Bishop John Tarrant's Response to the Texas Shooting

Some reflections on another mass killing

I began to write the below the day after the Las Vegas massacre, but then got interrupted and did not finish. Unfortunately, the lives of the families and friends killed have been permanently interrupted. Now five weeks later, an entire community is shattered by another mass shooting leaving 26 deaths and 20 others injured.

October 2, 2017 – “As we awoke to the news Monday morning that there was a mass shooting in Las Vegas my heart sank. The brokenness in our world at time seems insurmountable. Before I started writing my reaction to yet another mass killing, I looked at the faces of those killed in pictures from news sources.  They are women and men, young and old, sons and daughters, husbands and wives, mothers and fathers; in other words, they are real people with real lives.

This is not just another human created tragedy to pass through the news cycle, none of these tragedies are. This event is about actual lives lost and lives shattered. Thousands have been affected by the heartbreak of bodies broken and lives lost as family and friends grieve this senseless act.  I offer prayers that God will give strength and comfort to the friends and families of those injured and killed. I offer prayers of healing for those recovering from physical and emotional wounds as a result of this massacre.”

Just five weeks have passed and now another mass killing, this time at a church. And of course, we have the mass killings last week in New York City. How do we make sense out of these tragedies? For the Texas murders as well as the Las Vegas killings we don’t have an immigration policy or ISIS to blame and it certainly is not appropriate to blame God for our continual sinfulness. We can blame mental illness, the Air Force, or some other yet-to-be-determined factor, but in recent years it is not “politically correct” to blame the American love affair with guns. We know “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”

Between 1968 and 1973 over 50,000 people died on the highways in America. Almost as many people were dying each year on our roads as were killed in the eight years of the Vietnam War. We know that “cars don’t kill people, people kill people” and yet we were able to have dialogue on what we could do so that “people would kill less people with cars.”  In 1968 the first seat belt legislation was passed. Since then other efforts have been made to make drivers of cars less deadly.  Today 15,000 less people die each year as a result of car accidents even though we drive thousands more miles every year.

There is the temptation to suggest that we need to arm more ‘good’ people and they will protect us from the ‘bad’ people. We can put armed guards in front of our schools, churches, government buildings, Wal-Marts, hospitals, Post Offices, and on and on. We can believe that, if we just have enough guns out there we will all be safer. We can become a militaristic state or we can learn the lessons of our ancestors who actually enacted “common sense” gun restrictions. When you entered Dodge City in 1879 you were greeted with a large sign that said, “The Carrying of Firearms Strictly Prohibited.” They seemed to understand the risk of both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ people toting around guns indiscriminately.

I’m not suggesting any specific action, but I do believe it is time for open conversation about our cultural attitude toward firearms that is not dominated by the extremes of either side of the issue.

The Governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, said the people of Sutherland Springs told him they want to “work together for love to overcome evil, and to do that by working with God.” This may actually be a prophet word. How do we as Christians, Jesus followers, work toward making our world a holier place? What actions is Jesus calling out of these tragedies? This Jesus, who said, “blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God” (Matt. 5:9) and “all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Matt. 26:52). What is his word to us?

It is a challenge to be a follower of Jesus; it has always been a challenge. It is difficult to give up parts of our self, our opinions, our worldview, and even at times our politics for the sake of God’s vision for the world.  Jesus reminds his disciples, “those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it” (Matt 16:25).

What are we being called to lose for the sake of finding life? I do not have the answers, but I believe it is Godly work to have the courage to wrestle with the questions.

I continue to pray for the victims of these tragedies. I pray for those who might be moved, for whatever reason, to create more innocent victims on another day, and I pray for our Nation and the world that we might work more diligently toward respecting the dignity of every human being.

God’s peace be with you,

+John
Bishop

2017 Diocese of South Dakota Convention Address

By the Rt. Rev. John T. Tarrant


I begin by thanking the Diocesan staff, clergy and laity for your faithful witness to the world of God’s love through your faith in Christ Jesus. Thank you! We live in a troubled world that needs signs of hope. Thank you for being that beacon in the dark times and in the times of joy. 

Now I will report on changes and other general happenings in the diocese, and then offer some reflections.

