Ship of Fools: Funeral of Sandra Day O’Connor, Washington National Cathedral, Washington, DC


imageShip of Fools: Funeral of Sandra Day O’Connor, Washington National Cathedral, Washington, DC

Beauty, dignity, and an over-dramatic tenor in the funeral service of Sandra Day O’Connor

Read the full Mystery Worshipper report here


Comments

  • Thank you for the report, Miss Amanda! I’ve been to Washington National Cathedral many times over the years, including one Easter morning in the early 90s. I’d forgotten until reading this report that Justice O’Connor read one of the lessons at that Eucharist.

    I’ve got one question, particularly for any Episcopal or Anglican shipmates. It’s noted that the Bishop of Washington was “vested in rochet, chimere and pectoral cross, and [was] wearing a white stole.” That can be seen to be the case with both bishops in the picture, and the two priests that can be seen are wearing cassocks, surplices and white stoles. It can also be seen in the video. (The Rev. Dr. Jane Fahey, the Presbyterian minister who read the Gospel and who served as a law clerk for O’Connor, wore a gown and a white stole.)

    Rochets, chimeres, cassocks and surplices are all, as I understand it, choir (non-Eucharistic) dress, and are traditionally worn with black scarves/tippets, not with stoles. But I’ve been seeing lots of stoles with cassocks and surplices recently; that combination regularly shows up in the Instagram feed of a prominent Episcopal church in these parts.

    So the question is, does anyone know when Episcopal clergy starting wearing stoles rather than tippets with cassocks and surplices? Does it happen elsewhere in the Anglican Communion?

    If the question isn’t appropriate for this Mystery Report thread, I can take it fi Ecclesiantics.

  • SpikeSpike Ecclesiantics & MW Host, Admin Emeritus
    edited December 2023
    I was wondering the same thing and I’ve noticed before that American bishops often wear a stole with rochet and chimere which is, IMHO, incorrect. As for a stole with cassock and surplice, that is quite common and often how priests and deacons are vested at their ordination.

    I also noticed in the report that the bishop was without crosier or mitre during the sermon. I’ve never seen a bishop hold a crosier while preaching and a mitre would definitely be incorrect with rochet and chimere, but then again, as she’s wearing a stole, anything could happen …
  • My family have been told that if I am wheeled up the aisle on one of those glorified supermarket trollies at my funeral, I will come back and haunt their worst nightmares.
  • Alan29 wrote: »
    My family have been told that if I am wheeled up the aisle on one of those glorified supermarket trollies at my funeral, I will come back and haunt their worst nightmares.
    That’s the norm in the US in my experience. Pall bearers only carry the casket when steps are involved (I got to do that once at a church with lots of steps) or from the hearse (or church if burial is in the churchyard) to the gravesite.

    I’m to be cremated, so easy work for one person.

  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    edited December 2023
    Spike wrote: »
    I was wondering the same thing and I’ve noticed before that American bishops often wear a stole with rochet and chimere which is, IMHO, incorrect. As for a stole with cassock and surplice, that is quite common and often how priests and deacons are vested at their ordination.
    Thanks, @Spike. Is stole with cassock and surplice a long-time thing? Is there a rule as to when it should be a stole and when it should be a tippet?

  • I've never seen a priest preside over any liturgical function without a stole if he is wearing cassock and surplice.

    As for the bishop, I would have preferred to see her in alb, cope and mitre, but the cathedral is low church.

    I've tried to discover the liturgical term for the casket trolley, but all I can find is casket trolley. I sort of like the Latin plaustrum but I don't know if the church calls it that.
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    edited December 2023
    I've never seen a priest preside over any liturgical function without a stole if he is wearing cassock and surplice.
    What I generally encounter at Episcopal churches in my corner of the world is alb and stole (and often chasuble) for the Holy Eucharist, and cassock, surplice and tippet, showing arms of the diocese and of the seminary the wearer attended, and maybe an academic hood and bands if the priest is preaching, for Morning and Evening Prayer. (I’ve also seen the latter worn by Episcopal priests preaching in a non-Episcopal church.). I guess maybe that leaves a gray area of weddings and funerals at which the Eucharist isn’t celebrated.

    Now that I think about it, I think that maybe cassock, surplice and stole might have been the norm at the Episcopal church in the small town where I grew up. My sense is that the alb became more common after the ‘79 BCP came out and the Holy Eucharist became the normal Sunday service.

    As for casket trollies, I think the term in the industry, so to speak, is “wheel/wheeled bier.”

