When is the last time worship gave you chills? Brought you to tears? For me it was Saturday, Sept. 22, at the installation of my new bishop, Patricia Ann Curtis Davenport. Yes, I witnessed history. She is the first African American woman elected bishop in our denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, a denomination that is 96 percent white. But perhaps the chills and tears were my realization that the Holy Spirit was in the house.
Chills? I watched, as the ELCA national bishop, Elizabeth Eaton, smiled, interacted and laid hands on Bishop Davenport. I witnessed other bishops from across the country lay on hands and offer private prayer. I saw the bishop of the North Eastern Diocese of Tanzania do the same, as did other ecumenical and interfaith partners.
Tears? When Rabbi Shawn Zevit, lead rabbi from Mishkan Shalom in Philadelphia, gave comments. He spoke of God appointing Bishop Davenport. He spoke of the timing of her installation, between the Jewish annual day of atonement and festival of the booths. He shared that he willingly stepped away from his Shabbat service to be with her.
Tears and chills? Bishop Davenport, in her remarks, answered the question, 'why do you dance?' She referred to her children, to her congregants, staff members and clergy who support her as reasons to dance. She mentioned being one of 10 children in a family that love each other and want to be with each other. And she thanked God for the decades with husband Joel before he died. "Today he is dancing with me."
And Bishop Davenport danced. And danced. And danced.