Palm Sunday was another key point in our journey. The morning found us again at St Agnes for the mass and then we were back at Christ Church for lunch. Several things hit me — some not for the first time.
Firstly, yet again I was grateful for all those people that have been part of our particular journey. For 11 years we have been part of Christ Church and being there has been a gift from God to us as a family. There have been lots of ups and downs but it has been a time that has been grace-filled. Christ Church is truly a community of people loving God, each other and those outside. We have been overwhelmed by their generosity, warmth and love. They have allowed us to go on to this new stage in our faith journey in the best way possible and therefore leaving has been one of the hardest things we have ever done. Although we are leaving links between us will continue. We were also delighted to see people from St Peter’s, Neil’s curacy church at the lunch as well.
We are also very grateful for the welcome we have received from the Catholic community. I don’t think I have ever been hugged by so many nuns! People have supported us in so many ways: prayers and practical help, being sponsors and teachers. The input we have been given has been challenging, enlightening and filled with depth and humour in equal measure. We have been bowled over by the enthusiasm for this new and strange thing called the Ordinariate.
I must confess to being amazed by the reactions from both communities, the one we have left and the one we are joining. And yet this is what happens when individuals form communities, open to God and move toward Him together. This situation could have been dreadful and there could have been bitterness on every side but there hasn’t been. These communities have displayed to us the fruits of the Spirit. In difficult times they are generous, kind, joyful and faithful.
The second thing I noticed is this. The Palm Sunday Liturgy felt different today. It was much the same as it is at Christ Church (although I could see Neil was missing the opportunity to get everyone soaked as Fr Tim blessed the palms.) Yet it felt different. There have been lots of moments where we have felt the loss of the familiar but this was different, not because of the less familiar surroundings, nor being dryer than usual after the sprinkling but because I am used to walking Holy Week with different people.
It struck me that when we allow God to work in us, within our church communities, we all change as a result. We walk this part of our faith journey together for, as we were discussing on Friday over soup, as we draw closer to God, we draw closer to each other.
In one of our sessions, Fr Raglan talked about the place of sacraments. From the Emmaus Road story he pointed out how Jesus acted as a guide, walking along side the two disciples. He explained the scriptures concerning the Messiah and when he blessed the food the disciples recognised him for the first time and they hurry to tell others “we have seen the Lord”. These elements are part of our life as a church community. We have guides who help us with our journey: bishops, priests, catechists, lay readers. We have the scriptures, which must be Christ centred and we have the ritual of the sacraments, through which we recognise God and the heart longs to tell the story. This explanation has stayed with me. The two disciples went through the experience together and this surprising journey changes us and links us together. It takes me back to the Vine and the branches. What does this feel like in practice? Well it feels like today. Realising that our relationships with the people of Christ Church have and will continue to change us, while also realising that our relationship with the Catholic community in Eastbourne is helping us on a journey that is changing as it changes us. Finally we recognise that both communities have been God’s gift to us in different ways.