The countdown is on for the consecration of a new Episcopal bishop Saturday. As in the past, the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina has opted to hold this colorful and significant event in the nearest thing to a Gothic cathedral North Carolina has to offer: the chapel at Duke University.
Episcopalians from across the diocese are expected to fill the 1,700-seat chapel for the 10 a.m. service. A total of up to 286 persons in that congregation will be from St. Luke’s Episcopal in Durham.
For the St. Luke’s congregation, Saturday is a personal celebration as they see their former rector, the Rev. Anne Hodges-Copple, consecrated as Bishop Suffragan. She has been associated with St. Luke’s for 28 years, 20 of them as its rector.
Her election in January was not the first time the Episcopal Diocese has looked to St. Luke’s for leadership. Back in 1994, the Rt. Rev. Robert Johnson, then rector at the church, was tapped for service as the 10th Bishop of North Carolina. Now retired, Bishop Johnson continues to live in Durham and is bishop-in-residence and rector emeritus at St. Luke’s.
He and his wife, Connie, will take part in the consecration service as they present Hodges-Copple with the bishop’s mitre
The consecration of a bishop calls for the right clothing, vestments as the church calls them, clothing that symbolizes the office of bishop.
On Saturday, the new bishop will be wearing a gorgeous cope, mitre and stole that are being custom made for her by Rebecca Lamont of Juliet Hemingray Church Textiles in the United Kingdom.
“These vestments have a very contemporary feel,” Hodges-Copple said. “The elements of water, grain, grapes and wind are embroidered with rich colors and give fresh expression to our sacramental life.”
In a farewell letter to her St. Luke’s congregation, she wrote, “Since our parish theme is ‘The art of living your faith,’ since we are a parish filled with people who make original work with their hands, since we are a parish that dared to be different in the design of our 1970s church buildings, I think these vestments embody the spirit of liturgical arts for a new century.”
All the new bishop’s immediate family, including her husband, adult children, sister and brother and her mother will take part in the service. Also, nieces and nephews who can attend will have roles as acolytes and oblation bearers.
“My mother, sister and brother will present me with the bishop’s ring,” she said. “My husband and three children, Daniel, Thomas and Sally, will present me with the bishop’s cross.”
The sterling silver cross and ring are being made by Charles Morrison, a jeweler in Charlotte who has made crosses and rings for other bishops. The cross will have a small amethyst in the middle, and the ring is a signet ring that bears the shield of the diocese. She will use it in the future to actually seal other ordination and consecration certificates.
Music for the service will be provided by a 100-voice choir, composed of singers from across the diocese along with a choir and a group of singers from La Iglesia El Buen Pastor, a Durham church, who will lead the singing of a favorite Spanish hymn, “Lord, You Have Come to the Seashore.”
“That hymn has special meaning for me,” the new bishop said. “It was the hymn most frequently sung during the nine mission trips to Honduras I took with Duke students while I was the Episcopal chaplain to Duke.
“Many of those former students will be in attendance at the service. Seven of them are now priests of the church and will participate in the service,” she said.
Twenty bishops from across the U.S. and Central America will participate in the consecration, including the Rt. Rev. Hector Monterosa, bishop of Costa Rica; the Most Rev. Katherine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church in the U.S.; Rt. Rev. Michael Curry of the North Carolina Diocese; the Rt. Rev. Scott Benhase of the Diocese of Georgia and former rector at St. Philip’s in Durham; the Rt. Rev. Gary Gloster, retired bishop suffragan of the N.C. Diocese; and the Rt. Rev. Susan Goss, bishop suffragan of Virginia, who will all be co-consecrators.
The Rev. Dr. Lauren Winter, priest associate at St. Luke’s and assistant professor of Christian Spirituality at Duke Divinity School, will deliver the sermon.
Hodges-Copple said the liturgy in this service will reflect the diversity of the Anglican communion with a good portion of the service and music in Spanish. The service will be translated into Spanish with headsets available for Spanish-speaking worshipers.
“My consecration is taking place on the feast day of Evelyn Underhill, a 20th century English mystic. The Gospel reading is taken from the 6th chapter of John and is about Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well. Given that this will be the first consecration of a woman bishop in Province IV, essentially the states of the Southeast U.S., I think there will be a sense of the breadth and depth of the discipleship of women from the time of Jesus ministry until now.
“One of the choral anthems takes as its text a writing of Julian of Norwich, another English mystic on the appropriateness of understanding God as a type of father as well as a type of mother. Now, let me be clear: I am not a mystic, but I do follow the witness of those who have gone before me as the centrality of prayer for connecting with the Spirit of God and for the health of our minds, our bodies and our souls.”
The new bishop will be silent during most of the service. It is not until after she is consecrated that she will assume an active role.
“After the consecration, I bid the exchange of the Peace and at that point I become the celebrant and will conduct the Eucharist. I plan to chant the opening of that part of the liturgy which is known as the “sursum corda, more ancient tradition,” she said.
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