In any given year (excluding the Covidtide years which may or may not be gone for good) there are approximately a half dozen diocesan Celebrations of the Eucharist. These liturgies do not have a fixed date but change every year with the calendar and the moon. Diocesan Confirmations are usually (but not always) in May; Ordinations take place often on or near a Commemoration of a Saint or a Holy Day in June and December; every second year (odd numbered years) the regularly scheduled Diocesan Synod takes place the second or third weekend of May; and the liturgy (recently a Celebration of Morning Prayer) that marks the Investiture of New Members to the Order of the Diocese of New Westminster takes place every second year on even years on the Saturday before All Saints Day (or more specifically the Sunday closest to All Saints Day). The most consistent of diocesan liturgies is the Chrism Mass, more correctly The Holy Eucharist with Reaffirmation of Baptismal & Ordination Vows & Blessing of Oils, celebrated at Christ Church Cathedral on the Tuesday of Holy Week (so… still a celebration with no fixed date). This worship is one that does not translate well to Zoom or livestream as an alternative to being there onsite. For it to have real meaning, clergy and lay need to be together in-person. As a diocese we have not gathered for this liturgy since March of 2019, however, that ended on April 12, 2022, as approximately 100 clergy and 40 lay occupied the pews and chairs of Christ Church Cathedral.
This was the first Chrism Mass of Bishop Stephens’s episcopacy, and he was moved by the experience. Here what he said:
"On Tuesday of Holy Week, 2022, for the first time as diocesan bishop I was able to preside in-person at the Chrism Mass. It brought tears to my eyes that I could stand at the altar in our Cathedral, and look out on so many of the people and clergy of our diocese as we all reaffirmed our baptismal and ordination vows. To share in Communion and to sing and worship together was meaningful and a powerful reminder of how important community is in our lives and for our soul. I am grateful to God for this opportunity and for this community."
The preacher for the liturgy was the Reverend Ronald Culmer. The Reverend Culmer was the guest preacher and teacher for Holy Week 2022 at Christ Church Cathedral. He is the Rector of an Episcopal Parish in Northern California’s Bay Area. In his address the Reverend Culmer commented on the circumstances of this Chrism Mass:
“In this time of coming together, I’m impressed to see as many of you here as I do. In a way it’s a time of redundancy. Clergy from around the diocese many who haven’t seen each other since Clergy Retreat (which will happen again later in the year). Well, we move in close, as we don’t get to hear the bishop preach often and, we will collect oils for baptism and anointing the sick, and then we are going to eat lunch together and then what happens is that we eventually part ways. There’s a typical rhythm as in some ways it feels more obligatory than necessary. And furthermore, for some time now I’ve been perplexed by what I could possibly say to this body that has not already been said. Indeed, what is there more to say about Holy Oil… as I sat down to write… the images came of all the powerful ways of which Holy Oils are sacrament.”
Participation in the liturgy was diocesan wide. There were clergy and lay representing several parishes. There were three deacons active in the liturgy, the Reverends Brynne Craffey, Martha Cameron and Neil Seedhouse. Music in worship with congregational singing was led by a solo quartet of members of Cathedral Choir under the leadership of Director of Music/Organist Rupert Lang. Executive Archdeacon and Archdeacon of Vancouver, the Venerable Douglas Fenton was the MC and Bishop John Stephens was the presider, leading the Reaffirmation of Baptismal and Ordination Vows, presiding at the Eucharist and Blessing the Holy Oils. This was also the first diocesan service since March of 2020 offering Communion of both kinds, the Body of Christ and the Blood of Christ in the Common Cup. Many communicants took the Common Cup, some returned to their seats after receiving the Body of Christ and some touched the outside of the chalice in a gesture of acknowledgement.
This is truly a beautiful liturgy, and you are encouraged to mark your calendar for April 4, 2023, in hopes that again we will be able to gather in-person to reaffirm our vows and spend some time in community.