Bishop Melissa Skelton began her sermon on February 15th, 2015, at St. Stephen the Martyr in Burquitlam with a story about two Anglicans engaged in mission in Port-au -Prince, Haiti. They had climbed to a mountaintop overlooking the city and the view was beautiful, in sharp contrast to the “hard, disheartening and exhausting” existence that more often than not is the case for that troubled place. They decided to take a photograph as a way of memorializing their feelings as they looked down.
In the Gospel appointed for Transfiguration Sunday, Mark 9: 2-9, James, John and Peter go with Jesus to the mountaintop. This will be the place where all will be revealed, the future will be told. Jesus’ clothes are transfigured, Moses and Elijah appear in the clouds and a voice from the clouds proclaims “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!”
For Bishop Skelton, the transfiguration is a story about being on the mountaintop. It connects our vision of God, heaven and salvation to the harsh reality of the world. We are Peter. Peter wants to remember the moment, to stay longer, in a way to “take a photograph” like the missionaries. The mountaintop experience is “to become more aligned with the world.” It is about getting as deeply into this world as Christ himself. It is not about the flash and dazzle of the transfiguration.
In her homily, Bishop Skelton turned her attention to the Parish of St. Stephen and what was taking place that day. This was the first Reception into the Anglican Communion and first Confirmations done outside of dedicated liturgies at the Cathedral during the Bishop’s episcopacy. These were also the first Receptions and Confirmations to take place in the candidates’ parish in many years. Bishop Skelton said, “Today’s Service of Confirmation is this parish’s mountaintop experience.” It’s not just an “Anglican experiment”, it is this faith community making a deeper connection to the world. She pointed out that the Paschal Candle had been lit, and the Font filled with Holy Water for affirmation is most strongly connected to our baptism.
Bishop Skelton confirmed six people that morning: Ana Maria; Evans; Hassan; Lisa-Jane; Sonya; and Takura-Patrick. As each candidate knelt before the Bishop, she said “Strengthen, O Lord your servant, with your Holy Spirit: empower them for your service; and sustain them all the days of their lives."
After the sixth confirmation, Bishop Skelton received Fiachra into the Anglican Communion. Fiachra affirmed that he had been baptized with water in the name of the Holy Trinity, that he believes that the Anglican Communion is part of the one, catholic and apostolic Church and he agreed to be loyal and obedient to the doctrines and discipline of the Anglican Communion. Following this affirmation Bishop Skelton said, “Fiachra, we recognize you as a member of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church, and we receive you into the fellowship of this Communion. God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, bless, preserve, and keep you.”
At the conclusion of worship each of the newly confirmed and the one newly received were given a gift by the Wardens on behalf of the parish. Then it was photo opportunity-time with Bishop Skelton and Reverend Hamblin, which was a joyful event that went on for a bit while the rest of the congregation lined up in the space between the sanctuary and hall for a potluck lunch.
Children's Talk with Bishop Skelton
Bishop Skelton preaching
The newly confirmed Hassan, Takura-Patrick and Evans listen as Fiachra is received into the Anglican Communion
The Bishop offers the Body of Christ during the Eucharist
Gifts are given by the Wardens of St. Stephen's on behalf of the congregation
Ana Maria and Fiachra with Reverend Gary Hamblin and Bishop Melissa
Takura-Patrick and Evans
Hassan and his wife Ameliya
Lisa-Jane with many friends and family
Fiachra is received into the Anglican Communion