The Wolverhampton Episcopal area of the Lichfield Diocese covers most of the Black Country. A place with a rich and proud industrial past that has shaped the present. There are a number of Society parishes here, most of which were born out of the places where the poor Victorian working classes lived, worked and died. The smoke of the foundry contrasted with the sweeter smell of incense, the sweat, grime and dust covered working “mons” clothes contrasted with the bright vestments of the mass, the noise of the workshop and the mine with the choral music, chant and organs and life was recentred as you entered the churches in the catholic tradition. What you might call a Good Friday existence became an Easter moment on the Lord’s Day.
From that heady history to the reality of the Covid pandemic and a largely post-Christian and multi-faith urban society, and that’s where its at. Our congregations are generally about a third down on what they were pre-covid, our finances are not good, the parish share looms like a sword of Damocles and our survival is therefore under scrutiny.
It is not all gloom though, it is not all about numbers, there is Good News! There are great works ongoing – Regular online broadcasts are now a particular feature of parishes in Wolverhampton and on Friar Park. No substitute for being at Mass, but an important evangelistic and pastoral ministry.
In Wolverhampton there is a Parish Nurse ministry and clothing bank through The Lighthouse Project. Several of our churches have “Places of Welcome” and in Tividale there is a rebirth in an estate church with a thriving toddler group, an older peoples club, a new standalone Sunday School and a Foodbank about to open. We may be few, we may struggle, but we are determined to serve the people in need as best we can. We try to take to heart the imperative of the dismissal at the end of Mass to “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your lives”.
Pray for us!
Fr Martin Ennis SSC, Bishops Rep, Wolverhampton Episcopal Area