The CFC Guide to Episcopal Visitations

Bishop Tom Shaw greeting parishioners at     St. John’s, Hingham.

Having recently had a parish visitation from the Bishop of Massachusetts, the Rt. Rev. Tom Shaw, I thought I’d share some helpful hints for all clergy anticipating their next visit. You know, just a few things to do in preparation for and during the visitation to make sure you don’t get defrocked.

So, here is the official Clergy Family Confidential Guide to Episcopal Visitations.**

1. Program hymns like “Lift High the Cross” and “St. Patrick’s Breastplate.” Bishops never tire of these hymns and truly love hearing them week after week after week. Especially on Hammond organs.

2. If it’s been a few years since the last visitation and your “The Episcopal Church Welcomes You” sign has been overtaken by vines and weeds, make sure that the directions on your website are wrong (“Yes, we know that’s supposed to say turn right at Church Street but people usually manage to find us anyway”).

3. The week before the visitation, preach about how all the parish’s financial woes are a direct result of the diocesan apportionment.

4. Only provide non-dairy creamer at coffee hour. Your bishop is sure to be impressed with your stewardship. Especially if the Folgers is served in styrofoam cups.

5. Encourage parishioners to approach the bishop and, rather than introducing themselves, say “Do you remember me? I met you at Confirmation eight years ago”).

6. During the liturgy, assign a skittish parishioner with a tendency to sweat a lot and drop things to serve as bishop’s chaplain.

7. If the bishop’s spouse attends, make sure to publicly welcome him/her during the announcements but get the spouse’s name wrong. It will give them something to talk about on the way back to the Bishop’s Residence.

8. Always refer to the distinction between the parish and diocesan levels as “us” versus “them.”

9. Prompt a member of the youth group to say loudly right before the opening hymn, “Wow! That’s a huge ring! How much did that piece of bling cost?”

10. Don’t mark the altar book for the Eucharistic Prayer so the bishop comes across as bumbling as he flips through the pages desperately seeking the proper preface.

And finally, as the bishop drives away, yell “Thanks, Bishop! See you in three years!”

** The staff at Clergy Family Confidential is hereby released from any liability, ecclesiastical or otherwise, from rectors who choose to follow these steps.


3 Comments on “The CFC Guide to Episcopal Visitations”

  1. Jon M White says:

    Thanks for sharing these, but #4 really hits home a bit too close for comfort!

  2. Some Supplemental Advice for Another Diocese With a Male Bishop:

    11. Be certain that “God Himself Is With Us” is sung – the Bishop thinks that is his equivalent of “Hail to the Chief.”

    12. When – not if – the Bishops sits on and squashes his mitre be sure to point and laugh. When he tries to get it back into wearable shape, be sure to point and laugh again.

    13. The Bishop is appalled by all manner of intinction practices. Be certain that everyone in the congregation goes to the altar and sticks out his or her tongue at him.

    14. Forget to tell the Bishop there is a three minute children’s sermon right after the Gospel. Prep the children to rush to be seated on the carpet in front of the chancel steps where they then look longingly at the Bishop who is expected to sit on the steps right in front of them.

    15. When it is time for the Sermon, surprise the Bishop with two translators on either side of the pulpit and explain that at the end of each sentence he is to stop for a translaation into Spanish and a translation into Swahili. Arrange for the translators who are tri-lingual to have an argument about grammar and syntax in the middle of the sermon

    16. Have the lessons read from the unauthorized “Teenaged Girls Life Applications Bible.”

    17. Plant a reporter from a local paper in the congregation and at the peace have her try to interview the Bishop about the Consecration of Gay Bishops in the Episcopal Church – should make for a nice sound byte.

    18. Instead of the usual wheat hosts, use a loaf of homemade cinnamon bread made from rice flour.

    19. Instead of the usual tawny port, have three chalices: red, white, and rose – be sure you are using upscale brands with a label on the side of the chalice.

    20. At the Lavabo, have the Acolyte spray the Bishop’s hands and face with handsanitizer and then hand the Bishop a Brawny Paper Towel made by the Koch Brothers.

  3. I love it!! Thanks for the tips!


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