Our First 40 Days: A Reflection from Bishop Singh

Dear saints,

I call you saints as the Apostle Paul did because we all aspire toward holiness in Christ Jesus. I greet you from the spring House of Bishops in Houston, TX. Thank you for your support and prayer for the people of Ukraine and Russia.

I ask your prayers for all who are ill, especially the Rev. Canon Bill Spaid, retired Canon Missioner of Western Michigan, who has decided to move to hospice care. We give heartfelt thanks to God for Bill’s 35th anniversary of his ordination on March 21. If you wish to write a note to him and his spouse, Greg Fitzgerald, their address is 2008 Hudson, Kalamazoo, MI 49008.

Thank you for the warm welcome I have received from both of our dioceses. Your cards and welcome baskets with locally made goodies have filled me with joy and belonging. I am more than pleased with the way my relocation has gone. As some of you know, I bought a house in Stanwood, a village in Canadian Lakes near Big Rapids. It’s tranquil and roughly in the state’s middle, an hour north of Grand Rapids and a little over an hour west of Saginaw. I bought most of my furniture locally. The house fire helped me downsize quite radically, which meant that two trips in my Prius Prime and one for my smoke-restored books and a few other sundries did it. The Rev. Diane Stier of St. John’s, Mount Pleasant graciously received my stuff in my absence on January’s frozen winter’s day when I cried out for help.

After over a month of beginning this journey, let me share a few brief observations and seek your prayer for a few things.

Your deep devotion to Christ and the church moves me. Your many new practices to connect with formation and creation inspire me. I suspect that this devotion translates into a hope-filled resilience that you practice seemingly effortlessly. Despite the pandemic and other challenges, you and the Holy Spirit have raised, discerned, and formed many leaders for Holy Orders. God willing and the people consenting, we will joyfully ordain five transitional deacons in April and three vocational deacons in June.

Thanks for the gentle flurry of generosity across the board, in and outside the church. It all began with meeting your search committee on Zoom last summer, followed by your Joint Standing Committee leaders. Once your Joint Convention called me in October, I visited with your fantastic staff in November. I find that we have an excellent staff team, Standing Committee, Council, and Commission on Ministry leaders serving Christ in our dioceses. I have met some vestry members who demonstrate a deep love and loyalty to Christ and Christ’s church. Your welcoming liturgy that the Rev. Pam Lenartowicz of St. Andrew’s, Gaylord, Canon Missioner Anne Hallmark, and Canon Katie Forsyth put together at St. John’s Midland and live-streamed was beautiful. Your leaders entrusted me with the croziers of the dioceses along with a tippet bearing both diocesan seals. The gift of chasuble stole and mitre from my siblings of African Descent from the House of Bishops is a stunning work of worship art created by my friend, Colleen Hintz.

A neighbor visited and give me a list of the neighbors and their contact information. I guess that is Pure Michigan hospitality! I have also encountered much grace outside church circles through the kindness of a relocation specialist, Mary Smith-Uitvlugt, who took me on tour and introduced me to my realtors, Lisa Sabo and her brother Patrick Clark of Greenridge Realty.

Let me give you a sense of my first set of visitations and a few encounters.

February:

  • Visitation with St. Christopher’s, Grand Blanc, where I met with and installed their new rector, the Rev. Jerry Lasley. We also blessed former Eastern Michigan Canon to the Ordinary, the Rev. Canon Michael Spencer, on his last Sunday before transitioning to his new call in the Diocese of Southern Ohio.
  • I went sledding with youth leaders from Western Michigan’s Southern Region at St. Timothy’s, Richland and broke my pinky. No, I was not training for the Olympics!
  • Visitation with St. John’s, Ionia where we also celebrated the retirement of their priest, the Rev. John Kirkman.
  • Visitation and vestry meeting with Trinity, Lexington. 
  • Visitation and meetings with leadership with Grace, Port Huron. They grieve the loss of their former rector, the Rev. Dr. Lydia Agnew Speller, who died last year.
  • Had dinner with our bi-diocesan chancellor, Bill Fleener, Jr. of St. David’s, Lansing.

March:

  • Spent a Friday and Saturday engaging in a training led by Communities Organizing for Racial Equity (CORE), organized by our Dismantling Racism team.
  • Visitation with St. Mark’s, Grand Rapids, including meetings with their rector, the Rev. Dr. Christian Brocato, as well as their vestry and other leaders.
  • Spent the weekend with the Academy for Vocational Leadership, engaged with and met with Dr. Val Fargo, the Academic Dean, as well as the other instructors and our students in formation.
  • Visitation with Trinity, Bay City and meetings with their rector, the Rev. Sue Rich, vestry, and other leaders considering strategic steps forward as a congregation.

Bishop Singh smiles for a selfie with the faculty and students of the Academy for Vocational Leadership, a bi-diocesan program of formation for ordination.

For now, I have a rhythm of spending my Tuesdays at the Grand Rapids office and Wednesdays at the Saginaw office for staff and other increasingly face-to-face meetings. We attend to staff and other pastoral care issues as we come by them. I have met with the Rev. Canon Tracie Little for onboarding as she prepares to begin as Canon to the Ordinary serving Eastern Michigan on March 22. She is participating in the Episcopal Church Transition Officers conference this week to get oriented even before she officially starts her new ministry.

We have competent staff in both dioceses and I am listening and observing to help us be more responsive as necessary. We have one monthly joint staff meeting right now, apart from separate staff meetings. I am impressed with how you have identified and worked on common issues while exploring further cooperation and collaboration. Congregational development is a common issue and both dioceses are asking similar and different questions. Some common and some separate conversations would be helpful. Strategically, a common language shared by lay and clergy leaders across the two dioceses would be fantastic. It would help to have a task force explore some orientation and engagement in leadership formation to help with congregational development.

Kindly uphold these intentional engagements in your prayers: a joint staff retreat, April 4-5; a Building Bridges Steering Committee retreat, May 14; a clergy retreat and chrism mass, coming up on May 10-12. And for the Task Force on the Eucharist, who are working hard to bring some recommendations to Bishop Perry and me within the next week or so.

I give thanks for serving our great, big, wonderful God with you. We give thanks for the life and witness of St. Patrick. Have a holy Lent!

