Paula Clark consecrated 13th bishop of Chicago

Posted Sep 19, 2022

The Rt. Rev. Paula Clark knocks on the door of the Cathedral of St. James in Chicago, Illinois, with her crosier on the morning of her Sept. 18 seating. Photo: Charlie Simokaitis

[Diocese of Chicago] The Rt. Rev. Paula E. Clark was ordained and consecrated as the 13th bishop of the Diocese of Chicago on Sept. 17 at the Westin Chicago Lombard in Lombard, Illinois. Clark is the first Black person and first woman to serve as Chicago’s diocesan bishop. She leads more than 30,000 Episcopalians in 124 congregations and campus ministries across northern and west central Illinois.

Bishop Mariann Budde of the Diocese of Washington, where Clark served as canon to the ordinary before her election to the episcopacy, preached the consecration sermon. “Being in the presence of Paula Clark and watching her in action is like taking a master class in Christian leadership. That was true before all that transpired in the last 18 months, and it is even more so now,” Budde said, referring to the cerebral bleed that Clark suffered in April 2021, just days before she was originally scheduled to be ordained and consecrated, and to the death of Clark’s husband from multiple myeloma in November.

“Paula, you have lived the last 18 months as if everything we proclaim as followers of Jesus is true,” Budde said.

The Rt. Rev. Paula Clark pictured with her family following her Sept. 17 consecration service at the Westin Chicago Lombard in Lombard, Illinois. Photo: Charlie Simokaitis

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry was the chief consecrating bishop. Bishops Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows of Indianapolis, Kimberly Lucas of Colorado, Deon Johnson of Missouri, and Douglas Sparks of Northern Indiana served as co-consecrators, along with Bishop Yehiel Curry of the Metropolitan Chicago Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America and Bishop Chilton Knudsen, who served as Chicago’s assisting bishop from October 2021 until Sept. 18.

The service’s procession began with the Diamano Dancers and Drummers performing Lamba, a dance of Mandingo griots in Senegal, according to Brenda Malika Moore, the company’s artistic director. Kite bearers and vergers then led 30 bishops, more than a hundred clergy from across The Episcopal Church and lay leaders from the Diocese of Chicago to the front of a hotel ballroom brightly decorated with banners and dramatic floral arrangements.

The Rt. Rev. Paula Clark wearing her glittery red Nike Air Jordans on the morning of Sept. 18 at the Cathedral of St. James in Chicago, Illinois. Photo: Charlie Simokaitis

Clark’s daughter, Micha Green, read from Romans, and Khushi Pusnur, the 12-year-old daughter of the Rev. Barnabas Pusnar of St. Paul and the Redeemer in Hyde Park, read a lesson from Isaiah. The Rev. Greg Millikin, rector of Grace Episcopal Church in New Lenox, Illinois, was the liturgist for the service. Music was provided by a choir of singers from across the diocese, handbell ringers, and a band from St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Chicago, as well as by Kirby Metoxen of the Oneida Singers and Hilary Daniel, a soloist from The Word of God Baptist Church in University Park, Maryland. Keith Hampton of St. Thomas was the service’s music director and organist. More than 800 people attended the service, at which masks were required to limit the spread of COVID-19.

In a letter included in the service bulletin, Clark wrote, “The process of confirming a new Bishop in the Diocese of Chicago has been long, challenging, sometimes heart-breaking, but always guided by God.  I would like to thank the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago for your steadfast loyalty and faith. You have believed in me, prayed for, comforted, and encouraged me even through difficult times. You have held fast to your faith and shown me what God-centered leadership really is. Most of all, you have kept the faith and overcome, despite repeated setbacks. I am so honored to serve as your Bishop. With your support, together, we will forthrightly and courageously serve God and our neighbor.”

On Sept. 18, Clark was formally seated at the Cathedral of St. James in Chicago. Videos of Bishop Clark’s ordination and consecration and her seating are available on the Diocese of Chicago’s website.