Customary for Episcopal Visitations
SEPTEMBER – DECEMBER 2016; JANUARY – DECEMBER 2017
THE RT. REV. WENDELL N. GIBBS, JR.
The round of pastoral visits to the congregations and other worshiping communities in the Diocese of Michigan is one of my chief responsibilities as your bishop. Visitations are also one of the great joys of the episcopate. For me to preach the word and to preside at the table (and the font) is not an extraordinary ministry. It is, in fact, the usual thing for a bishop to do. My hope is that visitations can be relaxed in tone but focused in purpose. They need look nothing at all like a state occasion and, as the chief pastor of the Diocese; I prefer not to be treated as a guest. We are, all of us, guests at the table where Jesus himself is the host.
As an extension of presiding at the Eucharistic table, where the faithful community discerns
Christ’s body, present in the sacrament (1 Cor. 11:23-33), my intent is also to spend some time
discerning, with you, the body of Christ which is your congregation. To this end, plan for me to
meet with those charged with leadership for your common life – clergy, vestry, bishop’s
Most of our churches have the space available to merge the usual Sunday liturgies into one.
And whenever possible, that is my strong preference – one service signifying the oneness of the
church, in the presence of a bishop, the sacramental person charged with guarding the church’s
unity. If it is not possible to combine services, please note that I will be present for only one
service on this day; usually that service which would be considered the “main” service.
The Proper of the Day will be used, including all three readings and Psalm. I will preach using
the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) as approved by General Convention 2006. As provided
by General Convention, full transition to the RCL should have taken place. Whenever there are
choices among the readings, and this is especially the case in Easter season, we need to agree
ahead of time what will be read.
The various orders of ministry should take their respective parts in the service. The first two
readings should be read by a layperson. So should the psalm, if it is not sung. A deacon or
layperson should lead the prayers. A deacon, whenever present, should read the gospel, invite
the confession of sin, prepare the table, and give the dismissal. If there is no deacon, then an
assisting priest should read the gospel, prepare the table and dismiss the people; I will (as
celebrant) invite the confession of sin.
When available, a deacon will assist me in the liturgy, especially to hold the book, miter, and
pastoral staff, as needed. In the absence of a deacon, an acolyte or assisting priest can take
these duties. I am not overly fussy about such matters, and the basic rule is that a deacon or
other assistant stands ready to hold whatever I hand over!
If there are no baptisms, the Renewal of Baptismal Vows (BCP, page 292) may be used in place
of the Nicene Creed.
One of the clergy, or else a warden, should make necessary parish announcements.
Deacons and priests should join me at the table for the Eucharistic prayer, and other ministers
of communion should be close by also. Please let me know beforehand: 1) which Eucharistic
prayer to use; 2) whether to sing the preface; 3) which version of the Lord’s Prayer (traditional
or contemporary) is customary; and 4) if Rite I, whether to include the Prayer of Humble Access.
Of course, I will be grateful to know other liturgical choices your community makes, and I will
do my best to honor them.
Any liturgical expectations you have for me besides baptism, confirmation and Eucharist –
blessings of one sort or another, or a healing service, for example – I am happy to hear, but I
need to know about these ahead of time.
Your providing a service bulletin at least 2 weeks in advance will help me prepare for the
liturgy more adequately.
Vestment colors should be seasonal.
I always prefer the use of loaf bread (or else the very large hosts) for the Eucharist, along with a
single chalice on the table (and one flagon as necessary), the rubrical intent of the Prayer Book
rites. One bread, one cup, one body. Also, the communion of the people should be from the
elements consecrated at the Eucharist and not from the reserved sacrament. If the elements
are depleted, additional bread or wine may be consecrated as needed.
Our Prayer Book names the bishop’s visitation among the five occasions especially fitting for
baptism, and I want to honor that norm in the congregations of this Diocese. Following the
Prayer Book’s shape of the rite and ancient practice, I want to preside over the rite, sharing its
administration with all the orders present. So, I will ask for the presentations of those to be
baptized and make the various queries of the candidates, sponsors, and congregation. I will
also bless the baptismal oil (if needed) and the water. And I will anoint the newly baptized and
offer the postbaptismal prayers. A deacon or layperson should lead the Prayers for the
Candidate(s). A priest or deacon should administer the water rite. In this fashion, all the orders
take a share.
For its rich symbolic value, I encourage the use of chrism at baptism, and I am willing to
consecrate it during my visitation. If there are baptisms, the consecration comes before the
blessing of the water. If there are no baptisms, the consecration of baptismal oil comes after
the post communion prayer. The practice of making chrism available at a diocesan liturgy will
When there are baptisms and confirmations, after the sermon is finished, a small chair or stool
should be moved to the top of the chancel steps to continue with the examination of the
candidates. When there are no baptisms or confirmations, I will return to the presider’s chair
to continue the service with the Renewal of Baptismal Vows or the Creed, after which the
person appointed reads the Prayers of the People.