With affection,

+Prince

The Rt. Rev. Prince G. Singh, Ph.D. is bishop provisional serving the Episcopal Dioceses of Eastern and Western Michigan. He was elected in October 2021 and officially began in this role on February 1st, 2022. 

A Word on the Violence in Ukraine

Dear Saints,

History teaches us that violent takeovers and coercion are not gospel values — though Christians have been complicit with such expressions. Our prayers and intentional thoughts surround the people and all creation in Ukraine as this manifest plague of coercion debilitates the life and safety of many.

Let us pray:

Oh gracious, God of peace and agency.

We cry with the people and all creation in Ukraine to bring this violent war to a quick end.

We pray for global leaders to intervene and nip this culture of bullying in the bud. Please help us to disallow such tendencies when we witness their manifestations near or far from us. May we never be bystanders of indifference and hate!

You are the source of all that is good and holy, and we ask for your deep and abiding presence to hold these, our dear siblings, close to yourself.

Please help us be peacemakers where we are and help us put away tactics of devaluing the God-given dignity of others and their spaces.

In your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.

Yours faithfully,


The Rt. Rev. Prince G. Singh
Bishop Provisional
The Episcopal Dioceses of Eastern & Western Michigan

BUILDING BRIDGES : AFFINITY GROUP CONVERSATIONS

Delegates at convention engage in intentional conversations with their table groups. In the last section of this update from the Building Bridges Steering Committee, a summary of the submitted responses is provided for all to review.

BI-DIOCESAN AFFINITY GROUP CONVERSATIONS

At its roots, the Building Bridges process is about our two dioceses exploring ways to collaborate. Collaboration is relational, it involves knowing one another. So the Building Bridges Steering Committee is inviting you to participate in a conversation with other people from across our two dioceses who are involved in a similar ministry or church context.

What we heard from many of our delegates in the Building Bridges conversation at convention and in recent Clericus discussions is the importance of one’s local culture and wondering how a potential junction between our dioceses might change that culture. Therefore, in this round of intentional conversations we want to discuss, share, and learn about our own culture and that of our partnering diocese. The questions we will discuss at each of these affinity group sessions are:

  1. What are the core values that inform my ministry?
  2. What are the most important traditions within my ministry, church, and diocese?
  3. What, if any, similarities and/or differences have I heard between the two dioceses tonight?

Each conversation will be from 7:00-8:30pm. Please read below for the specific dates and ministry/affinity groupings. We ask that you register for one meeting, even if you may share ministries with several groups. Two of the sessions are open to all in case your particular ministry is not listed or you have a personal conflict on the night(s) you would sign up for otherwise.

RSVP FOR AN AFFINITY GROUP CONVERSATION
Monday, March 7th – Youth/Children’s Formation Leaders
RSVP

Tuesday, March 8th – Adult Formation and Spirituality Leaders
RSVP

Wednesday, March 9th – Current and Recent Vestry Wardens
RSVP

Thursday, March 10th – Deacons
RSVP

Monday, March 14th – Music Directors, Musicians, Choir Members
RSVP

Tuesday, March 15th – Outreach Ministry Leaders and Committee Members
RSVP

Wednesday, March 16th – Church Administrators, Treasurers, Finance Leaders
RSVP

Thursday, March 17th – Open Session
(Open to all unable to participate in another session)
RSVP

Monday, March 21st – Clergy and members in urban/suburban communities
RSVP

Tuesday, March 22nd – Clergy and members in small-town/rural communities
RSVP

Wednesday, March 23rd – Clergy and members of majority Black, Hispanic/Latino Parishes
(Spanish translation is available in-person at St. John’s, Grand Haven)
RSVP

Thursday, March 24th – Clergy and members of congregations in resort communities
RSVP

Monday, March 28th – Open Session
(Open to all unable to participate in another session)
RSVP

REPORTING OUT: CONVENTION CONVERSATIONS

As part of our recent joint diocesan convention held in Lansing in October, the Internal Conversations subcommittee of the Building Bridges Steering Committee facilitated small group conversations amongst the gathered delegates, clergy, and visitors. With specific prompts, the participants discussed the questions amongst their assigned, mixed tables and were asked to respond to a form (available both written and online) to document their reflections back to the Steering Committee and to the wider dioceses.

Click here to view a summary of their responses.

Announcing New Part-Time, Bi-Diocesan Staff Members

Dear Friends,

We are thrilled to announce the hiring of four regional youth missioners to serve our two dioceses.

The intention is to develop additional on-the-ground support for our local congregations in the area of youth ministry appropriately contextualized to the area in which they serve. In this role, they are charged with communicating and collaborating with leaders and families to increase and empower local efforts with youth within and beyond the existing community. Their specific duties will be flexible, depending on the needs of the congregations in their region and may include resource sharing, congregational and/or regional events, volunteer recruitment, and more. Whether your community has a robust youth program or hasn’t for years, these youth missioners are here to support you.

The two dioceses have been broken down into four youth regions to encompass the area that these missioners will serve*. In all but one grouping, the youth regions include congregations and ministries from both dioceses. Click here to view the breakdown.

Our regional youth missioners will be in touch with their respective communities as soon as possible to learn more about your needs and dreams for youth ministry within and beyond your community.

Please join me in welcoming the people listed below to the role of Regional Youth Missioner. We are blessed to have such wonderful leaders serving among us.

The Rev. Radha Kaminski (she/her) — Northern Youth Region

Radha joined the Diocese of Western Michigan as a Hope College student in 2008 after growing up in North Central Florida, spending time with the communities of Grace, Holland and St. John’s, Grand Haven, where she was the youth coordinator. She was ordained to the priesthood in January 2021 after receiving her M.Div. from Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, TX. She serves as the rector of the Central Michigan Episcopal Covenant (St. Andrew’s, Big Rapids and St. Mary’s, Cadillac). She lives in Cadillac with her husband, Matthew, their dog, Mara Joy, and two cats, Bob and Shirley. She enjoys knitting, board games, baking, and exploring the great outdoors.

The Northern Youth Region is composed of 34 congregations and organizations, including communities from both dioceses. Click here to view the regional break down.