Some diocesan staff shifts: 

The Rev. Portia Corbin has moved to Lead in order to be closer to Thunderhead Camp as our camp ministry continues to thrive. I have named her Missioner for Camping and Retreat Ministries. She will serve as rector of Christ Church Lead, TEC camp director, the Diocesan staff contact person for Camp Remington, and she will continue to support youth ministry around the diocese. Marlys will continue to arrange reservations for those who wish to use Camp Remington, but other questions or concerns with both camps should begin with Portia.

Chris Corbin will continue his work with Niobrara School for Ministry and our faith formation programs as well as taking on the duties for transition ministry and ecumenical relations. He will also be the contact person for health insurance and clergy and lay pensions. Chris serves as the custodian of the diocesan website.

Pat LeBeau will continue to serve the diocese as property manager. All property related questions or concerns should begin with him.

Archdeacon Paul Sneve will continue to serve as vicar of St. Paul’s Vermillion and he will also continue his work with the Niobrara School for Ministry and anti-racism training. However, we are freeing up some of Paul’s time with the diocese for the balance of 2017 so that he can support the Cathedral in their development of the Tiospaye Wakan faith community and help as needed with ministry at Calvary Cathedral during this transition time for them as they explore long-term ministerial needs. 

The Rev. Tim Fountain continues his work with the Holy Apostles Sudanese congregation as well as working with Trinity Watertown during this time of transition in that faith community. Tim is also the custodian of the diocesan Facebook page. Send information or pictures you would like to have posted on the Diocesan Facebook page to Tim.

Canon David Hussey will be retiring at the end of October, but he will take on the part-time role of interim Superintending Presbyter of the Mni Sose Cluster as well as serving St. Peter’s in Ft. Pierre. 

Randy Barnhardt continues to be responsible for the financial affairs of the Diocese. He comes to Pierre, for a day and a half each week, usually Tuesday afternoon through Wednesday afternoon. Although this can vary based on other needs.

The Diocesan Council has approved the formation of an Audit Committee, consisting of two to four teams located in different deaneries or regions of the diocese.  These teams will be available to review the financial books of congregations. This will enable us to meet the canonical requirements for annual audits without the financial burden of hiring an accountant. Procedures and guidelines have been established that will simplify the audit process. Some travel is required but the church, which is being audited, will cover those expenses.  

If you know of individuals who have some knowledge of working with numbers and would be interested in serving on this committee, please have them contact the diocesan office for a conversation with me. Training will be provided.

Marlys is the initial contact person for most Diocesan business. She will direct you to the person that can address your particular diocesan need. She is the person to whom you send your information for the Church News, which is published four times a year. She is also able to answer many of the questions you may have.  

Some odds and ends:

We continue to make our website more user friendly; feedback to Chris Corbin is welcome. We are encouraging you to use it for information you may need and registration for events like, Summer Camp, Niobrara School for Ministry classes and even Convention.  

The Diocese will begin to use G Suites through Google this fall. Most staff members will be changing their email address beginning in October. We will continue to maintain the Midco email through November. The new directory contains both email addresses. G Suites will also give us the capability to offer video conferencing, which should enable some to join in on meetings when they can’t travel to get to the specific location. Some training session will be made available through this medium as well. Look forward to more information in the days and weeks to come on ways this technology will advance our ministry in South Dakota.

At last year’s convention we passed a resolution to form a committee to address and mediate bullying in the church. The committee members are: Mikayla Dunfee, Steve Albrecht, Michael & Julie LaFontaine, Julie & Les Gonsor, Linda Simon, Nancy LeBeau, Paul Sneve and myself. A survey has been developed, which is included in your packets. Additional copies are available for you to take home to your congregations. You can also take the survey online on our website. We hope to have the results back by the end of 2017 and then formulate strategies for addressing the issues involved.

Niobrara School for Ministry: Over the last eighteen months, the Diocese has been working to evaluate and re-structure both the ordination process and the local ministerial education and formation offered through the Niobrara School for Ministry. There have been multiple occasions where concerns about the process in general or specific changes made have been voiced. 

