Passing on the Baton

The Olympic and Paralympic Games scheduled for Tokyo in 2020 are now rescheduled to take place in July 2021. This global event is due to take place in very restricted circumstances because of the pandemic. There will be no overseas’ spectators and this is particularly difficult for the families and friends of the athletes taking part.

When you have dedicated your life to becoming an elite athlete and put in all the hard and lonely hours practising your discipline, when you have worked so hard since childhood to achieve this dream, you want to share your moment on the world stage with those who have made the dream possible for you. You think especially of family and friends who have sacrificed to enable you to make it to this point and, sadly, this isn’t possible for them to be there with you because of the circumstances we find ourselves in.

Like many sports fans, I always enjoy the theatre of the Olympics. There are certain events I always try to watch, like the 100 and 200 metres final where 10 or 20 seconds decides who will be crowned the fastest man and woman on the planet. I try to tune in if an Irish athlete has made it to an Olympic final, whatever the distance, recognising what an epic achievement this represents. I also enjoy the relay races where you see the importance of team work. There is something incredibly skilful involved in handing over the baton at full tilt enabling the next runner to take off at maximum speed. It involves brilliant eye and hand coordination, timing, trust and is a key part of any team’s success. It goes way beyond just having 4 fast individuals, it’s about each of them not only delivering their best run, but helping the next person off to the best possible start.

Last Friday, our 10 year old son, Conor, got his Easter holidays from school. He had been back in school in person for the last week and there was a half day. He reminded me on the way in about the time I was to collect him and I told him we would be delivering a couple of books into people’s letterboxes on the way home. These were gifts that we were passing onto people who had completed the online alpha course in church recently.

He asked me if we were going to Emma’s house? Emma was one of the participants on the course and had spoken in our online Lenten service the previous night about it being something she had really found helpful on her faith journey. The conversation took a surprising turn as he told me how much he had loved these online services on Thursday nights. We called them ‘an army of ordinary people’ as we invited some people from the congregation to share something of their faith story through an interview.

Each Thursday night he would set up the laptop in his bed to watch the service with his mum. He was able to tell me all about the stories he had heard and he told me it was such a lovely thing to do with his mum each Thursday before he went to sleep. He told me he found all these people in our church really inspiring and he was thanking God for them in his prayers.

He asked me who would be doing ‘an army of ordinary people’ the following week and I told him that there would be someone coming in every night to talk about the last week of Jesus’s life and what the events of that week meant for us today. He told me he would be tuning in with mum and that he would make sure to like the video on YouTube!

In our Lenten services, as members of the congregation have shared their experience and expertise on looking after our mental, physical and spiritual health during lockdown and shared stories of faith, many of them have spoken of people who had an impact upon them. It may  have been parents or grandparents, it may have been teachers, clergy or youth leaders or friends. The thing is that someone shared the good news that God loved them with someone else and set them off on that journey of faith for themselves.

So, today, as we continue our journey through Holy Week, I’m grateful for all those people who, over the past Lent, have inspired our family as they have shared their faith and their experiences in our Lenten services. I’m grateful for the technology and those who operated it, who have made these opportunities available to, not just the parish, but a global audience. I’m grateful for our Sunday school teachers who have kept our children connected over Zoom and the Messy Church Team and those who are passing on the baton of faith.

In truth, it’s something we are all called to do and who knows the impact you might be able to have on your family, your friends and acquaintances as you perhaps invite them to online events or services? There are wonderful events available for people to see and participate in on our parish website and Facebook Page made available by the diocese and other churches.

We look forward to being able to come together to worship in person on Good Friday at 7.30 pm and on Easter day at 11 am. We remind everyone of the importance of social distancing, wearing a face covering and following the medical guidance of staying away if you feel unwell or are concerned about underlying health conditions. The service will be live streamed and there is one service on Easter Sunday. From Sunday 11th April we hope to resume services at 11 am and 7 pm.

At the bottom of this blog you should find a link to the latest podcast called Bitesize Chunks Faith. It will give you details about how to join our next online Alpha course which begins on 14th April and, if you’d like to come or invite a friend or family member, we would love to welcome you on that journey to explore faith together. It also shares that interview with Emma which inspired Conor so much.

May I take this opportunity to wish everyone a Happy Easter and may you know the risen presence of the Lord in your life. The blog will be taking a break next week, but look forward to speaking again soon.

Much love to everyone,

Jono.

Listen to the latest episode of Bitesize Chunks of Faith