Remembering Bishop Geoffrey Rowell

Posted on the 30th May 2018 in the category Events

This day conference is open to all - but especially to all who knew and appreciated Bishop Geoffrey's ministry and teaching.


Bishop Jonathan (who was Bishop Geoffrey's chaplain and research assistant before moving to Lambeth Palace) will preside at the Sung High Mass of Requiem before leaving for parish visits in Newton Abbot and Torbay.

Remembering Geoffrey Rowell

Ebbsfleet Chrism Mass 2018 Sermon

Posted on the 3rd April 2018 in the category Resources

Ebbsfleet Regional Chrism Masses

Bath, Exeter and Lichfield:  Holy Week 2018



From the Song of the Three Young Men, v.62: ‘Bless the Lord, you priests of the Lord, sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever.’


In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.


Each year for the past four I have spoken in this celebration about the oils from which this celebration takes its name:  oils that are signs of the Holy Spirit’s action in our journey of faith.  This year I want to speak more directly to the priests and deacons who today also recommit themselves in apostolic service.


It is said (and well said) that this Eucharist reveals, it makes visible, the communion of presbyters as co-workers with their bishop.   It is an opportunity to renew among us the joy of communion, and to show ourselves ready to deepen it.  So in this short homily I want to reflect on the foundations of this communion.


Before embarking, I want to express my immense gratitude for all of you, for the many signs of the communion which already flourishes among us, and for the desire that many of you express for it to become more fruitful.  I want also to recollect in this moment all the sick or burdened priests I have visited in the last few months, or who have written to me in advance of today, to express my admiration for the great dignity and the spirit of faith with which they live often difficult trials of health, personal opposition, or suffering.  And I also think of the priests who died this year, who in their last months summed up lives fully offered to the Lord, and no doubt purified by trials.  


It is easy for us to forget that today’s liturgy — which can seem rather busy with special ceremonies — happens at a precise moment.  It serves not only as a preparation for, but also as an orientation to the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Thursday evening, and thus to the whole Paschal Mystery beyond, which is the true basis of our communion as priests.


There are these days many motives, positive and negative, for us to cultivate a deeper fraternity.  Positively, we want to show that we are ready and committed to the proclamation of faith, the work of prayer, and service within and beyond the Church.  There is an increasing desire among us to strengthen friendships, so as to be able to support each other in offering to Christ a fuller consecration, and to the Church a less divided self.  Less positively perhaps, we look to one-another for greater solidarity both in the face of our society’s increasingly cautious or critical attitude to the clergy, and mindful of the scale of its anxieties and divisions.  Torn between the sheer variety of activities and expectations, many priests become drained;  they take fewer opportunities for the prayerful recollection that would give them new energy and inspiration.  Externally stretched and interiorly drained, it is easy to lose the joy of a vocation which feels to be an increasing burden.


But all these reasons, whether positive and negative, are all external reasons to seek solidarity.  If we entrust our ministries to them for motivation, we will not take the necessary long-term and lasting action.  I want you therefore to reflect with me me now (and pray with me through the coming days) on the true origin of our communion as presbyters and deacons, a communion in the death, resurrection and glorification of Christ, made present in the Eucharist.


It is the Paschal Mystery that is the ultimate root of our communion — and our spirituality — as priests.  We are included in it through the baptism which we share with all our brothers and sisters;  and then, by the prayer and the laying-on of the bishop’s hands, we are given the grace and authority to preside at its celebration in the Eucharist.  The eucharistic gathering is the ‘Church simpliciter’:  that is, it the Church in its purest, simplest, most complete act.  In the Eucharist, the Church draws on what is deepest in its life, and lives out its identity.  In it, in other words, the prayer of Christ becomes our prayer;  the word and gospel of Christ becomes our word and gospel;  the life and spirit of Christ becomes our life and spirit in the sacramental gifts.  Our ministry has its culmination in praising God at the head of this assembly which is one in Jesus, who was consecrated with anointing for the life of the world (as our first and third readings reminded us) and is alive in his Church’s offering (as our second reminded us).  That is what gives strength, unity and joy to our ministry.  It is by penetrating ever deeper into that mystery by our prayer and service, not by strategizing about our institutional problems, that we shall strengthen our presbyteral communion with one another.  And if our communion with one another is strengthened, then our mission is surely strengthened.


It is in relation to this vision of the eucharistic Church as the context of our teaching that the Scriptures find their primacy, in the same sense as when the risen Lord lifted the hearts of the Emmaus disciples, he used what was said about him in the Scriptures to prepare them to recognize him in the breaking of the bread and, then, to announce to his brothers the victory of life over death.