We will be holding a forum on Saturday, October 28, from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm at Trinity Church in Pierre to discuss both the ordination process and our local training program through the Niobrara School for Ministry. This will be open to anyone in the Diocese who has constructive input to offer. We hope to both critique and look at changes that can be made to our program, which is intended to train and equip both lay leadership and prepare those called for local ordination. Many dioceses around the church are going through the same challenges as we seek to provide well-trained clergy and lay leadership for small congregations. Lunch will be provided. Please, call the office if you will be attending.

Note: Diocesan Convention 2018 will be held at the United Methodist Church in Pierre.

Reflections:

Our Catechism teaches, “the mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.” We are to pursue this mission as we pray and worship; proclaim the Gospel and promote justice, peace and love.

Let me speak a bit about this reconciling presence in the world.

First a story:

The year Tommy turned seven he had spent the whole fall scouring the ditches of the country roads around his home looking for returnable pop bottles.  He could get two cents for each one he redeemed.  Tommy would go out on his quest each afternoon following school.  On Saturday mornings he would have his parents drop him off in town while they went shopping.  Saturday mornings were usually good for fifteen to twenty bottles.  He searched tirelessly, but he didn’t mind because he was saving his money to buy his mother a Christmas present.  
When he had been with her in the flower shop during early summer she had commented on how beautiful a blown glass angel was that they saw in a display cabinet.  It cost $25.00 and Tommy thought to himself that if he worked hard he could save enough to buy it for his mom by Christmas.  This would be a special gift, because his mom would often refer to him as “her little angel.”  So, he started saving.  He saved his birthday money, he saved his allowance and he spent his spare time picking up pop bottles.  

Finally on the Friday before Christmas he had enough money and so he asked his dad if he would take him to town to buy a gift for his mom.  Tommy’s dad was surprised when he took $25.00 out of his pocket to pay for the angel.  He asked him if he was sure he wanted to spend all of his money on just one gift.  His dad told him that there were many other nice things that his mother would like that cost much less, but Tommy was determined. 

He gave the clerk his money; who then carefully wrapped the glass angel in tissue paper and put it in a bag for Tommy to take home.  Tommy could hardly wait until Christmas morning to see the look on his mother’s face when he gave her the beautiful glass angel.

Christmas Day arrived.  Tommy, his parents and his brothers and sisters gathered around the Christmas tree.  The gifts were given out one at a time.  The children were excited as they opened each one.   

After all of the presents were opened, Tommy’s brother and sisters gave their mom the gifts they had made for her at school.  As she opened them Tommy slipped into his bedroom, got the bag, unwrapped the angel from its protective tissue paper and carefully walked to where his mother was sitting next to the Christmas tree.

He had dreamed of this day for months.  He had envisioned the look on his mother’s face.  When he got to the door of the living room she ask him, “what do you have there Tommy?”  The adrenaline shot through his body.  He ran toward his mother and as he stepped on a piece of discarded wrapping paper his feet slipped out from under him.  The angel went flying in the air as Tommy fell to the floor.  After what seem like eternity, there was a crash and pieces of the glass angel went sailing across the living room floor. 

Tommy just sat on the floor with a look of shock and horror on his face.  Tears welled up in his eyes as he started to cry.   His mother said, “Oh, don’t cry Tommy, it doesn’t matter.”  Upon hearing those words, he totally broke down.  Tommy’s dad walked over to him, picked him up in his arms and said, “Tommy, I know how important it was to give your mom that angel.  Together let’s pick up the pieces.”   And with tears in their eyes Tommy and his dad began to pick up the pieces of the broken angel.

As we enter into our broken world the temptations are to act as if it is not broken or to simply kick the pieces around, or for some, to try and fix it all. But the hope of the Gospel is that brokenness is not all there is…. and often we are called only to help pick the up pieces.
We cannot be a reconciling presence in the world if we do not enter into the brokenness of the world. “God so loved the world” that in the Incarnation, the person of Jesus, God entered into our brokenness that we might be put back together, healed, if not in this age, in the age to come.

Our brokenness has many forms. 

This past August in Charlottesville, Virginia we were reminded that racism in America is part of the disease (brokenness) that plagues our Nation. I know it is uncomfortable to talk about, but let’s not deceive ourselves and pretend racism does not exist. 

