Holy water vases

Bishop's Visitation

Customary for Bishop’s Visitations


Visiting the worshiping communities in the Episcopal Diocese of South Dakota is one of the principal responsibilities of the Bishop’s ministry with you. It is also one of the great delights and joys of the office. This customary has been put together to help you prepare for the Bishop’s visitation so that everything goes as smoothly as possible. 

The most central acts of every Bishop’s visitation are preaching God’s Word and celebrating the Holy Eucharist with the clergy and people of the congregation. When there are candidates to be baptized, confirmed, or received, or when there are people who desire to reaffirm their Christian faith, we shall thank God for the commitments being made and for the growing of God’s kingdom! Additionally, these visits allow the Bishop to share fellowship with you with the community of saints doing ministry in your particular part of God’s kingdom.


Each congregation / Mission is assigned a visitation date. Suppose the visitation date you have been given needs to be changed. In that case, it is the responsibility of the person in charge of the congregation / Mission to contact another congregation and inquire about switching visitation dates. Once that has been accomplished, the person who initiated the change is to notify Marlys Fratzke at the Diocesan Office at 605-494-2020 or office@episcopalchurchsd.org. Please note: a change in visitation dates is only official once Marlys Fratzke has contacted the leadership of both congregations.

Even with the great care given to creating the Visitation schedule, there will always be some need for flexibility. There will be weather issues, personal illness, and travel delays that may require last-minute rescheduling. However, changes will be kept to a minimum, and we will meet those challenges together as they arise.


About two months before the visit, the Diocesan Office will send the clergyperson or layperson in charge of a congregation a copy of the Bishop’s Visitation Form. This form is also available on our Diocesan website. The Bishop’s Visitation form is to be returned to Marlys Fratzke three days before the Pre-Visitation Meeting with the Bishop takes place.


If the Bishop is to visit more than one congregation during a visitation, the clergyperson or laypersons in charge are to fill out a separate Visitation Form for each service. The maximum number of scheduled services per day will be two, and the Bishop’s travel time back to Pierre is to be considered when planning the last service on a Sunday, and it is requested that no service start later than 2 pm.


Around two months before the visit, Marlys Fratzke will contact the clergyperson or layperson in charge of a congregation to arrange a Pre-Visitation Meeting between them and the Bishop. The purpose of the Pre-Visitation meeting is to discuss both the scheduling and the specifics of the Bishop’s Visit, and it will be scheduled two weeks or more before the visitation. These Pre-Visitation meetings may take place via Zoom, phone, or in person. If using Zoom, the clergyperson or layperson in charge should ensure a good connection on their end.


All visitations usually will be celebrations of the Holy Eucharist. The Eucharistic Prayers may be chosen from the Book of Common Prayer options or from other sources approved by the General Convention. No alterations of wording or practice are to be made that are not per our canons and rubrics.

When there are no baptisms, confirmations, or receptions, the liturgy on the day of the visitation will include the renewal of baptismal vows in place of the Nicene Creed, using the format found on page 292 of the Book of Common Prayer, including the final collect.

The Propers of the Day will be used even when baptismal or confirmation rites occur. 

The liturgical color of the season is to be the color of the day during the seasons of Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, the Day of Pentecost, and other feast Sundays. The liturgical color will be white when a baptism or confirmation is celebrated during Ordinary Time. Otherwise, the liturgical color will be green.

The clergy or lay leader in charge of the congregation should make the necessary congregational announcements. During this time, the clergy or lay leader in charge of the congregation is to announce that the undesignated offering is to go to the Bishop’s Discretionary fund for pastoral emergencies and non-budgeted ministries that arise in the course of the year.


Either a deacon whom the Bishop has assigned to that congregation, or the priest in charge of the congregation, will read the Gospel, will set the altar before communion, and will clear the altar after communion. The Bishop will distribute the bread, and the priest in charge of the congregation will serve as a chalicist.  Other priests, deacons, or chalicists available at the service will be used as necessary or at the discretion of the priest or layperson in charge of the congregation. The Bishop prefers not to do ablutions at the altar. If that is the custom of your congregation, the deacon or priest may do ablutions while clearing the altar. 


The offering designated for the Bishop’s Discretionary Fund should be sent by check to the Diocesan Office shortly following the Bishop’s Visitation.


If your church uses a bulletin, and especially if the full service is going to be printed, please send a draft version in pdf or Word format to Marlys Fratzke at office@episcopalchurchsd.org before it is printed.


The Book of Common Prayer notes that a Bishop’s Visitation is one of the especially appropriate times for Holy Baptism. The rubrics on page 298 of the Book of Common Prayer outline the roles of the Bishop and the Priests during a baptism service. Please refer to these rubrics for the service. 

When the Bishop presides over a baptism, please provide him with the full name of those being baptized, in writing, before the service.

When a Bishop presides over a baptism, chrism is not required. If you need chrism, notify the Diocesan Office in advance, and the Bishop will bring a vial for you.


t is expected that all candidates to be confirmed or received in the Episcopal Church have received adequate instruction and have been prepared by their clergy, by a catechist, or by someone else approved to provide formation in this area. We do not confirm or receive “walk-ins,” i.e., those being encouraged to be confirmed because “the Bishop is here” or because “they are old enough,” or so that they may receive a Niobrara Cross.

Candidates to be confirmed, received, or who wish to reaffirm their baptismal vows during a visitation may be presented to the Bishop in the most convenient order. Name tags are to be used to identify the names of candidates; they are to be placed where the Bishop can see them.

It is the Bishop’s preference to use the words of confirmation that begin with, “Defend, O Lord, your servant, N., with your heavenly grace…” If printing a bulletin, please use this form of the words.


Niobrara Crosses will be presented by the Bishop, on behalf of the Niobrara Council, to candidates who are being confirmed or received into the Episcopal Church. The Niobrara Crosses, and any other items that a congregation wishes to give to a candidate, will be blessed by the Bishop and presented to the candidate directly after they have been confirmed or received.

Any candidate in the Episcopal Diocese of South Dakota who is being confirmed or received into the Episcopal Church is to be instructed about the history and importance of the Niobrara Cross by the person responsible for teaching confirmation classes. 

If a person has lost their Niobrara Cross and is seeking a replacement, that person’s confirmation or reception into the Episcopal Church is to be validated by their priest or by the layperson in charge of the congregation who has access to their parish registers. If the person’s confirmation can be verified using the registers while the Bishop is making a visitation, and if the Bishop has extra crosses available, the person may buy a replacement (large) cross at the cost of $18.00. If that person’s priest or layperson in charge of a congregation is not available, or if they cannot immediately verify that the person requesting a replacement cross has been confirmed or received in the Episcopal Church using the registers, the priest or layperson is to contact Marlys Fratzke at office@episcopalchurchsd.org or at (605) 494-2020.


It is required by Canon that the Bishop review the Parish Register during the visitation. Please have your congregation’s worship and membership registers available for review.


Please refer to the Visitation Form for information regarding discussions with Vestries and with members of the congregation.


Usually, the Bishop will arrange his own lodging. If a congregation wishes to make an exception, please get in touch with the Diocesan Office.


On the night before a Visitation takes place, when everyone's schedules permit, the Bishop enjoys having dinner with the congregation’s clergy person (and spouse) or with the layperson in charge of a congregation (and their spouse). These dinners can take place at a restaurant of the clergyperson or layperson’s choosing, their children are welcome, and this time is meant purely for fellowship and as an opportunity to catch up on a personal level.