Bishop Barbara Clementine Harris
Brian’s Reflection: Friday, February 11, 2011
I certainly don't want to be one of the boys.
I want to offer my peculiar gifts as a black woman
...a sensitivity and an awareness that comes out of
more than a passing acquaintance with oppression.
Barbara Clementine Harris; she was ordained as
the Suffragan Bishop of Massachusetts, and the
first woman bishop in the Anglican Communion on
this date, 1989, in Boston
I know that, like Woodstock, everyone says they were at Barbara’s ordination to the episcopacy. But I was, I was!! I was serving as Rector of St. Peter & St. Andrew in Providence – and there was no way that I wasn’t not going to be there for this historic event.
There were thousands of people there. I was up in a balcony to the left of the altar, and about on a line with it. The excitement in the crowd was palpable. The Presiding Bishop was the Chief Comsecrator, and I would guess there were about 40 other bishops there. I remember three thrilling moments.
First, when the Presiding Bishop asked the congregation if it “was our will that Barbara be ordained a bishop”. The one voice of thousands of people thundered in response, “It is!” – and you literally felt the sound in your body.
Second: the consecration: the PB and the co-consecrators were gathered around her in a circle, the PB in cope and mitre, and the bishops in red rochets and chimeres. From my perch it looked like a great blossoming flower, with Barbara at the heart!
Third: Barbara was vested with ring and cross, and then a cope. She was given a pastoral staff. And then the mitre. Her voice came over the microphone as she said to the PB, “Shall I put it on?” Ed Browning nodded, and Barbara put the mitre on her head – the first woman to wear one. The congregation erupted into clapping and shouting and yelling and cheering that went on for many minutes – it was terrific!
Barbara is a great blessing to the Episcopal Church and to the Anglican Communion, in my estimation – a “perfect choice” at that time to take that leading role. She serves with great distinction. She is now 80 and retired.
Cheers Bishop Barbara!