My Dear Friends,
Sometimes we just need to be alone – our souls need moments of solitude in order to maintain our individuality. But we can’t live like that – the fact is that we are remarkably dependant on one another. We need other people in our lives – for support, affirmation, encouragement, companionship. They nourish and sustain us in a hundred different ways. And of course we nourish them.
Relationships and companions are not easy to find. There is a lot of loneliness in the world today. The latest census figures show that about 57 per cent of people in our area are living alone. This may be choice or accident but many people are longing for a sense of belonging, company, friendship.
The word “companion” comes from two Latin words: “cum” which means with and “panis” which means bread. So a “companion” literally means someone with whom I share bread. It’s not everyone you enjoy a meal with. Not everyone that you invite for a cup of tea. There has to be a bond – and that bond is deepened by sharing food and drink.
When people invite us to their table, they offer us more than food. They offer us trust, welcome and friendship. The talk is as much part of the fare as the food. Afterwards we feel nourished, not only in body, but also in heart and spirit.
The Eucharist, the Mass, Holy Communion is the meal we share with Jesus and with one another. By being our host, by inviting us to share his sacred food he makes us his companions and friends. And in doing so we ought to become companions and friends to one another. The two realities are linked – being in communion with Jesus so we can be in communion with one another. But it doesn’t always happen.
Building a community here in St John’s is not easy. Over sixty per cent of our congregation live outside the parish. But building a community is not that hard either. It takes ordinary friendliness. The first step is a willingness to be acquainted. The importance of this lies behind our pastoral care of our entire congregation, but it also lies behind our membership of London Citizens and our links with Zimbabwe.
So it is time to review the needs of our community and beyond. One of the tasks of this summer will be a careful stock-taking of what those needs might be if we are to be companions not just to Jesus but to each other.
We need Christ, but we also need each other. The Eucharist is the link between these two facts. In it we celebrate the presence of Christ in the world, and we celebrate the fact that we share in it together. Our procession on Goose Green on Corpus Christi Sunday is more than a declaration of faith; it is a living symbol that we have much to celebrate – in our diversity and in our communion with one another. We are all companions on a journey because we share this bread with one another.
Your friend and Vicar,