Donning a plain white robe, Gretchen Rehberg stood before five consecrating bishops, and with 650 witnesses packed into the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, promised to lead the Episcopal Diocese of Spokane as its ninth bishop.
Rehberg, 52, was elected as the Diocese’ first female bishop last year. She was ordained Saturday in an elaborate musical ceremony.
“The gladness we share today is sacramental. It’s the outward expression of being in tune with God,” said the Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, former presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church. “When we sing and rejoice and give thanks, we’re sharing the love and hope of God for all that is being legalized here. Singing and joining in this great drama atunes us to the great harmony God intended before creation.”
For the past 11 years Rehberg served as rector of the Episcopal Church of the Nativity in Lewiston, Idaho, following a tenure as a professor of organic chemistry at Bucknell University. She also served as a volunteer EMT and firefighter for more than 20 years.
Jefferts Schori said the query and structure that guided Rehberg as a scientist continue to influence her in ministry and will be a benefit to the Diocese.
“Her earlier work as a synthetic organic chemist taught her to work backward to what you want, to create an order to discern the steps necessary to get there. And when you know where you want to go it’s a whole lot easier to get there, in spite of whatever obstacles arise,” Jefferts Schori said.
She said the goal of the Spokane Diocese, which consists of 39 congregations across four regions, is to create joyful communities, which is possible, she said, when people are “living in harmony with that deep structure of creation.”
“Gladness and joy become more evident as we discover the house of the lord is all around us and within us and among us,” she said.
She said the leaders of the Diocese are tasked with seeing the possibilities before them.
She said together they can shape a new future that reflects God by seeking justice for all of God’s creation and creating loving relationships. For Rehberg, that means modeling the life of Jesus.
Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry said his dream is for people to study the life and teachings of Jesus and to practice his compassion and kindness. That can change the world, he said.
Curry said Rehberg has already been preaching and practicing this through her ministry in Lewiston.
“She’s already done what I’m talking about,” he said. “Oh, Spokane, it’s exciting!”
He added that the Diocese is ready for Rehberg in part because it’s been led for the past 16 years by the Rev. James Waggoner, who he said is a faithful pastor and bishop and whose leadership built a solid foundation in the community.
At the ordination Waggoner presented Rehberg with a crozier, which is a staff symbolizing the pastoral office. She was also gifted vestments, a Bible and a ring.
Rehberg will deliver the Eucharist at St. John’s on Sunday at 8 and 10:30 a.m., and Curry will present the Eucharist at 10:15 a.m. at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church.