Archbishop Rowan Williams jokes with Bishop Peter Eaton in Miami.
By the Rev. Andrew Petiprin
The Rt. Rev. Peter Eaton, the newly seated fourth Bishop of Southeast Florida, describes himself as “a child of the Communion.” He was born in Washington, D.C., grew up in Barbados, Puerto Rico, and London, and was ordained in the Church of England. Since 1991 he has served parishes in the Episcopal Church.
To mark his transition from bishop coadjutor to bishop on Jan. 30, Eaton invited a variety of Anglican leaders to join him and his wife, Kate, in Miami. “We embody the life of the Communion with people here from all over the world,” he said.
Miami Mayor Tomás Pedro Regalado welcomed Eaton to his new work, reminding hundreds of people gathered at Trinity Cathedral that they were sitting in “the most diverse city in the United States.”
The celebration weekend began with a study day featuring speeches and a Q&A session with the Most Rev. Josiah Idowu-Fearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion, the Rt. Rev. James Tengatenga, former Bishop of Southern Malawi and elected chairman of the Anglican Consultative Council, and the Most Rev. Bernard Ntahoturi, Archbishop of Burundi. Bishop Tengatenga set the tone for the weekend, saying the Anglican Communion is “about relationships supported by processes and structures, not processes and structures supported by relationships.”
Archbishop Idowu-Fearon reflected on the Primates’ Meeting of Jan. 11-16, inviting the audience to “allow the Holy Spirit to intervene in the differences that divide us.” Bishop Eaton joked that he had planned the event months ago before “history happened,” but he gave thanks for the opportunity to be “a learning community together.”
At the conclusion of the study day, held at Trinity Cathedral, there were several tense moments when clergy and laity of Southeast Florida, along with guests from elsewhere, expressed concern about conservative teachings on human sexuality. Archbishop Ntahoturi responded with a proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, walk together.” Bishop Tengatenga invited audience members to expand their vision: “You can fit the USA in the Sahara and still have some Sahara left.”
At the conclusion of the study day, Bishop Eaton invited participants and guests to gather at the Little Haiti Cultural Center. Guests dined on Cuban food and listened to reflections about immigration, with an underlying challenge to embrace cultural inclusion.
Musical selections at the seating service included Anton Bruckner’s “Ecce sacerdos magnus,” a Slavonic liturgical setting by Sergei Rachmaninov, and various hymns in English, Spanish, and French. The service commemorated Russian icon writer Andrei Rublev, the Russian icon writer.
The preacher was the Rt. Rev. Rowan Williams, 104th Archbishop of Canterbury, who highlighted Rublev’s life as depicted in a film by Andrei Tarkovsky in 1966. Williams noted a motif of bells in Tarkovsky’s film, reminding Bishop Eaton of the ancient Irish and Welsh custom of investing bishops with bells as well as pastoral staffs.
Eaton’s role in Southeast Florida, Williams said, will be to act as a bell-ringer in times of warning and death, but also of joy and celebration. Williams’s message was reinforced by the presence of the North American Guild of Change Ringers, who led a full peal of Trinity Cathedral’s historic bells as the Eucharist concluded.