By Bob Libby

The May 9 consecration of the Rt. Rev. Peter Eaton as Bishop Coadjutor of Southeast Florida included bishops from the Old Catholic Union of Utrecht, the Mar Toma Syrian Church of Malabar, the Moravian Church, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

“We believe that this is the first time in history that bishops of these four full-communion partner churches have joined together in the ordination of an Episcopal bishop,” Bishop Eaton told TLC. “The presence of an Old Catholic bishop and a Mar Thoma bishop especially brings together these two historic successions, one Western and one Eastern.”

Bishop Eaton Goes to Work

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Bishop Eaton went to work on the day after his consecration. In the morning he celebrated the Eucharist for a Mother’s Day congregation at the Church of the Incarnation, a large Bahamian and West Indian congregation in north Miami.

In the afternoon he joined Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori and Bishop Leo Frade in launching a merged parish, Santa Cruz-Resurrection, in Biscayne Park. The new parish united two congregations that formed after World War II.

Holy Cross, now Santa Cruz, was the central parish for young and upwardly mobile Episcopalians in the 1950s and was located, until the merger, in a commercial area of midtown Miami.

Resurrection, with a capacity of close to 400 in a gothic building, served an up-market suburban community.

Selling Santa Cruz’s property provided the funds for restoring Resurrection’s large facilities. The congregation will offer services in English and Spanish.

There was standing room only in the restored nave. Hymns reflected Hispanic and Anglo cultural traditions. Bishop Jefferts Schori preached with enthusiasm about the new congregation’s inclusion, diversity, and unity.

Bishop Eaton said later that he and his wife “were thrilled at the excitement of this new venture of collaboration and integration of two communities. Our future depends on our ability to imagine new possibilities, and the people of Santa Cruz-Resurrection are doing just that.”

An estimated 1,400 people gathered at Miami’s Trinity Cathedral and a nearby Hilton Hotel.

Prelates representing the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople and the Patriarch of Jerusalem were vested in black, joined in the procession, and spoke briefly. Other guests represented Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and evangelical Protestant Christians, Jews, and Mormons.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said that Eaton would be the 1,087th in the Episcopal Church’s line of succession. The Rt. Rev. David Richards, 94, consecrated in 1951 as the 508th bishop, attended the service.

The Rt. Rev. Stephen Conway, Bishop of Ely, called Eaton “a loving and faithful pastor” in his sermon. Conway and Eaton studied together at Cambridge University and were ordained to the priesthood together in 1987.

Medieval scholar Marcia Colish, 77, of Guilford, Connecticut — who once babysat Eaton — told the Miami Herald he was a “bright and lively child who had a great love for the church.”

At the offering, Eaton announced that donations would go to the poor rather than his discretionary fund. He joked about enforcing generosity.

“Kate and I have written a check for $1,000 and we expect you to do the same,” he said. “I plan to count the collection myself. … Some of you came in two cars. Give me one. I’ll sell it and we’ll give it to the poor.”

Bishop Peter Eaton will become the IV Bishop of Southeast Florida when Bishop Leo Frade retires in 2016. The diocese, created by General Convention in 1969, claims 33,667 baptized members in 79 congregations stretching almost 200 miles along the Atlantic Ocean from Jensen Beach in the north to Key West in the south.

Reflecting the ethnic and cultural diversity of the diocese, lectors read Scripture in English, French, and Spanish. Bishop Eaton drew from all three languages as celebrant.

In the weeks before the May 9 service, the bishop elect attended evening services in all four deaneries and met parishioners in receptions. “He and his wife, Kate, never appeared to be in a hurry. They listened very carefully to everybody who spoke to him,” said the Very Rev. James Jones of the South Dade Deanery.

On the afternoon before the consecration, Eaton joined the presiding bishop in conversation with clergy, while Kate Eaton joined Richard Schori with clergy spouses. “I can’t wait until he puts on that big miter,” she joked. “Then I can wear my high heels.”

Bishop Eaton said he and his wife were “deeply moved” by the diversity of the congregation, adding: “This says something about the importance of relationships in the Anglican Communion.”

Image of Bishop Eaton and guests by Barbara Lawless • Diocese of Southeast Florida

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