(This article was first published on the website of the Anglican diocese of New Westminster.)
With ancient ceremony, under the sails of the Vancouver Convention Centre, and before 1300 plus Anglicans and their guests, Melissa Skelton was ordained a bishop of the Anglican Church of Canada on March 1.
Led by Nisga’a singers and dancers, with banners flying, accompanied by robed bishops and clergy and hundreds of laity, the new bishop paraded up the centre of Burrard Street for five blocks to Christ Church Cathedral to ceremonially knock on the church’s west door with her staff. She was admitted and installed as the ninth Bishop of New Westminster.
It was a full three hour service, first in one of the Convention Centre’s large halls, and then at the Cathedral. In the Centre a 120-member choir under the direction of St. Mary’s Kerrisdale music director Brigid Coult augmented by five brass players, bass and drums led the hymns, sang many anthems, and provided trumpet fanfares.
Some 18 Canadian and American bishops participated in the core of the ordination when they laid hands on the head of the bishop-elect and proclaimed: “Send down your Holy Spirit upon your servant Melissa, whom we consecrate in your name to the office and work of a bishop in the Church.”
Among the congregation was a busload of parishioners from St. Paul’s, Seattle, where she has served as rector for the past nine years. Before then she had served in parishes in Maine, New Jersey, and New York, as well as working in businesses in Ohio and Maine. She is the first American to be elected bishop in the 135 year old Diocese of New Westminster, and the ninth woman to become a bishop in the Anglican Church of Canada since women were first ordained in 1976.
Her former bishop, Greg Rickel of the Diocese of Olympia, based in Seattle, was the preacher at the ordination. He said that while his loss of an energetic and gifted priest was the Canadian diocese’s gain, “Jesus Christ has no borders.” “As difficult as it is to see you go, it is absolutely right that you do,” said Bishop Rickel.
He said there were two types of bishops: those who relish being bishops, and those who work to grow the Church and share Christ. He said Bishop Skelton would be among the latter, and lead her diocese in doing “the hard work of love.” Once clothed in episcopal (bishop’s) vestments (with the help of her former Bishop, Greg Rickel), she received a ring, pectoral cross, a Bible, and a bishop’s staff crook. After the parade up Burrard Street to the Cathedral and gaining admittance, she was given a second, more ornate staff from the diocese’s former bishop, Michael Ingham, as a symbol of becoming the diocese’s chief pastor.
To the applauding crowd, she said, “I am delighted to be here at last-at last. I am humbled to be called to this office.” She told the group that a guide will be a quote from Saint Irenaeus: “The glory of God is the human being fully alive.”
Neale Adams was former editor of Topic, the newspaper of the diocese of New Westminster.