Peter Eaton stood in the courtyard of Trinity Cathedral in downtown Miami on Saturday morning, taking selfies, and hugging and kissing those who came to see him become recognized and seated as the fourth bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida.
“You want a selfie?” he quipped with a 15-year-old guest. “That’ll be $5.”
Eaton’s witty and down-to-Earth personality helped put those around him in good spirits as they prepared for the ceremony.
Among those in attendance for the occasion were clergy from across the world including the Right Reverend Lord Rowan Williams, who is the former Archbishop of Canterbury, members of South Florida’s interfaith community, and political figures such as Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado.
“I am here as a friend and as somebody who really wants to support Peter in this important new work that he is undertaking,” Williams said. “He’s been a brilliant pastor.”
In May, Eaton was consecrated to take over for Bishop Leo Frade, who reached the church’s mandatory retirement age of 72 in October.
Eaton will now oversee the Southeast dioceses, which includes 76 congregations, and roughly 38,000 parishioners from Key West to Jenson Beach in Martin County.
Eaton said he sees his role in the church as a helper and has tasked himself with speaking to members of his dioceses to see how he can attend to their needs.
“As a bishop I am part of a community of people, of presets and deacons and laypeople, and together we live out the ministry of Christ in our communities,” he said. “My job is principally to help and support my schools, my congregations and my other ministries as they look to the work that they have to do because they’re the ones who do the day-to-day front line work.”
Saturday’s service was reflective of Eaton’s communal perspective, as it took place in various languages including French and Spanish along with Arabic and Greek.
The diverse presence meant a lot to the bishop, who has managed to maintain strong ties with the people who have been with him throughout his life.
Among those present was Eaton’s long time friend Pura Reyes, 82, who flew in from San Juan, Puerto Rico, to attend the ceremony.
“He is going to do a wonderful job,” Reyes said. “I was am happy for him. He is a bright, and mindful person. He is a God orientated human, and I think he will go far.”
Eaton, who is the former dean of Saint John’s Cathedral in Denver, said he views coming to Miami as a sort of homecoming, as he grew up in Barbados and Puerto Rico.
“It is a bit like coming home,” Eaton said. “The tropics are kind of like a second home to me, I have family in Puerto Rico, so that’s been a second home to me since I was a teenager, so there’s a lot that’s familiar for me here in South Florida.”
On the eve of the service, Eaton showed off Miami’s international flavors to some of his guests with a dinner of Cuban sandwiches at the Little Haiti Cultural Center.
“I love the diversity here,” Eaton said. “Both my wife and I have been drinking up the richness of our life in South Florida, so all of that is very exciting.”
Then he joked about the chilly weather, saying he has been wearing jackets and coats he thought he would put away when he made the move from Denver.
“It’s a little cold,” he laughed.