The same is true of the personal and contemplative dimensions of our prayer.  Both find not only their highpoint but also fresh resources in the Eucharist.  We ought not to trivialize our weaknesses and difficulties in personal prayer (see Rom 8.26):  the clergy do not have any special gifts in this area!  We all know and experience that prayer is a very hard task, but it is sustained and supported by our eucharistic prayer;  and if our personal and contemplative prayer is flagging, it may be at least in part because of a lack of connection to the Eucharist.  Priestly spirituality is a eucharistic spirituality.  The two realities (both personal prayer and liturgical prayer) must flow into and out of one another, mutually reinforcing.


And so too, all other essential features of the Church.  The whole of her vocation to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world, and our part in it — her proclamation, invitation, catechesis, witness, mission;  the various forms of service, closeness to the poor;  even issues of discipline and institutional collaboration — all have their centre and goal in the liturgical assembly.


All of this should remind us, then, that the liturgical life of the parish must be cultivated by any means possible in the hearts and habits of parish communities.  It is crucial that the parish community’s sense of itself, and the reality of both mutual service and outward-facing service, should flourish above all in the celebration of the Sunday Eucharist.


Now, in part I have focused our thoughts in this way so as to be able to underline that we who are trying to shape a collective contribution to the Church of England through The Society (and no doubt others also) have a job on our hands.  Many varieties of Christian practice are spreading in the world at present in which eucharistic practice is not obviously central, and eucharistic theology is very slender.  There are parts of our own Anglican family and our own church in which the Eucharist appears to have slipped away from its central place.  We urgently need to remind ourselves both why and how it is that the Eucharist defines what kind of body the Church is.  We need to discover why it is that some forms of Christianity which are very popular do not have the Eucharist as central to their practice in any form, and engage with them.  We need to understand and live the Eucharist far deeper ourselves, and to share any wisdom that God has given us.


I hope that these few words have helped to recall again, on the brink of the Paschal Triduum, that the foundation of our communion as co-workers for the Lord is not in the present strategies of our church life, nor in our response to the difficulties we face, not even in our desire to be better equipped for service, but in the eucharistic assembly celebrating the Paschal Mystery.  Today we ask God to protect that communion, because its ultimate goal is in the heavenly liturgy, where Christ sits at the right hand of God, towards which we move as pilgrims.  Until that moment, and looking to that moment, our communion in faith, in liturgical and personal prayer, in pastoral service, and in fraternal friendship, will be the support and the comfort of all our perseverance.

Chrism Mass Sermon 2018

Easter Message 2018

Posted on the 1st April 2018 in the category Announcements

Χριστός ἀνέστη!


‘There was a new begetting this day –

and if a new begetting, a new paternity, and fraternity both.’


So wrote our great Anglican teacher and preacher Bishop Lancelot Andrews, very nearly four hundred years ago (Sermon 16, On the Resurrection, 21 April 1622). The resurrection is the new birth of the human race, the creation of a communion among human beings that cannot be destroyed, because humanity is caught up in the glory of Christ as he conquers death and sin.


We need to hear this news, each year, because we still give so much of our energy and skill to dissolving the bonds there are between human beings. It’s the measure of our estrangement from the life of God;  and it is only as we rediscover the promises of the Risen Christ that we learn where the reconciliation that endures can be found. Through the cross and the empty grave alone Christ has made us ‘no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow-citizens with God’s people’ (Eph 2.19).  We are reconciled to each other because he has reconciled our fallen humanity to the Father.


These last months, even weeks, we have seen in many situations, national and international, the breaking-up of our bonds and our trust. Power and death and division are still hold sway in our relations. So, as we celebrate the Feast of Feasts, let our joint prayer be that the Spirit of the Risen Christ will bring us truly to a ‘new begetting’, a new birth; that the Church will be God’s instrument of lasting peace; and that humanity may have the strength to resist the power of death in the Name of the One who has overcome it for ever.


With prayers and every blessing:

+ Jonathan Ebbsfleet

Easter Message 2018

Youth Pilgrimage Taster Day

Posted on the 1st April 2018 in the category Events

Please find below a poster and application form for a taster day for the Walsingham Youth Pilgrimage.


The taster day will be on Saturday 28 April 2018 (closing date for applications 23 April) at Worksop Priory.


The 2018 Youth Pilgrimage takes place between 30th July and 3rd August.  Further information from

Walsingham Youth Pilgrimage Taster Day

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)




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