Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Annual Visitations

I spent a long time as an assistant/associate rector watching my brethren in the role of rector prepare for the annual visitation of the Bishop. Much is revealed about a person when the one directly above them readies for a visit. The Visitation of the Bishop is a rite of the Church, and an essential part and portion of being a child of the Episcopal Church. My first memory of being aware that I was an member of the Body of Christ with an Episcopal bent came with the visitation of old Bishop Crumm to the parish I attended as a child. He was not a man of particularly impressive stature, but to an 8 yr old, he was a big guy. He dressed differently from anyone else in the room, with a floor length red vest thingy...and ruffles on his cuffs. That, and he carried a big stick down the aisle. I was only a torch bearer, and a junior one at that.

As one of the smallest kids in the altar party, I was also the one who had to take potluck when it came to seating. That usually meant having to sit in the big white chair in the sanctuary, the one that everyone could see you in. Not like the ones beside it. You were hidden there and could nap, play cards, whatever. Resigned to my fate to once again sit in the big chair in front of everybody, I made my way to my place. Not long after that, the Bishop showed up and excused himself, "I am sorry, but I think that I am supposed to sit there." The mitre on the back of the chair would have tipped me off if I had been older...but I didn't know. Go figure.

Well, we spent the rest of the morning sharing the seat. Thank God for an overbuilt bishop's chair in that parish.

Since then, I confess, I am not much impressed, nor am I cowed, by the presence of the bishop. I am aware, though, that even now as the rector of a larger church...I am aware that I am still perched in the bishop's seat. Canonically, that is true. Pastorally, it is a reality. My job as rector is to get out of the way of our chief pastor when he arrives here on Sunday. Rectors forget that a little too often. We fret when the boss gets here. We worry about the ups and downs of the people's relationship with the pointy hat. We stress about folks that are still journeying to "Episcopalianhoodism" will not get what that person with the floor length red vest and ruffled sleeves means with his/her presence.

He/She means that the presence of Christ in our lives is not just an idea. Hands that made that bishop made the ones before him/her. And so on, and so on, back to Christ himself. That pointy hat, the stick, pectoral cross and amethyst ring mean something. That history, ourstory, is the tale of a personal relationship to the One promised of God.

Why get nervous about that?

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