Episcopal bishops grant ‘permission’ for St. Nicholas to minister in their dioceses during Advent

By David Paulsen
Posted Dec 6, 2023

[Episcopal News Service] St. Nicholas may not be paying attention to The Episcopal Church’s polity, but his fellow bishops certainly are.

St. Nick

St. Thomas the Apostle Episcopal Church in Dallas, Texas, receives a visit from St. Nicholas to kick off Advent. Photo: Carl Youngberg, via episcopalchurch.org

Several Episcopal bishops have issued statements timed to Dec. 6, the feast day for St. Nicholas, ceremoniously granting him “permission” to travel within their dioceses – presumably to deliver toys and other delights to good girls and boys according to the common Christian tradition during Advent.

St. Nicholas served in the fourth century as bishop of Myra, in a region that today is part of Turkey. He later would become the inspiration for the modern Christmas figure Santa Claus.

As “a bishop from another diocese,” even Nicholas would need permission to visit the Diocese of Western North Carolina. Permission granted, wrote Western North Carolina Bishop José McLoughlin.

“May his presence bring blessings to us all and inspire in us the spirit of giving, joy and generosity to those we love and those in need. I am positively jolly to grant his request,” McLoughlin said in his Dec. 6 letter.

Arizona Bishop Jennifer Reddall and Los Angeles Bishop John Harvey Taylor issued similar proclamations, welcoming St. Nicholas to minister in their dioceses.

“May his presence be a blessing and a sign of hope for all,” Taylor said.

“I encourage every family in our diocese to make room for Bishop Nicholas and offer him your own gifts – I hear he enjoys cookies and milk,” Reddall wrote.

Oklahoma Bishop Poulson Reed went a step further and released a video declaration for the feast day. It was recorded at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Oklahoma City under a stained-glass window honoring St. Nicholas.

“May the ministry of this godly bishop, both seen and unseen, in churches, schools and homes, inspire in human hearts a deep love for our savior Jesus Christ,” Reed said, “and a spirit of generosity in our gift-giving, especially towards children and those in need.”

Nicholas is remembered as a protector of children, though most of the details of his biography are lost to history.

“Many of the accounts of Nicholas’ life recount his habit of secret gift-giving to those in need, a tradition that many Christians have felt inspired to continue in his honor,” according to the entry for his feast day in The Episcopal Church’s “Lesser Feasts and Fasts.”

Bishop Mark Edington, who leads the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, said in a Facebook post that he chose to leave the ceremonial declarations to other bishops but wanted to use the occasion to draw attention to “the role Turkey played in the early centuries of the church.”

With that in mind, Edington said he planned to mark St. Nicholas’ feast day by donating to Episcopal Relief & Development to support humanitarian relief to the communities in Turkey still recovering from a deadly and devastating earthquake in February.

“The attention of the world has moved on to other crises, but as the winter sets in again the people left amid the ruins are still struggling to rebuild and recover,” Edington wrote. “May Saint Nicholas’ spirit of generosity guide us in our use of the resources entrusted to us.

– David Paulsen is a senior reporter and editor for Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at dpaulsen@episcopalchurch.org.