Fresh back from Perth, today I headed off to Portsmouth for our own Regional Chrism. Bishop Keith was in good form, and there was a real sense that this was a very special day; for it might well be our last such celebration together before a parting of friends. Bishop Keith ended his address with this as his theme, reminding us how the Archbishop of Westminster had spoken warmly of the parochial priestly ministry of John Henry Newman - most of which ministry he exercised as an Anglican, at the University Church in Oxford and then at Littlemore.
This Regional Chrism revolves around three dioceses, Winchester, Guildford and Portsmouth. Until 1927 they were all part of the one ancient diocese of Winchester, and some of us hope that late development might one day be reversed. Today was Portsmouth's turn to host us, in their little Cathedral Church of St Thomas of Canterbury. Four dozen clergy gathered round our Bishop, supported by a nave full of lay people from across the region - many from overseas - for the Isle of Wight is part of Portsmouth Diocese.
The three dioceses have often had bishops representing them at the Richborough Chrism. Today, though, Portsmouth awaits its new Bishop, so the Dean was there to greet us in his stead. With him were an Archdeacon from Winchester (the Diocesan having lost two suffragans in the past year and so being too busy to be with us), and Bishop Ian of Dorking from Guildford Diocese.
It was an especially happy occasion for me; many of those present were old friends, from my time as PEV for the Region, but there were also many new and younger friends present. The singing was supported by the men of the Cathedral Choir, Fr Gary Waddington was there as priest MC to ensure everything ran smoothly, and a good time was had by all. Afterwards Jane and I took friends to see some of the sights of Old Portsmouth - Ferries were buzzing in and out of the harbour, there was plenty of sail around, the sun shone and the breeze blew. Altogether a refreshing and uplifting occasion for us all.
Now Bishop Keith is gearing himself up for the next two similar events. He was in the Midlands yesterday, on Monday it will be Chelmsford and on Tuesday, Canterbury. The seriousness with which people in our parishes value this event, and turn out to support their parish priests, will be part of the Anglican Patrimony which we look forward to sharing in a wider communion and fellowship. May it be soon!
[I discover there is an account of a Chrism Mass of Bishop Andrew's. which included many Welsh participants: http://allgassandgaiters.blogspot.com/ ]