Category Archives: corona virus

17 September,Going Viral XCI: Not yet quite normal.

Rev Jo Richards reported on recent and upcoming events in the City of Canterbury, but Agnellus got a bit left behind! But we’ll start with Rev Jo’s report, noting in passing that it’s three weeks since a ‘going viral’ post. Mrs T and I have been away, forgetting masks and germs, except on the trains, but we’ve also failed to record a few changes in how we come together. But read on to the end of the post!

Will Turnstone.

Rev Jo reported:

On Saturday we had the delightful wedding of Hannah and Sam in St Dunstan’s. It was so good to be able to have a full church and sing hymns – neither of which we have been able to do throughout lockdown with the covid restrictions. So we wish them every blessing on their special day. 

It was also Canterbury Pride, which Jenny and I joined the gathering first thing in the Westgate Gardens, and then later in the day I joined the folk in Dane John Gardens – and it was quite a festival atmosphere, and again a good opportunity to catch up with a number of folk I know from across the city….then stayed up to watch the tennis. It was a late night!!

The first of Rev Jo’s coming events was a return to old routine that I had been looking forward to, the highlight of the day when I worked Fridays at the L’Arche Glebe garden. We used to meet in what was perhaps a chapel or vestry, converted into a parish room but that is too small even for the revised restrictions.


Coffee morning at St Mildred’s Friday 17th September The Friday morning coffee club at St Mildred’s is resuming from this Friday 17th September, from 10.00 – 12.00, thank you to Viv, Vie and Doris. So if you are passing by do drop in and say hello. To give us more space, it will be held in the body of the church. It will be  an opportunity either for some quiet time, or catching up with one another. All from across the Benefice, and beyond are very welcome to drop by.

I was certainly made welcome to the improvised cafe at the West End of the Church itself, joining a few parishioners, including a gentleman I’d not met before. May the coffee morning flourish and welcome passers-by, like the two tourists who were leaving as I arrived.

Kent Vegan Association: We are delighted to announce that Kent Vegan Association will be holding their monthly market in St Peter’s Church on the third Sunday of the month, beginning Saturday, 18 Sep. This is a wonderful opportunity for us to engage with the local community, especially as we are looking to develop St Peter’s as a Community Hub, in addition to a place of worship. An Oasis on the High Street for all.

We’ve mentioned these talks before: https://www.cantcommsoc.co.uk/2021/08/kentish-saints-and-martyrs-600-1600/

Saints & Martyrs 600-1600: All talks begin at 7.30pm. We have on Wed 22 Sep in St Mildred’s a talk on the Anglo-Saxon female saints, on Thu 23 Sep Martyrs of the 16th Century in St Dunstan’s,  and In Becket’s Shadow on Fri 24 Sep in St Peter’s. Please come along and support these events held in our churches, with excellent speakers.

Follow this link.

Have a great weekend!

Will.

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30 August: Holy Leisure

The American writer Henry Thoreau claimed that we should not judge our wealth by the things we possess but by the amount of free time that we have.

By Eddie Gilmore of the London Irish chaplaincy. Welcome back, Eddie!

By Thoreau’s reckoning I’ve been pretty wealthy during the pandemic due in part to working from home. My working day used to involve three or four hours of commuting and so I’ve had that time for other things. After the first lockdown had eased I was cycling with a guy in my club called Steve who, pre-Covid, I would see from time to time on the train back from London. He said that previously at a quarter to five he would be clearing his desk and getting ready to head to St Pancras to catch the train. “Now,” he explained to me with evident delight, “I walk down the garden path to the shed to get my bike out and I’m off.” It was a bit the same for me last summer: down to the shed at the bottom of the garden, bike out and away. I needed something a bit different this year and the Korean study has filled up a lot of my free time nicely, although I’ve still relished the extra time for a variety of sporting and other pursuits.

St Augustine described the monastic life as otium sanctum, which can be translated as holy leisure. The American Trappist monk Thomas Merton touches on the theme of otium sanctum in his book ‘Spiritual Direction and Meditation’. Business is not the supreme virtue,’ he writes, ‘and sanctity is not measured by the amount of work we accomplish.’ That’s not to say that no work or business is conducted in a monastery. On the contrary, monasteries through the ages have been hives of activity, and you’re also as likely to find workaholics there as anywhere, Merton himself having been one of them! Yet, there’s a structure and a balance to the monastic day that gives time to work, time to pray, time to eat, time to read or study, time to rest, and time just to gaze upon the flowers in the fields. It’s the active in harmony with the contemplative, and a little sign that all of our time, ultimately, is a gift.

Having free time doesn’t necessarily mean doing nothing but being perhaps less driven and more conscious and intentional about what we’re doing in any given moment. I like that the word leisure comes from the Latin licere, meaning ‘to be permitted’ or ‘to be free’. I also like one of the definitions of that Latin word ‘otium’: ‘leisure time in which a person can enjoy eating, playing, resting, contemplation and academic endeavors.’ The key, perhaps, is taking time to enjoy and savour each moment in the day, and to take pleasure in the world and in those around us; to sit on a bench, to smell a rose, to listen to the birds singing. It could even be experienced in the midst of  writing a report or a funding application, or when doing a 100 mile cycle ride! All is given, all is gift.

