A Message from the Vice-Chairman of the Ebbsfleet Council of Priests
Posted on the 14th May 2013 in the category Announcements
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Once more I find myself writing to you following the departure of a Bishop of Ebbsfleet. It does not seem that long ago that I was writing to you upon the departure of Bishop Andrew, and yet now I write again the day after Bishop Jonathan’s installation as Bishop of Fulham in his stall in St Paul’s Cathedral, London.
Following the failure of the Women Bishops Measure last year in the General Synod of the Church of England there has been much concern expressed on all sides of the debate about what the future will hold. There have been all manner of uncharitable statements made along with rather unwise and Erastian tendencies expressed by some who hope that Parliament may force the Church of England’s hand to consecrate women bishops. It perhaps ought to be borne in mind that the Anglo-Catholic Movement, of which we see ourselves a part, started as a direct result of Parliament’s interference in matters to do with Bishops. John Keble’s Assize Sermon on National Apostasy was a direct response to that interference and was the catalyst that changed the way the Church of England saw herself. Those who make appeals to Parliament are treading a dangerous path, for those who are tempted to stress that “the Church of England is by Law Established,” would do well to recall that in reality the Church was established by our Lord Jesus Christ, that it is His Church, and that it is not established to follow the dictates of man, but of God.
During this time there have also been tensions, accusations and threats that are unbecoming any Christian community. While we have from time to time lapsed from wise words and charitable thoughts and actions in the past, it is good that at all times we have sought to be engaged with the debate and of late have played a vital role in seeking to assist the Church of England in finding a solution that recognises and gives that permanent and honoured place we are due by virtue of our Baptism.
Perhaps, for us in the Ebbsfleet Area saying ‘goodbye’ to two bishops in such a relatively short space of time has given rise to parishes and individuals wondering whether there is a future for us. But, this is not a time for despondency – that is the work of the father of lies. Despondency and despair are not fruits of the Holy Spirit and we should resist them firm in the faith, for we have much to be about. There are people in our parishes and beyond that are yearning for meaning and hope and who need to hear the Gospel of Christ and receive the assurance of Sacramental and Pastoral Care from loving and faithful Priests and People.
Bishop John Richard’s used to urge us to make our parishes “centres of excellence” where believers would be taught and nurtured in the truths of the ‘faith once delivered to the saints’ and where new believers would be taught, baptised and nurtured. Our parishes are places where we are called to respond in love and service to the needs of others, and where we are prepared to challenge the sins of a nation and society where so many are condemned to suffer due to its own refusal to follow the law of Christ. Our parishes are places where we seek to transform the lives of those degraded by poverty, illness, wickedness and sin; where we seek to bring harmony, justice and peace by challenging violence. And our parishes are called to be places where life in all its fullness is cherished, sustained and nurtured and brought to renewal through Christ. In a time of such need and where the Good News of the Kingdom is crying to be heard amid the cacophony of disparate voices of doom and gloom, of false promise and even false teaching, this is not a time for despondency and despair……rather it is a time to awake, and for renewal in the Catholic Faith.
At such a time it is good to be able to tell you that the process of discernment for a new bishop is in place. ‘Patience is a virtue,’ we are often told – well, I was told that often as a child (and I probably need to be told it more now as an adult!!), and yes, we are going to have to be patient while we await a new bishop. But, waiting does not mean that we cease all activity in the Lord’s vineyard until one is chosen.
So as we wait a little while longer, let us commit ourselves to being faithful in being at the Eucharist every Sunday; to praying for, and working with, our parish priests in serving our parishes and people, for in so doing we are serving Christ and seeking to prepare for our new Bishop a fruitful land.
Fr Ross Northing SSC
Vice-Chairman of the Ebbsfleet Council of Priests
Bishop Roger Jupp's Sermon at the Chrism Mass, St Giles-in-Reading, 27 March 2013
Posted on the 14th March 2013 in the category Resources
Maundy Thursday is soon upon us. Already we have entered into the Great Week, which we name Holy Week, sharing deeply as we should in the mystery of Christ’s journey through suffering and death to the joy of the resurrection which is the focus of these holy days. On Maundy Thursday we shall gather in the evening to do as the Lord commanded: to eat his body and drink his blood which are the fruits of his passion, proclaiming the death of the Lord until he comes, as St Paul reminds us. As they begin that evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, many congregations receive the oils blessed by the bishop at gatherings of which this is but one, as many of you are, gathered with me around this altar today, and it is good to welcome you here in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is our Great High Priest.
