Dioceses of Connecticut and of Aberdeen and Orkney reaffirm their 231-year relationship at the February 2016 installation of Dean Howell in Hartford.
Pioneering journeys, for the sake of, and in honor of, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith
The installation of a new dean of Christ Church Cathedral, Hartford, in February provided the occasion to reaffirm and advance a 231-year relationship between the Episcopal Church in Connecticut and the Episcopal Church in Scotland that began with the consecration of Connecticut’s first bishop, Samuel Seabury, in Aberdeen in 1784.
The Very Rev. Dr. Emsley Nimmo, Dean of the Diocese of Aberdeen and Orkney, and the Very Rev. Dr. Isaac Poobalan, Provost and Rector of St. Andrew’s Cathedral in Aberdeen, attended the installation and seating of the Very Rev. Miguelina Howell as 10th Dean of Christ Church Cathedral, Hartford, on February 18, 2016.
During the service Dean Nimmo was installed as Honorary Canon of Christ Church Cathedral, and Provost Poobalan read a greeting from the Rt. Rev. Robert Gillies, Bishop of the Diocese of Aberdeen and Orkney.
The guests from the Scottish Episcopal Church had arrived earlier that week and stayed through the Sunday morning service on February 21. Shepherding them to their various planned visits and activities was the Rev. Canon Michel Belt, retired rector of St. James’, New London. Canon Belt was elected and installed as honorary canon of St. Andrew’s Cathedral in Aberdeen in 2014.
Dean Howell described the importance of the presence and participation of the guests.
“[This] has been an opportunity to strengthen the longstanding historic relationship among both dioceses and both cathedrals,” said Dean Howell, on the Sunday after her installation. “We have hosted them in a manner in which they have experienced the broad cultural diversity of the cathedral congregations, from experiencing the 10 o’clock service in English and fellowship hour with our Anglo community, to playing dominoes and dancing merengue with our Latino community. It has been an opportunity to show them the breadth and the scope of our community and our work in God’s mission, and it has been a blessing to share with them on a one to one level.”
231 years and counting
The relationship between dioceses began at St. Andrew’s Cathedral in Aberdeen in 1784.
In was there, on November 14, 1784, that three bishops from the Episcopal Church in Scotland -- Robert Kilgour, Bishop of Aberdeen and Primus of Scotland; Arthur Petrie, Bishop of Ross and Moray; and John Skinner, coadjutor bishop of Aberdeen -- consecrated Samuel Seabury of Connecticut as bishop of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut, on the condition that he work for the Scottish Eucharistic liturgy to be adopted, instead of the English rite.
Samuel Seabury had originally traveled to England for his consecration in the Apostolic Succession, but as the bishops there insisted he sign an oath of allegiance to the King, which he refused to do, he continued on to the bishops of Scotland where he was welcomed.
Agreement about the liturgy in place, the consecration went ahead. The four bishops formalized the relationship in a “Concordate” that they wrote and signed on November 15. Also called a “bond of union,” it was a declaration of “full communion” between the Episcopal Church in Scotland and the Episcopal Church in Connecticut.
Bishop Seabury returned to the states to serve out his episcopacy while also serving as rector of St. James’, New London and was successful in bringing the Scottish rite to the church in the States.
He was the first bishop not only of Connecticut but of the Episcopal Church in the States, and his consecration in Aberdeen launched the Anglican Communion as we know it today.
In his sermon at Dean Howell’s installation, Bishop Diocesan Ian T. Douglas referenced the historic relationship. “Now I have not forgotten that we are gathered here tonight to celebrate the installation and seating of the Very Rev. Miguelina Howell as the 10th Dean of Christ Church Cathedral -- thanks be to God! --as well as the seating of the Very Rev. Emsley Nimmo, Dean of the Diocese of Aberdeen and Orkney in the Scottish Episcopal Church, as an Honorary Canon of this Cathedral. Thank you Emsley for incarnating our historic relationship with our mother diocese in Scotland. So, congratulations and blessings, Lina and Emsley. You both are a gift to us here in The Episcopal Church in Connecticut and a gift to our Cathedral.”