Jeff Brown (he/him) — Central Youth Region

Jeff is the Director of Youth Ministries for Grand Rapids Episcopal Youth, a collaboration between St. Mark’s, St. Andrew’s, and Grace Episcopal Churches in Grand Rapids. Jeff is a known leader in youth ministry, having organized and led efforts such as the progressive mission trip for many years. Jeff also works as the Visual Display Coordinator for Gazelle Sports, is a certified yoga instructor, loves trail running, and is quite obsessed with Cedar Point. He and his wife, Angie, live in Grand Rapids with their two teenage sons.

The Central Youth Region is composed of 24 congregations and organizations, including communities from both dioceses. Click here to view the regional break down.

Tanna Leclaire (she/they) — Eastern Youth Region

Tanna serves as the Faciliator of Holy Hikes Great Lakes and is a nominee for Holy Orders in the Diocese of Eastern Michigan. They attended University of Mississippi, and graduated in 2019 from the Academy for Vocational Leadership, the local formation program of the Dioceses of Eastern and Western Michigan. They serve on the Building Bridges Steering Committee and the Bi-Diocesan Evangelism Task Force and are a member of Grace, Port Huron. Tanna lives in Port Huron with their spouse, Kay, their daughter, Audrey, and their cat, Razzle.

The Eastern Youth Region is composed of 25 congregations and organizations, including communities from both dioceses. Click here to view the regional break down.

The Rev. Joel Turmo (he/him) — Southern Youth Region

Joel has been the rector of St. Timothy’s, Richland since 2012. Prior to this he was the Director of Youth and Family Ministries at St. Gregory’s in Boca Raton, FL. Both in Florida and in Michigan, he’s served as a youth coordinator, co-leading many diocesan events including retreats and the progressive mission trip. He is passionate about including youth in all aspects of the church. Joel earned his M.Div. from Sewanee School of Theology in 2008. Joel and his college-aged sons live in Richland.

The Southern Youth Region is composed of 23 congregations and organizations, all geographically resident in EDWM. Click here to view the regional break down.

We are also happy to introduce Michelle Ruiz, who will serve both dioceses as Assistant for Communications, a quarter-time and remote position budgeted under the ministry of Evangelism and Networking.

Michelle Ruiz (she/her) — Assistant of Communications 

Michelle is a student at Grand Valley State University working toward a Bachelor’s Degree in Multimedia Journalism. She enjoys advocating for women’s rights and communities of color. In her free time, Michelle likes to unwind by painting and watching television shows. She especially loves the comedy genre and anything that will make her laugh.

In her role, Michelle, who is bilingual, will assist our dioceses in all functions of communications including our bi-diocesan newsletter, websites, social media, and our print magazine, The Feast. She may also assist in resourcing congregations, clergy, and lay leaders for improvement and integration of local communications efforts. This position had been vacant since November of last year.

 

Black History Month


Greetings, beloved saints. I want to thank you for the generosity that I have received and the welcome that you have showed me. Many of you have reached out to me. I look forward to meeting each of you.

As we celebrate black history month, I do have a sense of joy and pride in coming to you as the first bishop of color in this part of the world. And I want to thank you the leaders and all of you in your prayers as I join you in this journey.

I’m conscious that we stand on these grounds that have been traveled by many before us, and I want to acknowledge the Ojibwe also known as the Chippewa, the Odawa, and the Potawatomi Indians. And remember that we traveled on this journey on the shoulders of our ancestors.

One on my favorite groups growing up, that I listened to, was Sweet Honey in the Rock. And I am constantly drawn to the depth of their theology. In one of their lyrics, they talk about every child, for each child that is born a morning star rises and sings to the universe who we are.

“We are our grandmother’s prayers; we are our grandfathers dreaming’s. We are the breath of the ancestors. We are the spirits of God. We are mothers of courage, fathers of time, daughters of dust, and sisters of mercy, brothers of love, lovers of life and builders of nations. We are seekers of truth, keepers of faith, makers of peace, wisdom of ages. We are our grandmothers’ prayers; we are our grandfathers dreaming’s. We are the breath of the ancestors. We are the spirit of God. We are one “

Black history month, in a way, is a reminder to us that we remember we are one. We need each other. And I believe the intentionality in recognizing that some groups are forgotten. Like the history of black people, is a reminder so that we might remember ourselves. Reorient ourselves. Correct ourselves.

The second thing that stands up for me is that we are better when we know our history. And in this young country of ours there is some history that we are better when we understand the intentions behind that history. For instance, the doctrine of discover is something we know don’t know a whole lot about. In the episcopal church we do. We have all of the denominations that came out and confessed for the ways we have” benefitted” from this doctrine of discovery

It was a secular doctrine, but it was endorsed by the church. Granted it wasn’t The Episcopal Church that was endorsing it, but we, in that sense of the word were complicit. And why is this important? It is important because when we enforce the theology that suggested that some lives are more important and more valuable than other lives, that ideology, has implication. And I think that’s where the problems of racial discrimination, gender discrimination, orientation discrimination, everything kind of falls in a domino out of that kernel of a lie.

And so, I think when we celebrate black history month, it gives us an opportunity to understand our history better and figure out ways not to repeat lies. Repeat things that are not of God. In other words, as a church, we have to get out of ungodly religiosity. And it is a matter of the mind—how we know things.

So when we look at the teachings of Jesus, we are reminded that Jesus was all about helping us understand our whole selves and that we don’t have to do that on the back of others. In other words, I don’t have to feel better because somebody else is less than me.

I am familiar with the caste system in India, and that is a system. It is a system that affects the mind, and then affects policy, practices, and then culture is formed, and then sustained.

So as we engaged black history month, I hope that we can pay attention to some of the ways in which in we can be transformed, and places that we need to confess, and acknowledged our complicit behaviors and policies with things that did not affirm the humanity of all people.

It is an opportunity for us to recognize that we are followers of Jesus. In the words of the great Verna Dozier, who was a Black American Lay women in The Episcopal Church. Verna was pretty articulate in helping us understand that at the end of the day we are not just worshippers of Jesus, we are followers. And the more we can follow the teachings of Jesus the better we will be as a church, and the more impact we can have in our world at large.

The world is hungry to recognize that we are not “us and them”. We really are much better when we are one. But it takes a lot of effort, it takes courage. It takes vision. And I pray that we will move in that direction one step at a time, one person at a time.

So blessings as we engage black history month, and may it be a transformative experiences for all of us inside. Take care.