These oils speak of the mystery of the salvation Christ offers us on the cross, a uniquely healing, renewing, strengthening, and consecrating action by which the Lord gathers the new Israel to himself, the chosen race which is made into a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people. From his side on the cross flowed water and blood, a fountain of new life by which the Church was brought to birth because Jesus Christ came into the world to bring mankind the fullness of life. Each of these oils speaks of that loving purpose in its own way. The Oil of Catechumens is used at baptism as we prepare for our journey of faith. The fragrant Oil of Holy Chrism is used at confirmation, the ordination of priests and bishops, and the dedication of altars and churches, reminding us of Jesus Christ himself, the Anointed One of God who incorporates us into his Body, the Church, giving us a share in his Priesthood in different way. And the Oil of the Sick is used to strengthen and support the sick and send forth the dying into eternity with healing and pardon so that they might know that final and complete union with Christ of which their baptism was a sign in this life.
The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews tells us Jesus Christ is both the author and finisher of our faith. He is the one living stone upon which we are all built into a living temple, “offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ”, using the ancient image which the Apostle Peter gave us, having himself been commissioned by Christ to be the rock upon which the Lord would build his people. This reminds us, of course, of the new Successor of Peter as Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis, of his ministry of love which has just commenced. We pray that the anointing power of the Holy Spirit will be a special gift to him now as he prepares to bless the holy oils and remind him of his special calling as Shepherd and Pastor of the Western Church, as Servant of the Servants of God. So, too, within the providence of God, there is a new Successor to St Augustine at Canterbury. We pray for Archbishop Justin and seek the Lord’s blessing on his ministry as Primate. May he be reminded of that unique and daunting gift given to all bishops, that of being a guardian of the faith once delivered to the saints.
Thinking about the Oil of Chrism, from which this celebration traditionally takes its name, reminds us of those stones which are marked with the cross and chrismated when a church building is dedicated and set apart. We are thinking, though, of people. And the priestly people of God consists of those ordained and set apart for a specifically priestly function of sacramental and pastoral care and preaching and teaching, and all the faithful who have a vocation and ministry graced by God through baptism to be disciples and fellow-workers with Christ because within them the image of Christ’s glory has been quickened. We are these living stones of the Church, priests and faithful together forming a priestly people, sealed for all time by the Holy Spirit with the fragrant Chrism of prophets, priests and kings.
The Chrism Mass this year has a special and urgent significance for us clergy as we gather to renew our ordination vows, surrounded by our people. This is, first of all, a priestly occasion and is meant to manifest the communion of priests with their bishop. The sign of this is the concelebration of this Eucharist as priests stand with the bishop at the Lord’s table. In addition, today, there is another sign: priests share with the bishop in the consecration of the Oil of Chrism, as you will see from your order of service, and they do this because they share in the sacred calling and office of the bishop in building up, sanctifying, and lovingly guiding and shepherding the people of God. This celebration is meant to be a clear expression of the unity of the priesthood and sacrifice of Christ which continue to be present in the Church. That, of course, is how it should be but, alas, as we know all too well we are beset by so many issues and concerns which impair and fragment that unity. But, as always, we do the best we can and pray for better times.
This service is one of significance, of course, for the bishop who comes to encourage priests to faithfulness in the fulfilling of their office. But he, too, seeks encouragement in faithful service. He asks for the prayers of all “to fulfil the office of apostle”, to become “more like our High Priest and Good Shepherd, the teacher and servant of all” and in this way being “a genuine sign of Christ’s loving presence” among the people. The bishop is a bridge. His work springs from what he is. The one service in the year in which he does not wear his ring or carry his staff, those two very visible signs of his pastoral office, is the Good Friday celebration of the Lord’s Passion. That, I think, is very significant. Jesus Christ, and him crucified, is the one true bridge-builder. His name means Saviour, the one who comes to meet us and spans that divide between God and mankind caused by sin. He alone is shepherd, brother, friend; he alone is prophet, priest, and king because he is Lord and Life and Way, Alpha and Omega, the author and finisher. He alone is the teacher and servant of those in the apostolic office and we must humble ourselves before him so that he may increase. In all that we say and do, then, as pastors of the sheep, we must ask whether we reveal Jesus the priestly servant who has entrusted so great a treasure to us, Christ’s own flock, bought through the shedding of his blood on the cross.