When there is a baptism, I will read/chant the Thanksgiving over the water; the priest
administers the water of baptism. As each candidate is baptized, I will seal each candidate
with Chrism. IN THE CASE OF AN ADULT, THIS SUFFICES FOR CONFIRMATION AS WELL. (That
person should not be presented again, but should be given a confirmation certificate as well as
a baptismal certificate.) After welcoming those baptized, they may return to their seats and the
other candidates for confirmation, reception and reaffirmation then come before me one at a
time for the laying on of hands (some type of card or name tag with first and middle names
would be helpful. Exact directions for this portion of the liturgy should be discussed in
advance). When all have been presented the peace is then exchanged. Prayers of the People
When there is no baptism, BUT THERE IS CONFIRMATION, RECEPTION OR REAFFIRMATIONS,
use the liturgy that begins on page 413.
Certificates for Confirmation and Reception, signed by me, may be requested from my office,
and will be sent to you in advance (or, if you have certificates you customarily use, these may
be sent to me in advance to be signed).
The teaching ministry of the episcopate means a great deal to me, and I am willing to teach
whatever is helpful, in your setting. Teaching can be formal or informal. It can focus on a local
need or diocesan life. It can be question-and-answer or simple dialogue. It can be the next unit
of an ongoing series in the parish. Whatever the forum, I am available to teach.
THE PEOPLE OF THE CONGREGATION
The sharing of a meal or refreshments is something I enjoy, since it allows me to be with the
people of the parish in a more relaxed setting. Please understand that such an event is neither
required nor necessary for every visitation. But I always welcome these opportunities.
THE VESTRY OR BISHOP’S COMMITTEE
Please know that I want to meet with the circle of designated leaders, when I come for a
visitation. I want to hear from you how I and my office might better support the mission and
ministry God has set before you. I also want to know what that mission and ministry might be,
as well as the plans you have made to accomplish it. The work of our Diocese is accomplished
most of all through the life of our seventy-seven congregations, and I want to collaborate with
those charged for the local leadership in every one of them.
I believe that supporting and encouraging congregations requires a bishop to support and
encourage their ordained leadership. Thus, I hope to find time to consult with the clergy,
sometime around the date of the visitation. I also want to give some of my time, as you find
helpful, to your families. The day of the visitation may be a great occasion for a leisurely meal
or some other substantial time together. Alternatively, it may be preferable to arrange to visit
with me in the weeks before or soon after a visitation, especially when there are several clergy
in a given congregation. I ask the clergy to contact my office to make the necessary
THE LOOSE OFFERING
The loose offering for the day is designated for The Bishop’s Fund. It is helpful if a note to this
effect is included in the bulletin inviting the people to be generous. If people wish to write
checks, they may be made out to The Bishop’s Fund. Checks made payable to the congregation
should be retained by the congregation.
Mrs. Gibbs (she prefers to be introduced as Karlah) sometimes comes with me for Sunday
visitations. If she will be accompanying me, you will be informed as far in advance as possible.
Since all in the congregation may not know her, it is helpful if the clergy spouse/partner (or
someone else when appropriate) can be available to greet Karlah, sit with her and introduce
her to those present.
The scheduling of any social events surrounding the visitation is left up to the clergy.
Sometimes, just the service itself is enough of an event and that is fine. However, if you desire,
Karlah and I can sometimes be available for a gathering Saturday evening if plans are cleared
sufficiently in advance. We can usually remain after church on Sunday, but you need to check
with my office and make sure of our availability before announcing/planning any event. If no
larger church events are scheduled and it is convenient, Karlah and I would like to take the
clergy (and clergy family) out for a meal and/or to spend time getting to know the clergy (and
Please note: I am lactose intolerant and unable to eat dairy products such as milk, cream,
cheese, yogurt, etc. I would appreciate any consideration possible when planning food for
Questions regarding the customary can be directed to Beth Rowley: 313/833-4435 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Bishop Gibbs’ Sunday Visitation Schedule
January – December 2017
January 8, 2017: St. John’s, Westland
January 15, 2017: Grace Church, Detroit
January 22, 2017: St. Luke’s, Ferndale
January 25, 2017: Canterbury, UofM (Wed. evening)
February 5, 2017: St. Michael’s, Lincoln Park
February 26, 2017: Grace Church, Southgate
March 5, 2017: Resurrection, Ecorse
March 19, 2017: St. George’s, Milford
March 26, 2017: Incarnation, Pittsfield Twp.
April 2, 2017: Christ the King, Taylor
April 9, 2017: Palm Sunday: St. Matthew & St. Joseph, Detroit
April 23, 2017: Holy Faith, Saline
May 7, 2017: St. James’, Birmingham
May 21, 2017: Trinity Church, Belleville
June 4, 2017: Christ Church, Grosse Pointe
June 11, 2017: St. Paul’s, Romeo
June 25, 2017: St. Clement’s, Inkster
September 10, 2017: St. Augustine’s, Mason
September 17, 2017: St. Aidan’s, Michigan Center
October 1, 2017: St. Mary-in-the-Hills, Lake Orion
October 8, 2017: Christ Church, Adrian
October 15, 2017: Church of the Nativity, Bloomfield Twp
October 22, 2017: St. Michael and All Angels, Cambridge Junction
November 5, 2017: Cathedral Church of St. Paul, Detroit
November 12, 2017: Christ United, DeWitt
November 19, 2017: All Saints’, Brooklyn
December 3, 2017: All Saints’, Detroit
December 10, 2017: Christ Church, Dearborn