I attended the Installation of Presding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton on Saturday, October 5th at Rockefeller Chapel in Hyde Park. She is the first female presiding bishop of the ELCA. There were no tickets given out, so it was “first come, first served.” The service began at 2:00 p.m. I arrived at Rockefeller Chapel at 10:30 a.m. and was greeted by a few dozen others who wanted to make sure they got a good seat. I was able to sit in the tenth row!
With 2 ½ hours before the doors would open at 1:00, we shared stories of why we wanted to witness this event or the personal connections some had with Bishop Eaton. People from Texas, Iowa, Ohio, Indiana, and Wisconsin were among the first ones there. People came from around the country (Delaware, California, Montana, Minnesota, Colorado, Florida) and around the world (Nicaragua, Sweden, Thailand, South Africa, and Canada) to celebrate this historic event.
The music was magnificent! There was a wide variety of hymns from different cultures (African, French, Latino) as well as hymns from the northern European descent. Scripture lessons and prayers were read in different languages (Arabic, Norwegian, German, Japanese, Spanish). Holy Communion was celebrated and as we sang “Taste and see, taste and see the goodness of the Lord,” we did indeed taste and see God’s goodness all around us.
I think Martin Luther would be pleased.
The ELCA is not only “your grandparents’ church”—although we will always be indebted to the Lutheran immigrants, mostly from Germany and Scandinavia, who boldly and courageously came to the United States for many different reasons and who brought with them their traditions, language, and customs that helped
shaped the church. They are the very core of this church.
And as I witnessed at the Installation, the ELCA has reached out to new immigrants who long to hear the grace and love of God. Lutheran theology of being justified by grace through faith, the gift of God’s eternal love, is one that we can not keep to ourselves. I am grateful to see this ever-expanding field in the ELCA. Just as the U.S. has always been a melting pot of people from around the world, the ELCA is beginning to mirror that melting pot. What a gift!
Bishop Eaton ended her installation service with these words: “El Dios de toda gracia, el Padre, el Hijo y el Espiritu Santo, les bendiga ahora y siempre.” The God of all grace, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, bless you now and forever.”
Amen and Amen.