Chrism Masses 2020

Posted on the 17th Mar 2020 in the category Announcements

17 March 2020



To all Ebbsfleet Clergy,

Church Wardens and Parish Congregations



Dear Fathers, dear brothers and sisters


1 The Church in the midst of our current crisis


I have not been in touch with you until now because it has been important to give prominence to official advice both from the government and central church authorities.  Nonetheless I write now as your bishop and pastor.


The key points of online information remain:


The Archbishops, on behalf of all the bishops, have circulated a pastoral letter and practical guidelines soon. 


Like so many across our Continent and the world, our society now finds itself in a situation that forces us to limit drastically our personal contacts and meetings, causing a huge impact on our common life and welfare.  Inevitably that impacts on the common life of the Church too:  our worship, our witness and our service.  My own ministry as bishop, moving day to day from locality to locality, across a large part of the country, is, like that of the other PEVs, also impacted. 


Just as we have to find new and better habits—both personal and social—in order to meet the challenge, to support one another, and to give priority to the needs of the most vulnerable, so too we shall all have to find new ways of expressing the Church’s presence in our increasingly fearful communities – praying, proclaiming and serving a message of hope.  The situation is a challenge to the whole Church—our own church and our brothers and sisters in other churches—and we shall need to work hard to keep the relationships between us alive, prayerful, supportive and strengthening.



2 Chrism Masses, Holy Week 2020


I shall write again in the light of the Archbishop’s Pastoral Letter, but I want at this moment to mention this year’s Chrism Masses.


Given the daily increasing incidence and distribution of the virus, and with it increasing limitations on physical movement and upon any assembly that cannot observe the 2-meter physical distancing rule, I have decided that, despite being among the most solemn and significant liturgies in the Church’s year, all three Ebbsfleet Regional Chrism Masses must be cancelled.  Please share this news with all clergy and laity connected with our Ebbsfleet parishes.


But all is not lost.  The Chrism Mass has three distinctive features.  First, for centuries it was the service at which the Holy Oils were blessed by the bishop in preparation for baptisms and confirmations in Eastertide, as well as for use throughout the year in the life of the Church.  As a consequence and so that oils could be distributed to local communities, it became, second, an iconic assembly of the local church, clergy and laity around their bishop.  And (third, and only in the last sixty years) it has become (for the Roman Catholic Church, and many Anglicans too) an opportunity for the renewal of ordination promises by the clergy in the presence of the bishop and the people.


This year we shall have to make separate provision for these three aspects of the service.


  1. Assembly is the most affected.  Not for some months yet will Christians be able to assemble and celebrate the Eucharist in the way that is normal, especially on the great holy days of the coming months.  That is the main limitation upon us.
  2. But the clergy can—and should—still renew their ordination promises—either alone, or in one another’s presence in small groups, before the Blessed Sacrament.  To that end I shall be circulating widely to the Ebbsfleet clergy the form of prayer which I send out each year to those who for reasons of ill health or immobility are unable to be present at the Chrism Mass.  Although Holy Week worship will be much curtailed, such a renewal of ordination promises could be made publicly.
  3. Finally, the blessing of the Holy Oils is something for which there needs to be special provision.  Some of you may have oils remaining from last Holy Week;  others, myself included, may require fresh supplies.  Since the bishop must bless the oils, if suitable arrangements can be made here in Reading in Holy Week we will arrange for their distribution thereafter.  If not, we shall arrange a celebration to bless fresh oils later in the year when restrictions are lifted.  In either case I shall prepare and distribute a Chrism sermon in the usual way.

“Beloved”, says the apostle, “let us bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”  (Gal 6.2)  I want now to assure you of my love and solidarity with all of you, and my frequent prayer for you, particularly the elderly, both ordained and lay.  I want to thank you for all that you are doing, and will be doing, to ensure that the face of Jesus Christ is clearly recognized in our common life and in our neighbourhoods in the coming months.


+ Jonathan