 

Saludos queridos santos, deseo agradecer la generosidad que he recibido y la acogida que me han mostrado. Muchos de ustedes se han puesto en contacto conmigo. Y espero conocer a cada uno de ustedes.

A medida que celebramos el mes de la historia afroamericana, tengo un sentimiento de alegría y orgullo por venir a ustedes como el primer obispo de color en esta parte del mundo. Y quiero agradecer a los líderes y a todos ustedes en sus oraciones mientras me uno a ustedes en este trayecto.

Soy consciente que estamos en estos terrenos que han sido recorridos por muchos antes que nosotros, y quiero reconocer a los Ojibwe también conocidos como los Chippewa, los Odawa y los indios Potawatomi. Y recordar que viajamos en este viaje a hombros de nuestros antepasados.

Uno de mis grupos favoritos de la infancia, que escuchaba, era Sweet Honey in the Rock. Y me atrae constantemente la profundidad de su teología. En una de sus letras hablan de cada niño, por cada niño que nace sale una estrella de la mañana y le canta al universo quiénes somos.

“Somos las oraciones de nuestras abuelas, somos los sueños de nuestros abuelos. Somos el aliento de los antepasados. Somos los espíritus de dios. Somos madres del valor, padres del tiempo, hijas del polvo, y hermanas de la misericordia, hermanos del amor, amantes de la vida y constructores de naciones. Somos buscadores de la verdad, guardianes de la fe, artífices de la paz, sabiduría de los tiempos. Somos las oraciones de nuestras abuelas, somos los sueños de nuestros abuelos. Somos el aliento de los antepasados. Somos el espíritu de dios. Somos uno”

El mes de la historia Afroamericana, en cierto modo, es un recordatorio para que recordemos que somos solo uno. Nos necesitamos mutuamente. Y creo que la intencionalidad en reconocer que algunos grupos son olvidados. Como la historia de los negros, es un recordatorio para que nos recordemos a nosotros mismos. A reorientarnos. A corregirnos a nosotros mismos.

La segunda cosa que me parece importante es que somos mejores cuando conocemos nuestra historia. Y en este joven país nuestro hay algo de historia que es mejor cuando entendemos las intenciones que hay detrás de esa historia. Por ejemplo, la doctrina del descubrimiento es algo de lo que no sabemos mucho. En la iglesia episcopal lo hacemos. Tenemos todas las denominaciones que salieron y confesaron por las formas en que nos hemos “beneficiado” de esta doctrina del descubrimiento

Era una doctrina secular, pero estaba avalada por la iglesia. Concedido que no era la iglesia episcopal la que lo avalaba, pero nosotros, en ese sentido de la palabra éramos cómplices. ¿y por qué es importante? Es importante porque cuando aplicamos la teología que sugiere que algunas vidas son más importantes y más valiosas que otras, esa ideología, tiene implicación. Y creo que ahí es donde los problemas de discriminación racial, de género, de orientación, todo cae en forma de dominó a partir de ese núcleo de mentira.

Y por eso considero que cuando celebramos el mes de la historia afroamericana, nos da la oportunidad de entender mejor nuestra historia y de encontrar maneras de no repetir las mentiras. Repetir cosas que no son de dios. En otras palabras, como iglesia, tenemos que salir de la religiosidad impía. Y es una cuestión de la mente, de cómo conocemos las cosas.

Así que cuando miramos las enseñanzas de Jesús, recordamos que Jesús trataba de ayudarnos a entender nuestro ser completo y que no tenemos que hacerlo a costa de los demás. En palabras de orden, no tengo que sentirme mejor porque otra persona sea menos que yo.

Estoy familiarizado con el sistema de castas en la india, y eso es un sistema. Es un sistema que afecta a la mente, y luego afecta a la política, a las prácticas, y luego se forma la cultura, y luego se mantiene.

Así que, al participar en el mes de la historia afroamericana, espero que podamos prestar atención a algunas de las formas en las que podemos transformarnos, y a los lugares en los que tenemos que confesar, y reconocer nuestros comportamientos y políticas cómplices con cosas que no afirman la humanidad de todas las personas.

Es una oportunidad para reconocer que somos seguidores de Jesús. En palabras de la gran Verna Dozier, que fue una laica negra estadounidense de la iglesia episcopal. Verna fue bastante elocuente al ayudarnos a entender que al final del día no somos sólo adoradores de Jesús, somos seguidores. Y cuanto más podamos seguir las enseñanzas de Jesús, mejor seremos como iglesia, y más impacto podremos tener en nuestro mundo en general.

El mundo tiene ganas de reconocer que no somos “nosotros y ellos”. En realidad, somos mejores cuando somos uno. Pero se necesita mucho esfuerzo, se necesita valor. Se necesita visión. Y rezo para que avancemos en esa dirección paso a paso, persona a persona.

Así que bendiciones al participar en el mes de la historia afroamericana, y que sea una experiencia transformadora para todos nosotros en nuestro interior. ¡Cuídense!

 

 

Christmas Message from Bishop Singh

 

Love came down at Christmas. Love all, lovely love divine. Love was born at Christmas, star and angel gave the sign. Beautiful words from Christina Rosetti, reminding us of the beauty of Christmas which combines the deep vulnerability that God would come and become like us. 

My first experience as a priest of Christmas was in a very remote village in South India and the only place that we could meet on that dark, starlit night was in a cattle shed. And so there we were, sitting among the animals with the smells and everything that goes with being in a cattle shed. 

It reminded me of how deeply God loves us. That God would choose to become dirty and vulnerable and to communicate this love. 

The second thing that stands out for me in this love is the deep trust that God has – that we will take care of each other. God became a human being in the form of a baby entrusted to human hands: Mary’s, Joseph’s, yours, mine – that we will take care of each other, especially the vulnerable, the lonely, the elderly, the refugee, the one who doesn’t agree with us politically. Let us trust again and again, wisely, but trust again. 

And finally, it takes agency for us to actually translate these beautiful concepts of vulnerability and trust. And so I invite you to appreciate the essence of Christmas by reaching out and acting out in love, in great vulnerability, and trust so that you may be a channel of love in a real way wherever you are. 

I look forward to coming to you as your bishop provisional and wish you a Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year, and a blessed journey that we will engage together with Jesus walking beside us and perhaps creating a new thing by the Spirit’s leading. 