But this service also has profound meaning for that flock – the people who come from different congregations within this diocese and beyond - which are both living stones in the holy temple of the Church as well as the sheep for whom the shepherd has sought with such love and care. Together with us, your ministers, you share in the task of witnessing to the world where many are indifferent to and ignorant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and not a few are aggressively opposed, sometimes violently so. You must find joy in and through this celebration, seeking confidence in the working out of your faith and your daily Christian living in your parishes and communities despite our unhappy divisions.
What is it the Lord asks of us, then, as we come together today, perhaps uncertain and apprehensive of the future that may seem dark before us, the shadows of which may cloud our vision? The Lord asks all of us during this great week as we gaze on him in his passion to hide ourselves deep in his wounds where we will find shelter and healing as well as courage in our sorrows and anxieties. His wounds are our salvation and our healing, the balm which he offers so that we might find hope and new life by sharing in his resurrection. Nothing can separate us from his love; that we must know and lay hold of even more firmly if we feel that we are brought low. One thing only is really needful for us all as we gather at this and every Eucharist and that is that we live in union of heart and will with Jesus Christ and that, by so doing, the image of Christ may be formed in us. Out of whatever desert we may find ourselves, Jesus the Saviour will lead us together, pastors and people, toward the place of life, toward friendship with God, toward the One whose desire has always been that we might have life, and life in all its abundance. This Eucharist is food for that journey and these oils are signs of the Lord’s grace along that way. To him be glory for ever.
Arrangements during the Vacancy in See
Posted on the 13th March 2013 in the category Announcements
I write to let you know the arrangements which have been agreed by the Archbishop of Canterbury for the See of Ebbsfleet during the vacancy.
The Bishop of Plymouth (Bishop John Ford) and Bishop Lindsay Urwin have accepted the Archbishop’s invitation to be available to the clergy and parishes who look to the Bishop of Ebbsfleet for extended episcopal care until a new Bishop is in place. I am very grateful to both Bishop John and Bishop Lindsay for taking on these additional duties. I know that that they will have your full confidence, support and prayers.
The Bishop of Plymouth has agreed to take responsibility for the dioceses of Bath & Wells, Salisbury, Bristol, Gloucester, Worcester and Hereford. Bishop Lindsay will look after the dioceses of Oxford, Coventry, Birmingham, Lichfield and Derby. The Archbishop of Canterbury will be writing to all the diocesan bishops of these dioceses letting them know of these arrangements, so everyone should be clear as to what is proposed.
Please do remember that the Ebbsfleet office will be functioning as usual during the vacancy, and Jackie Ottaway will be working her usual hours. The office telephone number and email address remain unchanged for now. Another useful point of contact will be the Chaplain to the Bishop of Ebbsfleet, Fr John Hanks (firstname.lastname@example.org) In particular, please keep Fr John informed of anything you would like to be posted on the website – I hope you have all looked at it since its splendid transformation and re-launch (www.ebbsfleet.org.uk) Fr Ross Northing, Vice-Chair of the Council of Priests, will also be happy to offer any help or advice; and you all, of course, have your local Area Dean to look to for further support and leadership locally.
As I arrive at the point of my legal translation to the See of Fulham (although I do not begin duties in earnest until after Easter), I am realising how much I will miss all the priests and people of Ebbsfleet. Please keep me in your prayers, as I shall pray for you. Please pray particularly at this time for those beginning new ministries among us: Fr Jeffrey Williams, at the Good Shepherd, Chard; Fr Kevin Palmer, at SS Mary & Chad, Longton; Fr Stephen Jones, at Staveley and Barrow Hill; Fr Paul McLaren-Cook, at Ascot Priory.
Please pray, too, for the Archbishop of Canterbury, Archbishop Justin, as he begins his new ministry in earnest and prepares for his enthronement on 21st March. Pray, not least of course, for wisdom in the appointment of the next Bishop of Ebbsfleet to be your shepherd. I cannot end this brief letter without urging your prayers too – as I am sure they are being offered – for Pope Benedict, and for the election of a new Pope who will be a blessing not only to our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters, but for all Christian people and for the whole world.
