The Anglican Diocese of South Carolina gathered in Florence, SC, the evening of February 4, 2022, to celebrate the ministry of, and express their deep and abiding affection for both the Rt. Rev. Mark J. Lawrence, who has served as their Bishop for the last 14 years and his wife, Allison.
Bishop Lawrence will officially step down from his role in March following the consecration of the Very Rev. Chip Edgar.
The evening began with a reception at St. John’s Church, Florence, which preceded the program at The Florence Performing Arts Center. The Rev. Shay Gaillard, Rector of The Parish Church of St. Helena, Beaufort, and President of the Diocesan Standing Committee, and his wife, Tara, served as the emcees.
The tributes, both video and in-person, were touching and humorous. In one poignant segment, the Rev. Greg Snyder, Rector of St. John’s, Johns Island, spoke of Lawrence as a “spiritual father” telling how bereft he felt when the Bishop was away, “the person who was protecting the diocese, protecting me was not here – my spiritual father.” In another, The Rev. Jamie Sosnowski, who serves at the Parish Church of St. Helena, Beaufort, told of the staying power of the Bishop’s preaching. “I am sure I will continue to quote Bishop Lawrence for the rest of my ministry, throughout my life,” he said, “…I owe him a huge debt for that.”
Other’s spoke of the Bishop’s tenacity, his resilience, strength, faithfulness, and genuineness, among many other superlatives.
In a separate video, Bishop Alden Hathaway told the story of how the bishop first came to the Diocese. That video also focused on how the Bishop’s vision for “Making Biblical Anglicans for a Global Age,” led churches to pursue and deepen relationships around the world. As a result of his call to invest in emerging Anglican leaders, the Diocese launched The Anglican Leadership Institute, which brought emerging Anglican leaders to three-week training sessions twice a year. The Diocese also underwrote the cost of bringing numerous Anglican leaders to attend the New Wineskins missions conference. A number of those leaders from around the globe visited the diocese either before or after the conference to strengthen global missional partnerships, all encouraged by Bishop Lawrence.
On a lighter note, the Rev. David Dubay, Rector of Holy Trinity, Charleston, had the crowd laughing as he praised “Coach” Lawrence with paraphernalia from the Bishop’s beloved Pittsburgh Steelers in the background.
Allison Lawrence, the Bishop’s wife, was also feted in a video. Several women spoke of how Allison drew them in and made them feel welcomed, accepted, and loved. “I cannot imagine a Bishop’s wife or almost anyone who has been more supportive, more encouraging, more delightful to be around than Allison Lawrence,” said Catherine Jones of St. Philip’s Church, Charleston.
As a parting gift, Allison was given a quilt made up of hand-sewn biblical blocks that find their meaning in verses of scripture. Seventeen women and men representing 11 churches sewed the celebration quilt. The Diocese gave Bishop Lawrence a monetary gift, as well.
One of the highlights of the evening came at the close when a group of the Lawrences’ children and grandchildren took to the stage for three worship songs. For the final one, the entire Lawrence family, including Allison and Bishop Lawrence joined them on stage so everyone present could join in singing a song of special meaning to the Lawrences, “We will feast in the House of Zion.”
If you would like to send a card of appreciation to Bishop Mark and Allison Lawrence, we invite you to do so by mailing it care of The ADOSC to PO Box 20127, Charleston, SC 29413. You may contribute to the “Bishop Purse” online here.
Photographs: Ginnie Raines and Joy Hunter