The Episcopal Diocese of Utah welcomes new bishop at her ordination

The Episcopal Diocese of Utah welcomes new bishop at her ordination

Phyllis Spiegel is ordained as a bishop and speaks on stage inside of the Capitol Theatre in Salt Lake City on Saturday. (Ben B. Braun, Deseret News)

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SALT LAKE CITY — Members of the Episcopal church and community members gathered in the Capitol Theatre in downtown Salt Lake City on Saturday for the ordination of the Episcopal Diocese of Utah’s new bishop, Phyllis Ann Spiegel.

Bishop Spiegel said “the power of the Holy Spirit just kept swelling throughout the whole service.”

She said she hopes to help Utah’s diocese become “a beloved community” which involves racial reconciliation and healing and helping people who are in need or mentally ill. “That we lift all of God’s people and all of God’s creation to a restored nature as God intended,” Bishop Spiegel said.

She said the diocese has already been working on this goal as she has in her service elsewhere.

“God just called us to do it together, powerfully, as one,” Bishop Spiegel said.

She said it feels like she has found her people, here in Utah.

Phyllis Spiegel is ordained as a bishop and listens to prayer inside the Capitol Theatre in Salt Lake City on Saturday.
Phyllis Spiegel is ordained as a bishop and listens to prayer inside the Capitol Theatre in Salt Lake City on Saturday. (Photo: Ben B. Braun, Deseret News)

Throughout the ceremony, there was evidence of the church’s outreach to people of all cultures. The ceremony was filled with different types of music; it opened with an African American choir, the choir and congregation sang multiple hymns, a children’s choir sang, and between the ordination and communion there was a Ute prayer and blessing with drums and chanting.

Bishop Spiegel said when the bishops laid their hands on her head to ordain her she could feel the power of the Holy Spirit, but the Ute drumming circle brought that power throughout the whole room.

“It was fruition of God that beat throughout my whole body and I felt it coming through the whole place … that’s the beat that we all need to have is Jesus at the core of our heart, so it was a powerful day,” she said.

In a note from Bishop Spiegel included in the program, she said many of the people there were friends and family who came to support her and church and community leaders and neighbors she has met since coming to Utah, or has not yet met.

“This is a story of diversity, and the many stories represented amongst you give witness to the incredible potential that will carry forth from this day. That is the heartbeat of the joy you feel around you; God is on the move in this space, and your prayers, your spoken words, your sheer presence here, moves the wind upon which God moves,” Bishop Spiegel said.

In the Episcopal church, bishops lead, supervise and unite the church. Bishop Spiegel will guide members in six parishes and 16 missions throughout Utah and northern Arizona. She is the 12th bishop of the diocese.

Phyllis Spiegel is ordained as a bishop and hands sacramental bread to Rev. Michael Carney inside the Capitol Theatre in Salt Lake City on Saturday.
Phyllis Spiegel is ordained as a bishop and hands sacramental bread to Rev. Michael Carney inside the Capitol Theatre in Salt Lake City on Saturday. (Photo: Ben B. Braun, Deseret News)

The Episcopal Church was formally started in Utah by Bishop Daniel S. Tuttle on July 2, 1867, and it has become known for its social justice ministry in the state. The church announced Bishop Scott Hayashi’s retirement in early 2020 and began the search for the new bishop, but the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the search.

Bishop Spiegel is the second woman to be a bishop in the Episcopal Diocese of Utah; the late Rev. Carolyn Tanner Irish became the first woman to lead a major denomination in Utah in 1996. Before coming to Utah, Bishop Spiegel was the rector of St. Anne Episcopal Church in West Chester, Ohio.

On Saturday, she told other episcopal bishops that she accepts the call and that she will be faithful, proclaim and interpret Christ’s gospel, encourage baptized members of the church and pray for them, help in the government of the church and be merciful.

After she was ordained, Bishop Spiegel received symbols of her office including the pectoral cross and bishop’s ring, a crosier carved by her brother from a tree on the family’s land, vestments that were hand-painted by her sister and various other gifts. She was then presented to the congregation and the people loudly applauded for her.

The Venerable Jennifer McKenzie, currently a priest in the Episcopal church, told the congregation a story about Bishop Spiegel seeing a bird in a tree that to her looked like a grey blur. She said she squinted to see what it was so easy for Bishop Spiegel to see and she was eager to learn more about the bird. She said Bishop Spiegel is able to see God clearly as well.

“Your new bishop … has both a natural and trained ability to spot God, even in new places and unfamiliar guises,” The Venerable McKenzie said. “(She) is good friends with God. Her native dialect is enthusiasm and laughter her punctuation … her joy is infections and so is her faith.”

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Emily Ashcraft joined KSL.com as a reporter in 2021. She covers courts and legal affairs, as well as health, faith and religion news.

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