More tea, Vicar?

Published 10:07 am Friday, May 29, 2020

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Pam Stone

Just sayin’


You may have seen the charming video making the rounds this week of a senior English clergyman—Robert Willis, the Dean of Canterbury, actually–delivering his online morning prayer from a place we Anglophiles cherish: his outdoor garden, on a stout wooden chair, cup of tea (with saucer!) at his side. Dean Willis, with silver pate and bespectacled, is dressed in the traditional garb of a flowing black robe and ‘dog collar,’ looking to all the world as perhaps perfectly cast in a Miss Marple mystery. As he shared his morning reflection of the four friends who brought their sick friend to be laid before Jesus, saying, “…and finding the people around Jesus too many,” a black cat wandered across the graveled path and disappeared beneath the clergyman’s robes.
It’s just the sort of thing a cat would do, always seeking the most inappropriate places to explore and even funnier in that Dean Willis never blinked.
While I’ve been watching my own church’s online sermons, I simply had to begin watching these, too, as who can deny being enamored by another cat lover? So, I returned to YouTube and searched Canterbury Cathedral (you thought I was going to type ‘Cat-thedral, admit it) and watched the following day’s ‘Morning Prayer.’ For me, his opening statement was immediately touching and very important:
“Good Morning, and welcome to Canterbury Cathedral, on this 27th of May, as we begin our morning prayers. Wherever you are in the world, please be welcome here. We’ve come to the deanery garden and find a peacefulness here while the cathedral is still locked to us. Wherever you are at home, may we offer you prayers in your daily, locked down position, or at work.”
As with the church I attend, along with so many houses of worship, regardless of religion, I am reminded what I learned as a child: the church is not the building. It is the people. And I’m uncomfortable when what is considered sacred winds up being convenient fodder for political missives.
For those of us who attend regularly, we know that churches need not be forced to ‘reopen.’ They never closed. As a good friend of mine, a local clergyman, shared recently, “We have suspended public worship. The work of serving those in need, preaching salvation and the love of God to all, praying, studying scripture, burying the dead, counseling, etc. has never stopped.”
If anything, it seems with countless services from every faith flooding the internet, public worship has vastly increased.
For me, that means not only viewing the services from Holy Cross in Tryon, but also Canterbury Cathedral with Dean Willis. And that cat, who last time I checked, was sitting right next to him in an adjacent chair, twitching his tail and sniffing the scents of the garden.