Chrism Masses 2018

Posted on the 13th February 2018 in the category Events

As we leave Candlemas behind, I want to send you all - all priests and deacons affiliated to The Society and others in our parishes - my prayers that Lent will once more be a blessing, a real springtime in our priestly discipleship. During it let us all pray for one another, and for our witness in the Church of England, for a new intensity, focus, and dedication.


We shall next meet in large numbers during Holy Week, and I hope that you look forward to the Chrism Masses as much as I do. It is my hope that both clergy and laity will gather in greater numbers this year.


1          Venues for 2018


As has become our settled pattern, we will celebrate regionally.


  • ·       At St Mary’s Church, Bathwick (Darlington Street, Bath, BA2 4EB), on Monday in Holy Week, 26 March, at 2 pm


  • ·       At Exeter Cathedral, on Tuesday in Holy Week, 27 March, at 11.30 am


  • ·       At Lichfield Cathedral, on Wednesday in Holy Week, 28 March, at 11.30am


Included with this letter are two or three posters for the church(es) where you serve.  Please place them prominently, and promote the event best suited to your parish in parish literature.


2          Clergy


I trust that attending the Chrism Mass is a personal ministerial priority, and encourage all other priests and deacons associated with your parish or community to do so too.


It is, of course, customary for priests to concelebrate the Chrism Mass with the Bishop, and therefore - to help all concerned with preparations - I enclose a reply form is downloadable from this website.  Please fill it in and return to my office - as soon as possible, but by Monday 19 March at the latest.


Please would you discuss arrangements with all other clergy in the parish, and ensure that names are either on one or on separate reply cards, or they write direct to me on Please feel free to duplicate this letter for their information.


This will help us here in the office, and the local priests liaising with cathedral staff, to ensure that enough vestments, service papers, sets of oils etc are provided.


Two further points:

a)     if, for some reason, you cannot be present, I would be grateful if you would write to me personally and say so; and

b)     if any of you knows of a sick or elderly priest who cannot be present, please would you let me know.


3          Laity


I also hope we can all extend a particular encouragement to the laity to join us too. I shall send by email a note to be added to parish newsletters and the like to help, but your encouragement will I’m sure be crucial. It helps of course to know approximate numbers of laity - again by Monday 19 March please to


Readers are welcome to robe, and we shall reserve places for them at the front of the congregational seating – but we need to know their names too.


4          On the day


Clergy should only need to bring an alb and (as belt and braces) a white stole.


In all three venues all oils will be provided in plastic bottles at the end of the Mass, but you are free to bring your own containers should you wish.


At St Mary’s Bathwick (Monday 26 March) you will need to be in the Church Hall on the south side of the church, off the cloister, robed and ready by 1.30 pm.


At Exeter Cathedral (Tuesday 27 March), you will need to be in the Lady Chapel (at the far east of the church), robed and ready by 11.00 am.


At Lichfield Cathedral (Wednesday 28 March) you will need to be in the Chapter House, robed and ready by 11.00 am.


5          Oils


In each venue, 2 litres of each oil are blessed.


Last year some parishes took more than one set, so that not all could take a set away.  On the day one set of oils per church should be collected by you or a lay member of your congregation.  Further supplies may always be requested from my office where remaining stocks are kept.


With prayers and every blessing


+ Jonathan Ebbsfleet


Chrism Mass Reply slip (pdf)

Guild of All Souls Day Conference

Posted on the 16th January 2018 in the category Events

The Guild of All Souls are hosting a day conference at the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham.  The theme of the day is 'Pastoral Care after Trauma and Sudden Death'.


Date: Thursday 21 June, 10.45 - 15.00;

Cost: £15 including a 2 course lunch and coffee on arrival


To request a place, please contact Maureen Howard - or 01328 820636

Guild of All Souls Day Conference

Ebbsfleet Chrism Mass 2017 Sermon

Posted on the 13th April 2017 in the category Resources

Ebbsfleet Regional Chrism Masses, Holy Week 2017

Bristol, Exeter and Lichfield Cathedrals




Normally at this celebration we read from St Luke’s account of Jesus appearing in the synagogue in Nazareth and reading the prophecy we have just heard from Isaiah:  ‘The spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me’.  But this morning we’re scrolling back a little: back to the Jordan just after the baptism, and turning to listen to St John. 


St John always seems to have a different story to tell.  In the other Gospels the Holy Spirit comes down upon Jesus at his baptism to enable his mighty acts.  But St John talks about the Holy Spirit rather differently.  He doesn’t tell the story of Jesus’s baptism like the other gospel writers;  instead John the Baptist gives us a ‘witness statement’ about it.  And in that statement, it is said (uniquely in St John’s gospel) that the Spirit not only descended on Jesus but remained on him (Gk, emeinen: Jn 1.32).


Read the passage carefully and it becomes obvious that this is the central fact of John the Baptist’s evidence.  The Spirit did not just visit Jesus but remained with him, and that is precisely how John the Baptist knew that Jesus truly was the one he’d been looking for.


