In Victorian England, jodhpurs, a type of trousers which had originated in India which was then part of the widespread English empire, made its way to the mother country, modified by polo players and others who rode horses but still recognizable as pants of Indian origin.
Among those who adopted them as their appropriate attire were English bishops, who felt that the connection between the trousers and horses spoke to the itinerant nature of the office held by bishops of the Church. Indeed, the office of bishop has always been an itinerant one, with bishops expected to visit the parishes in their dioceses on a regular basis. I have a prized photograph of American bishops sailing to the first Lambeth Conference after the end of the Second World War in 1948. The Lambeth Conferences, as you may remember, are once-a-decade meetings called by the Archbishop of Canterbury which bring together all the bishops of the Anglican Communion. In the photograph, twenty or so bishops have posed on the deck of the ship taking them to England, and at least a quarter of them are still wearing jodhpurs, as a symbol of the traveling nature of the Episcopacy.
While contemporary bishops no longer wear jodhpurs, clearly the itinerant nature of their office remains. It is rare for a bishop of the Church to be in the same parish church for more than one Sunday in a row, as their pastoral visitations take them to all corners of the diocese they serve. Usually each parish in a diocese will be visited at least once a year by a bishop of that diocese, and this is true, even if the parish has no one to present for Confirmation. When bishops come to call, they are required by Canon Law to review all the records of the parish…the various registers of baptisms and weddings and funerals, the record of all services held and the number present at each service…and to sign off in each of the record books as a sign that their due diligence has been performed.
The point is that bishops still are itinerant, and, this is certainly true of the Bishop of Texas, one of the larger dioceses in the Episcopal Church. Even though Bishop Doyle is assisted by two very able Bishop Suffragans (Bishop Harrison and Bishop Fisher), Bishop Doyle is still on the road a lot.
The Diocese of Texas has found a way to make him…or at least a symbol of him…travel even more. To make this happen, the Diocese has created “Flat Andy,” a cutout looking more or less like our Bishop. You can see the real Andy and his doppelganger in the photo below:
The idea began this summer, when Christ Church Cathedral sent out a paper doll in the likeness of the diocesan bishop and encouraged photos of “Flat Andy” when parishioners visited other churches while on vacation. The photos are then sent back to the Facebook page for the cathedral and shared with others. The idea has caught on with other parishes in the diocese, and a link to all the widespread visits “Flat Andy” makes can be found on the Diocesan website as well.
St. Thomas is ready to do its part now to spread Bishop Doyle around the world. Sunday School students will soon receive their own Flat Andy to take with them as their families travel this summer. We ask that they take a photo wherever they go, showing them and Flat Andy—in front of a church sign or in front of the Space Mountain line at Disney World…wherever—and then send it back to our parish via Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/St.Thomas EpiscopalChurchHouston) or Twitter https://twitter.com/StThomasEpisHou and include the hashtag #FlatAndy in your Tweet. We’ll post it on our webpage, and together we can see just how well-traveled our Bishop is.
I hope you’ll join us in making Bishop Doyle one of the most “itinerant” bishops in the long history of the Church!
With Christ’s love, and mine,
To print your very own Flat Andy click here