|Casablanca: St John the Evangelist|
I often say to the congregations of the Diocese that the most important thing I do as a bishop is make new disciples and strengthen existing ones through the sacraments of initiation. In the Church of England it is a norm that the bishop presides at the baptism of adults, so that at the one liturgy the fulness of the initiation sacraments can be celebrated, as indeed they once were in the ancient Church: baptism, confirmation (or chrismation/laying on of hands) and Holy Communion. Those are very special and powerful moments indeed.
|Oslo: St Edmund's|
But more frequently, my episcopal visits involve confirmations alone for those baptised in infancy, confirmation being the one part of Christian Initiation which has been reserved to bishops in the tradition of the Church of England. But even when separated in time from baptism, the sacrament of confirmation is understood to be a continuance of what has begun in baptism, celebrating what the Holy Spirit has gently unfolded in the Christian's life, and praying God's grace to strengthen the disciple's life in Christ.
|Helsinki: St Nicholas's|
As we all know, one of the dimensions of Church life that has been restricted, sadly, during these times of the COVID19 pandemic has been the sacramental life itself. In many communities across the diocese people have been waiting patiently for it to be safe (and legal) once again to gather to celebrate the sacraments, including those who have been prepared for confirmation.
|Madrid: St George's|
It is now possible to travel, with due precautions, to many countries, and so September and October have been busy months, "catching up" in many cases with those celebrations. Joyful gatherings these past weeks have been held in Casablanca, Oslo, Helsinki and Madrid.
Episcopal hands become quite slippery with the combination of Chrism and sanitizing gel, but the sacramental rite, which requires the physical laying on of hands, is happening once again. Praise God.