Customary for Episcopal Visitations
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 committee.
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 continue.
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 are omitted.
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 arrangements.
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 family).
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 receptions, etc.
Questions regarding the customary can be directed to Beth Rowley: 313/833-4435 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Bishop Gibbs’ Sunday Visitation Schedule
January 7, 2018 Canterbury House, UofM
January 21, 2018 Church of the Redeemer, Southfield
February 18, 2018 St. Stephen’s, Wyandotte
February 25, 2018 St. Michael’s, Lansing
March 4, 2018 St. Paul’s, Brighton
March 18, 2018 All Saints’, Pontiac
April 22, 2018 St. David’s, Southfield
April 29, 2018 Trinity, St. Clair Shores
May 6, 2018 St. Thomas, Trenton
May 20, 2018 Christ Church, Grosse Pointe
June 3, 2018 Spirit of Hope, Detroit
June 10, 2018 St. Barnabas, Chelsea
June 24, 2018 St. Michael’s, Grosse Pointe Woods
September 9, 2018 St. Patrick’s, Madison Heights
September 16, 2018 St. Aidan’s, Ann Arbor
September 23, 2018 St. John’s, Detroit
September 30, 2018 Christ Church Cranbrook, Bloomfield Hills
October 7, 2018 Christ Church, Pleasant Lake
October 14, 2018 St. James’, Dexter
October 21, 2018 St. Peter’s Detroit
November 4, 2018 St. Paul’s, Lansing
November 11, 2018 St. Luke’s, Ypsilanti
November 18, 2018 St. Andrew’s, Ann Arbor
December 2, 2018 St. Stephen’s, Troy
December 9, 2018 St. Clare’s, Ann Arbor
December 16, 2018 St. Andrew’s, Waterford