This is how John sets out his evidence:

  • ·         ‘I knew someone greater than me would follow me, but I didn’t know who it would be.  I baptized with water, you see, so that he would be revealed.’ (v.31)
  • ·         ‘The one who sent me to baptize with water had said, “When you see the Spirit coming down and resting on someone, that someone is the person who will baptize with the Spirit.”’ (v.33)
  • ·         ‘And I did see it:  I saw the Spirit coming down, like a dove out of heaven, and resting on him.’ (v.32)
  • ·         ‘I can only tell you what I saw.  But that’s how I know he is the servant and lamb of God.’ (v.34)


In John’s Gospel the Spirit does not come upon Jesus for a specific task or a special moment, as with the prophets and other spirit-anointed people of the Old Testament.  Jesus becomes the unique dwelling place of the Spirit.  The Spirit stayed with him permanently and filled him with all the potential (all the dynamis) of God’s wisdom and action and presence.


And there’s more.  A little later in John’s Gospel, in Jesus’s conversation with Nicodemus, this sense of the Spirit’s permanence is expanded by a sense of the Spirit’s abundance.  The Spirit is given to Jesus ‘without measure’ (Gk ek metrou: Jn 3.34).  Jesus bears the Holy Spirit in a permanent and inexhaustible way. 


All of that is wrapped up in St John’s distinctively different allusion. St Basil the Great says that the Spirit was Jesus’s ‘inseparable companion in everything … every activity of Christ was unfolded in the presence of the Holy Spirit’.[1]  Jesus’s ministry simply cannot be explained without the presence and power of the manifold gifts of the Spirit. 




All of this is, if you like, ‘poured into’ the Chrism oil from which this Eucharist takes its name, the complex perfumed oil which, in a sacramental way, will be used as a sign of the permanent and inexhaustible presence of the Holy Spirit – who is not only the inseparable companion of Jesus, but who becomes the inseparable companion of all those who are baptised and confirmed into Christ’s risen body – that is, of course, you and me.  Another great Christian author, this time a modern Anglican, Austin Farrer, talking about confirmation, says, ‘the unity we have with Christ, both in receiving baptism and afterwards by standing by it, brings down on us the very blessing and the very Spirit he received.  In so far as we are in Christ we are filled with Holy Spirit and the Father’s good pleasure rests on us;  infinite Love delights in us.’[2]


Christ’s relationship with his Father (Jn 17.10) has been enlarged to include us.  The eternal relationships between Father Son and Spirit have become our home, our identity.  At all times Christ accompanies us to his Father with our prayer and our praise, our penitence and our pain, whenever we wish, and whenever we need.  This is our home, because it’s where Christ and the Spirit dwell, permanently and abundantly.  And at this time of the Christian year, as we approach the Paschal three days, it’s especially important to be reminded these things do not change whatever difficulties and turmoil, whatever ‘sorrow, need, sickness or any other adversity’ we may be experiencing.  Regardless of turmoil or failure or suffering, or even death, the permanent and inexhaustible presence of the Holy Spirit kept Christ faithful to his Father and to us;  and he keeps us faithful to too. 


We find ourselves, of course, reflecting on these things in the midst of confusions and tensions in our church after Bishop Philip North’s withdrawal as bishop of Sheffield, made more acute by those who seek to sharpen the divisions in our life together.  In such a situation—whatever is now being done to minimize damage, to heal hurts, or to strengthen mission—we need to trust the unshakable faithfulness of Christ and the strengthening power of the Spirit.




In one of his sermons St Bernard has something to say about such situations of turmoil, and the doubt and vulnerability that they create.  He says, ‘I have sinned a great sin, and my conscience is like mud all stirred up;  yet I’m not unsteady (not shaky) because I am mindful of the Lord’s wounds.’[3]  And he goes on to say that the Lord’s wounds are like places he can hide in, like the cleft in the rock for Elijah, a safe place to hide until the storm passes. 


Why, I wonder, might St Bernard refer to the Lord’s wounds in this way?  I think that the answer lies in another surprisingly different feature of St John’s gospel, concerning the Holy Spirit.


All the way through John’s Gospel there is a mounting sense of expectation. The Spirit, who we’ve been emphatically told remains permanently and abundantly with Jesus, nevertheless can’t be given to the disciples because Jesus had ‘not yet been glorified’.  Even at the Last Supper, Jesus had to explain, ‘I will ask the Father, and he will send you another Comforter who will never leave you – the Spirit of truth.’  Then, three days later, when the great climactic moment of the Resurrection arrives, and Jesus that same evening bursts through the locked doors where his friends are, he does three things: 

  • ·         he greets them with the peace of the new creation,
  • ·         he shows them the angry wounds in his hands and side,
  • ·         and immediately he breathes on them saying ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’. 

There’s no hanging around fifty days for Pentecost with St John.


It’s clear that it’s only when Jesus’s body has been broken and lifted up on the cross—only after, in St John’s words, he’s been ‘glorified’—that the Spirit is free to stream out of his wounds and flood the lives of those around him.  Without that failure and darkness, without those open wounds, the Spirit could not be shared.  But after that darkness, from those wounds, the Holy Spirit ‘pours out for us to drink’ says St Paul (1 Cor 12.13):  from those wounds flows the baptismal flood that brings into our lives the permanent and abundant life of the Spirit.