The key for Thick Naht Hahn, the Vietnamese monk and poet, is mindfulness. He counsels that when eating a tangerine, be aware that you are eating a tangerine! When drinking a cup of tea, be aware that you’re drinking a cup of tea! Just as in a Japanese tea ceremony, each step of the process is important and given the right amount of time and awareness: boiling the kettle, preparing the vessels, warming the pot, pouring the water, waiting for the tea to brew; and then sipping, smelling, savouring. Perhaps even giving a little thought and a blessing to those who grew the tea and picked and dried the leaves.

I’ll shortly have the great gift of two week’s of holiday in which Yim Soon and I will walk the West Highland Way in Scotland followed by Ben Nevis and then a few days on the Isle of Skye. I will consider myself the wealthiest person alive to have such otium sanctum and to be able to spend it in such a place and in such company.

Happy holidays (i.e. holy days) to everyone!

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23 August: Faith in the 18th Century towns.

Manchester’s Collegiate Church became its Cathedral in 1847.

In this post from the John Rylands Library in Manchester Kate Gibson uses letters from the Nicholson family to demonstrate that religious faith did not die out in the mushrooming industrial towns of Britain.

Her project, Faith in the Town: Lay Religion, Urbanisation and Industrialisation in England, 1740-1830, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, is looking at the letters and diaries of ordinary people living in the towns of Northern England, for evidence of the place of faith in their daily lives. Unlike many histories of secularisation which focus on formal church organisations and their records, we argue that looking at the everyday practices of faith, and its relationship with how people thought about their family lives, their identities, their work and their use of urban and domestic space, provides a more vibrant picture of the continued importance of religion in this period. This is a history of faith from the bottom up, not the top down.

Faith in the Town has many interesting posts that may challenge us today, when our church communities have been in enforced hibernation. What can we and our buildings offer by way of space to be quiet and simple, welcoming, common worship for members and non-members alike?

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22 August, Going Viral XC: How sisters are helping around the world.

The secondary impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have hit many countries hard in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo, where Catholic Relief Services provides food and cash aid. (Courtesy of Catholic Relief Services/Justin Makangara)

The secondary impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have hit many countries hard, including worsening hunger in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo, where Catholic Relief Services provides food and cash assistance to hard-hit families. (Courtesy of Catholic Relief Services/Justin Makangara)

This article from The Global Sisters’ Report

describes how sisters of many congregations are responding to the challenges thrown up by Covid-19 and its variants, and how precautions against the disease can make daily life much more difficult.

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9 August: Pilgrimage : 800 years later.

Here are two pictures to set you thinking.

A Dominican, also known as a friar preacher, preaching in Canterbury Cathedral, and seven more singing Vespers. Not something that happens every day, but no longer an occasion for demonstrations against such ecumenical hospitality. And it was a shared time of prayer, celebrated at the usual hour for Evensong, with contributions from both Anglican and Catholic clergy, and the choir of St Thomas’ Church, Canterbury with the Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin.

The occasion was the 800th anniversary of the arrival of the Dominicans in England. Four of the friars are walking from Ramsgate to Oxford via Canterbury and London. The Preacher was Fr Richard Finn; most of the friars present were young men: fit, we hope, for two weeks of marching. But they were taking a break for refreshment and prayer in the mother city of the English Church.

The vespers were sung and the sermon preached 800 years to the day since the first Dominican sermon preached in England: Archbishop Stephen Langton ordered one of them to give the homily and after hearing it, gave them his blessing and his backing. Fr Richard spoke about joy: a virtue to be cultivated even in difficult times, as the pandemic has been for so many of us. But if we are joyful at heart, we can live and share that joy. For a start, let’s rejoice that these events do take place.

The friars are now walking on to Oxford, where they established their first house in England and where their main house of studies is today, though they are also at Edinburgh and Cambridge.

Read more about the Friars’ pilgrimage here.

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6 August, Going Viral LXXXIX: Changing insights about death.

Starlings gathering, August 3 2021, Graveney, Kent

The Global Sisters’ Report ran this article by Franciscan Sister Laura Hammel which discusses her changing reactions to death: death of family and other dear ones, and most especially of the recent death of a sister who had shared her life for 45 years. When Sister Laurene Burns was in hospital, COVID-19 prevented members of her community from visiting; they brought her home to die with them. Insightful indeed. Follow the link!

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29 July, Going Viral LXXXVI: Reaching out to seminarians in Cameroon

Impact Report 2021: Reaching out to seminarians in Cameroon

This post links to the Missio website, and tells how Missio (formerly APF) supported a seminary on the front line of a civil war in Cameroon.

