Easter Message 2018
Posted on the 1st April 2018 in the category Announcements
‘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
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 www.walsinghamanglican.org.uk/the-shrine/the-youth-pilgrimage/
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.
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.
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 email@example.com. 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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
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 - email@example.com or 01328 820636
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:
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’. 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.’
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.’ 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:
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.