It’s as if the surface of our achievement, our specialness and attractiveness, has to be wounded before the Spirit can truly create holiness and communion between the followers of Christ.  So not for the first time, our faith is revealed in a paradox:  we experience the Holy Spirit most deeply not in strength and achievement and being successful Christians;  but in moments of loss, times when we suddenly feel vulnerable and out of our depth.  Even when those bitter moments of hostility or betrayal arise within the body of the Church, through those wounds, into that need, the Holy Spirit flows.  And in that situation, as St Bernard suggests, though our consciences are ‘like mud all stirred up’;  yet we are not unsteady because we are mindful of the Lord’s wounds, and the Spirit that flows from them. 


‘Deep in thy wounds Lord, hide and shelter me

So shall I never, never part from thee.’


Having drunk of the everlasting, inexhaustible and renewing Spirit of Jesus—in this as in every Eucharist—we shall be able go out and overflow, in our words and our actions, in acts of compassion and service, because our own lives have been broken open and filled by God.



[1] On the Holy Spirit, xvi.39

[2]  A Triple Victory: Christ's temptations according to St Matthew (London, 1965)

[3]Peccavi peccatum grande, turbabitur conscientia, sed non perturbabitur, quoniara vulnerum Domini recordabor.’ (Sermon 61.3, On the Song of Songs)

Christmas Message 2016

Posted on the 25th December 2016 in the category Announcements

The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ 2016


Yet again, the year that is ending has witnessed only a rise in the horrors of violence and its chaotic consequences.   One of our Anglican hymns for Advent cries out to God: 


Where is Thy reign of peace

     and purity, and love?

When shall all hatred cease,

    as in the realms above?


It is a prayer that will be repeated with great fervour this Christmas by refugees and displaced people, by wounded and bereaved people, by oppressed and abused and trafficked people, in cities and camps the world over, among them, unforgettably, Bethlehem itself.  The same agony seems to lie behind Pope Benedict’s Christmas prayer of 2011:  O mighty God, we love your childlike presence:  your powerlessness, your humility.  Through you love triumphs.  But we suffer from the continuing presence of violence in the world, and so we ask you:  show your power, O God.  Cause peace also to triumph in our time, in this world of ours.’


The agony that we feel as violence and chaos continue is simply the reverse side of the greatest good news of the season – that God has taken on our human form and raised it to glory.  The Immortal Son of God has taken on our mortal flesh, so now the face of Christ has been revealed in all human beings.  For the eyes of faith, the consequence of this fact is that no human form or face can hereafter be ignored or abused;  and whenever those same eyes do see God’s image attacked and disfigured, they will weep all the more bitterly.  Thus the strange fact is that what makes us most passionately glad and grateful at Christmas—the Christ child’s powerlessness and humility—is also what gives us the possibility of grieving as we should for the defacing of God’s image in the world.  Let us trust that it also gives the Church the vision, the courage and the strength to go on working and praying for a world where God’s image in mankind—and indeed his presence in the whole created environment—is universally honoured and protected.  Our transcendent and glorious Lord has bowed in loving respect to our fallen and failed human nature;  as Christians we can do no other than imitate such loving respect.


I offer my warmest good wishes for Christmas, and my prayer that Christ, who renews our

trust and hope in this celebration, will remain close to you throughout the coming year.

+ Jonathan Ebbsfleet

Easter 2016 Easter Message

Posted on the 26th March 2016 in the category Announcements

“Since we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.” Rom 6.8


St Paul tells us that Holy Baptism is the doorway to new life in a new creation – not because he believes that the rite of baptism is a kind of enchantment, but because it is the outward sign of our willingness, throughout our lives, to pass through the narrow door of death for the sake of gaining freedom and reconciliation with God our Father.  Unless we are ready to let go of what we imagine makes us strong and secure, unless we are ready to hold on to God in Christ and allow him to give us his strength and security, we will remain anxious, weak and fearful — of God, of one another, of the world, and of the times we live in.

So much of the anxiety in the world is to do with our unwillingness to pass through this door, and our longing to hold on to our imagined security.  The terrifying war and violence that are disfiguring so many nations, the reluctance to guarantee justice for the poorest, the desire to protect our own interests first, the irresponsibility with which we treat our environment – all these have roots in that state of being which is afraid to let go of immediate comforts and assurances.  And all of them drive us deeper into unreality, into the denial of other people’s suffering and need, and the denial of the urgency of change.

But God promises us life in abundance through Jesus Christ – greater abundance than we could ever secure for ourselves by our own efforts.  But wedded as we are to the world of rivalry and anxiety we do not yet know what that means.  The journey of each baptised Christian is one in which we are slowly being helped - raised - by God, through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit, to understand what true life with God is, and what its gifts and habits are.

As Christians, eastern and western, renew our baptismal promises this year at Easter my prayer is that we shall all be opened to what God has to tell us of this new life in a new creation, and that he may give us (individually and collectively) that special assistance which we call courage to let go of whatever holds us back from the death-to-myself that is the gate to life and truth and unity in Christ.



25 March 2016, Good Friday




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