This sermon was preached by The Rev. Dr. Lauren R. Stanley for Episcopal Peace Fellowship, following the attack on the U.S. Capitol on 6 January 2021: Our baptisms are an invitation to a revolution of love.
Please enjoy our Christmas 2020 service! Because of the COVID pandemic, we are not able to worship together in person. But Christmas cannot be stopped by a pandemic, and the Baby Jesus brings the Light into the world that the darkness will never overcome!
2020 has been so very different – and hard – for all of us, and Christmas will be as well. We will not be having in-person worship on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, because we want to keep everyone safe.
But we will celebrate Christmas! We will celebrate anew the coming of the Christ Child. So please join us at one of the churches on Christmas Eve to receive Christmas Communion and prayers. Wear your masks, stay in your cars, and celebrate with us!
Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry’s Christmas message for 2020 …
The text for Presiding Bishop Curry’s Christmas 2020 message:
Joy to the world! The Lord is come: let earth receive her King; let every heart prepare him room, and heaven and nature sing.
Perhaps like me, you’ve sung this hymn for years – in church, at home with your family, gathered with friends and neighbors. Perhaps you’ve sung it to yourself – in your car, on a walk, or quietly in the dark of night.
Joy to the world!
While we may not feel joyful this year – as the pandemic of disease continues to bring sickness and death, when fear and mistrust – a darkness – threatens to overcome the light – we, as followers of Jesus Christ must bear joy to this aching world. We must shine light into the darkness. Joy to the world!
Like much in our lives, proclaiming joy is difficult work – also good and essential work – especially now. Though we mourn that which is lost in our lives, our families, and our communities – Joy to the world!
While we strive to pull up the twisted and thorny vines of hatred and bigotry and anger – Joy to the world!
Through streaming tears and gritted teeth – Joy to the world! – because God is breaking into our lives and into this world anew.
While this is a strange year, the ministry He gives us remains the same. We will prepare him room in our hearts by taking on the ministry Jesus demands of us: feed those who are hungry; welcome the stranger; clothe those who are naked; heal those who are sick; visit the prisoner. Love God. Love your neighbor. Sing joy into this old world. Prepare him room.
St. Luke writes of the first Christmas, “[Mary] gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” There, in the simplest bed, in the cool of the night, in a trough, in bands of cloth, lies the One for whom no room was made. And yet strangely, there lies the One whom not even the universe can contain.
Joy to the world! The Lord is come. In your hearts, in your homes, in your lives, prepare him room.
God love you; God bless you; and may God hold us all in those almighty hands of love.
The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church
Watch the video of Bishop Jonathan’s message by clicking the link below.
On Saturday, 10 October, the Diocese of South Dakota held its Annual Convention virtually.
The Rt. Rev. Dr. Jonathan H. Folts, 11th Bishop of the Diocese, addressed Convention from Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Rapid City.
Sunday, 4 October 2020, is the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi! Meaning: This is the day when we usually offer the Blessing of the Pets. Because of COVID-19, we can’t do that, but we can bless your pets remotely! Thank you to all who have sent photos of their beloved creatures … we received photos from all over the country, and some internationally!!!
To see the video, go to the Rosebud Episcopal Mission Facebook page … until we can get WordPress and Facebook to realize that all the material in this video clearly belongs to us.
Mission on South Dakota reservation maintains ties to volunteer teams with ‘virtual mission trips’
(You can view all of the Facebook videos on the Rosebud Episcopal Mission Facebook page.)
By David Paulsen
[Episcopal News Service] Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Webster Groves, Missouri, has sent mission teams to the Rosebud Episcopal Mission in South Dakota since the 1990s – to supply volunteer labor for construction and repair projects, but also to develop lasting personal relationships that bridge cultures, decades and hundreds of miles.
Then the coronavirus pandemic hit in March, disrupting the plans of Emmanuel and other churches that coordinate annual mission grips with the Rev. Lauren Stanley, presbyter for the west half of the Rosebud mission, which mostly overlaps the Rosebud Sioux Reservation.
With in-person trips canceled while COVID-19 remains a persistent threat, Stanley latched onto an alternative that maintains connection between the communities where she ministers and the congregations she would have been welcoming this summer: virtual mission trips.
“It’s a way to keep people in touch with us and to show that, yes, even though we don’t have mission teams here, we have work that’s ongoing,” Stanley said in an interview with Episcopal News Service.
