Welcome + Worship + Witness

The Rector: Huddled round a Candle

Second Sunday of Easter
19 April 2020
10.30 Morning Service

Revd Nicholas Mercer

When I was at Theological College we received some unexpected advice from the Principal

During one of his talks he advised us that, despite our eager expectations, we might have a ministry where we were simply “huddled round a candle”.

The purpose of his comment was to temper our expectations  

Despite our student zeal, in all probability, we were not going to minister to large congregations or experience any great religious revival  

Our job was, probably, to keep the flame of faith alive as the Church of England continued its gradual decline.

The advice was wholly realistic particularly given the demographics of an average parish

What none of us had expected however was the COVID-19 pandemic that now engulfs the world

We are living through the worst public health crisis of our age and, as a result, even our Churches have had to close

With the exception of 1208, churches in England have always remained open on Easter Day.

So the closure of the church on Easter Day is almost unprecedented

At Bolton Priory we have worshipped continually for nearly a thousand years and this was possibly the first threatened interruption in a millennium

On Easter morning however, I celebrated Holy Communion with my family

We were, as my Principal at Theological College rightly predicted, “huddled round a candle”

But for reasons that none of us could have predicted

However, far from being depressed, I felt elated.

I felt so close to the first disciples who also broke into the empty tomb on Easter morning

I felt so close to the first disciples who, like us, were able to proclaim the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

And I felt so close to the disciples who rushed back to proclaim the Good News to the other disciples.

Like them, we too went back to our lock down, not in Jerusalem but this time in Bolton Abbey.

Being “huddled round a candle” had seemed so pessimistic and defeatist when it first suggested a decade ago 

The reality however was entirely different.

Indeed, it was triumphant:

Despite walking in the valley of the bones, breath had entered our bodies and flesh come upon us

Despite being in lockdown, like the disciples we encountered the risen Christ and

Despite all life’s dangers, like our ancestors before us, we too knew “that I am the Lord”

So whatever life may throw at us – both now and in the future – both individually and collectively- may we too continue to “huddle round a candle”