Sr Mary Clare dj, in community in Westgate, England, recounts how she found the Risen Lord close to her house by the sea.
A year on from the first lockdown of 2020, the United Kingdom is waking up yet again! Last April I had made my own solitary procession of witness on Good Friday to look for signs of hope. To my surprise, I found it in a shop window. This year it was different again as I set off thinking folk would have succumbed to the pandemic.
To my surprise, the local Anglican Church had found a large wooden cross hidden away on their premises. They cleaned it up and mounted it outside in the garden to be seen by all who passed by on the way to the pharmacy and Post Office.
Put on the garment of new life
Some retired ladies in the area had knitted Easter bonnets for the post boxes – they added colour and fun to the streets even if the sea winds knocked them around a bit. Easter bonnets are part of the Christian tradition of wearing something new at Easter, to be in harmony with the renewal of the year as well as the promises of Spiritual Renewal and redemption.
“If I see for myself”
Despite finding some sign of hope I was still a bit like St Thomas in the Gospel of St John – I needed to see for myself …
The homily I heard on Easter Sunday in the televised Easter Mass from Ilford challenged me to go out and look again for the Risen Christ. The parish priest in his Easter homily left us with a question – “Where is your Galilee?” In the Gospel of St Mark, we are told that the Angel said to those who arrived at the tomb early on the Sunday morning, that they would find Jesus in Galilee.
Fr Andrew asked us to reflect on where our Galilee would be once lockdown was lifted. Who would we like to meet there? If we wanted it to be those who would make us feel most alive after weeks of staying at home, then it was in those friends that we would meet the Risen Lord!
“He goes before you into Galilee”
With these words echoing in my mind, I set out along the promenade to find the Risen Lord. There I met two retired men making a ramp down to the beach shelter. They were doing this to make the rooftop of the beach shelter accessible to visitors to Westgate and give them the opportunity to appreciate the sea in the sunshine.
The men told me that the Town Council had paid for the material, but they were offering their services for free. They also felt the shelter looked bleak and needed some love, so they had supplied oddments of wood for folk, young and old, to take home. The idea was to decorate them at home and then return them for the men to mount the resulting masterpieces. As a result, the shelter is now a welcoming place full of colourful paintings of sunsets, abstract artwork, or simple doodles.
I was struck by one piece of work which encouraged us to build an ARK of kindness by performing an Act of Random Kindness every day (ARK).
Near the shelter is a café offering takeaway drinks and food. During the winter months there was nowhere to sit so the two men have made slatted seating for the wall. People no longer have to sit on cold stone and as the slats are spaced 2 meters apart, they can still respect social distancing.
Looking again in the shelter, I saw that the two men wanted to make a wheelchair-friendly path across the grass from the side of the road to the ramp. This would cost £800. They already had £250 in hand but were asking for donations to make up the difference. As the English Province had received a very generous legacy for charitable purposes, I thought this was a project we could donate to.
“We have seen the Lord”
I asked myself what I could add to the Shelter Art Gallery and Sr Margaret Devine’s reflection, “Room with a View”, from last year came to mind. Her thoughts on the experience of lock down, and the accompanying photos, will be adapted and laminated to make it “sea weatherproof”.
As I walked home, I met a couple pushing their severely handicapped 19-year-old son in a special wheelchair. They come often to Westgate, as in the summer there is a special wheelchair that enables handicapped people to enter the sea. Emerged in the sea, he becomes a different person. I passed on the good news about the path across the grass. This raised their spirits and gave them something to look forward next time they come.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
For me, I had met the Lord in just a simple ten-minute walk along the sea front and I felt there was a sign of hope.
Alleluia! – The Lord has Risen!
Sr Mary Clare Mason dj