Listen to the pain that arbitrary discrimination based on skin color causes to those of African decent, Hispanic decent or the original occupiers of this continent, Native Americans. Those of Asian and Middle Eastern decent also get caught up in this prejudice. It is through their stories that we begin to understand the broken nature of a culture that measures a person’s worth or humanity by the color of their skin. Listen to their stories.

Listen to the stories of immigrants who are often judged on how well they speak English or their ethnic accent when they do speak it. How quick are we to judge a telemarketer when they have an accent from a non-English speaking country? How much quicker do I hang-up?
Listen to the stories of LBGT individuals as they speak of discrimination and at times violence toward them in some segments of our society. 

Listen to the poor as they struggle to meet daily needs. Listen without judgment; listen without advice.

Listen to our veterans; especially those who served in Viet Nam and returned to an ungrateful country that often blamed them for the mistakes of our Nation’s leaders. Also, listen to those returning now from wars fought in Afghanistan and Iraq who many times will not speak of their experiences and the horrors they witnessed. Listen not just to what they may say, but listen to what they do not say as well. 

There is plenty of brokenness to go around, so listen. Listen to the mother and father whose hopes are broken through a miscarriage. Listen to the loved one, friend or maybe stranger who receives a diagnose that confronts them with their mortality.  Listen to the dreams lost as another young person dies of suicide or an automobile accident.

The brokenness of our world is pronounced. Touch it gently, but touch it. Help those in the midst of brokenness to pick up the pieces the best they can; knowing that often times this brokenness has been forced upon them by circumstances beyond their control.

Each summer at Thunderhead Episcopal Camp our counselors gather those who come and they listen to their stories. Some of the camper’s stories that are heard are harsh, but these counselors listen and they help, at least some, to return to a memory of a time before the angel was broken. They remind our young campers that there is more to their story than any one moment in time and that God’s love can help us put even the most broken pieces together again.

Hopes matter, dreams matter, our feelings and our lives matter.  The story of the incarnation; the coming of God into the world in the person of Jesus is God’s message to us that we matter.  God loves us enough to enter into our hopes and dreams and help us live our lives more fully.  God loves us enough to enter into our brokenness and help us pick up the pieces.   

Do we love God enough to enter into to this sinful and broken world and help others pick up the pieces of their broken lives, so that we all might again live the time before the angel was broken? That is our mission; that is our charge…

Summer 2017 Message

by the Right Rev. John T. Tarrant

I hope you are having a blessed summer de- spite the heat and dry weather. The below is the 2017 mid-year report I sent to the Episco- pal Church Center. I send two reports each year along with Randy Barnhardt’s financial report to account for the Block Grant the Dio- cese of South Dakota receives from the Gen- eral Convention budget as partners in our ministry with and among Native Americans in South Dakota. These reports are shared with the Diocesan Council and in the future, I will have them put on the Diocesan website, so those who are interested have access to them.

Background:

The Diocese of South Dakota is comprised of 79 congregations; 54 are Native American congregations, most of which are located on one of nine reservations in our Diocese covering an area of well over 15,000 square miles. This includes one Native congregation in Minnesota, two in Nebraska and two urban Native congregations. Most of our other 25 congregations also have Lakota/Dakota mem- bers, which would increase the percentage and number of Episco- palians who are Native American. Twenty-nine of our church build- ings have no indoor plumbing. Most of those churches do have a “pretty good outhouse.”

Ministry:

In June of this year we held the 145th Niobrara Convocation at Christ Church, Red Shirt Table, Pine Ridge Mission. This is the summer gathering of Native American Episcopalians from the Da- kotas, and in recent years we have been joined by some of our sis- ters and brothers from Minnesota and Iowa. At this year’s Convoca- tion we were blessed to have with us our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry. This was a wonderful reminder to the people that our ministry among Native Americans in North and South Dakota is a ministry of the whole Episcopal Church. The Presiding Bishop was not a guest, but a participant in this vital ministry that belongs to the whole church of which he is the leader.

