Monday, 2 March 2015

Noster Est Episcopus

On Saturday Marion our curate and I were in attendance at the Cathedral for the enthronement of our new bishop, Andrew Watson. I was very fond of our previous bishop, Christopher, who was a moderate Catholic where Bishop Andrew is a moderate Evangelical (no other kind get made bishops, or want to be). But he preached rather succinctly and clearly and we'll see what we get. I hope I can be fond of him, too, as well as have due regard for him as my Father in Christ.

Here you see Bishop Ian, the suffragan, about to anoint Bishop Andrew on head, lips and hands. The anointing is a very Cahtholic observance you see at the inauguration of bishops nowadays. In fact until scanning the service notes I hadn't realised, or even given any thought to, how recent the motif of enthronement of bishops is in the Church of England, having only crept back into use under the impact of the Oxford Movement from the mid-nineteenth century onwards; I suppose before that, the Letters Patent would just have been read out and that would have been it, and not necessarily read in the new bishop's cathedral church, either. Two things strike me: how even Evangelical members of the episcopate now gaily (and even reverently, as Bishop Andrew clearly did) take part in superstitious usages their predecessors of yesteryear would have shrunk from in horror; and how notwithstanding the objections of trad Anglo-Catholics to its innovations, the Church of England clearly understands itself in an infinitely more Catholic way than it once did. This ceremony very obviously expresses the nature of the bishop as bearer of the charisma of the Holy Spirit and sign of apostolic continuity in his diocese - as opposed to being an ecclesiastical civil servant having a letter of congratulation from the reigning monarch read at him.

Marion pointed out to me some of the titles of the dignitaries in the order of service. 'Surely the Provincial Apparitor and the Vesturer of Canterbury are characters from Harry Potter?' she asked. I immediately conjured up images of the Bishop having to wear a Sorting Mitre to discover what kind of bishop he was going to be. But perhaps the better joke came from Marion's (Roman Catholic) husband who, when she described how the moment when the bishop seeks admission to the cathedral by striking the door with his crozier was robbed of some of its solemnity by the fact the Guildford Cathedral has glass doors which have to be struck somewhat carefully, asked whether, in such a modern cathedral, it wouldn't have been much more in keeping if he'd just rung the doorbell.

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