By Maurice L. Harris | Diocesan Communications Minister
The Rt. Rev. Shannon MacVean-Brown is now the 1,122nd bishop of The Episcopal Church and the first African American to serve as Bishop of Vermont. Her September 28 ordination and consecration were witnessed live by approximately 900 people at Ira Allen Chapel and overflow seating areas on the University of Vermont campus in Burlington, not including those who watched live online.
Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry served as chief consecrator of the service. Among the co-consecrating bishops were the Rt. Rev. Thomas C. Ely, tenth bishop of Vermont; the Rt. Rev. Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows, bishop of Indianapolis; the Rt. Rev. Gayle E. Harris, bishop suffragan of Massachusetts; the Rt. Rev. Chilton Knudsen, eighth bishop of Maine and assisting bishop of Washington; and the Rt. Rev. Stewart Wood, ninth bishop of Michigan.
MacVean-Brown was accompanied by her husband Phil, daughters Anneliese and Indira, and family and friends from all over the country.
The guest preacher was MacVean-Brown’s father, the Rev. Canon Ronald Spann, a retired priest who serves as assisting priest and director of the Spirituality Center at Christ Episcopal Church in Grosse Pointe, Mich. In his sermon, Spann expounded on the biblical passage Romans 8:30, declaring, “Those whom God called, God also justified; and those whom God justified, God also glorified.”
“The designer turned ceramicist was a married grad student in art education who didn’t believe she was qualified for a seminary career,” he said as he explained how MacVean-Brown’s lived experiences culminated in her faith becoming her full-time work.
Spann also mentioned the historical significance of MacVean-Brown’s election as an African American bishop in Vermont, referring to the Rt. Rev. John Henry Hopkins, the first Episcopal bishop of Vermont, who in 1861 authored a book defending slavery and criticizing abolitionists.
“And in walks number 11,” he said matter-of-factly, garnering cheers and a standing ovation.
“And isn’t it marvelous that number 11 follows number 10, whose own presiding bishop calls him a man of courage and a man of wisdom,” Spann said of the now retired bishop Thomas C. Ely, eliciting more cheers and another standing ovation.
The three-and-a-half-hour service featured a mix of hymns, classical music, and gospel selections performed by Inora Brass, the Plattsburgh State Gospel Choir, Cameo Baroque, Church of the Messiah Gospel Choir, and a Diocesan Massed Choir composed of singers from around the diocese.
The hymn at the retiring procession, “God Beyond All Human Praises,” held special significance as a selection commissioned for the consecration of the Rt. Rev. Mary Adelia McLeod in 1993 as the ninth bishop of Vermont and the first woman to serve as bishop of the Vermont diocese.
MacVean-Brown was formally seated at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Burlington on September 29. The guest preacher was the Very Rev. Miguelina Howell, dean of Christ Church Cathedral in Hartford, Conn. The service was recorded and is now available for online viewing.
The Episcopal Diocese of Vermont is made up of more than 6,100 members in 45 congregations across Vermont.
In the featured photo: Bishop Shannon MacVean-Brown is pictured with daughters Indira and Anneliese and husband Phil at the September 28 Consecration service. Photo credit: Greg Merhar