Oil and a blessing

Greetings, partners in ministry across the North Carolina Synod! Since Bishop Tim Smith is currently on part one of his sabbatical, I have the opportunity as the acting bishop to share this month’s reflection.

Chrism Mass with Affirmation of Vows. What is it and why are we doing it in the North Carolina Synod? Chrism refers to the oil used for healing, baptism, confirmation, and commendation of the dying. Mass is an old word for worship. The roots of Chrism Mass are in the ancient Roman church when priests would gather on Maundy Thursday to receive the oils that had been blessed to anoint the catechumens before their baptism and on the newly baptized after their baptism. To this was added the oil for the anointing of the sick. This Mass was celebrated on Maundy Thursday so that the oils would be ready for use in the rites of Christian initiation at the Easter Vigil.

In recent years Lutherans and other liturgical traditions have picked up the practice. Typically, bishops bless the oils to be used in baptism and the ministry to the sick. During the liturgy, ministers renew their baptism and ordination vows and then take bottles of the oils back to their communities of faith to be used in the coming year.

One yearly worship experience that is very meaningful for me is our closing worship at Fall Convocation at Lutheridge, which includes a healing liturgy with the anointing of oil. During this service, the bishop and staff share holy moments with our colleagues as we make the sign of the cross with oil on foreheads and share a prayer of blessing. In a similar way, our hope as a synod staff in offering this Chrism Mass is that rostered ministers will be blessed through this experience and will then offer blessing to those whom they are called to serve.

In conversation with several leaders across our synod, we have decided to offer the mass just prior to the beginning of the season of Lent. While we know this is typically one of the busier seasons of the church year, we are hopeful that to gather as colleagues to renew our vows and receive the oil for blessing will be meaningful as we prepare ourselves for the Lenten journey.

Three worship opportunities will be offered across the synod:
Monday, February 24     Good Shepherd in Goldsboro at 1 p.m.
Tuesday, February 25     First in Lexington at 10 a.m.
Tuesday, February 25     Calvary in Morganton at 3 p.m.

The bishop and bishop’s staff will be present at all three gatherings. We offer thanks to host pastors and organists, and to Pastor David Drysdale who is preparing the bulletin and the oils for blessings. We invite all rostered ministers to come—come and simply worship without having to worry about leading the worship experience. Come to be fed by God’s word and at God’s table as you prepare to lead your communities of faith to the cross and empty tomb. Come to receive oil for blessing as you minister in your context in the coming year. Come to gather with colleagues and to renew your sense of call to ministry. Come to be blessed so that you might be a blessing to others.

In ministry with you,

Pastor Phil Tonnesen,

Acting Bishop