As you know the Episcopal Church has had a long history in Indian work. The result of this work is that well over one half of the Episco- palians in the Diocese of South Dakota are Native American and Native ministry has shaped much of the life and work of the Dioces- es of North and South Dakota. Neither Diocese nor the larger church would be as vital and rich without our Native sisters and brothers in Christ. The church has been blessed to walk side by side with the peoples who occupied this land when the church first arrived on what is now known as the North American shores.

Challenges:

We continue to be understaffed in our eight mission fields, with some clergy being responsible for seven congregations or more. Our mission clergy are highly committed to live out the Gospel among an often-forgotten people. The church is present because of

this commitment that comes with a heavy personal cost. Our Mission clergy are far from the highest paid clergy in the church, but they are without exception some of the hardest working clergy in the church. The physical and emotional cost to them is high. Their sacrificial ministry cannot be captured well on YouTube, but it is very much embraced by the heart of God. I am continually in awe of the sacrifices they make for Jesus sake.

Opportunities:

The Episcopal Church in South Dakota, thanks to grant received, is developing youth ministry on two of our mission areas and we hope to expand it to a third soon. We have also revamped our local minis- try training program, again thanks to a grant received through the wider church. These efforts will help us better address the issues of suicides, substance and physical abuse, school dropout rates, gang involvement and poverty, which many of our people face on a daily basis.

Our church camp program in the Black Hills continues to grow and flourish. Native and non-Native chil- dren and youth are brought together each year for a week of prayer, play, learning and living together in community. This helps break down the barriers that separate us and these camp weeks are a vivid reminder that as children of God we are more alike than different. We are all relatives of the one Holy and loving Creator. Our partnership with the Diocese of Wyoming in this camp experience has been a rich opportunity for both diocese.

Just a reminder:

None of the block grant money we receive is used to support the diocesan office or administrative structure, including bishop and staff. None of the block grant money is used to support buildings. All of it is used to support “on the ground” mission and ministry. The Diocese of South Dakota asks for 16% of disposable income from her congregations, including mission congregations, which along with en- dowment and miscellaneous income supports administrative expense as well as advancing our mis- sion priorities. The Diocese spends two to three hundred thousand dollars more each year on Native ministry than we receive from the Block Grant. We also help support a Sudanese congregation in Sioux Falls, South Dakota as well as advancing other ministry opportunities. You will see from our fi- nancial report that our staff is not over paid when compared to others in similar positions around the Episcopal Church in the U.S.

Some thoughts:

Almost one half of the Episcopalians in South Dakota live at or below the poverty level and yet their generosity is profound. Most of the Episcopalians in South Dakota would be considered powerless by world standards and yet their faith in the power of God is inspiring. The Diocese of South Dakota is grateful for the commitment of the Episcopal Church as we partner in this ministry. As we face the wealth disparity within our own church, I believe diocese like South Dakota are a reminder that we need to transform our own house, the Episcopal Church, as we work to transform the world. Christ is more visible among the poor and powerless. I know this to be true because I have witnessed it with my own eyes and I have been changed by the amazing people I serve with and among.

Conclusion:

The General Convention budget support enables us to live God’s vision for the world more vividly. Without that support, we would not be able to continue the vital ministry that the Episcopal Church be- gan over 150 years ago in the Dakotas and the Kingdom of God would seem more distant to many of the least and the last in the mind of the world, but the most and the first in the heart of God. It really is that simple.

Spring 2017 Message

I hope you are having a blessed Easter Season. It is the time of year that the Church celebrates the resurrection of our Lord Jesus and the power of God to even overcome death. It is the time of year we are reminded that we should not underestimate God’s ability to transform everything, even death.

I can imagine that after Jesus left from appearing to the disciples the evening of that ‘first day of the week’, when they were in a lock room, they probably thought, “oh gosh (or something like that), if God can raise the dead what does God have in store for us?” Belief in the resurrection would take away all excuses, because if God is powerful enough to give us life after death, then certainly God can empower us to live our lives as bearers of God’s hope during this earthly journey. Mary of Magdala, Peter,

James, John, and many, many more would discover the transformative power of God to change their lives.

