Bishop Rachel visited St James’s Church Bream in the Forest of Dean. At the end of the service she talked about how we might live Holy Saturday. She then went on to visit a senior citizen luncheon club where she was the guest speaker. She talked about the Easter story and how the light and life of Jesus Christ will always be stronger than darkness and despair.
Thursday 13 April
Bishop Rachel lead the Chrism Eucharist in Gloucester Cathedral, visited Gloucestershire Action for Refugees and then the worshipping community of the Upper Room in Cirencester.
Bishop Rachel led a simple service, at which readings and prayers were said. Each person was invited to light a candle to pray for somebody and then Bishop Rachel offered to wash the feet and hands of those present to represent Jesus washing the feet of his disciples at the last supper.
Afterwards, Bishop Rachel spoke to the GARAS community and heard the stories of those that had or were seeking asylum in the UK. She listened to how they had to leave their home country due to the atrocities taking place and the hopes they had for a new life in Gloucestershire.
The Upper Room Cirencester
Bishop Rachel joined this worshipping community for a meal and then had time for conversation with people about Easter, discovering what it means to them. She led some prayers and blessed them all letting them know they are all loved and valued by God.
The Chrism Eucharist
When Peter acknowledged Jesus as ‘the Christ’ (Mark 8.29), he was recognizing him as the ‘Anointed One’ of God, and so the title that had once belonged to the anointed kings of Israel is now conferred on Jesus, anointed by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at his baptism in the river Jordan (cf Acts 10.38).
Our own baptism is the sacramental sign of our union with Christ, and of God’s gift to us of his Holy Spirit, to make us God’s children by adoption and grace, and to equip us for the share that all Christians have in Christ’s own ministry.
From an early date, it became customary to trace the sign of the cross in oil on the heads of candidates for baptism, and to anoint them again after baptism with the perfumed oil of chrism – a sign of incorporation into the prophetic, priestly and royal life of Jesus Christ. At the same time, the Letter of James urges its recipients to anoint the sick with oil (James 5.15), as a sign of the healing and forgiveness that are also given through the Holy Spirit (cf Mark 6.13). These are the biblical roots of the ancient custom of using oils in the life of the Church, and of the three particular oils – of catechumens, of the sick, and of chrism – that are prepared in the Chrism Eucharist.
There is a more recent custom that the Chrism Eucharist is also an occasion for the renewal of commitment to ministry. It is appropriate that, on this day when we remember Christ’s expression of his obedient self-gift in the institution of the Eucharist and in the agony of Gethsemane, clergy, Readers and authorized lay ministers renew their commitment to ministry. Then, later in the service, we will pray for the ministry of the whole of the church in saying together our LIFE prayer, asking for God’s help in realizing this shared vision.
Wednesday 12 April
Bishop Rachel visited the Nelson Trust and Eastwood Park Prison.
At the Nelson Trust she had the opportunity to have breakfast with the women who use the centre and talk to them about their lives. She then spoke about Easter and read two readings – Good Friday: Mark 15.22-39 Jesus is crucified and Easter Sunday: Matthew 28.1-10 Jesus’ resurrection. She described how the Matthew reading was one of her favorites, as it was the women that Jesus chose and trusted to find the tomb empty and to tell the disciples that Jesus was risen from the dead.
Bishop Rachel then prayed for the group of women. This was followed by some questions and then the women talked of what they felt was the best thing about the Nelson Trust.
In the afternoon Bishop Rachel visited Eastwood Park Prison. In the chapel a special service and re-enactment of the Last Supper took place, where Bishop Rachel and the prison chaplains Lesley Hewish and Nicola washed the feet or hands of the women present. Bishop Rachel said of the visit:
“It was a real privilege to be in Eastwood Park Prison during Holy Week and to be in the chapel taking part in worship and singing for the re-enactment of the Last Supper. It was particularly moving to wash the feet of the women and tell them they are all valuable and loved. We reflected on God’s love for us all and the hope and light of the resurrection being stronger than darkness.
“I then had the chance to chat to the women while enjoying cheese, olives and dates, the sort of food Jesus may have eaten at the last supper.”
Bishop Rachel visited Langley House Trust, a Christian charity that provides specialist housing, programmes and support services in the community for people seeking to live crime-free. The Gloucestershire-based care home, where Bishop Rachel visited, provides care for male ex-offenders with mental health and care needs.
She was given a great welcome and tour of the care home. This was followed by spending time with some of the clients, eating cakes made by them and talking about the great care they receive and the community work they do.
Bishop Rachel spoke about her role as the Bishop of Gloucester and then answered questions. She then lead Prayers and Readings for Holy Week, for which people present got involved. After a Good Friday reading: Mark 15.22-39 Jesus is crucified, two men spoke about what Easter meant to them.-
‘To me, prison was my crucifixion. I was surrounded by others – thieves and the like. It was a dark place where I felt alone and abandoned…this is the rest of my life, I thought.
Then it all changed, Langley House Trust helped me push my tomb door open and I was reborn. I believed in myself and could see others started to believe in me too. I have since bettered myself; I’m volunteering and finally being a positive member of society.
That’s what Easter is about. It’s the rebirth, the coming from the dark into the light. Whether you are religious or not, it is a good time to reflect on your own life, and maybe some of the struggles that you have overcome.’
‘This is how most people see Easter!
As we all gather , as a whole, it brings joy amongst each individual as we eat delicious hot cross buns and cake. Beautifully homemade that will melt in our mouths, that will want us to have more, just like chocolate.
Mmmm, my favourite!’
Thank you to everyone we met. For more information on Langley House Trust please visit -www.langleyhousetrust.org