Whenever the bishop is present, for practical assistance and as a sign of honor, a chaplain attends the bishop. The bishop’s chaplain assists the bishop at all solemn functions at which the miter is worn and the crosier carried.
The principal responsibility of the chaplain is to make it easy for the bishop to focus on the liturgy and the congregation without having to worry about variations in local liturgical custom or juggle books, miter, crosier, etc. Your confidence in assisting the bishop will make the visitation much more relaxed and beneficial for everyone.
The master of ceremonies will outline your duties and review the order of service with you in advance so that you will be able to guide the bishop.
The chaplain greets the bishop on arrival in the sacristy and assists him or her to remove vestments from their carrying case and to vest. The chaplain should have a prayer book and hymnal ready at the throne and a service leaflet and whatever books are needed for the entrance procession ready in the sacristy.
The miter is worn when the bishop is moving, seated (including during the act of confirmation or ordination), or pronouncing absolution or giving a blessing.
The miter is removed during the Collect, Gospel, prayers of the people, confession, the eucharistic prayer, and the post communion prayer.
The bishop may remove his or her own miter, or may turn to you to remove it. Grasp it at the sides with your fingertips and remove it sideways so that you do not hit the bishop in the face with the lappets (especially if your ordination is at stake). Hold the miter on your upturned palms, with the front facing you and the lappets hanging freely. When the bishop is ready to put it on again, turn it so that the front faces down and fold the lappets up over the back so that they are out of the way. The bishop will take it from you and whip it over his or her head so that the lappets fall down the back. If the bishop will be without the miter for some time, such as at the eucharistic prayer, you may place the miter on the bishop’s throne, with the front facing the back of the chair and the lappets spread out neatly over the cushion.
The bishop will hold the crosier in procession, when pronouncing absolution or giving a blessing, and during the reading of the Gospel (although he or she will not wear the miter at that point.)
If the bishop is the ordinary of the diocese, he or she will hold the crosier with the opening of the crook facing out toward the people. If it is the suffragan bishop (or sometimes a visiting bishop, although they customarily will not carry a crosier outside of their own diocese), the opening of the crook faces back toward the bishop.
As chaplain, you will need to take the crosier from the bishop whenever it is not in use and put it in the wall hook provided. In some parishes it is customary for the bishop to rest it across the mensa of the altar after the entrance procession. When you hand the crosier to the bishop, assist with the miter first, and then hand the crosier to the bishop, who will take it in the left hand.
During the acts of confirmation and ordination when the bishop has his or her hands occupied, you will need to take the crosier from the bishop and, holding it with the opening of the crook facing inward, stand next to the bishop. Remember that you are not the bishop, even when you are holding the crosier. Keep your eyes focused on your bishop, not the congregation.
You will customarily hold the prayer book or hymnal for the bishop to sing or to lead the congregation in prayer. Stand to the bishop’s left turned slightly inward and hold the book from behind. Be careful not to let your fingers cover any part of the text. Follow along with your eyes so that you can prompt the bishop if he or she loses his or her place. Always have a service leaflet with you, and know what the action following this one will be so that you can guide the bishop appropriately.
The bishop is always last in the procession. The bishop will wear the miter and carry the crosier in all processions, whether they are solemn processions, Great Litany in procession, or a procession to the font or a shrine. Your role as chaplain is to accompany the bishop and carry whatever he or she may need at the endpoint of the procession, although the MC will also help with this. Walk slightly ahead and to the left of the bishop. The bishop may carry his or her own hymnal for the procession if there is singing, but open the book to the correct hymn before you hand it off.
If the bishop is the preacher, conduct him or her to the pulpit for the sermon. Make sure that the sermon text and a glass of water are in the pulpit prior to the service. Turn and face the pulpit as the bishop ascends and be aware of any last second needs the bishop may have. You may be seated for the sermon, but be on your feet right after its conclusion. The bishop may choose not to carry the crosier to the pulpit.
The bishop will ordinarily be the celebrant and preacher on all visitations, but on other occasions, or in the case of a visiting prelate; the bishop will preside from the throne while another priest celebrates. In this case, protocol is the same. The sacred ministers will turn and make a slight bow to the bishop whenever they go to perform an action.
The bishop may lead the prayers in the sacristy before and after the service.
The bishop customarily will bless the incense, so the thurifer goes to the bishop for laying on and the chaplain assists as the deacon would. If the bishop prefers to remain seated, the thurifer should genuflect on the left knee and hold the thurible so that the bishop may easily spoon in the incense. The bishop is censed after the celebrant but before anyone else.
The bishop blesses the deacon who will read the Gospel. The bishop is given communion after the celebrant and before the sacred ministers. The bishop will give the absolution and benediction, usually from the footpace.
The bishop, attended by his or her chaplain, follows the sacred ministers in procession. The bishop will turn and face the liturgical action. Except for celebrating at an eastward-facing altar, the bishop does not face east. The bishop is the east.
MORE THAN ONE BISHOP PRESENT
Each bishop should have his or her own chaplain and the presiding bishop may have two, in addition to the server who carries the primatial staff ahead of the PB in procession. The MC should determine order of rank and arrange seating and order of censing, etc., in advance. Normally, the ordinary will perform all the official functions, but at the ordination of a bishop, functions may be divided among bishops present.
AFTER THE SERVICE
When the service has ended, if the bishop is in the sacristy, help him or her to unvest and place all the vestments in their traveling case. Be sure that the rector or warden is present to conduct the bishop to the coffee hour or reception.
If the bishop is in a receiving line at the rear of the church, assist the bishop to remove miter, cope or chasuble, stole, take the crosier and return to the sacristy and begin to pack them up. Your job includes preventing would-be bishops from trying on the miter.
Stay calm, pay attention to the bishop, and be proud that you have served the church by allowing the bishop to carry out his or her ministry more effectively.