The Edmonton diocese officially welcomed the Rt. Rev. Stephen London as 11th Bishop on September 18, 2021, the Feast of the Founders, Benefactors and Missionaries of the Anglican Church of Canada.
The service was live-streamed from All Saints’ Cathedral in Edmonton. Indoor-gathering restrictions limiting the number of people who could attend in person had been re-introduced by the provincial government a mere days before the consecration due to another surge in COVID cases in AB. The Cathedral Choir, directed by All Saints’ Music Director, Jeremy Spurgeon, was arranged in front of the high altar to accommodate physical distancing.
“It was our great hope to have the cathedral filled with people today…but we are grateful for your presence online and your continued prayers,” said the Very Rev. Alexandra Meek, Dean of Edmonton and Rector of All Saints’ Cathedral.
Instead, about 70 people, including London’s mentor Fr. Charles (Chip) Gilman, Monk Chaplain of Saint-Benoit-du-Lac in Quebec, were present in the cathedral, while others participated in the service online.
“There’s a profound goodness in Stephen,” said Gilman who recommended London for seminary when Chip was rector of Christ Church in New Haven, Connecticut and Steve attended his parish.
Bishop Stephen’s mother Carye Williams, who lives in Kansas City, Missouri; and his friend the Rt. Rev. David Lehmann, Bishop of Caledonia diocese, had also intended to be there in person, however, they were unable to travel due to COVID restrictions and illness.
Indigenous Elders Russell Auger and Bernadette Iahtail led the procession. They began the service, which was held on the traditional meeting place of the Cree, Saulteaux, Niitsitapi (Blackfoot), Nakota Sioux, Dene, Métis, and Inuit peoples, with a smudge ceremony.
The Most Rev. Greg Kerr-Wilson, Metropolitan of Rupert’s Land, presided at the service. He had convened the Ecclesiastical Province of Rupert’s Land House of Bishops a few days prior, bringing together bishops of Anglican dioceses in AB, SK and MB for both occasions.
In his homily address, the Ven. Travis Enright, Archdeacon for Indigenous Ministries, noted that while the consecration was taking place on the Feast of the Founders, Benefactors, and Missionaries of the Anglican Church of Canada, we might be better to say we “mark,” rather than “celebrate” this feast. We bless those who gave of themselves to build the church in this country, but at the same time acknowledge their legacy and heritage has not been a blessing to all.
“There are cracks in this foundation… colonialism has done a lot of damage,” he said. But “Jesus is the last word.” The person of Jesus Christ; the Living Wisdom of the Creator is still good news. That gospel calls us to courage and humility.
Archdeacon Enright spoke about Bishop Stephen’s desire to listen and to put the good news of Jesus at the center of our lives. We can build new foundations. We can do this if we are willing to be in mission in a different way, as listeners, not always as teachers, he said.
Members of the community welcomed Bishop Stephen with gifts. The London family: the Rev. Stephanie London, Claire (chaplain), Sarah (reader) and Alex, presented their husband and father with an episcopal ring; The Most Rev. Linda Nicholls, Archbishop and Primate, presented a cope and mitre; and the Most Rev. Mark MacDonald, National Indigenous Anglican Archbishop presented a pectoral cross; Archbishop Kerr-Wilson presented a Bible and pastoral staff.
Representatives of the youth of the diocese gifted Bishop Stephen with seeds of creation, while lay leaders of the diocese offered baptismal waters, Indigenous guests offered cloth prints, and ecumenical and interfaith guests offered symbols of reconciliation and peace.
Following the Eucharist, Bishop Stephen addressed the congregation in the cathedral and watching from elsewhere.
“I’m so sorry you can’t all be here today. That is one of the sorrows of my heart. I was hoping to greet all of you at the door as we began this new chapter in our ministry together. But I’m looking forward to going across the diocese, from church to church, and being with you and praying with you, as we explore the question of ‘what is our new chapter?’”
London noted that, while this is a new ministry for him, it is a ministry we all share. “We do have a message of love. We do have a message of the love of God. We have a message of hope. You are a people of hope. Hope needs to happen. We need to preach this gospel of hope and goodness. And to be people of healing and reconciliation and goodness. And so, I look forward to that.”
As he gave his first blessing as a bishop, London said, “thank you for your prayers and for your commitment as we go forward from here in the power of Jesus Christ, through His Holy Spirit to the glory of God the Father.”
You can watch the recording of Bishop Stephen’s consecration and installation service here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nHwCyV2cCoM