OLYMPIA: Gregory Rickel ordained and consecrated as eighth bishop

September 20, 2007

Gregory H. Rickel was ordained and consecrated on September 15 as the eighth bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia.

More than 2,000 people attended the service in Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue, Washington.

Former Hawaii Bishop Richard Sui On Chang, vice president of the House of Bishops, served as chief consecrator.

Rickel, 43, was rector of St. James' Episcopal Church in Austin, Texas, when he was elected May 12 on the third ballot from a slate of five nominees. He was elected with 224 lay votes and 106 clergy votes. An election on that ballot required 185 votes of 369 cast in the lay order and 104 of 207 votes cast in the clergy order. The election took place at St. Mark's Cathedral, Seattle.

He succeeds Vincent W. Warner, who was consecrated in 1989 and served the diocese for 18 years. Rickel will work closely with Olympia Bishop Suffragan Bavi Edna "Nedi" Rivera, the first Hispanic woman and 12th woman bishop in the Episcopal Church, who preached at his ordination and consecration.

"It is easy to look for [the marks of the cross] on our new bishop," Rivera said. "It would be easy for a new bishop to think he has some special call to bear the wounds of Christ -- the stigmata themselves. But they belong to each of us and to all of us together as the Body of Christ! In and through our baptism, we become one with Christ in death and new life ... we carry the mark of Jesus on our brow."

The worship service included a 200-voice choir from throughout the western Washington diocese whose music reflected the diversity of the diocese and ranged from traditional hymns to African-American spirituals. Prayers were made in Cantonese, Spanish and Tlingit, languages spoken by congregations in the diocese. Both Spanish-language and American Sign Language interpretation were provided, and more than 100 people watched the service streamed live on the Internet.

The new bishop's crozier was carved by Coastal Salish artist Curtis Johnson of Vancouver, British Columbia, and was blessed and given to Rickel during the service in traditional First Nations rituals.

As is tradition, Rickel was gifted with many other symbols representing his particular ministry priorities. His pectoral cross was given by congregations formerly served by Rickel as well as representatives of the Order of the Ascension, of which Rickel is a member. More information on the crozier and the other gifts is available here and here.

On September 16, the celebration continued when Rickel was officially seated as bishop in the "cathedra," or bishop's chair, at St. Mark's Cathedral. After knocking on the church door with his new crozier, Rickel was welcomed by St. Mark's Dean Robert Taylor, the cathedral's wardens and the rest of the congregation. The service included local interfaith leaders and dignitaries, including Sen. Edward Murray (Washington's 43rd legislative district), Hisham Farajallah (director of operations at Idris Mosque), Rabbi Daniel Weiner (Temple de Hirsch Sinai) and the Rev. Sandy Brown (executive director of the Church Council of Greater Seattle).

"Expectations: these are tricky, tricky things," Rickel repeated throughout his sermon. "I do not mean to suggest for a minute we should not have them. In fact, I think we must have them, but that saying I think is so true -- whatever they are, they will never match true life; they might just be much better."

"I pray that we will not fear holding our expectations boldly, that we will be gentle with each other as we do," Rickel concluded, and "that we will listen to the voices who call us to look at the sunsets, the moments we don't expect. For those are waiting for us, you and I, and it will be sheer joy to find together all that God has in store for us on our horizon."

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