The Rev. Douglas John Fisher, who was ordained and consecrated as the ninth Bishop of the Diocese of Western Massachusetts, says such events allow the entire church to recommit itself to following Jesus, as his diocese faces challenges of increasing secularization and diocese isolation.
Rev. Fisher was consecrated on Saturday the MassMutual Center in Springfield and was officially seated at the start of the Advent season, which coincides with the start of the liturgical year, at Christ Church Cathedral. He succeeds the Rt. Rev. Gordon P. Scruton, who served for 16 years as the diocese's bishop.
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori serves as the chief consecrator and more than a dozen Episcopal Bishops attended the Saturday event, reported the Episcopal News Service.
"The ordination and consecration of a bishop is a deeply meaningful time when we all get to renew the faith that is within us and recommit ourselves to following Jesus in his mission of mercy, compassion and hope. it is a time of celebration and inspiration for all people," he said.
Rev. Fisher holds a Master of Divinity degree from Immaculate Conception Seminary and a Doctor of Ministry degree from Episcopal Divinity School. He has been rector of Grace Church in Millbrook, New York since 2000.
Rev. Fisher has been working with Rev. Scruton ahead of the consecration and in late November helped host the bishop of a partner diocese in Africa, Dr. Daniel Sarfo, Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Kumasi, Ghana.
Rev. Fisher, who is married, said in an interview with the Springfield Republican a week before his ordination and consecration that what he considered important in ministry lined up with the opportunity the diocese presented. He was elected in June.
"We saw that the diocese was looking for congregational development to grow churches," he said. "They've got a great number of college campuses here and we'll be looking to do more in terms of campus ministry. And they were looking for someone who could speak out on social justice issues. All those things are really important to me. So my passions and what they were looking for lined up."
Rev. Fisher said people now "live in a more secular age. So we can't just be in our churches and expect people to come to us."
"You've got to be leaders and have congregations that really reach out beyond those borders," he said. "In Western Mass. they recognize there are things that worked really well. But in the new era we need a different kind of mission and different kinds of outreach. We're not ensure what that all entails. To take risks means the church will try things that might not work."
He said some of the biggest challenges facing the church are the secularization of society and disparities between churches that are "doing fine and others that are struggling."
"The culture's changing so that's both a problem and an opportunity. This means there are a lot of people to reach through the Gospel. But it's going to take different ways of proclaiming that," he said.
Regarding disparities, he said the way to address the issue is "through collaboration," which the previous bishop was doing and he would build on.
"Too often parishes live in isolation. They address the needs of their members and the needs of that neighborhood but they don't really collaborate with other parishes," he said.
When asked about the Church's position on gay marriage, Rev. Fisher said the general convention recently approved a liturgical rite for the blessing of same sex unions but noted it wasn't marriage.
He said he would be having a dialogue about that with clergy and church leaders in the next couple of years "knowing that there are people of good will on both sides of this. What we want to do is appreciate our gay brothers and sisters and how much they contribute to our churches in so many different ways."