In 2020, you reached out to seminarians at St Thomas Aquinas Major Seminary in Bambui, where armed conflict continues to rage between the military and the rebel ‘Amba Boys’.

The Rector, Fr Ignatius, shared with us:

‘In 2020, the armed conflict did not disturb us much, except for the times when the gun battles were on the highway that runs right in front of the Seminary. At such times, all the members of the community stayed in the backyard, using the buildings as cover’.

Follow thre link to read the report. Impact Report 2021: Reaching out to seminarians in Cameroon

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26 July: Over the Hill, SS Joachim and Anne, grandparents.


This is not about Anne and Joachim, or whoever were Mary’s parents and Jesus’s grandparents, but about how we put a value on, or better, find value in, grandparents and other older people. We can be sure that Mary was well brought up by good people, and perhaps it was with his understanding grandparents that Jesus stayed when he stopped behind in Jerusalem, aged 12.

This essay by Alan Jacobs explores the values that cannot be measured in pounds, euros or dollars, and makes for refreshing reading whatever your age. Read, enjoy, and ponder!

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Going Viral LXXXV: the certain fact that the virus is still with us.

A statement from the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales regarding attending Sunday Mass.

“It is hoped that it will be possible for all Catholics in England and Wales to fulfil the Sunday Obligation, by the First Sunday in Advent 2021.”

(Pere Jacques Hamel, martyred at the altar, 2017).

We are mindful of the certain fact that the Covid-19 virus is still circulating in society. Vaccines provide genuine protection against the worst effects of the virus, yet we recognise the legitimate fear on the part of some who otherwise desire to gather for Holy Mass. It is our continuing judgement, therefore, that it is not possible at the present time for all of the faithful to attend Mass on a Sunday thus fulfilling their duty to God.

It is hoped that it will be possible for all Catholics in England and Wales to fulfil this most important Church precept, that of the Sunday Obligation, by the First Sunday in Advent 2021. In the meantime, all Catholics are asked to do their best to participate in the celebration of the weekly Sunday Mass and to reflect deeply on the centrality of Sunday worship in the life of the Church.

In April, following our Plenary Assembly, we offered a reflection on the experience of the extraordinary long months of the pandemic. It was titled The Day of the Lord. We also began to look at the way forward. We spoke about the important invitation to restore the Sunday Mass to its rightful centrality in our lives. We asked for a rekindling in our hearts of a yearning for the Real Presence of the Lord in the Eucharist, as our response to the total, sacrificial love that Jesus has for us. We said: “The Eucharist should be the cause of our deepest joy, our highest manner of offering thanks to God and for seeking his mercy and love. We need to make it the foundation stone of our lives.”

May this continue to be our striving during these coming months as we journey back to the full celebration of our Sunday Mass and our renewed observance of The Day of the Lord.

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10 July: Going viral LXXXIII, PPE and bad science.

Mrs Turnstone was talking about a neighbour who cannot visit elderly friends because her partner refuses to take the Covid-19 vaccine in any form, yet they are the products of good science and hygienic manufacturing.

The picture above shows a 17th Century plague doctor in full PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). It was not realised that the black rats around his feet were beset with fleas which passed the plague onto humans. The Doctor was well protected against airborne diseases, not against fleas. Note the poppies at hand to prepare opiate drugs, still very much in use today.

Another disease that was thought to come from bad air was the ague, a Northern European strain of mal – aria, that is bad – air. 150 years after the plague doctor appeared in Canterbury (you can see him on the mural in the subway by St George’s and the bus station), WIlliam Hutton wrote An History of Birmingham (1783). He attributed the absence of ague to the air of Birmingham, which stands on red sandstone, a free-draining rock. Hutton wrote:

Thus eminently situated, the sun can exercise his full powers of exhalation. The foundation upon which this mistress of the arts is erected, is one solid mass of dry reddish sand. The vapours that rise from the earth are the great promoters of disease; but here, instead of the moisture ascending to the prejudice of the inhabitant, the contrary is evident; for the water descends through the pores of the sand, so that even our very cellars are habitable. This accounts for the almost total extinction of the ague among us:–During a residence of thirty years, I have never seen one person afflicted with it, though, by the opportunities of office, I have frequently visited the repositories of the sick.

Thus peculiarly favoured, this happy spot, enjoys four of the greatest benefits that can attend human existence–water, air, the sun, and a situation free from damps.

Like tropical malaria, the ague depends on mosquitoes to spread among humans. Mosquitoes need still water to breathe, perhaps especially drainage ditches and ponds, less and less common in what was becoming a major built up area. And there was plenty of pollution in the air from factories great and small burning coal, but still Hutton was jumping to conclusions.

. . . . .

We have much to be grateful for. Thirteen years after Hutton’s history, Edward Jenner gave the first cowpox vaccination, which would eventually lead to the abolition of smallpox, and inspired so much progress in public health. Now to get at the covid virus around the world!

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