In my encounters with you, I have seen you always hold your palm up and every time somebody did that to give me directions, I took that as a sign of blessing. So the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you now and always. Amen. 

 

El amor bajó en la Navidad. Ama a todos, amor divino encantador. El amor nació en la Navidad, la estrella y el ángel dieron la señal. Las hermosas palabras de Christina Rosetti, nos recuerdan la belleza de la Navidad que combina la profunda vulnerabilidad de que Dios vendría y llegaría a ser como nosotros.

Mi primera experiencia como sacerdote de la Navidad fue en un pueblo muy remoto en el sur de la India y el único lugar que pudimos encontrarnos en esa noche oscura y estrellada fue en un cobertizo de ganado. Y ahí estábamos, sentados entre los animales con los olores y todo lo que conlleva estar en un cobertizo de ganado.

Me recordó cuán profundamente Dios nos ama. Que Dios eligiera ensuciarse y volverse vulnerable y comunicar este amor.

La segunda cosa que se destaca para mí en este amor es la profunda confianza que Dios tiene: que nos cuidaremos unos a otros. Dios se convirtió en un ser humano en la forma de un bebé confiado a manos humanas: María, José, la tuya, la mía, que nos cuidaremos unos a otros, especialmente los vulnerables, los solitarios, los ancianos, los refugiados, el que no está de acuerdo con nosotros políticamente. Confiemos una y otra vez, sabiamente, pero confiemos de nuevo.

Y finalmente, se necesita de agencia para que realmente traduzcamos estos hermosos conceptos de vulnerabilidad y confianza. Y por eso los invito a apreciar la esencia de la Navidad al llegar y actuar con amor, en gran vulnerabilidad y confianza para que puedan ser un canal de amor de una forma real dondequiera que estén.

Espero venir a ustedes como su obispo provisional y les deseo una Feliz Navidad, un Próspero Año Nuevo y un bendito viaje que emprenderemos junto con Jesús caminando a nuestro lado y tal vez creando algo nuevo por la guía del Espíritu.

En mis encuentros con usted, los he visto siempre levantar la palma de la mano y cada vez que alguien hacía eso para darme instrucciones, lo tomaba como una señal de bendición. Así que la bendición de Dios Todopoderoso, el Padre, el Hijo y el Espíritu Santo, estén entre ustedes y permanezcan con ustedes ahora y siempre. Amén.

Preparing for the 80th General Convention of The Episcopal Church: An Invitation from the Deputation Chairs

The General Convention normally meets every three years and is the governing body of The Episcopal Church. It is composed of the House of Deputies, with nearly 900 clergy and lay deputies elected from the church’s 109 dioceses and area missions, and the House of Bishops, with over 200 active and retired bishops. 

Are you curious about what happens when the General Convention legislative committees hold open hearings to discuss proposed legislation affecting the entire church?

Have you ever wanted to give direct input into The Episcopal Church’s legislative process but couldn’t attend the whole convention?

Deputy Elizabeth Jordan poses for photo representing her home congregation, St. Paul’s, Flint, on the floor of the House of Deputies at the 79th General Convention in Austin, TX.

In preparation for the 80th General Convention of the Episcopal Church in 2022, the process has been revised to allow for greater direct participation in the legislative process from the wider church from home. 

The business of the convention take the form of resolutions that must be passed by both the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops in order to be adopted. Resolutions come to the convention from the taskforces and committees that operate between conventions as well as from bishops, dioceses, provinces, and deputies. <THIS IS WHERE I”LL PLACE THE “KEEP READING” LINK>

After their initial submission, resolutions are assigned to relevant legislative committees composed of deputies and bishops. These committees study the proposed legislation and make modifications as needed. The committees also hear public testimony on all resolutions before they come to the convention for futher discussion and vote. The legislative committees are required to hold at least one public hearing on each resolution at which anyone is allowed to “testify” or provide input to the committee.

In previous years, legislative committees did not begin meeting until gathered on-site for the General Convention, requiring speakers to be physically present to provide their perspective to the committee. This time around, the process has changed such that legislative committees began meeting online in November – nine months before the official start of the 80th General Convention, July 7-14, 2022. Online public legislative hearings will begin as early as mid-February 2022. 

In addition to increasing access to the process for the wider church, by holding hearings online ahead of the convention, the time spent on the ground in Baltimore will be shorter and at a reduced cost from prior conventions. 

The elected deputations of Eastern and Western Michigan have begun meeting monthly to build relationships with one another and monitor legislation. We will be tracking the hearings and testifying to specific areas of interest and expertise. We strongly encourage our wider diocese to take advantage of this unique access to the legislative process by observing the hearings and testifying if you wish. 

Please note that all matters of legislative committee meetings are subject to the rules established by that particular House (House of Bishops Rules and House of Deputies Rules). Prior to open legislative hearings, committee meetings remain open to non-committee members to observe. Requests must be submitted at least two business days ahead of the meeting and observers must agree to a code of conduct in order to participate.  

Several of our deputation members are serving on committees during the General Convention: 

  • The Rev. Jennifer Adams (Grace, Holland) – Chair, Ministry
  • The Rev. Brian Coleman (St. Thomas, Battle Creek) – Stewardship & Socially Responsible Investing
  • Anne Davidson (St. Mark’s, Coldwater) – Chair, Certification of Minutes
  • Bill Fleener, Jr. (St. David’s, Lansing) – Program, Budget & Finance
  • Dr. Elizabeth Jordan (St. Paul’s, Flint) – Vice Chair, Ecumenical & Interreligious Relations
  • The Rev. Pamela Lenartowicz (St. Andrew’s, Gaylord) – Rules of Order
  • Ellen McVey (St. John’s, Midland) – Sexual Harassment/Safeguarding
  • Carol Moggo (St. Francis, Grayling) – Environmental Stewardship & Care of Creation
  • The Rev. William Spaid (Kalamazoo) – Constitution and Canons
  • The Rev. Canon Michael Spencer (Dio Staff, Grand Blanc) – Dispatch of Business

As the chairs of your deputations to General Convention, we sincerely hope that you will take advantage of this unique opportunity available to the wider church to observe and participate in the legislative process.  Also, if you have questions about the process or anything else related to General Convention, please do not hesitate to contact us. 

