Bishop of East Anglia thanks diocesan altar servers who help faithful to “find the Lord who is in our midst”

Bishop Peter Collins of East Anglia celebrated a special Mass on Saturday 22nd July, with Bishop Emeritus Alan Hopes present, honouring the crucial service of about 50 diocesan altar servers in a deeply moving homily.

During the Mass, Bishop Collins delivered a powerful homily to the altar servers, acknowledging their crucial role in their service and expressing his gratitude:

“It is a great joy for me to celebrate Mass with you, servants of the sanctuary of the Lord. You have come a distance today, rejoicing that school has finished, the holidays begun. May I first thank you for your great service, your generosity of heart, to step forward, to answer a call that may have been delivered to you by your Parish Priest.

“As a very young boy, I played ‘church’. Especially on Mondays. Why? Because my mother was washing on a Monday, and it was the day when the large towels were available for use. I would sometimes see a tear in the towel, and I would try to expand the tear so that I could use the towel as a chasuble. I could put my head through it and pretend then that I was a priest.

“Serving at the sanctuary is not play, it is a most serious undertaking, is it not? It is a great honour and a great privilege to stand upon the sanctuary, to serve at the altar of the Lord. Everyone who comes to Mass is not invited there to be mere spectators, everyone who comes to Mass is a participant within the gathered people of God.

“When we enter the church, we begin the pilgrimage of faith. As we process toward the sanctuary of the Lord, we are moving toward what awaits us in the glory of Heaven, no less.

“In the Eucharist, we find all that we need. We are to enter the mysteries of our faith so that we not only look upward, but that we truly are taken up in Christ to the Father, through the power of the Spirit. This is the fulfilment of what it is to be human.

“We hear of the search for God. ‘I cannot find Him.’ It is hard to understand God, is it not? But by faith, we go in search of Him, and we are assured of finding Him. It is harder for us sometimes to find Him, but that is what we are involved in when we are serving at the altar of the Lord.

“You, as servants of the sanctuary, are charged with the duty of helping the Deacon, Priest and Bishop in the practicalities of the celebration. But more than that, by your example, the example of your own faith, your own witness, you are meant to assist all those others who are gathered with us.

“I thank you for what you offer in service to your parishes, but above all in service to the Lord Himself. You are demonstrating an enthusiasm to participate, to celebrate, to be of service. Be aware that all that you do is a service to the Risen Lord, who is in our midst.

“In the Gospel, we hear of how Mary Magdalene went in search of the Lord. She thought that His body had been stolen from the tomb. We are all in search of the Lord, but He comes in search of us. He speaks our name, calls us toward Him. ‘Come, come nearer, come and serve, come and bear witness in the midst of the world.’

“May your service at the altar continue to benefit you in terms of deepening your own faith. May your service of the altar be a true service to all those who come in worship. Help them to find the Lord who is in our midst. Amen.”

Following the conclusion of the Mass, the attendees shared in a communal barbecue in the Cathedral hall.