Today we have a letter from the bishop so I won't be preaching. He raises, as always, some interesting points, he addresses family disfunction, the need of people to belong, the need of the Church to listen and to give people a sense of belonging. These are such an important issues especially in a parish like this which most probably has the highest single person accommodation in the diocese.
Practically all of the housing in my parish consists of tall Georgian or Victorian terraced houses divided up into single person accommodation. We don't really have families. People who live cheek by jowl with others, always conscious of the people on either side, people above, people below, people across the hall, tend to assert their independence. It can be a very lonely experience, it can very easily develope attitudes of isolation in which social skills are easily lost or forgotten.
When we have a parish event the last people who would want to come are those who live on their own, or those who are lonely. They are also the first leave Mass, if they stay behind they bury their faces in their hands and make a deep and profound thanksgiving, alone with their God.
In so many ways the only thing that binds my people together, the only thing they have in common is God and their faith, though even faith is often expressed in radically different ways dependant on age, nationality, language, class, gender, sexual orientation, education, cultural and political outlook, etc. etc. etc.
It is not that people do not care for one another, friendships form but often more slowly than the community changes, at least half of those who come to Mass here will have moved out of the parish within the year.
Over my years here I have come to realise that all I have to offer people is the Fatherhood of God, Communion with Christ and the Sanctification of the Holy Spirit. We are a poor parish, the worst of our poverty is the lack of community. Of course if there was no pastoral letter I would preach on the contraceptive mentality that has shaped the thinking of our town planners and the structure of our society, and our way of thinking about relationships with one another.