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Service weaves in music, banners, prayers, Scriptures and a call to love and justice

Bishops Katharine Jefferts Schori, Michael Curry, Gretchen Rehberg and James Waggoner Jr.

Elements of the March 19 service to ordain and consecrate the Right Rev. Canon Gretchen Rehberg as the ninth bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Spokane reflected the church’s scope—from care about individuals to a call to work for justice—and its diversity— from African to Taizé to traditional organ-accompanied hymns.

Banners representing the diocese’s congregations and several organizations led the procession of diocesan and interfaith clergy, regional dignitaries, and choristers from congregations around the diocese. The choir of more than 100 voices joined carillon, brass, and pipe organ music before, during and after the service.

More than 650 people attended and 6,850 joined it by live-streaming video, according to Cate Wetherald, diocesan communications  director.

Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop and Primate Michael B. Curry led the service as chief consecrator.

During the service, the new bishop received gifts, including a pectoral cross, ring, stole, miter and crozier, and she was “seated” in the “cathedra” or bishop’s chair,  symbolic of the bishop’s office.

Gretchen is the 59th woman to be elected as a bishop in the Anglican Communion and the first woman to be the bishop for Spokane’s diocese.

The Right Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, former presiding bishop and primate of the Episcopal Church, was the preacher for the service. In her sermon, she expressed Gretchen’s commitment to proclaim God’s inclusive love and equip God’s people for transformation and growth.

Katharine, who is now visiting professor of women in ministry at the Church School of the Pacific in Berkeley, affirmed that hope is found “in God’s love for each of us.”

She pointed out that the diocese may not be able to be in complete agreement on everything, but “our common goal is the Kingdom of God, the kindom of God, shalom and the new Jerusalem.”

Katharine said Gretchen’s perspective from working in synthetic organic chemistry is to work backward from a conclusion and create an order to “discern the steps” needed to arrive there.  She said it will work well for her as a bishop to know where she wants to go, so she can overcome obstacles.

By living like Jesus, “we turn and return to God,” and live in the harmony of creation and nature, “as we see summer flow into fall, fall into winter, winter into spring,” said Katharine.  “In the universe, “we see that stars are born and die,” and in the process human life incubated on this planet.

“We can create a song of gladness for all creation so we can counter hate with love,” she continued, calling for creating communities where gladness abounds in living God’s will of shalom and harmony.

“We discover that the House of the Lord is around us, within us and among us,” she said.  “It is everywhere when we love our neighbors as ourselves and where we allow beloved community to emerge.

“Baptism calls us all to transform,” she said, adding that the task of leaders of the diocese is to see “the structures and put flesh on the bones of the possible.

“We are here to shape a new future that reflects God’s eternal love by creating loving relationships and seeking justice for every part of God’s creation,” she said.

One of the myriad of ways of doing that in this diocese, she suggested, is through reconciling relations with the first people in this region, the Coeur d’Alene, Colville, Kalispel and Spokane.

Katharine offered other challenges: to live in right relationship with non-human beings, to welcome strangers because “we may find angels among them,” to teach respect for life, to pray for peace of all creation and to marvel at the variety of humanity.

Gretchen was elected bishop of the Spokane diocese on October 18, 2016, at the diocese’s 52nd Annual Convention in Lewiston, Idaho.  Before her election, she had served since 2006 as rector of the Episcopal Church of the Nativity in Lewiston.

Before being elected, she served the diocese as chair of the Commission on Ministry, a canon for regional mission and a trainer for the College for Congregational Development, said Cate. In these ministries, she combined her passion for equipping people for ministry and assisting congregations in becoming more faithful, healthy and effective communities of faith. Now she will do that as she serves the diocese’s 39 congregations.

Gretchen has a master of divinity from General Seminary, a doctor of ministry from Wesley Seminary and a doctoral degree in chemistry.

Previously, she was a professor of organic chemistry at Bucknell University.  She has also  served communities where she has lived as a volunteer emergency medical technician and firefighter.

Gretchen succeeds the Right Rev. James Waggoner, Jr., who was the eighth bishop of the diocese for more than 16 years. The Episcopal Diocese of Spokane is the Episcopal Church in Eastern Washington and North Idaho.

For information, call 624-3191 or visit The entire service may be viewed on the diocesan website .

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