From the Revd Geoffrey Squire SSC
Sir, — I read with interest your coverage of chrism masses (News and Comment, 7 August). With a bit of organisation and diplomacy, having two chrism masses in each diocese need not be seen as in any way divisive or confrontational.
In times past I used to attend the one chrism mass in the cathedral, but having to travel more than 40 miles on the morning of Maundy Thursday, finding it very difficult to park, and then having to rush back to prepare for the evening mass in church left much to be desired.
The arrival of a second chrism mass was not only essential for traditionalists after the ordination of women as priests and bishops, but it also enabled others to participate.
What is needed is diocesan co-operation to enable these two events to take place in harmony. Together, two chrism masses would be organised, one on Maundy Thursday morning, and the other on, say, the previous Saturday morning, both in the cathedral, and with a comparable degree of dignity, so that one is not seen as a poor relation. Traditionalist leaders from each diocese would be fully involved with this organisation.
One chrism mass would be presided over by what one may call an “establishment” or “liberal” bishop, male or female, and the other by a male traditionalist bishop. At the latter, only bishops and priests of the Society would be invited to concelebrate, but, of course, anyone and everyone would be welcome at both events.
Various groups would no doubt publicise one and not the other, but that should be no problem. The arrangement would not be perfect, but it accepts both the fact of our impaired communion and the spirit of moving forward together with as much unity as is possible at present.
Little Cross, Northleigh Hill
Devon EX32 7NR
From Mr Rodney Wolfe Coe
Sir, — “Most Anglicans have, we can say with confidence, not been to a chrism eucharist. It is a clergy-heavy service, usually held on Maundy Thursday.” If you had been to Canterbury Cathedral in Holy Week, you would know that this statement (Leader comment, 7 August) was somewhat broad-brush.
The chrism service for traditional Anglicans takes place on Holy Tuesday. It is normally celebrated by the Bishop of Richborough in the presence of the Archbishop and the Bishop of Dover. The congregation, normally around 30 clergy and 200-plus lay people, is welcomed by the sub-dean for the month; so there is a 50-per-cent chance of its being a woman.
This has been the case for more than 20 years. I understand that the chrism service for those of other traditions is equally well supported by the laity. We are told that it is our duty to support our parish clergy on such an important day; so we do.
RODNEY WOLFE COE
25 Cecil Court, Upper Queens Road
Ashford, Kent TN24 8HG
From Mr Paul Sandham
Sir, — I welcome Sir Philip Mawer’s adjudication on chrism masses, having attended both diocesan and alternative celebrations. I take slight issue with your editorial assertion that the service is “clergy-heavy”.
The dioceses of Portsmouth, Guildford, and Winchester combine the service for (formerly) Resolution parishes; so each cathedral hosts the event triennially. Laity overwhelmingly outnumbered clergy on its last occurrence in Portsmouth, with more than 200 souls in attendance (on a Saturday), despite freak weather that forced a coachload from Surrey to turn back. Similarly, our most recent diocesan event attracted plenty of lay people, and several traditionalist clergy were in the congregation.
Perhaps lay interest has more to do with holding a high view of the sacraments.
52a Salterns Lane
Hampshire PO11 9PJ