Sometime in the mid-1970s, Bishop of California C. Kilmer Myers had to go to New York on business. He instructed his staff that nothing in his office was to be changed while he was gone, which they agreed to...but with tongue in cheek. They knew that the phone system was due to be replaced while he was away, and that all the locks in Cathedral House where the bishop's office was located were going to be changed. They smiled to themselves and did not tell their boss about these things.
They had a plan to pull a really good joke on the bishop, and it was my good fortune to get to be in on it.
My best friend, Alice Sea, an elegant, gracious woman then about 80 years old, had a special relationship with Bishop Myers. He had given her the Bishop's Cross, an award for outstanding service. They genuinely enjoyed each other's company. Both Alice and the bishop were fond of the Franciscans, who had opened a friary in San Francisco at his request. In fact, the bishop's chaplain was Br. John George, who was up to his neck in the plot.
The plan was to have Alice take over the bishop's office in his absence and "depose" him. On the night he was due to return from New York, we arrived at the Cathedral and saw that the staff had taped a sign that read "Bishop Sea" over the bishop's parking place. The entire office had been turned backwards -- all the furniture moved to the place opposite where he had left it. On the door of his office was a letter of instruction saying his office had been moved to the cathedral basement and would now be located in the men's room.
Having the new keys, we went into the office, and Alice, wearing a long purple flowered dress, proceeded to remove his family photos and replace them with hers. She then sprayed the room with her cologne, sat down and put her feet up on his desk. I was at her side, dressed in an alb and holding a crozier, acting as her chaplain. Our parish priest, not at all sure this was really OK, was hiding behind the drapes. The priest's housemate, a church musician, was seated out at the secretary's desk, waiting.
John George picked the bishop up at the airport, and when they arrived at Cathedral House, he took the luggage upstairs and suggested the bishop go into his office to check the mail. When the bishop tried his key on the office door, it didn't work, since the locks had been changed. He then saw the note about his office being moved and began to feel seriously confused. About that time, John George came down and opened the door with his new key. There sat not his own secretary Binnie, but a smiling young man who said, "Oh, hello, Mr. Myers. Would you like to see the bishop?"
About that time, he really thought he had lost it. What we didn't know was that he was having problems with the diocese and seriously thought he might have been removed while he was away! When John George opened the door to his office and he saw Alice at the desk, he laughed so hard, our priest knew it was OK to come out from behind the drapes. Bishop Myers walked over to "Bishop Sea" and kissed her ring.
The following summer, at the annual Adult Conference at the Bishop's Ranch in Healdsburg, Alice was holding sway one evening in her long purple dress, wearing a paper miter and announcing herself as the first lady bishop, when in marched Kilmer Meyers in full Episcopal regalia, complete with real Chaplain in real vestments, and deposed her on the spot. We hadn't even known he was there, and it was a total hoot. At the end of the evening, he presented Alice with a real white silk miter.
What fun to have been able to take part in that silly plot. We adored Bishop Myers or we would never have had the chutzpah to do such a thing. "Bishop Sea" outlived Bishop Myers by many years. He passed away in 1981 at only 65. She died at age 99. I will never forget either of them. They were both very dear to me and remain among my heroes.
Photo: Google images