The gates at the west doors of Washington National Cathedral opened shortly after 11 a.m. on November 4 and Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori stepped fully into her new ministry as the Episcopal Church's 26th Presiding Bishop, calling all members of the Church into deepened service and "shalom."
After Washington Bishop John Chane and Cathedral Dean Samuel Lloyd opened the cathedral's doors in response to Jefferts Schori's three knocks, Jill Beesley, outgoing president of the Diocese of Nevada's Standing Committee and her successor, the Rev. James Kelly, presented Jefferts Schori as their diocese's "bishop, chief pastor, and sister in Christ" and sent her forth to be the Presiding Bishop.
"Katharine, Bishop in the Church of God, we have looked forward to your coming with great joy. In the name of Christ, we greet you," replied 25th Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold.
"I hope to serve among you in Christ's name and in the joy of the Spirit," she said.
Griswold and House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson reiterated the circumstances of Jefferts Schori's election on June 18 during the Church's 75th General Convention and Jefferts Schori committed herself "with God's help to be a faithful shepherd and pastor among you."
The approximately 3,200 people present promised to uphold her in her ministry, Chane welcomed her to the Cathedral, and Lloyd invited her to celebrate the day's Eucharist.
"My brothers and sisters, as we begin this new season of ministry, may our celebration recall us to the unity that is given in Baptism and nurtured by the Eucharist," she said. "May we rejoice in the many gifts enriching the life of our Church and be strengthened to proclaim the Good News of Christ in the world."
As she came up the aisle from the west doors to the altar in the Cathedral's crossing, the congregation sang "Holy, Holy, Holy," and applauded loudly.
As Presiding Bishop, Jefferts Schori, 52, becomes chief pastor to the U.S.-based Episcopal Church, which includes more than 2.4 million members in some 7,600 congregations in 110 dioceses and one convocation of churches in Europe, spanning 16 countries. (Information about the Church's 25 previous Presiding Bishops is available here.)
She will also join the Anglican Communion's Primates Meeting, a body of principal bishops who oversee the Communion's 38 member provinces, of which the Episcopal Church is one.
Jefferts Schori is the first woman in Anglicanism's five-century history to serve in this capacity. (The Anglican presence in North America dates to April 26, 1607, the date of the first landing in Virginia.) She served as bishop of Nevada from 2001 until October 25 of this year. A former university professor, Jefferts Schori is an oceanographer and airplane pilot. She and her husband, Richard Miles Schori, a retired theoretical mathematician, have one daughter, Katharine Johanna Harris, 25, who is a first lieutenant and pilot in the U.S. Air Force.
During her homily, Jefferts Schori called the Church to her vision of "shalom."
Shalom "doesn't just mean that sort of peace that comes when we're no longer at war," she said.
"It is that rich and multihued vision of a world where no one goes hungry because everyone is invited to a seat at the groaning board, it's a vision of a world where no one is sick or in prison because all sorts of disease have been healed, it's a vision of a world where every human being has the capacity to use every good gift that God has given, it's a vision of a world where no one enjoys abundance at the expense of another, where all enjoy Sabbath rest in the conscious presence of God," she said. "Shalom means all human beings live together as siblings, at peace with one another and with God, and in right relationship with all of the rest of creation."
Shalom is created, she said, when all people are at home with each other and with God. Echoing both Augustine's belief that "our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee, O Lord," and Robert Frost's notion of an all-accepting, all-forgiving home in his poem "Death of the Hired Man," Jefferts Schori said: "We all ache for a community that will take us in, with all our warts and quirks and petty meannesses – and still celebrate when they see us coming!"
"That vision of homegoing and homecoming that underlies our deepest spiritual yearnings is also the job assignment each one of us gets in baptism – go home, and while you're at it, help to make a home for everyone else on earth," she continued. "For none of us can truly find our rest in God until all of our brothers and sisters have also been welcomed home like the prodigal."
"The home we ultimately seek is found in relationship with creator, with redeemer, with spirit," she said.
Jefferts Schori called the Church to live out "the vision of shalom embodied in the Millennium Development Goals that the Church committed itself to at the 75th General Convention.
"That vision of abundant life is achievable in our own day, but only with the passionate commitment of each and every one of us," she said to applause. "It is God's vision of homecoming for all humanity."
The Gospel for the service was Luke 4:14-21, in which Jesus reads from Isaiah 61, one of Jefferts Schori's favorite passages; the prophet proclaims his mission "to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted; to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor ..." Jesus tells those listening in the synagogue that "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."
Jefferts Schori said that the scripture can be fulfilled in our hearing "in the will to make peace with one who disdains our theological position – for his has merit, too, as the fruit of faithfulness. In the courage to challenge our legislators to make poverty history, to fund AIDS work in Africa, the distribution of anti-malarial mosquito nets, and primary schools where all children are welcomed. In the will to look within our own hearts and confront the shadows that darken the dream that God has planted there.
"That scripture is fulfilled each time we reach beyond our narrow self-interest to call another home. That scripture is fulfilled in ways both small and large, in acts of individuals and of nations, whenever we seek the good of the other, for our own good and final homecoming is wrapped up in that."
