LOS ANGELES: Bruce, Glasspool pay first pastoral calls as bishops suffragan

May 16, 2010

The two newest bishops in the Diocese of Los Angeles and the Episcopal Church didn't waste any time getting right down to ministry.

Bishop Suffragan Diane Jardine Bruce, 53, on May 16 confirmed and received 15 people and baptized eight during Sunday services at St. Clement by-the-Sea Church in San Clemente where she had served as rector for the past nine years before her election in December.

Some 63 miles north in downtown Los Angeles, Bishop Suffragan Mary Douglas Glasspool, 56, knocked loudly three times with her crozier (pastoral staff) on the door of St. John's ProCathedral and was welcomed to the Italian Romanesque-style church, considered a "house of prayer for all people," by deans the Very Rev. Canon Mark Kowalewski and the Very Rev. Canon Daniel Ade in a version of the traditional ceremony in which a new bishop is formally seated in the cathedral of his or her diocese.

A day earlier, Bruce and Glasspool were ordained and consecrated the first and second women bishops in the 114-year history of the Los Angeles diocese, respectively. Bruce became the 16th woman and the 1,044th bishop in the Episcopal Church. And Glasspool became the 17th woman and 1,045th bishop in the Episcopal Church. She is also the second openly gay, partnered bishop in the church.

Glasspool described diversity in unity while preaching an Ascension Sunday sermon about Jesus' prayer (John 17:20-26) that he and the disciples would be one.

She noted that Jesus' own ministry modeled diversity and unity. "He ate with the poor and told parables about the rich. He preached the highest ethical standards and hung out with riff-raff," she said.

"The kind of unity Jesus was praying for transcends time, reflects the mutuality of relationship to God and Jesus and it includes diversity" and through it, she concluded, the world will be drawn to belief.

God's glory, given to Jesus, is bestowed on the church and becomes a way to understand the divine presence and "a sign of the church's oneness," Glasspool continued. "Jesus is the revealer of God's presence and the church becomes a special vehicle in the communication of the divine presence to the world."

Thus the church's unique status is not a cause for triumphalism but rather "sober wide-eyed mission," she said.

Retired Bishop Robert Ihloff of Maryland attended the service.

He said that Glasspool made visitations while serving for the past eight years as canon to the bishops of the Diocese of Maryland "and has had all the qualities of a bishop."

She will be missed in Maryland, he said. "We are so proud of her and aware that at this juncture in the life of the Anglican Communion she needs to be a bishop. There is no sense of loss, but a feeling of great fulfillment. Mary is where she needs to be."

Brianna Lawson, 15, a St. John's acolyte, presented Glasspool with an inscribed miter and the congregation also gave her a gift of a quilt panel with a square representing the church in Staten Island, where she grew up.

"I want to get to know her better," said Lawson, after her meeting with Glasspool. She has a good personality. It's a blessing she came today."

After attending 8 a.m. services at Church of the Epiphany in Agoura, Lynn Oshita and Bill Cabrol drove some 40 miles for the 10:30 a.m. service at St. John's.

"I wanted to hear her [Glasspool's] first sermon in the diocese," Cabrol said.

"It's a great opportunity to experience in my lifetime," added Oshita. "I'm so happy we've come to this place and time [of electing Glasspool], that we were ready for this and so open to having it take place here and now. I wanted to be part of it, and to participate today and more fully in the future."

A bishop returns to Orange County parish

In the Orange County city of San Clemente at the southernmost tip of the Diocese of Los Angeles -- famous during President Richard Nixon's administration as the site of the "Western White House" -- Bruce launched the new phase of her ministry as she presided, preached, baptized and confirmed at two bilingual services at St. Clement's Church.

"It's great to be home," she said as she greeted the overflow 10 a.m. congregation, wearing the white vestments that the parish presented as its gift upon her ordination on May 15.

She came to the parish as rector in 2000 when it was reeling from a dwindling membership and several years of financial difficulty and leadership crises, and left it with a congregation nearly doubled in size, with a greatly increased pledge base, new outreach ministries and renewed liturgical vigor.

"Yesterday in the Diocese of Los Angeles, something very profound happened," she said in her brief sermon, delivered in both Spanish and English. Many in the congregation nodded in agreement -- most of them had attended the previous day's service of ordination and consecration in Long Beach.

Bruce said that she and Glasspool were looking forward to their new ministry together. "Put women in charge, and we know things will get done," she quipped.

But something else happened to her, she said.

"I have a dream that started yesterday: that no matter the color of our skin, no matter that we are man or woman, gay or straight … if we are Christ for each other, the world will be a better place."

She told the candidates for baptism and confirmation, "What is important is that you hold the love of God and Christ in your heart," and see every person through that love. "That is what will change the world," she said.

Several members of the congregation presented gifts to Bruce in recognition of her past service to the church and her new ministry: an American flag in honor of the parish's ministry to service men and women at nearby Camp Pendleton, presented by Major David Anderson; and a handcrafted 16th-century crucifix that had for generations been owned by the family of St. Clement's music director and organist Dan Resch.

"This is our bishop," said the Rev. Canon Charles Sacquety, who is serving the congregation for a few weeks before its new interim priest takes charge on June 1.

Noting Bruce's service to the congregation, Sacquety said that "it's hard, giving up something as precious as the woman standing up here. But we have to share her. And we welcome her back to her parish."

The tributes brought tears to the new bishop's eyes. But she also indulged her impish sense of humor -- one of the traits that have endeared her to the St. Clement's congregation and to the diocese -- at several points. "It's all about the bling," she said, showing off the amethyst episcopal ring that was also a gift from the congregation.

"Let's try that once more, with feeling," she told the confirmands when they responded too timidly to the question, "Do you renew your commitment to Jesus Christ?"

"I do, and with God's grace I will follow him as my Savior and Lord," they said -- and this time, they spoke up loud and clear.

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