The bishop of the Diocese of Aberdeen and Orkney, the Rt. Rev. Robert Gillies, shared a similar sentiment in the letter from him that was read by Provost Poobalan.
The Diocese of Aberdeen and Orkney rejoices with the clergy and people of ECCT at the installation of the Very Rev. Miguelina Howell as Cathedral Dean, Bishop Gillies wrote.
“We wish her well in the name of the Lord in this ministry now committed to her. We rejoice also in the continuing link between our two dioceses, begun with the consecration in 1784 of Samuel Seabury as your first bishop who, in that role, brought from Scotland our Communion Office for you to develop as your own.”
Provost Poobalan, speaking on the Sunday after the installation, drew a parallel between the pioneering spirit of Aberdeen, where the Scottish Episcopal Church bishops consecrated Samuel Seabury, and the ground-breaking election and installation of Dean Howell.
The people of Aberdeen, he said, “were able to think in advance and look to the Kingdom of God not in a parochial sense or the local sense, but in the global sense … because of their own personal journey, as it were, as people who were persecuted. They know what it [means] to be living in the margins and working in the margins. And so they welcomed Sam, and Sam came up, and he was consecrated in 1784 as the first bishop of the Episcopal Church in the USA.
“…The pioneering instinct of Aberdeen hasn’t stopped yet,” he continued. “And it’s good to be here and share parts of it in this place, for the local newspaper reported that Miguelina is the first Latina priest to be made dean of any cathedral in the US. And that’s a pioneering journey. It’s good to be part of that.”
A unity in the Eucharist
Three days later, on Sunday morning February 21 at the Cathedral, Dean Nimmo delivered the homily and Provost Poobalan was the celebrant at the Eucharist.
“Most [people] know that the apostolic succession came from Scotland,” Dean Nimmo explained, speaking to a reporter before the service. “They’re not too aware about the liturgy. That is perhaps the greatest gift that Scotland gave to America and I’m absolutely delighted this week to learn that it has now been translated into Spanish and that the liturgy of the Episcopal Church goes right down through the Americas.”
In his sermon, he spoke of how the unity of our dioceses -- as spelled out in the Concordate signed by the bishops in 1784 -- is a bond of union in the Eucharist.
“At the time of Seabury’s consecration, there was a concordat signed … declaring that we were to be in a “bond of union” with one another,” he said. “And of course in that bond of union we declared that the rights and privileges of all respective nations involved were to be respected. And also that our unity was to be declared in the sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ.
“... This principal bond of union among Christians, as well as the most solemn act of worship in the Christian church, the bishops aforesaid agreed in desiring that there may be as little variance here as possible, and that my dear friends, is why the American rite is of course based on the Scottish one.
“…Though the Eucharist is what makes us one and holds us together, it is the calling down of the Spirit upon the bread and the wine down that makes them become the Body and Blood of Christ, which makes Christ dynamically and spiritually present amongst us.
Dean Nimmo held up the Concordate as an example for the whole Anglican Communion, and called for the relationship between the churches to continue.
“…Our continents [Europe and North America] geologically may be drifting apart,” he said, alluding to a reference in the beginning of his sermon, “but spiritually, as is our tradition, may we continue to rejoice in the bridges that we can build, to step across the divide, to transverse the gulf that human beings may try to engineer, and to declare our common union in Christ, the pioneer and perfecter of our religion.”
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Link here for a video of Dean Nimmo’s full sermon: https://youtu.be/QCBnQcWvMUo
Link here for a video with remarks from Dean Howell and comments from Dean Nimmo and Provost Poobalan: https://youtu.be/jJirF6aqL8o
Or, find both at www.youtube.com/ctepiscopal