On Saturday, January 12, 2008, I had the honor to be present as John McKee Sloan was consecrated as the Bishop Suffragan of the Diocese of Alabama and named the 1024th bishop in apostolic succession. Although I was in the back corner of the Cathedral of the Advent, the pomp and ceremony and music were astounding. The procession of all the clergy from the Diocese of Alabama and bishops from around the country, including Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, was quite impressive and very long!
The service included readings from a special needs camper that Kee Sloan had worked with at Camp McDowell and a young person from his former parish St. Thomas in Huntsville. Bishops from Alabama, Mississippi, and the Presiding Bishop, laid hands upon Kee and made him the Bishop Suffragan of Alabama. It was most impressive and I was struck with a sense of awe remembering the prayers that had been lifted for Kee and his family since his election in September.
After being in the back corner for the entire service, I was amazed when the ushers encouraged us to go forward first for communion. This was amazing because I was able to receive Holy Communion from Katharine Jefferts Schori, the PB. It’s not every day that you get that opportunity. And she looked me in the eye when she gave me the wafer and spoke the words, the Body of Christ. The sense of the sacred was certainly present for me in that act of the Eucharist.
Then end of the service approached and we were able to see Kee Sloan in all of his bishop finery exit the church through a door very near to where we were standing. Again the sense of having witnessed an amazing and spirit-filled occasion washed over me.
Later that afternoon, Gus and I went to Trinity Commons, the Birmingham Episcopal Campus Ministries center, to have tea and conversation with the Presiding Bishop. Since we got there early, Gus and I were treated to a tour of the center by Bill Blackerby, the chaplain for Birmingham area higher education institutions--UAB, Birmingham Southern, and Samford. It is a wonderful, student-friendly hangout. I loved the colors and décor and furniture; and the college students and the chaplain were gracious hosts to all their visitors.
Then came the informal question and answer session with Katharine Jefferts Schori. I was already impressed with her, but seeing her interact with the people in that room was simply amazing. She answered questions and asked them right back to us. We discussed issues such as reconciliation, the poor, the root of the word conversation, Millennium Development Goals, young people and vocation for ministry, and more. Her demeanor was one of both authority and gentleness; it was a privilege to be present. (I also got close enough to Kee Sloan to congratulate him and shake his hand.)
So, Saturday, January 12, was a day that I will remember as one where I was in the company of bishops in worship and in conversation and it was good.