Why is There an Empty Chair Next to the Aumbry?

Ever wonder why there is an extra fancy chair that always sits in the sanctuary? Every Episcopal church has one and it is nearly always located somewhere close to the altar. This special seat is a sign and symbol of the way Episcopalians organize themselves. It is the bishop’s chair.

The Episcopal Church believes in bishops, special, talented, and experienced individuals who are called to lead the church. In fact the word Episcopal means bishop. Bishops are the head of a geographic area called a diocese. We are in the diocese of Los Angeles. Our bishop’s name is J. Jon Bruno. He has two assisting bishops named Mary Glasspool and Diane Jardine Bruce. Together they oversee the ministries of 150 parishes.

The diocesan bishop, in this case Bishop Bruno, has a main seat; its Latin name is cathedra. Every diocesan bishop has one, a symbol of their office. This is where we get the word cathedral. The cathedra is located in the sanctuary at the Diocesan Center. Bishop Bruno however, is rarely at the Diocesan Center for services. He is most often out visiting one of the parishes in the diocese on Sunday. This is why we keep a seat for them in each of our parishes. The seat is a reminder not only of the authority of the bishop but of the bishop’s prayers and presence with us. The empty chair is a reminder for us to pray for our bishops and their ministries.

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