That same transformative power is available to us, that is our resurrection faith. God’s power working in us can overcome our addictions, despairs, bigotries, ‘self-indulgent appetites and ways.” The power of Jesus’ resurrection can bring us to truly repent (change the direction of our lives) from all of those actions that we acknowledged in the “Litany of Penitence” we prayed on Ash Wednesday (BCP p. 267ff.). It is worth reading that litany again to remind us of those parts of our life that God seeks to transform.

The early disciples marked the experience of the Resurrection with fear and trembling. Women, men, fishermen, tax collectors, Pharisees, Roman soldiers and people from all walks of life would be brought back to a life grounded in hope, in God’s vision for God’s world. Millions over the centuries have been reminded that to live in the light of the Resurrection is to die daily to self that we might more fully live in the joy of God’s hope for the world.

May this Easter Season and each season that follows bring you closer to becoming the person God desires you to be.

The Lord has indeed Risen!

 

Winter 2017 Message

By the Right Rev. John T. Tarrant

A s I was preparing to celebrate the 150 anniversary of Our Most Merciful Savior Church in Santee Nebraska this past December, I reread parts of Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve’s book, That They May Have Life.

In the telling about the conflict between Samuel Hitman and “other white protestant missionaries at Santee” she quotes from Roy Meyer, History of the Santee Sioux who writes, “a difficulty seems to have arisen between them and it is notorious in the tribe that the missionaries themselves, have of late years, not been upon terms of ordinary civility and courtesy with each other.”

It struck me that this could be a description of the church in recent years. It is expected that at times we will find ourselves in disagreement or conflict, but there is no excuse for not showing “ordinary civility and courtesy” toward each other. In fact, when we allow our disagreements to become rude and disrespectful, at times even vile, we reject Jesus’ commandment to us, “to love one another.” We show ourselves to be no different from the world to which we are called to witness.

Jesus told his disciples, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” If we think we are honoring God by our angry and disrespectful comments, letters, emails, FaceBook posts, etc then we ought to reintroduce ourselves to the one we claim to follow who from the cross prayed, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”

Jesus understood that our greatest witness to the world would be how we loved one another. He tells us, “I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you… If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.” Do we hold ourselves to a higher standard than much of the world seems to embrace?

St. Paul tells us that ‘love’ is not the way you feel, but the way you behave. In his letter to the church in Corinth he would write, “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.

To be a Jesus follower and live the Christian ‘way’ is not an easy road. We will regularly fall short, but I believe it is a path worth following and so I do. I miss the mark far more than I wish I did, but I have learned that the first step toward following Jesus is to understand that there is a ‘mark’ to aim for…

Peter came and said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.” Repentance and forgiveness goes hand in hand. Peter well knew that there were times when he was the member of the church that had sinned against another. If we want our faith communities to stand as a light in the midst of the darkness of the principalities and powers of this world then we might follow advice of the 18 century Anglican priest and one of the founders of Methodism John Wesley, who wrote in a sermon, “Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt, we may. Herein all God’s children may unite, not withstanding these smaller differences.

Forgiveness, repentance, patience, kindness, loving friend and enemy alike and even praying for those who persecute us is all part of the ‘way’, the ‘path’ of following Jesus. And this path certainly includes offering ‘ordinary civility and courtesy’ toward each other. Conflicts and disagreement within our world, country, and church are not new. From Peter to John Wesley to our present age we have struggled as people to live in harmony with each other and God. As followers of Jesus we see that struggle worth engaging. The opportunity for the church is to witness to a way of life that moves from being self centered to being God centered; that moves from self righteousness to surrender to God’s love. In short, our opportunity is to live as if we believe what we say.

September/October Message: 2016 Convention Address

By the Rt. Rev. John T. Tarrant

This Fall I’ll begin my eighth year as bishop of the Diocese of South Dakota. There have been several staff changes this year and into next. The Rev. Mikayla Dunfee joined the staff of mission clergy in June, thanks to a grant from the Diocese of Long Island. She is serving as curate on the Cheyenne River Mission with emphasis on children, youth and young adult ministry.

