasons I was employing on Jersey’s
‘We’re getting there’ was an often-heard remark which this year I did
not always appreciate. We are though. As the enduring granite stones
of the spire were repaired and put back by the inspiring actions and
generosity of so many, I know I belong to a Church and world where I
am not alone in now looking to doing things differently.
As a Christian, the sign of the cross whether atop a spire or made in
a hand gesture has long spoken to me. It tells how amid the darkness
of one moment God’s amazing grace was at work. After all we have
experienced in this most unusual year, I believe grace is again active.
In wanting to continue my reply to the invitation ‘Go and repair’ I shall
strive to be like St Francis: a blessing and a channel of peace.