Ellen McVey (St. John’s, Midland)
Deputation Chair,
The Episcopal Diocese of Eastern Michigan    

Bill Fleener, Jr. (St. David’s, Lansing)
Deputation Chair,
The Episcopal Diocese of Western Michigan  

 

Bishop Update | Prince Singh Nomination

People of Eastern and Western Michigan,

With excitement, we announce the nomination of the Rt. Rev. Prince G. Singh, Ph.D. to serve as Bishop Provisional of The Episcopal Dioceses of Eastern and Western Michigan.

For more on the background of the canons around the selection of a bishop provisional and our own interviewing and selection process, we invite you to read the announcement and update sent last week. 

Bishop Singh comes to us with energy and enthusiasm for the work we have to do together as dioceses. For his fourteen years as the bishop diocesan of the Diocese of Rochester, Bishop Singh’s tenure was marked by three core priorities: relational welcome, nurturing and growing the beloved community; servant leadership, empowering lay and clergy leaders for the work of the church; and spiritual stewardship, considering spiritual and material resources with an eye on sustainability, generosity, and invitation.

The Rt. Rev. Prince Singh offers a word of greeting to the
Dioceses of Eastern and Western Michigan. 

Watch on YouTube:  Eastern MichiganWestern Michigan
Watch on Facebook:  Eastern MichiganWestern Michigan

 

Bishop Singh, born and raised in India, received degrees from Madras Christian College and Union Biblical Seminary before his ordination in the Church of South India (Anglican Communion) in 1990. He served several congregations in rural South India before further study in practical theology at Union Theological Seminary in Virginia (1994), Princeton Seminary (1995), and Drew University, where he received a Ph.D. in Religion and Society (2005). Before his election in Rochester, Bishop Singh served two congregations in the Diocese of Newark. Bishop Singh’s churchwide leadership includes membership in Bishops United Against Gun Violence, the House of Bishops theology committee, as Co-Chair of the Task Force on Theology of Social Justice, and as a coach for the College for Bishops. He has also served on a number of boards, including the Board of Directors for Episcopal Senior Life, the Board of Trustees for Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School and Hobart William Smith Colleges, and on the Board of Episcopal Relief and Development. He announced his resignation from the Diocese of Rochester in September.

If elected during Saturday’s joint session of convention, Bishop Singh would begin his time with us sometime early in the new year following his departure from his current diocese. Joining our other shared staff members, Bishop Singh would serve both Eastern and Western Michigan on a full-time basis for a period of up to 3-5 years. He would relocate to Michigan during that time.

A series of Zoom Meet & Greets will take place between now and convention late this month. All in our dioceses are encouraged to attend and especially those delegates and clergy who will take part in the voting process. Please use the provided links to RSVP for your particular Meet and Greet with Bishop Singh. We invite you to share this invitation broadly within your congregations.

All information about the upcoming Diocesan Convention is available on the diocesan websites at eastmich.org/convention and edwm.org/convention. All business sessions, as well as other offerings, will be livestreamed to the diocesan Facebook pages.

Yours in Christ,

The Standing Committee of Eastern Michigan 

Janet Huff Worvie, President
St. John’s, Otter Lake

The Rev. Brian Chace, Vice Pres.
Ret., West Branch

Gary Grinn
St. Paul’s, Gladwin

Barb Ilkka, Secretary
St. John’s, Saginaw

The Rev. Deacon Anna Leigh Kubbe
Holy Family, Blue Water

The Rev. Nancy Mayhew
St. Alban’s, Bay City

The Standing Committee of Western Michigan 

The Rev. Dr. Randall R. Warren, Pr.
St. Luke’s, Kalamazoo

Martha Bartlett, Secretary
St. James, Pentwater

The Rev. Jodi Baron
St. Philip’s, Beulah & Holy Trinity, Manistee

David Croal
St. Mark’s, Coldwater

Anne Davidson
St. Mark’s, Coldwater

The Rev. BJ Heyboer, Vice Pres.
St. Mark’s, Newaygo

The Rev. Diane M. Pike
Southwest MI Episcopal Covenant

Carole Redwine
St. Philip’s, Grand Rapids

Bishop Update | Provisional Process

Dear Friends in Christ,

As we approach our diocesan convention later this month, we write with an update on the process of selecting a bishop provisional to serve alongside our people in Eastern and Western Michigan.

As was announced in August, a special interviewing committee composed of equal members of both dioceses met several times over the last couple of months to interview a slate of candidates. Having conducted these interviews, they recommended a candidate to the Joint Standing Committee, who enthusiastically accepted the recommendation. We are now in the process of conducting background checks and other necessary steps toward public nomination.

Consistent with the canons of The Episcopal Church, the candidate is an already-consecrated bishop currently serving in another diocese. The Standing Committee is charged with selecting and nominating one candidate to the convention.

If elected, our candidate for bishop provisional will be with us for 2-4 years, throughout the period of intentional relationship and exploration between our two dioceses, as we navigate the longterm effects of the pandemic and continue to heal from the suspension of our bishop over the last year. The role of bishop provisional is akin to priest-in-charge, holding all the responsibilities of a bishop diocesan but without tenure. As a seasoned bishop, they offer our dioceses rich experience in ministry and an outsider’s perspective as we tackle the big questions about who we are called to be in this place and time. They would be a shared staff member of the dioceses, joining our Canon for Evangelism and Director of Children, Youth, and Young Adult Ministries in serving our communities from shore to shore.

The candidate is in the process of announcing their departure within their current diocese. Recognizing that these goodbyes are pastorally sensitive, they have requested that we wait to release a full announcement about the candidate until mid-October. We are excited to share their name and information with you as soon as we are able.

After the nomination is announced and before the joint diocesan convention, there will be several opportunities for Zoom “meet and greets” with the bishop for our people to hear from and interact with our nominee ahead of convention.

Please RVSP using the links provided above to receive your secure Zoom link for the meeting. We invite you to share this invitation broadly within your congregation with the understanding that these gatherings are open to all. Delegates and clergy voting in the upcoming convention are especially encouraged to attend.

We ask your prayers for the candidate, for your Standing Committees, and for one another as we enter our next season of ministry together with unceasing hope, great humor, and expectant listening to the Spirit’s leading. We look forward to sharing more information soon and to see you on Zoom and in Lansing later this month!

