Monday, March 21, 2011

Bishop Dan

You may have noticed a link in my sidebar for Father Dan's blog. Father Dan is my brother-in-law, Husband's eldest brother. He is an Episcopal priest and a very good writer—very good communicator on all fronts—as you can tell from his blog. Over the weekend, Father Dan was named the bishop of Springfield, Illinois in a consecration ceremony, and Husband and I took a quick road trip to watch it happen.

My church experiences have been limited. I once attended a pentecostal church in a Chicago housing project and was very much out of my element with the screaming and the falling down and the nurses up front ready with smelling salts, and I once went to a service at a commune in Chicago—Jesus People USA, or JPUSA—where I sang hymns with big men with long hair and tattoos and women who wore jeans. But most of my church experiences have been in your run-of-the-mill, middle-America protestant churches where there is no room for ceremony, and pastors dress like the rest of the congregation when the rest of the congregation wears suits. In my mother's Baptist church where I grew up, there was a pastor who got up every morning at 5:30 and dressed in a three-piece suit just in case he were to be called on to do something pastoral, and in his mind, pastors wore three-piece suits.

So, to witness an event in which reverends and bishops and whatnot dress in ornate robes and miter hats and carry staffs and burn incense is new to me, new and fascinating. I found myself admiring the beautiful brocade on some of the robes and sashes even though I knew that wasn't the point. The presiding bishop, the Most Reverend Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori, wore a beautiful blue and purple robe and hat, in fact, but I got the impression I wasn't supposed to notice. But I did, and I also noticed she did not wear makeup. Does that make me shallow? I don't think so. It makes me detail oriented, perhaps.

Well, clothing aside, the event was a very big deal with 800 or so people attending. There was an organist who performed a Bach fugue and a brass quintet and a large choir that was apparently ecumenical—afterward while I was standing in the lobby, a few choir members walked out, and I overheard one of them say, "Well, we're all good Catholics and Jews, and we just do our part." There was communion and various Episcopal things I cannot explain because, as I said, up until now, I have been run-of-the-mill protestant. And there was a pointed but humorous sermon, which you can read here.

One of the points in the sermon seemed to be humility. When you are a bishop, you may be looked up to as a leader, but you are a servant. That's what I understand, at any rate, and it's a good thing for everyone to remember. Be a servant, don't sit on your hind end expecting to be served, and you'll make a good dent in the world.

After the event, Husband and I toured the Abraham Lincoln Museum in Springfield, and I was reminded of something that has always impressed me about the president's legacy. For all of the man's accomplishments, and for all of the reverence paid to him so many decades after his death, he was humble in his servitude. He was the president of the United States and had full armies at his command. Yet, in his strength and position of leadership, he understood humility, and he didn't appear to put it on like a robe or flashy hat—or even a stove-pipe hat, for that matter. He wore it from the inside out. That's a good lesson for us all, right? I think it's a particularly fitting lesson for someone about to take on the responsibility of overseeing an entire diocese. Regardless of what you're wearing on the outside, wear your humility from the inside out.

1 comment:

dive said...

That's a good sermon, Robyn. Always start with a joke; people tend to listen more attentively while they're grinning.

You tied in Father (sorry - Bishop) Dan's Springfield diocese very nicely with Abe, giving us a fine lesson on not judging a book by its cover. This would make a great piece for your paper.

Many congratulations to Dan! Whatever he's wearing on the inside he looks unconscionably spiffy in his regalia.