Today the Reverend Brian Norman Prior was ordained and consecrated as a bishop in the Church of God and the IX Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota. I was honored to process into the Minneapolis Convention Center Auditorium this morning with other members of the Bishop Search Committee. It was the last time that we would do so. We have walked together down a long road – a pilgrimage of sorts – that led to this wonderful celebration.
Meanwhile, most of the diocesan clergy entered the assembly through a set of doors on the other side of the room, where each one was greeted warmly by the Bishop-elect. With grateful hearts, we joined thousands of Episcopalians from every corner of Minnesota, asking the Holy Spirit to hear us and to be present among us. Now we begin a journey with our new bishop and all of God’s people in this beautiful part of God’s creation.
Our mission-oriented heritage was symbolized in the liturgy with the use of a crosier by Bishop Prior and the presentation of a pectoral cross to him, both of which date to the 19th century and belonged to Minnesota’s first bishop, the Right Reverend Henry Benjamin Whipple. My favorite moment, however, came when Bishop Prior’s wife and their two teenage sons vested him with a new stole, cope, and mitre. Tears of joy accompanied the applause that followed, and his wife gently wiped a few of those tears from his face with her hand.
That moment, of course, wasn’t the only or the most important “laying on of hands” that took place. The photograph at the beginning of this post, taken by Sarah Rust Sampedro, shows bishops laying their hands on the Bishop-elect and praying for God to make him a bishop in God’s Church. It was amazing to witness, and the silence beforehand felt pregnant with the movement of the Holy Spirit. The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church had earlier addressed the Bishop-elect with these words:
My brother, the people have chosen you and have affirmed their trust in you by acclaiming your election. A bishop in God’s holy Church is called to be one with the apostles in proclaiming Christ’s resurrection and interpreting the Gospel, and to testify to Christ’s sovereignty as Lord of lords and King of kings.
You are called to guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church; to celebrate and to provide for the administration of the sacraments of the New Covenant; to ordain priests and deacons and to join in ordaining bishops; and to be in all things a faithful pastor and wholesome example for the entire flock of Christ.
With your fellow bishops you will share in the leadership of the Church throughout the world. Your heritage is the faith of patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs, and those of every generation who have looked to God in hope. Your joy will be to follow him who came, not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.