By Canon Patrick Funston
People from around the diocese gathered on Tuesday, April 12, 2022, for the first in-person Chrism Mass at Grace Cathedral since April 16, 2019. The service has historically also included an opportunity for clergy to renew their ordination vows and Episcopalians welcomed their clergy siblings from the Central States Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Bishop Cathleen Bascom presided with Lutheran Bishop Susan Candea preaching. Diocesan and cathedral staff hosted a luncheon after the service.
The long history of diocesan Chrism Masses at Grace Cathedral on the Tuesday in Holy Week was interrupted early in the COVID-19 pandemic. At that time, Bishop Bascom gathered Episcopal clergy on Zoom for a form of the service with the hope that it would return in 2021. In anticipation of this return, the dioceses of Kansas, Western Kansas, Missouri, and West Missouri planned a joint Kansas City-based liturgy with the Central States Synod (which encompasses all of Kansas and Missouri). The 2021 celebration also marked the 20th anniversary of Called to Common Mission, the full communion agreement between The Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America which began on January 6, 2001. However, amid the ongoing pandemic and the reality that many clergy were only just receiving their vaccines around Holy Week in 2021, the choice was made to encourage people to join the service online with only a few leaders joining the five bishops at Grace & Holy Trinity Cathedral, Kansas City, Missouri.
Having weathered Delta and Omicron surges and with COVID case rates on the decline, it seemed much more likely that an in-person gathering would be possible for Chrism Mass in 2022. Bishop Bascom invited Bishop Candea and ELCA clergy to Grace Cathedral, Topeka. With the help of the cathedral’s staff, the service, which was streamed on the diocese’s YouTube page, included traditional Episcopal elements of the service (renewal of ordination vows and consecration of chrism) and new elements from the Lutheran Book of Worship (confession/absolution of sin and an affirmation of lay vocation).
Bishop Bascom welcomed the Reverend Charles Everson, Rector of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, Kansas City, Missouri who served as Confessor and provided opportunities for attendees to participate in the private Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Bishop Candea preached a sermon reflecting on the choice of the Church to invite the affirmation and renewal of the vocations of ordained and lay leaders during the busy solemnity of Holy Week. “Isn’t this the perfect week to do this? Because this week is the week that we remember, we proclaim, we lift up, a God who makes all of life holy and calls us to holy work. What better week to affirm this truth than Holy Week?” After her sermon, Lutheran and Episcopal clergy renewed their ordination vows together and the bishops affirmed the vocations of lay people within both denominations. In the spirit of their full communion partnership, Episcopalians and Lutherans shared communion, consecrated chrism oil, blessed oil for unction, and shared a soup luncheon with table conversation.