The new Bishop of Edmonton and the new Archdeacon of Charing Cross were installed at St Paul’s Cathedral on Sunday 19 May, during Evensong.

But what is an installation?

We asked the Reverend Robert Coupland, Sacrist at St Paul’s, to explain:

“An installation usually marks the inauguration of a new ministry or sacred work. It is a process by which a newly appointed cleric or officer of the church is publicly assigned and limited to their new role within the community. This “taking possession” of a new office and work is symbolised by the act of being placed (literally in-stalled) into a seat within, for example, a sanctuary or a stall in a quire.

Such seats or stalls are usually reserved for the proper office holders within a particular community i.e. there is usually a vicar’s stall in a parish church, or the throne in a cathedral for the diocesan bishop. It’s an ancient custom (similar to the enthronement of a monarch) that whomever occupies the seat or stall is charged with the responsibilities it represents and is afforded the authority of the office. Bishop Sarah occupies the cathedra (throne) in St Paul’s and as such exercises the office, responsibilities, and authority of the Bishop of London.”

Simply put, the person being installed gains a seat or stall (a place) in the life of the cathedral and, therefore, the Diocese as a whole. The Sacrist went onto explain that there is a legal process surrounding installations.

“The office holders make oaths before God and the congregation, committing themselves afresh to follow the pattern of Christ in the exercise of their new role. The legal process holds the office holder accountable and reminds them of the privilege and weight of ministry.”

The College of Canons

Bishops, Archdeacons, Canons, Prebendaries, Priest Vicars, Minor Canons, with some Cathedral and Diocesan officers, make up what’s known as the Cathedral foundation (the historic Cathedral Community). The life of a Cathedral is closely linked to the life of a Diocese as Cathedrals exist to support the work of the Diocesan Bishop and to represent the Diocesan Community.

For this reason, senior clergy within the Diocese – Area Bishops and Archdeacons – have stalls in the Cathedral (into which they are in-stalled), which is symbolic of their authority in the Diocese, and gives them a place in the life of the Cathedral (as they don’t have their own churches). This is automatic. They have a right by virtue of their office to have a stall in the Cathedral. It is similar to the cathedral clergy who have stalls because they maintain the cathedral on the behalf of the Bishop.

Prebendaries (usually diocesan clergy) are given the privilege of stall in the Cathedral usually as a recognition for some achievement or hard work and long service, and they gain a voice within the life of the diocese and a new style: ‘The Reverend Prebendary’.

Together, the Bishops, Archdeacons, the Chapter, and the Prebendaries make up what’s called the College of Canons, and together they advise the Bishop (and the Dean) in shaping the vision for the diocese and the cathedral.