On January 17, 2016, the parish of St. Agnes’, North Vancouver welcomed Bishop Melissa Skelton back to her parish for the second time in her episcopacy to participate in the celebration of their patronal festival (St. Agnes’s Day is January 21) and mark the Second Sunday of the Season of Epiphany.
This wasn’t just a Feast Day Eucharist, this would also be a liturgy when and where Bishop Skelton would preside over the Reception of Annamarie into the Anglican Church of Canada.
Following the procession, the singing of the Opening Hymn, “I Come With Joy”, the grace and the Collect for Purity, Bishop Skelton gathered the children of the parish around her and connected them to the theme of the Gospel reading for the day, John 2: 1-11 “the Wedding at Cana - Changing water into wine.” Bishop Skelton substituted a birthday party for the wedding and a birthday cake that never showed up in place of the wine that had run out in the Gospel story.
Following the reading of the Gospel by the deacon, the Reverend Lizz Lindsay, Bishop Skelton positioned herself at the lectern to preach. She thanked the parish for their warm welcome and expressed her gratitude for inviting her to celebrate with them on St. Agnes’ Day, “the feast day of a child who sacrificed her life for the Christian Way”.
In her examination of the familiar Gospel story (the text of the sermon is available by clicking this link), she spoke of how an event like a wedding is a microcosm of our lives, but everything is enlarged and exaggerated including emotions and our senses. However, our questions remain the same. Bishop Skelton asked the questions, where in our lives, parishes, diocese, broader church are we running out of wine? And do we have the courage to admit that we are running out or have run out? Bishop Skelton said, “For you see, without sensing that we may have run out of wine, without an honest admission that our wine is gone, Jesus will not have much to offer us, will have little to add to our lives. He will instead sit there as a passive guest, not active because, well, why would he be?...And so it is important, so important, to have the courage and in some cases the simple and brash innocence just to say it. I have no wine. We have no wine.”
The Reception of Annamarie into the Anglican Church of Canada followed the bishop’s homily. First there was the examination, then the Baptismal Covenant and the Litany, concluding with the laying on of hands and the following words, “Strengthen, O Lord, your servant Annamarie with your Holy Spirit; empower her for your service; and sustain her all the days of her life.” To which the people of God responded , “AMEN!”
Prior to the dismissal, Bishop Skelton blessed a new plaque for the Memorial Garden, and Shannon Muir had the happy task of telling the congregation about the arrival two days previously of the Palestinian family, who are refugees due to the Syrian crisis, and are co-sponsored by the parish of St. Agnes’. (Click the link for the story ).
The brunch in the parish hall following worship was in celebration of St. Agnes’ Day and of the bishop’s visit. After the company had found seats and the buffet table was adorned with Bette Geddes delicious culinary delights, the rector, the Reverend Stephen Muir welcomed everyone to the meal and reception. He informed them that the Parish Meeting with the bishop would take place after the main course, but before dessert was served. This prompted a few chuckles. Stephen then continued with the morning’s wedding theme, informing the parish that Bishop Skelton had been wed in the summer of 2015, and in recognition of that event the parish had arranged for a gift for her and for her husband the Reverend Eric Stroo. Eric is a vocational deacon in the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia and a relationship counselor. Eric was scheduled to preach at his parish in the Seattle area and was unable to attend.
Bishop Skelton immediately opened the gift, revealing a stunning serving plate - an original piece of hand-painted crockery. She was delighted with the gift, thanked the parish, said Grace and then it was time to enjoy the brunch.