  • deacondaviddeacondavid Shipmate Posts: 2
    A few thoughts from a lifelong Episcopalian that may stir up a little controversy, but posting nevertheless
    - stole with Choir Dress is the correct attire for any Funeral or Wedding where there is no Eucharist. The stole is worn here in the same spirit it is worn for confession: pastorally. If the priest was officiating at Morning or Evening Prayer, the stole would not be worn, but rather tippet and hood (if desired - they are not mandatory). Most conservatively, the tippet does not have patches signifying any affiliations as that is akin to having bumper stickers on your car.
    - Since this was not a Eucharist, why are the crucifer and torch bearers wearing albs instead of cassock/cotta
    - Given that there is a choir, it is surprising (if not downright disturbing) and a great disappointment that they did not sing the Burial Sentences in procession, the psalm, or the Commendation. It's not like they weren't already there.
    - Was there really no deacon available to serve at the National Cathedral in the entire diocese (or even the country) for Sandra Day O'Connor? Seriously, people...
    - There is no provision for Eulogies or Remembrances or Tributes at the funeral service in the Book of Common Prayer. The fact that it is common practice makes it neither correct nor appropriate. That is not to say that there isn't a way to do it besides cramming them in to the middle of the service. What would have been lovely, correct, and present a deeply meaningful symbol would have been to 1) receive the body at the door, 2) resident clergy introduces the service and notes that it will begin with the tributes/eulogies, 3) America the beautiful being sung at the conclusion of that section (with the choir at the west doors) also functioning as in introit to the service proper would have been gorgeous, 4) the funeral service (named Burial of the Dead in Book of Common Prayer) begins with the procession into the church where the choir is included and singing the Burial Sentences. This divides the service into two parts as a symbol that the Christian life has two distinct stages: the earthly and the heavenly.
  • Many thanks for your comments, particularly about stole and tippet, @deacondavid. (Though I did chuckle a little at “The stole is worn here in the same spirit it is worn for confession: pastorally.” Confession is, in my experience, at best a true rarity in all but a few Episcopal parishes in my part of the world.)

    As for eulogies/remembrances I definitely share the sentiment that they have no place in the service proper, and like you I see no provision or permission for them in the BCP. But I have encountered them in every Episcopal funeral I’ve been to in recent years (three just in the last year). Not a trend I like. I’ve made it very clear they should not happen in my (Presbyterian) funeral; my written instructions say that remembrances and stories should “be told another time, over food and drink.”

  • CoacaoCoacao Shipmate Posts: 1
    In Scotland (at least in my patch) the casket trolly is only used to hold the casket once it's brought in by pall bearers. My heart is in my mouth as they carry the much narrower caskets on their shoulders! These are seriously narrow caskets. I too agree no eulogies in the service- I suggest they do it at the crem service that they wait until the reception tea.
  • Alan29Alan29 Shipmate
    There are RC dioceses that forbid eulogies. I think they are a trial for whoever is deputed to deliver them..... finding something to say that is more than a dull recitation of birth, schooling, marriage, kids and jobs, all the while trying not to blub or make it sound like the deceased was too good for canonisation.
  • Not the case in Oz. I am not a fan of eulogies, however a year or so back a dying friend put the arm on me to do the deed at his requiem a few months later. The very sensible priest scheduled it for just before the beginning of the Mass. I was determined to keep it brief and factual and got in at 7 minutes.

    The family were happy but never again!
  • edited February 20
    The trollies are a great idea. For those of us who have carried coffins, I assure you that they are very heavy. At both events, about half of the pallbearers (Ottawa Valley boys, as can be seen on the TV show Letterkenny) had no trouble but the other half barely able to carry out their aunts, and if it had meant that we would have had to carry the coffin all the way down the aisle, we would have run the real risk of pallbearer failure.

    Somewhere in the ship's hold is my report on the Ray Hnatyshyn state funeral. HLE was borne on the shoulders of young members of the Governor General's Foot Guard-- years later I happened to be talking with the officer who had drilled them, using a casket-sized box full of sandbags. It took him three days of drill, requiring the replacement of several privates, before they were ready to carry it off.
    I always watch the military pallbearers at these events and admire their professionalism and hard work. Like the UK, the US military works hard at this part of their work.

    My rector is aware that I get no eulogies, unless people want to exchange observations and reminiscences in the parish hall over some good Spanish red. I won't need a trolley, as I'll be over at the University's school of anatomy.
  • Or, in my case, in an urn whose contents are later scattered on the streets of a place that has given me pleasure.
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