She called the Church to "a deep and abiding hope" and "a hope that has the audacity to join Jesus in proclaiming the fulfillment of the scriptures and "join the raucous throngs in creation, the sea creatures and the geological features who leap for joy at the vision of all creation restored – restored to proper relationship, to all creation come home at last."
Ending her sermon, Jefferts Schori said, "Shalom, chaverim, shalom, my friends, shalom."
The assembly responded with "Shalom."
The complete text of Jefferts Schori's sermon is available here.
Jefferts Schori's liturgical path to the cathedral's pulpit began before the west doors to the cathedral opened to her. The cathedral's carillon rang with nine works in prelude; there were seven organ and instrumental prelude pieces; and the musical group SOL and the Gospel Choir of the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas, Philadelphia, sang six pieces.
Echoing Jefferts Schori's nearly six years as bishop of Nevada, the Blindman brothers, two Oglala Lakota-Paiute Indians from Wadsworth, Nevada, drew the assembly together with drums and chants. Smudgers, enacting a tradition of Native Americans which promotes healing and unity, offered sweetgrass, sage and cedar incense to prepare the cathedral for worship.
As members of the House of Bishops, ecumenical and interfaith guests, members of the Cathedral leadership and other liturgical ministers processed from the west, the Cathedral Choir sang "Hymn to the Mother of God," a setting by John Tavener of a portion of the liturgy of St. Basil.
From the east, the drummers and the Omega Liturgical Dance Company of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City led Griswold, Anderson, Chane, Lloyd and the rest of the Welcoming Party, including Canon to the Presiding Bishop and Primate Carlson Gerdau, and 24th Presiding Edmond Lee Browning, to the west doors outside of which Jefferts Schori waited.
After the welcoming party greeted her and led her to the Crossing as the assembly sang "Christ is made the sure foundation," Jefferts Schori received the symbols of her ministry.
Anderson told her that the gifts were "signs of the ministry you share with all baptized persons and of the responsibility entrusted to you as Presiding Bishop, Primate and Chief Pastor of this family of the worldwide Anglican Communion."
Jefferts Schori received a Gospel book, water as the symbol of baptism, and bread and wine as the symbol of the eucharistic life of the Church from people connected with her previous ministries. Oil, the symbol of healing and reconciliation, was presented by Azizah Y. al-Hibri, a law professor at the University of Richmond; Njongonkulu W. H. Ndungane, the Archbishop of Capetown and Primate of the Church of the Province of Southern Africa; and Myra Soifer, rabbi of Temple Sinai, Reno, Nevada.
Lastly, Griswold, whose nine-year term officially ended November 1, presented her with the pastoral staff that symbolizes her authority as Presiding Bishop. "May Christ the good shepherd sustain you as you carry it in his name," he said.
"My sisters and brothers, may God renew in us today the grace to follow where the
Spirit leads us, reaching forth our hands in love and reconciling the world to Christ," she told the assembly.
At Griswold's invitation to greet the 26th Presiding Bishop, the assembly erupted into loud applause and shouts that lasted nearly two minutes. Applause had accompanied Jefferts Schori up the Cathedral's main aisle after her welcoming at the west doors. Even louder applause punctuated the service's last hymn, "Lord, you give the great commission."
After the Liturgy of the Word, Jefferts Schori led the assembly in renewing their baptismal covenant and the prayers of the people were led, successively, in Haitian Creole, Mandarin, Yoruba and English. While the assembly sang "We are marching in the light of God" in Zulu, English and Spanish, Jefferts Schori, 17 Episcopal Church bishops and 10 deacons moved through the cathedral sprinkling or asperging the assembly as a reminder of baptism.
Jefferts Schori presided at the Eucharist. Communion was distributed to the assembly at nine stations in the Cathedral nave and three in the balconies by 30 bread bearers and 50 chalice bearers.
Browning, 78, led the post-Communion prayer and Jefferts Schori blessed the assembly in Spanish.
After the service, Jefferts Schori greeted the assembly near the baptismal font in the middle of the nave for over 90 minutes. Refreshments were served, meanwhile, at three locations on the cathedral campus.
Jefferts Schori's vestments were designed and made by Victor Challenor and the Rev. Paul Woodrum of Challwood Studio in Brooklyn, New York. The design, meant to represent dawn over the earth, is rendered in shade of blue and green with orange and yellow.
The last page of the day's order of service feature this statement by Hélder Pessoa Câmara, the retired Roman Catholic archbishop of Olinda and Recife in Brazil: "The bishop belongs to all. Let no one be scandalized if I frequent those who are considered unworthy or sinful. Who is not a sinner? Let no one be alarmed if I am seen with compromised and dangerous people, on the left or the right. Let no one bind me to a group. My door, my heart, must be open to everyone, absolutely everyone."
The complete order of service for the investiture is available here. Jefferts Schori will be officially seated in the Presiding Bishop's chair in the Cathedral during November 5's All Saints Sunday Eucharist beginning at 11 a.m. (EST). That service will be webcast live through a link. The order of service for that liturgy is available here.