First female bishop seated in Niagara

Bill Mous

Stirring cello melodies, gleeful banter of children, inspired words, reflection and invitation, moving intercessions mingled with familiar hymnody and the loving words shared by Jesus millennia ago were some of the sounds that poignantly filled Christ’s Church Cathedral Hamilton as Bishop Susan Bell was seated as the 12th diocesan bishop of Niagara.

Seating of The Right Reverend Susan Bell 12th Bishop of  Niagara
Dean Peter Wall escorted Bishop Susan to her cathedra, the chair designated for Niagara’s bishop, as the people acknowledged her as their pastor and leader. Photo: Michel Hudson

“These are the things to which we have all been called: renewed leadership, the rejuvenation of faith, to be a humble church anointed and set apart for God’s mission of love to our world,” said Bishop Susan.

The service on Sunday, October 21st drew hundreds of people from across the diocese, including many dignitaries.

Before the Seating could take place, Bishop Susan was required to knock on the Cathedral doors to seek admittance — a symbolic action underscoring the rights and privileges of the Cathedral church.

Seating of The Right Reverend Susan Bell 12th Bishop of  Niagara
Bishop Susan, with a little help from young friends, knocked three times on the door to seek entry into the Cathedral, “the symbol and centre of your pastoral, liturgical and teaching ministry.” Photo: Michel Hudson

With a declaration by Chancellor Greg Tweney that the Bishop had been duly elected and consecrated, Bishop Susan — accompanied by representatives of the diocese — was admitted by the Cathedral churchwardens.

In her homily, delivered from the nave of the Cathedral and adjacent to the baptismal font, Bishop Susan emphasized her ministry would model the incarnational leadership of Jesus, and stand alongside the people who have called her to serve. “We are all in this together — past and present — lay and ordained — a great cloud of witnesses across all space and time.”

Seating of The Right Reverend Susan Bell 12th Bishop of  Niagara
Bishop Susan preached from the back of the Cathedral near the font, the symbol of our baptismal covenant. Photo: Michel Hudson

The Bishop also acknowledged that rapid societal shifts have presented challenges for the Church, at the same time asserting that “new skills and strengths in our leadership” are being called forth, creating new possibilities for ministry. She also declared that “God honours the trying” as we seek to adapt and explore new ways of being the Church and urged the diocese to “be brave” in its witness.

The ancient rite by which a diocesan bishop formally takes office focuses on the seating of the bishop in a special chair within a Cathedral. “This bishop is very conscious that she takes this chair, this cathedra, as a pledge of presence among you,” Bishop Susan told the congregation. The bishop’s seat signifies the bishop’s central place amidst the faith community.

A reception at Liuna Station followed the service, with uplifting and celebratory music provided by the NYC Band, a mainstay of diocesan youth ministry worship services and events.

The clergy and people of the diocese elected Bishop Susan on March 3, 2018. She was ordained a bishop on May 5th and succeeded Bishop Michael Bird as diocesan bishop on June 1st, becoming the first woman to serve in this role.

The Reverend Canon Bill Mous is Niagara’s Director of Justice, Community and Global Ministries.

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