Dear Dr. Boli: The bishop preached at our little church tonight, and I noticed he was carrying a staff with a hook in the top. It was too tall to be a cane, and anyway he walks without difficulty. So what’s the meaning of the crooked staff? —Sincerely, A Puzzled Lutheran.

Dear Sir or Madam: The bishop’s crook or crozier is an ancient symbol of episcopal authority, representing the bishop’s role as shepherd of his flock. A shepherd uses his crooked staff to retrieve straying sheep. In the same way, a bishop visiting a church, as soon as he notices any dangerous liturgical irregularity, can use the hook at the end of his staff to yank the celebrant away from the altar. At least that is how the thing is supposed to work, but Dr. Boli regrets to note that the vanity of some bishops, who have been seduced by the trappings of their exalted rank, has led them to fill the hook in the staff with intricate carved ornament, thus rendering it useless for its intended purpose.


  1. Paul Binotto says:

    Dr. Boli’s explanation is very nearly complete, however, he omits the truly American Vaudevillian origin of this practice, which transformed seemly overnight, the traditional use of the Shepherd’s hook, to its emergence as a most effective method of removing bombing “pulpit performers”, while maintaining a modicum of theatrics, so as not to lose the good humors of a captured (and, not yet paying) audience.

    And, with the death of Vaudeville, the market experienced a flood of used cheap shepherd’s hooks, (as well as unemployed entertainers), some with the most dubious of origins, so much so, as to become necessary for the Church, in order to protect and insure the authenticity of its own limited stock of shepherd’s hooks, (and unemployed entertainers), to resort to extreme customization so as to not be easily forged for resale on the black market. It was also at this time that the Church, in order to protect against further flooding of the market with designer knock-off hooks lacking authentic apostolic succession, and, with perhaps a slightly miscalculated intent at irony, trademarked the term, “Shepherd’s Crook” Brand.

  2. Sean says:

    I would *pay* to see Bishop Kusserow yank a few Pastors I’ve known in such a manner.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *