Saturday, March 24, Melanie and I drove to Orlando, to the First Baptist Church. This mega-church had graciously opened their doors to the Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida. We needed a space large enough for 3,500 diocesan parishioners and clergy to gather and consecrate a new bishop.
(One great story we have been smiling about concerns the house our new bishop had bought in Orlando. It had been owned by a couple who were members at First Baptist. They had been holding Bible studies in their home for years. They had been thrilled to learn who was buying their house and who would be paying a visit to their church!)
I was asked by the archdeacon to be a lector at the consecration. Here I am, reading Paul’s list of qualifications for those who desire the “noble thing,” to be a bishop.
That white blob on the brightly lit platform is me (I’m the taller blob standing up). It’s easier to lift your eyes to the big TV screen and watch that image, courtesy the superb technical crew that runs the audio-visual resources at First Baptist.That massive screen lets you see even the most insignificant servant up close for a moment.
I was back in my seat in less than a minute, having finished my small contribution. I had time to think about all the helping hands doing their appointed tasks that day. The choir was gathered from dozens of local choirs across the diocese. Ditto for ushers. Clergy, both priests and deacons (and a couple of dozen bishops) stepped in and out at different moments to contribute a service and then make way for others. It was service building upon service, making way for fresh offerings and contributions at every moment.
And it seemed to unfold like clockwork. All those hearts and minds, all those prayers and humble sacrifices, all those Baptists and Episcopalians (!) creating a milestone moment for our churches and for The Church.
I was grateful to be able to contribute my own small talent (after being given a front row seat on the platform from which to observe the proceedings!). And I knew I was only seeing a small part of the wonderful design unfolding in front of me.
Most obviously, I thought of the unbroken chain of bishops who had handed down the Gospel and teaching of the Church. Gregory Brewer lay prostrate on a prayer rug while we all prayed for the Holy Spirit to come and enable him to take up his new duties in that noble company of shepherds and disciples of Jesus Christ. The bishops gathered around and lay hands on him.
When Bishop Greg finally stood before us in full vestments he could barely choke out the words, “My diocesan family…!” And then the whole family rapidly scattered, hurrying on to the many moments and works the Father has created for us to walk in. So many hands laboring at the One Great Creation of our Lord Jesus Christ all across the diocese. All across the Church. All across the world. All across eternity.