View slideshow Consecration of a Bishop: A most unusual experience
In his consecration to become an Anglican bishop in the Diocese of San Joaquin, Bishop Eric Menees, center, is presented with a miter, Sept. 24. As a member of St. James' Anglican Cathedral, senior Mary Hierholzer attended the service and found value in the ceremony.*
This is the eighth installment in an occasional series outlining the most unusual experiences of the FC community.
Robes of bright red, cream and white illuminate the church as three bishops lay their hands on a man, selected by his diocese, to consecrate him as a new bishop in the Anglican Church. As they speak ancient words from the Book of Common Prayer, they are not in medieval England or a movie -- they are in the sanctuary of Peoples Church, Sept. 24.
Having spent nearly six years in the Anglican church at St. James' Anglican Cathedral, I have become accustomed to traditional services: Eucharist, incense, candles and liturgy. Although the objectively unusual practices weirded me out a bit at first, I quickly grew to appreciate the meaningful prayers, symbolism and respectful traditions.
Estimating that attending a bishop's consecration would only happen once or twice in a lifetime, I simply could not resist the chance to partake in Reverend Doctor Erice Menees's consecration. I headed over to Peoples Church excitedly with no idea what to expect despite my years of experience with Anglican tradition.
Upon seeing the procession of choir members, priests, parish banners and bishops -- miters and all --, I knew that it was a genuinely special time. Used to small Sunday services of roughly 100 people in the congregation, I was moved to see nearly the entire sanctuary filled.
The service, approximated to last for 100 minutes, ran for nearly three hours. Crazy boring, right? Wrong. Singing hymn after hymn wasn't monotonous, and the 28-page leaflet wasn't as daunting as it looked.
Once the procession ended, and bishops, The Most Reverend Robert Duncan, The Right Reverend John-David Schofield and The Right Reverend William Thompson took their places, a collection of prayers, hymns, presentations and creeds took place.
Key moments contribute to meaningful service
The first exceptionally significant moment was Bishop Schofield's presentation of Bishop Menees to Archbishop Duncan. Until then, I could not spot Menees in the audience, and was not sure whether or not he was one of the elaborately-robed men at the front. This idea slightly worried me, as I did not think it proper for him to be decked out in bishop gear until he was officially consecrated.
However, when he came forward upon being called up, he was not adorned in an ornate robe, but in the simple white vestments of a priest. I found this to be almost indescribably meaningful. Once he came to the actual consecration, he was progressively presented with his robe, Pastoral Staff, Pectoral Cross, Episcopal ring, and miter.
The progression was truly beautiful as he was outfitted; almost like a literal armor of God. He did not begin pretentiously, but humbly. Throughout the rest of the service, Menees proved to be just that: humble. It seems perfectly fitting that this church leader should follow in the footsteps of Christ.
"The consecration genuinely opened up my mind to consider the significance of our actions and intentions ... the service presented beautiful examples with depth beyond what I believed to be possible in a church -- especially one as small as my own." --Mary Hierholzer, Co-Editor-in-Chief
In his examination before Archbishop Duncan, Menees was presented with liturgic questions, to which he was to answer in acceptance. Still in his simple white robes, Menees then lay prostrate as the congregation sang the 9th century song, "Veni Creator Spiritus." Menees later described, in this moment, that he felt it was as though the Holy Spirit lifted him up and he floated.
When Menees lay spread-eagle on the ground, I was unusually intrigued and elated. It is a position of worship that I'd only ever read about in the Bible. The fact that it was only something in print always disappointed me, as I believed it to be a rather deep act; I had no idea that it was a practice still in use. Furthermore, hearing Menees declare the moment's significance made it stand out in my mind even more.
Like most Anglican services, the Eucharist was held. Instead of the Archbishop or another priest being the Celebrant, the freshly-consecrated Bishop Menes led communion. It seemed very suitable that the new church figure would lead the congregations in a significant act. His beautiful a capella voice rang out in the liturgy as we prepared ourselves to partake in the Lord's Supper.
Genuine profundity overshadows mere ceremony
Aware that Anglican ceremonies can be elaborate, I was apprehensive that the ornate robes, candles and general pomp would trump the genuine significance of the consecration. I consider it easy to overlook the true aspects of faith and worship in events with so many distractions.
However, from my perspective, this service did not overshadow the important issues at hand. On the contrary, it highlighted those details in extremely profound ways that would never have occurred to me otherwise. I never really stopped to think about the steps in a bishop's consecration and how they correlate to Christ's life. I never looked for unconventional, "old" forms of worship described in the Bible.
In many regards, the consecration resembled a wedding. The most obvious instance was Bishop Menees receiving the Episcopal ring, which is a representation of the betrothal-like connection to a bishop's church. As I pondered this link during the service, I began to consider the tie between a bishop and his church with the tie of Christ to the church, which is called his bride.
That thought opened up a whole new depth to every aspect of the service. It provided me with a parallel which I could connect with the task that Bishop Menees undertook. From that point, I was aware that each moment signified an important detail. Not everything necessarily pertained to a wedding, but I was able to take value in every ancient word spoken. Perhaps this is why the especially long service did not feel like a burden to sit through.
The consecration genuinely opened up my mind to consider the significance of our actions and intentions. Although I have been somewhat interested in the literal meanings of practices in the Anglican church for quite a while, the service presented beautiful examples with depth beyond what I believed to be possible in a church -- especially one as small as my own.
After being consecrated, Bishop Menees, center front, led the church in the Eucharist. In addition to communion, Hierholzer found many of the service's events to be thought-provoking.*
Values carry over into future
To my delight, the remarkable experiences did not end, even after the ceremony was over. Bishop Menees spent the next day at St. James' for the Sunday services since we are the cathedral of the Diocese of San Joaquin, and a cathedral is a Bishop's home church.
This presented me with the opportunity to study my new bishop on a more personal level. Although he still donned an elaborate robe, miter and staff, this was my chance to hear directly from our new leader.
I am thrilled to report that not once did Bishop Menees give me any doubts or negative feelings. I consider myself blessed to be in a church led by extraordinarily wise men, and he certainly fits right in. This was confirmed when his sermon pertained to the exact topic that I had been struggling with over the previous few days. It is not an unusual experience for me to have my questions and doubts addressed at those Sunday services. The fact that Bishop Menees, like the other priests at St. James', was able to address the needs of his congregation is a sure sign that he is a man in tune with God.
I still consider it important to recognize priorities and who my praise is directed toward. Bishop Menees is not our church's savior, rather, he is a man placed in the church by our Savior. In fact, Menees assured us that he would fail in leading the Diocese on his own, but, with God's help, we -- not he -- would be a part of great things.
With such an array of lessons learned, how can I be anything but thankful? Even on the basic Sunday mornings when I'm tempted to stay in my comfortable bed, I am ultimately blown away by the power that God can place in a simple church service. Observing this, can a church service even be considered "simple"?
By those standards then, how could an exceptionally special and historical service like a consecration be anything but indescribably significant and eye-opening? Since we don't all have the chance to attend a bishop's consecration every day, it seems right that we should let the lessons learned carry over into our daily lives.
You won't see me walking around in a scarlet robe, but I can assure you that the stunning service will not soon leave my mind.
For more experiences, read the Nov. 10, 2010 article, The tooth dilemma: A most unusual experience. For more columns, read the Sept. 26 article, Counselors reflect on camping experience.
*Editor's note: The Feather would like to offer a special thank you to Laura Facciani of Facciani Photography for sharing her photos of Bishop Eric Menees's consecration.