 

Through a grant from the General Convention budget we have hired Chris Corbin, part-time, to serve as Missioner for Leadership Development. He is helping us re-develop the ordination process and Niobrara School for Ministry as our training program. We have established a “discernment weekend” to be the entry point for anyone considering a call to ordination. This is similar to the Bishop’s Advisory Committee on Aspirants to the Ministry (BACAM), which many dioceses have used in the past and some are still using. All of those interested in exploring ordination will need to attend a discernment weekend. We will schedule one each year. Chris has also redesigned our website which will be launched shortly after convention.

 

Fr. Tim Fountain will begin a part-time position as Support Missioner. He will be the diocesan liaison with the Sudanese Congregation and offer hands on support as this congregation continues to develop at Holy Apostles’ Church in Sioux Falls. He will also be the Safeguarding God’s Children training coordinator, as well as being involved in several other projects, some ongoing, and some short term. Fr. Tim’s position will begin October 1, 2016.

 

Randy Barnhardt will retire at the end of March 2017. His position will be eliminated. We are creating three new part-time positions. I all ready mentioned Fr. Tim Fountain’s position.  Pat LeBeau will be hired as the Missioner for Property. He will deal with all questions or issues on property maintenance, repairs or improvements, property damages covered by insurance, and property surveys. He comes with a vast amount of experience in property management and maintenance. His position will begin January 1, 2017.

 

We will also be creating the part-time position of Financial Officer. Randy Barnhardt will be hired to fill this position. He will come to Pierre two days a week, using the Deloria Center as his “home base” literally, as we will convert the second bedroom into a living space. Barney will have a formal office in the office wing at Trinity Church. This area was set-aside for this purpose when we moved Diocesan offices to Pierre last summer.

 

We are moving from a full-time position to three part-time positions so we can take advantage of a broader skill set and use the talents of some of our “young” retirees.

 

Last year the Diocese purchased a Bishop’s Residence in Pierre. The purchase was made to make it easier to house the bishop in Pierre in the future, which has a small housing market. We initially received about $40,000.00 in gifts to offset the purchase. We have since received a few other gifts. The goal will be to pay off this debt within the next three to five years. The diocese is currently making payments toward it (almost $27,000 a year), but we are going to solicit gifts, so that we can pay back our endowment and free more funds for ministry. This strategy will not only lower the cost of the Episcopacy, but it will also increase our assets and enable the diocese to have more resources for our ongoing mission and ministry. Opportunities to support this effort will be forthcoming.

 

Six years ago we established a goal to provide a youth minister on each of the eight mission areas in the diocese. We raised funds and developed a prototype program for the Standing Rock Mission. We spent the next two-years working the prototype before the program was put on hold. This is what we learned: 1) there is a definite need and strong support for youth ministry on the missions; 2) there needs to be a structure beyond the mission structure to give the necessary programmatical and funding support; 3) there are already existing frameworks that are proven to be successful in the development, continuity and sustainability of effective youth ministry.

 

As a result of these learnings and with the financial support of a grant through the General Convention budget the Diocese of South Dakota is partnering with the Diocese of North Dakota and Young Life to establish two sights for youth ministry. We will hire a youth worker for Standing Rock Mission, South Dakota and a second mission yet to be determined.  We have the funding to establish two full-time positions for a three-year period. This will enable us to fully establish and raise money to maintain this ministry in the future. The Rev. John Floberg of North Dakota deserves much of the credit for our securing this funding.

 

A Resolution will be presented at the diocesan Convention in North Dakota October 14/15 to appoint a committee to seek areas of co-operation and collaboration with the Diocese of South Dakota and to explore the possibilities of the juncture of the two Dioceses making a report of their findings to the 2017 conventions. I will be attending their October convention in Bismarck. If this resolution passes I will be appointing representatives from South Dakota to join this committee with the approval of the Diocesan Council. This is an exciting opportunity for both dioceses to explore ways we can move deeper in our relationship with each other as we witness to God’s love for the world and the people we have been called to serve. This will be a formalization to the work begun about a year and a half ago. 

 

My sabbatical seems like a lifetime ago. Much of the work I did was in relationship building. I also reviewed and made recommendations for changes in our Constitution and Canons for our chancellor’s further review. The results of the changes in the Constitution have been brought before this convention. In all honesty, Steve did the hard work, but I would like to think I offered the motivation. Next year we hope to present revision of our canons or at least some of them.

