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In my understanding, two of the cornerstone concepts of Christianity are love and hospitality. Christ has exhorted us to “Love one another as I have loved you,” and extending hospitality — welcome — is one of the easiest ways to love each other. Today in Bakersfield we saw awe-inspiring examples of these concepts.

The occasion was the “Welcoming and Seating of David C. Rice as Bishop Provisional of the Diocese of San Joaquin”. After a unanimous vote at the Special Convention earlier in the day, the afternoon’s service unfolded in a warm and colorful ceremony of welcome, woven through the liturgy, Bible lessons, and Holy Communion.

In his sermon, The Most Reverend Philip Richardson, Archbishop of the Anglican Church in New Zealand, and the Bishop of Taranaki, explained their custom of accompanying someone who was moving to a new place or beginning a new stage in life. An impressive number of good friends, colleagues, and family were in attendance to help Bishop David and his wife transition to their new life. Friends of Bishop Talton, who retired as Bishop Rice was installed, were also there to help celebrate. And congregants and clergy from Episcopal churches up and down the Diocese of San Joaquin watched, welcomed, and celebrated together. The love in the room was almost palpable.

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Bakersfield, made us feel right at home (and fed us well, too). Passing the Peace felt a lot like it does here at St. Paul’s, Visalia…as though we could go on sharing God’s peace with each other up and down the pews until late in the afternoon. There were no strangers, just friends we hadn’t met yet. The music was glorious, from the choir at the front of the church to the trumpets in the loft.

We will continue to step out in faith in whatever directions God leads us, and we will be ably led by Bishop Rice, his wife Tracy, and their very capable diocesan staff. The best is truly yet to come.