Episcopal Church installs new bishop in solemn ceremony
By BILL SMITH
incoming Bishop A. Robert Hirschfeld kneels during his Consecration ceremony on Saturday morning at the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord. (Bruce Preston/Union Leader)
CONCORD — The state’s Episcopal Church formally installed its newest spiritual leader Saturday, as Rev. A. Robert Hirschfeld was ordained as the next Bishop of New Hampshire
.“There’s something as wonderful and amazing as the welcome, and that is the unique gifts that I’ve noticed in the Diocese of New Hampshire
in each of you that I’ve met,” Hirschfeld said. “We are more than the sum of our parts here today.”In a consecration ceremony that combined centuries-old rites with optimism for the future of the Episcopal Church in New Hampshire, Hirschfeld assumed the office of Bishop coadjutor
He will serve in that capacity through the last months of the tenure of Bishop V. Gene Robinson.
Hirschfeld becomes the 10th Bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire when Robinson, 65, retires early next year. Hirschfeld’s election came on the first ballot in voting by representatives of clergy and laity.
The previous election of Robinson, an openly gay man, came as the church grappled with the issues concerning gay clergy and spiritual recognition of same-sex marriage. The result was a schism within the Anglican faith in the United States as conservative parishes bolted the U.S. Episcopal Church, setting off battles in courtrooms and ecclesiastical tribunals.
The ceremony’s preacher, Rev. Dr. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas, served with Hirschfeld at his present parish, Grace Episcopal in Amherst, Mass. She remarked that any expectation that the diocese had opted for a safe candidate is not reflected in its new bishop.
“I’ve heard that many say that Rob is a safe choice for the next bishop of New Hampshire. He’s white, he’s a man and he’s straight,” Bullitt-Jonas said. She then drew an analogy between the consecration of a bishop and the upcoming feast day of the Transfiguration of Christ in which some Christian faiths believe Jesus was transformed into vivid light as a sign of his divinity.
“When one person lights up with the presence of God, other people light up, too,” Bullitt-Jonas said. She told the nearly all-white congregation that the diocese under Hirschfeld will take its place working for social change.
They, too, will be impelled to engage in the great work of our time, to tackle climate change and poverty, discrimination and war,” she said.
By tradition, the collection at the ordination was earmarked for the Bishop’s Discretionary Fund, which is used to alleviate suffering among the poor. Hirschfeld announced his first donation from the fund prior to the collection.
Recalling a visit to a cathedral in Port-au-Prince, Haiti
, shortly before the 2010 earthquake that devastated that nation, Hirschfeld told of being moved by a mural depicting the Baptism of Christ, a multi-cultural representation of a popular theme in Christian art. He said the mural and the cathedral in which it hung were badly damaged in the earthquake and announced he would send half the discretionary fund proceeds to help the ongoing relief and rebuilding in Haiti. “I would like to donate half of our collection today to go to Haiti for the rebuilding of that troubled and holy place in the world,” Hirschfeld said.The new coadjutor was presented with the vestments and symbols of his office by his wife, daughter and two sons. He and his family plan to move to New Hampshire from their current home in western Massachusetts.
Not, as some conservatives might have been hoping for the next Bishop of New Hampshire, a radical change from the direction and ministry of Bishop Gene Robinson, whose election and episcopal ordination led to schism by the radical anti-gay activists in The Episcopal Church in North America, and in other conservative Provinces of the Anglican Communion around the world.
His electors knew the sort of person they were looking for, to continue the inclusive ministry if Bishop Gene, with whom the new Bishop, A. Robert Hirchfeld, will act as his co-adjutor in the Diocese of New Hampshire, until Bishop Gene’s retirement early next year – when Bishop Robert will become his successor as Diocesan.
The dignity of the occasion of Bishop Hirchfeld’s episcopal ordination has given hope to many people, who believe that TEC’s trajectory – towards the emancipation of the poor, the disenfranchised and the marginalised of the Church in the path of the Gospel that would most please the Christ whose human frame was transfigured in glory as Lord of The Church, and of All Humanity – in on target. Deo Gratias!
Here is a local report reflecting the mood before the Ordination Ceremony: