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Over 360 gather virtually for Renewal of Vows via Zoom

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In place of the annual Chrism Mass usually held in Norwich Cathedral on Maundy Thursday, over 360 clergy and licensed ministers gathered via Zoom to renew their commitment to ministry.

The service began with worship led by Dave and Anna Lloyd of St Thomas, Norwich, before Bishop Graham welcomed everyone from across the Diocese of Norwich.

After prayers and a reading from scripture, Bishop Graham gave a homily (below), based upon John 13.

The Bishop then invited readers, lay ministers, deacons and priests in turn to renew their vows. Following this, a young person addressed the three bishops and invited them to renew their vows. The Very Revd Jane Hedges, Dean of Norwich led the prayers.

The simple service lasted half an hour and was brought to a close by “If ye love me” by Thomas Tallis sung by four of the Cathedral Choral Scholars who share a flat. They performed the song from their rooftop, overlooking the Cathedral.

The Ven Karen Hutchinson, Archdeacon of Norwich tweeted:

I’m so glad we did this! Surprised by how emotional I felt seeing all our colleagues gathering like this to renew vows. Thank you to those who made it happen.

You can watch the service on YouTube or below:

Bishop Graham’s homily:

At this time, that feels more like an extended sad springtime of Lent, I want to say two things as we gather in this way as a diocese.

First, thank you. Thank you for all that you are doing to live the Gospel and serve the most vulnerable. You, and the people you minister alongside, are a living parable of what it is to live the new commandment of loving one another. It has been utterly inspiring to hear of the community organising that is going on across the diocese. We will be known and remembered for the quality of how we love one another. Thank you.

Secondly to assure you that each of you are in my prayers and those of Bishop Jonathan and Bishop Alan. With more time in the diary there is surprisingly more time for prayer! Here at Bishop’s House you are each being prayed for by name more regularly than normal.

The Australian poet Michael Leunig has a way of commentating which I have found helpful in recent weeks. In one of his prayer poems, he observes that “nothing can be loved at speed” and he speaks of “another way of being: another way of knowing”.

We are each discovering another way of being: another way of knowing. Yet it is all set within the changelessness of God’s love which is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. We are simply looking into a different part of the mirror into God’s kingdom, adding to the evolving Resurrection story of Christ’s Church.

Whilst many are finding this time frenetically busy, not least those who work in the NHS, schools, the emergency and public services, for others, hand in hand with living out the new commandment to love others, is an opportunity to go deeper into the mystery of God. Serving others is leading us into more prayer. Prayer is leading us to help others more.

Amidst the new rhythm, my hope is that we will find some sabbath rest within the abnormal normal. Space to find stillness. Jeremy Taylor, the 17th-century bishop, said: “There should be in the soul halls of space, avenues of leisure and still porticos of silence, where God walks.”

What this season might re-teach us is the need, so clearly stated in the Ordinal, to take time to attend to the art of life lived well; good things take time to grow. Quietening the restlessness and emptiness within will be a good thing for us. As we re-make our vows of baptism and ordination we meet again the abundance of God’s mercy and grace always coming towards us.

Over 900 years ago St Anselm of Canterbury wrote in his work called Proslogion: “Come now . . . turn awhile from your business, hide your self for a little time from restless thoughts, cast away your troublesome cares, put aside your wearisome distractions. Give yourself a little leisure to converse with God, and take your rest awhile in him.”

My prayer is ‘a little leisure to converse’ will be part of the rhythm of these days so that we can be captivated again by both the Suffering Christ and the Risen Christ. On the cross, Christ looks out in compassion and solidarity with a suffering world. After the Resurrection, Christ is eating fish with exhausted and hungry disciples one moment, the next he is appearing in a fear-filled upper room, the next again he is alongside people on the road that seems to be leading to despair.

It is the Risen Christ who goes on transforming the Church, goes on commanding us to love one another, goes on transforming you and me for this sacred ministry with which we have been entrusted. To him, in whose life and ministry, passion and death, resurrection and ascension we find ‘another way of being: another way of knowing’ we accord all praise and thanksgiving this and every day.