Olympia Bishop Greg Rickel with a talking stick crosier made by Coast Salish artist Curtis Johnson of Vancouver (Photo by Paul Peck)

Our neighbouring American diocese in the Anglican Communion, the Diocese of Olympia, has consecrated a new bishop. During the ceremony he was presented with a unique talking stick crosier crafted by a British Columbia Coast Salish artist.

Reaching out by the Anglican Church to the Aboriginal Community, and to other communities, took centre-stage at the consecration of the eighth bishop of the Diocese of Olympia, the Rt. Rev. Gregory H. Rickel. The ceremony took place in Bellevue, Washington, about ten kilometers east of Seattle.

The talking stick crosier was carved by Curtis Johnson of Vancouver out of red cedar with a dark stain. It included an assemblage of feathers, the diocesan emblem, and a dream catcher.

Four symbols carved on the talking stick crosier incorporated both First Nations and Christian traditions. They symbolized both animals in the wild, and the four Gospels: the raven (Gospel of Matthew), beaver (Gospel of Mark), bear (Gospel of Luke), and the eagle (Gospel of John).

A crosier symbolizes the governing office of a bishop. Typically in the western Christian Church it takes the shape of a shepherds staff which the bishop carries as the shepherd of the flock of God. Rickels talking stick crosier is uniquely Pacific Northwest in design, forging together two spiritual cultures, Christian and First Nations. (Rickel also received a more traditional shepherds crook as his traveling crosier.)

Portions of the ceremony were spoken in Aboriginal Tlingit, Cantonese, Spanish, and English.


A closeup of the talking stick crosier (Photo by Mark Swanson)

Other Aboriginal elements were incorporated into the ceremony that was attended by several hundred Seattle-area Anglicans. One example came when Rickel was given the talking stick crosier. The presentation took the form of an aboriginal gifting ritual during which the new bishop rejected the crosier three times, in part as an expression of humility.

The fourth time, the assembly togther said to Rickel, If you refuse to accept this gift for gain and pride, then accept this gift in order to guide and support those who look to you as leader by helping us all to bring healing and peace to the community. The bishop then accepted the talking stick crosier.

Bishop Michael Ingham of the Diocese of New Westminster took part in the ceremony. During the examination that is part of the ordination of a bishop, Bishop Ingham asked, Will you guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church?

I will, for the love of God came the response.

Last May Rickel was chosen on the third ballot from five candidates to succeed the Rt. Rev. Vincent W. Warner, who had been diocesan bishop since 1990. Bishop Warner was official visitor at New Westminsters 2005 Diocesan Synod.

Bishop Rickel was born in Omaha, Nebraska. He and went to schools and university in Arkansas. Initially a hospital administrator, he was ordained a priest only ten years ago. At 44, he is the second youngest bishop in the American Episcopal Church.

He came to Washington State from a parish in Austin, Texas. He is married, and his wife Marti and 11-year-old son Austin played a part in the ceremony.

Our Neighbouring Diocese to the South

The Diocese of Olympia incorporates Washington State, west of the Cascade Mountains. It stretches from the Columbia River north to the border of British Columbia and Washington; from the Pacific Ocean to the Cascades. Eastern Washington State (and part of Idaho) make up the Diocese of Spokane.

It was formed in 1910, but traces it history as a missionary territory to 1853. The diocese claims 37,000 members and 102 parishes and missions. The Cathedral is St. Marks in Seattle. Gregory Rickel is the dioceses eighth bishop.
Note - Corrections made to this page on Oct. 26: Paul Peck took the picture of the bishop, and Mark Swanson of the stick (credits were originally mixed up). Ages of the bishop and his son have been corrected by one year.