Yours in Christ,
The Standing Committee of Eastern Michigan

Janet Huff Worvie, President
St. John’s, Otter Lake

The Rev. Brian Chace, Vice Pres.
Ret., West Branch

Gary Grinn
St. Paul’s, Gladwin

Barb Ilkka, Secretary
St. John’s, Saginaw

The Rev. Deacon Anna Leigh Kubbe
Holy Family, Blue Water

The Rev. Nancy Mayhew
St. Alban’s, Bay City
The Standing Committee of Western Michigan

The Rev. Dr. Randall R. Warren, Pr.
St. Luke’s, Kalamazoo

Martha Bartlett, Secretary
St. James, Pentwater

The Rev. Jodi Baron
St. Philip’s, Beulah & Holy Trinity, Manistee

David Croal
St. Mark’s, Coldwater

Anne Davidson
St. Mark’s, Coldwater

The Rev. BJ Heyboer, Vice Pres.
St. Mark’s, Newaygo

The Rev. Diane M. Pike
Southwest MI Episcopal Covenant

Carole Redwine
St. Philip’s, Grand Rapids

Feast Days with Bishop Skip | St. Michael and All Angels

St. John’s, Saginaw, Michigan: Saint Michael and All Angels
September 29, 2021

From Genesis: “Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!’ And he was afraid and said, ‘How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.’”

Not just here, but any place in which we find ourselves, can be the gate of heaven, a place where we become open to the possibility of recognizing the joining of heaven and earth. Allow me to tell you of one of the moments in my life where God reached through the portal, and left an indelible mark on my heart and soul.

I had the privilege back in the 1990’s to spend some time working with Mother Teresa in Calcutta, India. I was assigned to the Dying and Destitute home, Mother Teresa’s “first love” as she called it. It is there she wanted “no one to die without knowing God loves them and knowing a loving human touch.” There were about 100 beds. 50% of the people brought in from the streets would die there. The welcomed came in with leprosy, typhoid, tuberculosis, dysentery, cholera, AIDS. They needed to be de-liced and in some cases gangrenous tissue removed. Fresh clothes were put on them, covering the wounds of the street.

Coming in the door my first day I discovered a man in the first cot had died just minutes before my arrival. A nun came to me, took my hand and said, “We need you to wash clothes, bed sheets and blankets.” So I was taken to a large room with four brick tubs in a line cemented to the floor. Piles of clothes and linens were brought to us, soiled by incontinent people. Each tub had a purpose: the first revealed a local man bearing a long heavy stick to stir and loosen what was in the fabric; the second, my tub, was for pouring in disinfectant and scrubbing using the rough walls of the sides; the third held soapy water for more washing; the fourth was there for a hoped for clear rinse. All of it was taken to the roof to be spread out in the sun to dry.

As I stood over my station at the second tub, mostly in silence, I began to be drawn to a sense of the presence of God. A doorway a few feet behind me over had a sign over it which read, “This is the doorway to heaven.” It was the morgue. As I washed and scrubbed, feeling that telltale ache in my back from leaning over, bodies on a stretcher would, on occasion, be carried by.

Slowly, a transformation occurred. As I looked into that dark, smelly water, I saw the world. The clothes and bed sheets became sacraments—outward and visible signs of God’s people, dead and alive. In that scummy water I saw the pain, the victims, the injustice, the humiliation, the degradation, the betrayal. It was Golgotha, the Place of the Skull, in a washtub. Then, and I assure you I am not a person given to hearing things, out of somewhere even as I could not locate it, I heard, I heard!, alleluias being sung. The glorious reign of God breaking in!

And it continued to break in as I reached into the muck below the surface of the water. In my disinfectant tub I felt something in the corner of a blanket that had been folded over, a strategy used by the residents to save for later rice and bread they had been fed, fearful no more was to be provided. This time, however, I lifted something to the surface. Breaking through the meniscus to the light of day, in my hand was a cheap 25 cent plastic crucifix attached to the beads of a rosary. There was Christ on the Cross as a profound sense of peace came over me as I experienced being embraced fully and completely by the love of God. I was renewing my baptismal vows in the holy water stained by the hurt and pain of God’s people.

“Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it.” I learned just last week from our Presiding Bishop that Jewish scholars, commenting on the story of Jacob at Bethel, note that when Jacob says, the word “I,” in the Hebrew it indicates a stutter, as in “I-I-I did not know it!” It is a stutter/exclamation of awe, of worship, of awareness of being on holy ground.

The Genesis reading invites us into that great story of Jacob’s dream at Bethel. It was believed in that time that oracles from God could be received by sleeping in a holy place. Jacob was wondering what the future held and in his dream he receives assurance that God will abide with him and his people, and that God had not abandoned them. There’s a promise to hold onto in 2021! The image of assurance is a compelling one: a “ladder” between heaven and earth, or better translated from the Hebrew, a “stairway” to heaven—see Led Zeppelin actually had it right.

An evening such as this, gathered in a magnificent place of worship to see and hear God’s people committing themselves to the way of Jesus, is a perfect time to be
reminded that God is always renewing God’s promise to us. Sure, many of us come tonight to receive the laying on of hands by the bishop to renew baptismal promises, but what carries the day is God’s promise to us. Our promises can be as fleeting as the wind, yes? We gather now and every time to re-member the truth that heaven and earth are forever linked. Jesus affirms Jacob’s Genesis vision when he says to Nathanael, “You will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” God’s promise to Jacob, indeed, God’s promise to you and to me, is fulfilled in Jesus.

As you move through this time of transition as a Diocese, perhaps wondering what the future may hold, know that every moment contains in it the God-possibility of renewal and promise. Our call now is to be a people, a Church, that looks and acts like Jesus. Tonight’s promise is that God is in this work of ministry with us. Heaven and earth are joined. Jacob saw it. Nathanael experienced it. I saw it in Calcutta. I see it in you. Even now, heaven and earth have come together in Jesus, and with the Angels, Archangels, and all the company of heaven, we worship. Do you see it?

Bishop Skip

 


 

De Génesis:  “Jacobo se despertó de su sueño y dijo: ‘¡Ciertamente el Señor está en este lugar, y yo no lo sabía!’ Y tenía miedo y dijo: ‘¡Qué increíble es este lugar! Esta no es otra que la casa de Dios, y esta es la puerta del cielo’”.

