I was very fortunate, blessed being a better word of course, to be able to walk on my annual pilgrimage last year in 2020. In spite of the restrictions we had all faced due to the Covid pandemic, by early July these had been lifted to allow non-essential travel and overnight stays; this was very good news for many of us and, from my own point of view, the effect was to allow me to set out for my destination of Winchester as I had originally planned months before.
As I made my way I found, inevitably perhaps, that I was observing the many means by which churches were adapting to the pandemic. As holding services of public worship was only just becoming possible and then only with strict adherence to social distancing, I found that many churches and chapels that I passed had details on their notice boards of how to access services of different sorts in a virtual sense.
But it was only on the second day of my pilgrimage and walking in the hilly country of south-east Wales, that I can across a very special example of the support being offered to churchgoers and the wider community, helping local residents make the most of Christian worship on the TV, radio and online.
There, in the church porch in a quiet hamlet in the Chepstow area, I came across copies of a Church at Home Guide. In this, a wide variety of services were listed with details of when and where to find them on the television or radio. (And here I would have to add that not only could local people borrow hymn books or service booklets from the church but the vicar was even offering help, if necessary, with tuning your radio; I found myself deeply moved by the kind thoughtfulness of this simple gesture.)
However, what stood out in this little take-away guide was the sentence, We never worship alone, and these programmes might help us all remember that we are part of something bigger.
As restrictions on public worship will doubtless continue for at least several months, many of us will continue needing to access church services in a virtual sense. For some of us this will be on our own, perhaps compounding what is often the considerable isolation and loneliness caused by the pandemic and sometimes more long-term circumstances too.
But in this time of Lent we need to remember the truth that we never worship alone. Watching our TV or tuned into the radio or listening online we are, indeed, part of something bigger. We are members in the truest sense of a worldwide body of Christian believers stretching from our own homes, villages and towns to the most distant places on the planet.
Things remain very difficult and we long to be able to worship together again, but understanding that we are part of something greater is perhaps what we needed to learn afresh.
We never worship alone!