Arriving in Brighton at the beginning of January as the third National lockdown came into full effect was perhaps not the simplest way to start up a small monastic community house. Nearly four months on and we are delighted to be establishing an on-line presence to share our experience and thoughts.
Putting down Roots
The months of Lockdown, whilst making it challenging to get to know our neighbours, has allowed us to get to know each other a little more. Within a few weeks of arriving – on the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord (February 2nd) – we welcomed the presence of Christ in sacramental form into our midst in our small oratory tabernacle.
Given the challenges of lockdown we have still been able to connect in small ways with the local church, the Catholic parish of East Brighton with its two churches – St Joseph’s in Elm Grove and St John the Baptist in Kemp Town. For example, we are facilitating an on-line Parish Lectio Divina group and are attending on-line the Wellspring Community’s Deep Waters outreach to young adults. With St Joseph’s Church now open we are able to regularly attend Mass there and join the Wellspring Community for evening prayer. During the Easter Tridium we participated and assisted in the Parish Liturgy and Wellspring Virtual Easter Retreat, with a discussion group in the great outdoors!
On Easter Sunday, whilst observing COVID precautions, we were also able to join a rota of volunteers assisting at a local Food Bank based in the Fitzherbert Centre at St John the Baptists’ church, meeting a cross section of visitors and distributing provisions for around 72 people over a couple of hours.
It is a significant aspiration of the Community that we listen and respond to the needs of our world at this time, both locally and globally. During Lent and Eastertide we have been able to participate on-line and become engaged with a number of exciting initiatives that seek to educate and promote Catholic Social Teaching and Ecological Conversion as espoused by Pope Francis. These have the overall aim of building a new culture of Universal Care which is so much needed today.
New Shoots – An invitation to build a Culture of Universal Care
In his encyclical Fratelli Tutti and recent book ‘Let us Dream’ the Pope challenges us to work creatively with all those of good will to build a better world especially now, as we start to recover from the pandemic, by walking alongside and listening to those who are often voiceless. One way of doing this is through ‘Community Organising’ as developed by ‘Citizens UK’. The Community is now part of a Citizens UK group which is being formed in the Catholic Parish of East Brighton, to network and campaign with others in Brighton for issues of social justice.
Pope Francis in his encyclical Laudato Si’, is calling us all to an Ecological Conversion in order to respond both to the Cry of the Earth and the Cry of the Poor. Inspired by this encyclical we:
· have participated in a national Catholic Global Healing course of webinars during Lent. As a result of this course Fr Aidan is training to become a Laudato Si’ Animator.
· are networking locally with other Religious for mutual support and to share our learning,
· are actively participating in the Diocesan plans towards ecological renewal via ‘Journey to 2030’.
· are supporting CAFOD’s Parliament in our Parish initiative to gain the support of MPs in lowering our Carbon emissions and ask for debt relief to poorer countries.
The Culture of Care that the Pope urges us to build will, he points out, challenge the culture of indifference and waste that can be prevalent in our society. Such care encompasses a care for ourselves, for others and for the earth. All are interconnected. Knowing where to begin can feel overwhelming.
Bishop John Arnold, who is responsible for Ecological issues on the Bishops Conference in England and Wales, has produced some useful tips to get started on the road to ecological conversion. Over the coming weeks we hope to share with you some small steps that we will be taking in seeking to help build a new Culture of Care – living in a more green, just, ethical and sustainable manner.