John Barr: Two moments on a Saturday morning

Posted by Kendall Harmon

There are two moments from Saturday’s marvelous consecration which marked me most and stand truest to my heart—neither of which would ever have been envisioned by the planners as “big hit moments.” The first was standing under the huge tent in front of the cathedral with tangled battalions of deaneries, the place aglow with catcalls and glad reunions and silliness and snarled vestments. What was really happening? It struck me as a supreme time of expectant hopefulness. Life in Christ rides on the rails of relationships, and I stopped to look around and was hit by the intense joy of being together, the gratitude of getting to be with these folks. The wait in the wind and cold for over an hour could have gone on and on. God is in control; Jesus has risen; he won’t go back into the tomb; this is fun. On into Galilee.

And the second was this: Bishop Mark was well on his way in the Eucharistic Prayer, his first celebration ever as our Episcopal leader. Somewhere on his way through those words that silence happened. It was the sort of silence which you know immediately is unplanned, which says something’s not right; hurry up; the world is about to crash. But no, it went on. Then Mark said: Where are we? He had lost his place. I heard a quick, gentle laugh. It was not the laughter of derision or embarrassment, but the laughter of relief. I immediately thought how many times I had lost my place, and I loved Mark even more already. But then a priest kneeling beside me whispered: This is good. And an invisible window of grace opened. Somewhere in Auden’s Christmas Oratorio the lines came to me (I had to look them up): Though written by thy children with a smudged and crooked line, thy Word is ever legible.

That was the truest bridge over which Christ’s grace crossed to me on my Saturday. I loved all the pageantry, the color of bishops processing, the long procession of international visitors, the seamless planning, incredible music; I loved the guys marching in who looked like they came out of a Dickens novel—that we offer our best. Yet strangely, it was not our best that got me, but the reality that God takes the flawed and smudged lines of our crooked witness and writes his Word through us. He loves it when we get lost and then finds us. Truly in our weakness, Christ makes himself strong, even on Consecration day. I will always remember it kneeling there, lost and found, laughter and grace.

--The Rev. Dr. John Barr III is rector, Church of the Holy Comforter, Sumter, South Carolina

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)TEC Bishops* South Carolina

Posted January 28, 2008 at 6:53 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Don Armstrong wrote:

Mark has a great way of stating things..I find myself quoting various things I have heard him say, things even from his public prayers.

Is there a link to Bishop Hathaway’s sermon? Alden is one of the great preachers of the church—good theology with just right dose of touching emotional/spiritual cords.

January 28, 8:15 pm | [comment link]
2. Ned Badgett wrote:

Congratulations to our friends in the “Lower Diocese.”  Your patience has been rewarded.  I know you look forward to Mark Lawrence’s leadership in your diocese.  I hope he will be a forceful leader in our Church.

January 28, 10:17 pm | [comment link]
3. seitz wrote:

Nicely put, John. I think the eucharistic ‘snafu’ caught many of us in the same way; you evaluate it rightly; I gather the laying on of hands affected the new bishop enormously (this from a bishop closer to the action than I was). Another sign that God was/is very much at work. Bishop Hathaway’s sermon was a very passionate word and it will hopefully be posted in time.

January 28, 11:05 pm | [comment link]
4. Fr. Dow Sanderson wrote:

Our brother John has both the wisdom and the literary gift to convey to those who were not there exactly what we all felt.  Bless you Fr. Barr, And thank you, Blessed Lord, that we have this treasure in earthen vessels.

January 28, 11:18 pm | [comment link]
5. Rob Eaton+ wrote:

I concur, John.
You witnessed a couple of marks of his leadership that you all will find to be true.
a)  he can get himself out of it with grace.  And back into it with the same.
b)  he will rely upon and make use of any one in the diocese who is willing to assist him in leading the diocese (just like the deacon at the altar who simply points to the lines in the book to keep tabs of where the Celebrant is supposed to be in the prayer, if indeed in the moment of being carried away in meaningfulness causes the Celebrant to momentarily lose their place).
That’s your new bishop, friends.

Also, I shot a 30 second 360 degree movie with my cell phone camera in the tent to which John refers.  I’ll try to send a copy of the file to Kendall, and maybe he can figure out what conversion would be necessary to post it along with John’s writing.


January 29, 1:30 am | [comment link]
6. The_Elves wrote:

All, I’m quite confident that Bp. Hathaway’s sermon will be posted soon.  We elves came across a copy of the text yesterday and forwarded it to Kendall.  So, I expect it will appear this morning.


January 29, 6:50 am | [comment link]
7. Rev. Patti Hale wrote:

The “Rev. Rev. Dr. Barr III”  ??  [Look at the bottom of the entry]  (fixed, thanks for the heads’ up!)

Another snafu! 
Thank you Jesus.
The Lord God is always there to make us humble and know our need of Him, isn’t He?

The Lord’s richest blessings be upon The Diocese of South Carolina and upon their new Bishop.  May the whole Diocese be well known in the kingdom for bringing the light of Gospel to hungry souls!

January 29, 8:29 am | [comment link]
8. The_Elves wrote:

Kendall has now posted Bp. Hathaway’s sermon here:

It’s fantastic!  Go read it (ah yes, it’s good to be in “bossy elfgirl” mode again, it’s been awhile!) wink

January 29, 10:02 am | [comment link]
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