Bishop Rachel’s Holy Week

Bishop Rachel is visiting women prisoners, refugees, male ex-offenders and disadvantaged women during this week leading up to Easter

On Tuesday 11 April she will spend time at 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 will visit, provides care for male ex-offenders with mental health and care needs.

On Wednesday 12 April, she will spend the morning with women at the Nelson Trust, a Gloucestershire-based organisation that supports disadvantaged women with complex, multiple needs. She will spend time hearing about the women’s stories and talking to them about what Easter means. She will follow this with an afternoon in Eastwood Park Prison, meeting women prisoners and leading a service at which she will wash the women’s feet, to represent when Jesus washed his disciples’ feet before the Last Supper.

On  Thursday 12 April she will lead the Maundy Thursday service at Gloucester Cathedral, at which nearly 200 clergy will come together and process through the Cathedral wearing the robes in which they were ordained as priests or deacons.

At the service, called the Chrism Eucharist,  prayers will be said over the holy oils used in well-known church ceremonies. These are: Chrism Oil, which is used at ordination and confirmation services; Catechumens Oil, used at baptisms and Oil of Healing, which is used when ministering to the sick and dying. The clergy will take the oils back to their parishes for use throughout the next year.

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.

In the afternoon she will visit Gloucestershire Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers (GARAS). She will lead a simple service and then spend time in conversation with refugees to discover their stories.

In the evening she will be joining members of the Cirencester worshipping community at the Upper Room and leading a simple service remembering the Last Supper and washing the feet of those present.

On Good Friday, Bishop Rachel will visit St James’ Church Bream in the Forest of Dean, followed by a senior citizen luncheon club, where she will be the guest speaker.

Bishop Rachel said. “In Holy Week, Christians recall Jesus Christ’s death, the brokenness of the world and our part in it; and yet we celebrate God’s immense love and new life revealed in Christ’s resurrection. It will therefore be very poignant to spend time with these men and women in this special week in which the focus is one of hope and new possibility.”

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