No solo aquí, sino cualquier lugar en el que nos encontremos, puede ser la puerta del cielo, un lugar donde nos abrimos a la posibilidad de reconocer la unión del cielo y la tierra. Permítanme contarles uno de los momentos de mi vida en el que Dios llegó a través del portal y dejó una huella indeleble en mi corazón y en mi alma.

En la década de 1990 tuve el privilegio de pasar algún tiempo trabajando con la Madre Teresa en Calcuta, India. Me asignaron al hogar de moribundos e indigentes, el “primer amor” de la Madre Teresa, como ella lo llamaba. Allí quiso que “nadie muriera sin saber que Dios le ama y sin conocer un toque humano de amor”. Había unas 100 camas. El 50% de la gente traída de las calles moriría allí. Los acogidos llegaron con lepra, tifus, tuberculosis, disentería, cólera, SIDA. Había que despiezarlos y, en algunos casos, eliminar el tejido gangrenoso. Se les puso ropa fresca que cubría las heridas de la calle.

Al entrar por la puerta el primer día descubrí que un hombre en la primera cuna había muerto minutos antes de mi llegada. Una monja se acercó a mí, me cogió la mano y me dijo: “Necesitamos que laves la ropa, las sábanas y las mantas”. Así que me llevaron a una habitación grande con cuatro bañeras de ladrillo en una línea cementada al suelo. Nos trajeron montones de ropa y ropa de cama, manchados por personas incontinentes. Cada bañera tenía un propósito: la primera revelaba a un lugareño que llevaba un palo largo y pesado para remover y aflojar lo que había en la tela; la segunda, mi bañera, era para verter desinfectante y fregar usando las paredes ásperas de los lados; la tercera contenía agua jabonosa para más lavado; la cuarta estaba allí para una esperada clara enjuague. Todo fue llevado al techo para esparcirlo al sol y secarlo.

Cuando me paré sobre mi estación en la segunda bañera, sobre todo en silencio, empecé a sentirme atraído por la presencia de Dios. Una puerta a unos metros detrás de mí tenía un cartel que decía: “Esta es la puerta del cielo”. Fue en la morgue. Mientras lavaba y fregaba, sintiendo ese dolor revelador en la espalda por estar inclinado, a veces pasaban cuerpos en una camilla.

Poco a poco, se produjo una transformación. Mientras miraba en el agua oscura y maloliente, vi el mundo. La ropa y las sábanas se convirtieron en sacramentos, signos visibles y exteriores del pueblo de Dios, vivo y muerto.  En esa agua sucia vi el dolor, las víctimas, la injusticia, la humillación, la degradación, la traición. Era el Gólgota, el lugar de la calavera, en una bañera. Entonces, y os aseguro que no soy una persona dada a oír cosas, de algún lugar aunque no lo pudiera localizar, ¡oí, ¡oí!, que se cantaban aleluyas. ¡El glorioso reino de Dios irrumpiendo!

Y continuó irrumpiendo cuando alcancé el lodo debajo de la superficie del agua. En mi bañera de desinfección sentí algo en la esquina de una manta que había sido doblada, una estrategia utilizada por los residentes para guardar para más tarde el arroz y el pan con el que se les había alimentado, temiendo que no se les proporcionara más. Esta vez, sin embargo, he sacado algo a la superficie. Rompiendo el menisco a la luz del día, en mi mano había un crucifijo de plástico barato de 25 centavos unido a las cuentas de un rosario. Estaba Cristo en la Cruz cuando una profunda sensación de paz me invadía al experimentar que el amor de Dios me abrazaba plena y completamente. Renovaba mis votos bautismales en el agua bendita manchada por el dolor y el dolor del pueblo de Dios.

“Seguramente el Señor está en este lugar y yo no lo sabía”. La semana pasada me enteré por nuestro Obispo Presidente que los eruditos judíos, al comentar la historia de Jacob en Betel, señalan que cuando Jacob dice, la palabra “yo”, en el hebreo indica un tartamudeo, como en “¡no lo sabía!”. Es una tartamudez o exclamación de asombro, de adoración, de conciencia de estar en tierra santa.

La lectura del Génesis nos invita a entrar en esa gran historia del sueño de Jacob en Betel.  En ese tiempo se creía que los oráculos de Dios podían ser recibidos durmiendo en un lugar sagrado. Jacob se preguntaba qué le deparaba el futuro y en su sueño recibe la seguridad de que Dios permanecerá con él y con su pueblo, y que Dios no los había abandonado. ¡Hay una promesa a la que aferrarse en 2021! La imagen de la seguridad es convincente: una “escalera” entre el cielo y la tierra, o mejor traducido del hebreo, una “escalera” hacia el cielo; en realidad Led Zeppelin lo tenía claro.

Una velada como esta, reunida en un magnífico lugar de culto para ver y escuchar al pueblo de Dios comprometerse con el camino de Jesús, es el momento perfecto para recordar que Dios siempre está renovando la promesa de Dios para nosotros. Ciertamente, muchos de nosotros venimos esta noche a recibir la imposición de manos del obispo para renovar las promesas bautismales, pero lo que lleva el día es la promesa de Dios para nosotros. Nuestras promesas pueden ser tan fugaces como el viento, ¿sí? Nos reunimos ahora y cada vez para recordar la verdad de que el cielo y la tierra están unidos para siempre. Jesús afirma la visión del Génesis de Jacob cuando le dice a Natanael: “Verás el cielo abierto y a los ángeles de Dios subiendo y bajando sobre el Hijo del Hombre.”  La promesa de Dios a Jacob, de hecho, la promesa de Dios para ti y para mí, se cumple en Jesús.

Al pasar por este tiempo de transición como diócesis, quizá preguntándote qué depara el futuro, sepa que cada momento contiene en él la posibilidad de renovación y promesa de Dios. Nuestro llamamiento ahora es ser un pueblo, una Iglesia, que se parezca y actúe como Jesús. La promesa de esta noche es que Dios está en esta obra de ministerio con nosotros. El cielo y la tierra están unidos. Jacob lo vio. Nathanael lo experimentó. Lo vi en Calcuta. Lo veo en ti. Incluso ahora, el cielo y la tierra se han unido en Jesús, y con los ángeles, los arcángeles y toda la compañía del cielo, adoramos. ¿Lo ves?