 

Grace abounds!! Last Sunday the congregation at Grace Church Madison had a drawing for a raffle of a quilt made by a parishioner to raise money for the Madison ministerial fund to help those in need. They raised over $1,200.00 and turned it into an ecumenical effort reminding the community that we are one in Christ.

 

Three weeks ago Emmanuel Church in Rapid City held a ‘gumbo’ dinner and raised over $14,000 to help victims of the flooding in Louisiana. These are just two examples of congregations, small and large, in our diocese witnessing to God’s love for those in need through their selfless generosity. Both congregations see themselves as blessed and have found ways to be a blessing to others.

 

There is much angst in our world. The pointing a fingers and blaming others seems to be our first step to problem solving. In the public sphere we seem to have lost the ability for critical thinking that is not rude and accusatory. We have lost the ability to respectfully disagree.  And we justify this lack of civility by saying; we are just being honest and not being enslaved by “political correctness.” In fact, much of the public discourse is just plain rude, disrespectful and often dishonest. Much of the public discourse is counter to God’s will for those created in God’s image.

 

We need points of light in our world.

 

I have experienced one of those points of light. A few weeks ago I issued a letter of support for the pipeline protest going on in North Dakota by the people of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and others. I don’t offer these kinds of statements often, but I felt compelled to do so, on this issue. I received some affirmation for my statement. I also received a very critical letter from one of our diocesan church members who strongly disagreed with my statement and he told me why, in no uncertain terms.

 

At first I was taken back, but as I continued to read this thoughtful and respectful letter I began to hear his concern. His letter was written with such grace that by the end of it I felt honored. He did not agree with me, and I did not agree with him, but I knew that through our exchange I was experiencing something holy.

 

We don’t need to be rude; we don’t need to be disrespectful; and we don’t always even need to be right. God calls us to be faithful and faith filled. Jesus invited us to follow, to follow his example of humility, of love, and of sacrifice.

 

Through our baptism we have been invited into a new way of life. The old is dying and a new life is continually being born. The way we treat others is not about being politically correct, but it is about being baptized; about being followers of Jesus.

 

Our covenant with God through our baptism begins with a statement of belief: “I believe in….” and then it moves to how we will live out that belief.

 

We say:

 

We will continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers. We will support each other through our faith communities; we will experience the real presence, the healing and transforming power of Jesus through the Eucharist; and we will pray; pray for friend and enemy alike.

 

We promise that we will persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord. We are going to resist giving into the cynicism of the world. We are going to resist the idea that some how by tearing down other we are building the kingdom of God. And when we do fall, when we fail to live God’s dream we are going to own our failures and turn back to God’s desire for us and others.

 

We commit to proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ. Everything we say or do, whether at home, in the store, on Facebook or in some other forum, we are going to do with the understanding that it is to be a proclamation of God’s love for this sinful and broken world. There is enough judgment! God, through Jesus, has called us to proclaim forgiveness, mercy and hope. Leave the judgment to God.

 

We have agreed to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourself. All persons; means all persons. Not just those who agree with us, or look like us, or act like us, but everyone. We all have been created in the image of God, not just Episcopalians, or Americans or Christians, but we all have been created in the image of God. We agree to treat everyone as if they are Jesus himself.

 

And finally we pledge to strive for justice and peace among all people, and to respect the dignity of every human being.  ‘Among’, not ‘for’ all people. It is only when justice and peace (well-being) is among people that there is harmony in a society and genuine care and love can flourish. This striving begins by respecting the dignity of each person, of everyone. Do the letters you write, the posts you make, the words you speak respect the dignity of those you communicate to or about? I know they can, I received a communication like that two weeks ago.

 

You see to follow Jesus is to live into our baptismal covenant. Being faithful to this agreement will not happen through resolutions or legislation, but it happens as we surrender more and more of ourselves to the living God in Christ Jesus. As we empty ourselves and become filled by the very Spirit of God.

 

We are being called as individuals and as a Diocese to follow Jesus, to break open our hearts…. We are being call to pour out our lives on the altar of God, which is the world; so that we can be restored to newness of life as the Kingdom of God draws near.