Cold, crisp, bright blue sky. Trees on fire with color. A long line of cheerful, excited Episcopalians snaking down the long access to Washington Cathedral. That's what greeted us yesterday morning when our bus - full of Church Center staff - pulled up to the cathedral for the Investiture of the 26th Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church.
But this investiture was historic. At the point in the service when the new PB was invited into the sanctuary - after three loud knocks on the huge West Door - for the first time, the person knocking and being summoned inside was a woman. And a rather youngish woman, at that. A mother. A scientist (oceanography). A licensed pilot. A church leader as no other church leader has been before. Katharine Jefferts Sciori entered the cathedral to loud, loud cheers and applause ringing off the stone walls. A woman knocked and was invited to come in. Thrilling from the tips of the toes to the last hairs on the head.
Native Americans from Ute, Shosone, Crow-Creek-Sioux, and Chippewa tribes chanted and "smudged" the thousands of folks in the congregation (don't worry, we didn't get sooty or anything). The Gospel Choir of the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas/Philadelphia sang rockin' gospel, as well as Zulu. The magnificent choirs of Washington National Cathedral raised the roof in the best Anglican choral music tradition. The Omega Liturgical Dance Company-in-Residence at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in NY brought rhythm and color to the occasion. Thrilling!
As Bp. Gene Robinson passed us during the procession and as courageous out-going Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold (with a catch in his voice at the emotional moment) handed the primatial staff to Bp. Katharine, I was proud of my church and reminded of something an English priest said at last week's conference in Derbyshire in the middle of a discussion about Bp. Robinson and Bps. Frank and Katharine's decision to support him . "We Anglicans and the Roman Catholics have been ordaining gay bishops for 2000 years. The American Episcopal Church is just being honest about it." Theoretically, the new PB's support of honest behavior is why conservative bishops are rejecting her. I suspect the woman-thing looms pretty large, as well.
Yet contrary to headlines blaring "A Woman Now Leads an Embattled Church," there was no "embattled" yesterday. (There's really no "embattled" anytime, except for a handful of conservative bishops in the US and some power-wielding bishops in the Global South - note, I said "some" in the Global South, certainly not all.) No, the day was glorious. Witnessed by thousands of the faithful in the cathedral and many more thousands following the live webcast, there was hope, excitement, and a renewed commitment to mission and ministry.
Thanks be to God on this All Saints Sunday!