SAN FRANCISCO — Bishop Basil was officially installed Feb 5, 1981, as Bishop of San Francisco and the West. His Beatitude, Metropolitan Theodosius presided over the ceremonies and festivities marking this important and historic event in the life of the diocese.
The beautiful church service marked the spiritual and sacred aspect of the Bishop’s position within the Church: exemplifying him as the Vicar of Christ who, by protecting his flock, leads his spiritual see to salvation. During the service, His Grace was presented with a mitre as a gift from the Diocese, a symbolic expression of our Eucharistic unity with him.
A banquet immediately following the church service was attended by 208 people. The master of ceremonies, Father George M. Benigsen, perpetuated the theme of church unity throughout the evening, which was opened by the Honorable Mayor Feinstein, Mayor of San Francisco, who spoke of the need for religion in our daily lives. The Mayor stressed the importance of building back a sense of respect into our society for church, family and self. Speaking for the people of San Francisco, the Mayor recognized Bishop Basil’s many achievements, including his weekly radio broadcasts of religious programs to the Soviet Union over BBC.
The first speaker following the dinner was His Beatitude, Metropolitan Theodosius who spoke of the challenges facing Orthodox Christians today and of the need for unity within the Orthodox Church in North America: "The restoration of unity can only come if we struggle to overcome our various loves for our own ethnic way and came to love Christ more than anything else."
Under the excellent leadership of Bob Parent, the English Choir of the Holy Trinity Cathedral sang four selections of church music: The Lord’s Prayer (by Kedrov), Come, Now Bless the Lord (by Ippolitov-Ivanov), Rejoice, O Virgin Theotokos (Rachmaninoff), and It Is Truly Meet to Bless Thee, O Theotokos (by Ledkovsky). The audience could not help but realize the deep love for our Lord, Jesus Christ, which was apparent on each singer’s face and which radiated collectively through their beautiful singing.
Other speakers included Roman Catholic Archbishop John Quinn of San Francisco and Bishop Anthony of the Creek Archdiocese, both of whom expressed the desire and need to work together while striving for spiritual unity.
The laity was represented by Mr. Chekene who, on behalf of the Diocese, presented Bishop Basil with a generous monetary gift for his discretionary fund and who spoke for all of the Diocese when he said: "From the depth of our collective heart, I welcome you; we need you, and we need your prayers."
The final speaker was His Grace, Bishop Basil who thanked all members of the Diocese for the gifts, which were presented to him. His Grace spoke of the symbolic implication of the staff which is "the symbolic Icon of Jesus Himself. The two serpents (upon the staff) mean two wisdoms. The divine wisdom — the Sophia — the wisdom of God incarnate, and the wisdom of human nature as it was presented to us in the words which we know so well through the Gospel."
Bishop Basil reminded us that the mitre "represents the crown of Christ which was on the cross and which was full of thorns, and if one sees the mitre as beautiful and full of gold, then one must realize that it is also a symbol of the resurrection of Christ."
"Even the vestments of the bishop in the Orthodox Church are symbolic and are cut in such a way so as to remind one of his helplessness. I stand helpless as a child and must rely upon others to put on my vestments," said Bishop Basil.
Bishop Basil’s call on all to work together and help him in building the Diocese and Orthodoxy in America produced a lasting impression on the participants.
The Orthodox Church, April 1981