Finally: I will be formally ‘installed’ as Bishop of Fulham during Evensong at St Paul’s Cathedral on St George’s Day, 23rd April, at 5.00pm. It would be lovely to see any friends from Ebbsfleet in London for that occasion.
Yours ever in Our Lord,
Ebbsfleet Chrism Masses
Posted on the 13th March 2013 in the category Events
Saturday 23rd March, 11.00am
Bishop John Ford
Tuesday 26th March, 11.00 am
Bishop Lindsay Urwin
Wednesday 27th March, 12.00 noon
St Giles, Reading
Bishop Roger Jupp
The General Synod vote on Women Bishops
Posted on the 22nd November 2012 in the category Announcements
Bishop Jonathan writes
After the General Synod failed to give Final Approval to the draft legislation on the ordination of women to the episcopate, I had hoped for a period of calm, prayer and reflection all round; and perhaps some sense of regret, on the part of the proponents of the Measure, that they had not got the legislation right. Of course, as we now know, this was very far from the case: instead, a media furore, and a sense from some quarters that those who had voted against the Measure need to be punished in the future for daring to step out of line.
We need to say very clearly, that we understand, and deeply regret, the pain, hurt and anger felt on the part of many women clergy and their supporters; that we value the huge contribution of ordained women to the life of the Church of England; and that we recognise the gifts which God has given in and through their ministries.
However, we also need to challenge some errors and misunderstandings which have been widespread since the vote was taken.
The second misunderstanding is that the Synod's processes were somehow abused or manipulated to produce this result. Again, we need to say clearly that this is not the case. Every member of General Synod understands very well what the processes are which are followed in order to pass legislation: processes which, in matters of doctrine, are designed precisely to ensure a high level of consensus, such as is surely appropriate for a Christian community. The meetings of General Synod are always framed with prayer – prayer that the Holy Spirit will guide the hearts and minds of those speaking and voting. It is difficult not to be amazed at the confidence with which many people have rushed to conclude that the Holy Spirit could not have spoken through Synod on 20th November. Having said all that, I would be the first to agree that the Synodical system has not served the church well in discerning the way forward on this matter. Perhaps one thing that the Holy Spirit might be saying to us, is that there might be a better way.
The third thing which I have found puzzling in the last week or so is the growing sense in some quarters that there was an 'unholy alliance' between traditional cathiolics and conservative evangelicals to defeat the Measure. To say this is again, surely, to misunderstand how General Synod works. Individuals vote on the legislation laid before them, and, while it is true (and hardly startling) to say that of course anglo-catholics and evangelicals will have different – often, markedly different – theological instincts and insights, what mattered in this case was only the fact that Synod members from both traditions found the draft Measure wanting. We also know now that a significant number of Synod members who are wholly supportive of women in the episcopate nevertheless voted against this draft legislation; they did so out of concern for their brothers and sisters in the Church of England with whom they disagree, but whose flourishing they desire: surely a model for us all.
Where do we go from here? I very much hope that all parties to this debate will resist the calls from some MPs and peers that Parliament should legislate 'over the head' of the Church of England in order to impose a solution. That way cannot be right.
So what, in our local context, can we – priests and people of the See of Ebbsfleet – actually do? The first thing, obviously, is to pray – and the fact that this is such an obvious thing to say makes it no less true. My late confessor and spiritual director always urged upon me the virtue of praying, consciously and by name, for those with whom I disagreed, had fallen out, or had (in reality or just in my imagination) done me wrong. That was good advice then, and I commend it to all of you now.
Third, we must all seek renewal in those great gifts which our tradition brings to the life of the whole of the Church of England: our zeal for souls; our liturgical worship; the sacramental life; our incarnational faith, rooted in the community and especially in service to the poor; our deep commitment to the full visible unity of the one Church of Jesus Christ. You can all, I am sure, add other things to that list of equal or greater importance, but there are five to be getting on with!
We have just celebrated the great feast of Christ the King; now we come to prepare for the celebration of the birth into this world of time and space of that same Word of God who is King of the Universe and King of our lives. May each of us be deeply renewed in our discipleship this Advent and Christmastide, and may the Lord stir up in us those supernatural gifts given us at our baptism: faith; hope; love.