The indigenous communities served by The Episcopal Church across the United States tend to have some of the country’s highest rates of poverty. Rosebud Sioux Reservation in Todd County, South Dakota, is no exception, with 55% of residents living below the poverty level, according to census data. Work is always waiting for mission trip volunteers, Stanley said.
A virtual mission trip may seem like an oxymoron. The trip is an essential component to these congregations’ missionary support for Rosebud, so how could that be accomplished online? Stanley emphasized that building relationships has been as important as completing building projects – if not more so. Starting this month, she began creating videos for the mission teams and sharing them on the Rosebud Episcopal Mission website and Facebook page.
It helps that most of those mission teams already have visited Rosebud before. The virtual mission trips are “still a work in progress,” Stanley said, “but these are people who have a strong tie to us. Or if they’re a new group, they have a strong interest in coming to the Rosebud and working with us.”
Emmanuel has one of the longest records of missionary service with Rosebud, and church volunteer Donna Erickson has participated from the beginning, when she joined her oldest son on a youth group trip to the reservation in the early 1990s. The church later began sending adult mission teams, about 20 years ago.
“As we talked about the needs of the world and what we could realistically expect to do, it became really clear to many of us that what we wanted was a ministry of presence and relationships,” Erickson told ENS.
While helping to build and repair homes and churches, the volunteers from Missouri got to know the reservation’s residents, who then introduced the visitors to their extended families and sometimes even invited the Missouri Episcopalians back for graduations and funerals. In addition to the church’s mission trips each June, a small group from Emmanuel regularly returns in late August to attend the reservation’s annual fair.
This year, however, Erickson said she and other organizers knew early on that the pandemic could derail the mission trip. Indigenous communities are particularly vulnerable to virus outbreaks, and Rosebud was among the reservations in the spring that implemented lockdowns to slow its spread. State authorities report at least 50 COVID-19 cases among Rosebud residents, including one death.
Furthermore, many of the 20 or so people from Emmanuel who typically embark on the mission trips are older retirees and at higher risk of severe complications from COVID-19. In May, the church announced it was canceling the Rosebud trip.
Mission trip cancelations are part of a wave of disruptions across The Episcopal Church caused by the pandemic, which in mid-March forced the suspension of most in-person worship services. Some congregations have begun laying plans for resuming limited in-person services, though many domestic and international mission trips remain in limbo.
With trips to Rosebud Episcopal Mission canceled, some of that work simply won’t get done for now, Stanley said, but she and the mission’s congregations remain active in serving their neighbors. The virtual mission trips capture some of that activity, through the videos Stanley started sharing online last week.
“Those of you that have been here know that we have a lot of land to take care of,” Stanley said in her video for June 11, which includes footage of Danny Gangone and his son mowing grass at the Bishop Hare Center in Mission, South Dakota, a project delayed by repairs to the lawnmowers.
In her videos, Stanley describes delivering cleaning supplies, a funeral for a deacon who died recently, painting and building repairs, installation of a new church sign and removal of a downed tree. Lately, she also has been assembling and distributing COVID-19 kits with face masks, hand sanitizer and other items. And when a surprise shipment of food arrived last week from a local charity partner, Stanley recruited volunteers to help sort it and take bundles to Rosebud families.
Stanley shoots the videos with her phone and edits them using iMovie, the results intentionally more personal than professional. Addressing the mission teams that had to cancel their trips, Stanley regularly identifies what those teams would have been doing, and she takes some time to explain aspects of Lakota culture. She plans to continue the videos through the summer, along the way acknowledging all who were unable to come in person this year. She typically hosts about 20 teams and up to 700 volunteers across the summer.
Stanley’s videos were received warmly by parishioners at Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Erickson said. “I think that it was good for them to see and be reminded and hear from her that she misses us and there would have been work for us to do,” she said, “even if it can’t fully convey the intensity of that experience or the emotional connection that I think we’re all missing.”
On her end, Erickson shared photos of past mission trips to the church’s Facebook page. The church also encouraged participants who normally would have paid $250 to cover food and gas during their van ride to South Dakota to donate that money directly to the Rosebud Episcopal Mission, to support Stanley’s work there.
Erickson said members of her congregation look forward to the day when they can return to the Rosebud Sioux Reservation in person. “To not have that was really a loss for several of us,” she said. “It’s such an integral part of our summer. … It’s been a blessing in many ways.”
– David Paulsen is an editor and reporter for Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, the Rosebud Episcopal Mission has been working hard to take care of the Oyate here on the Rosebud. We delivered more than 6,000 N95 face masks (the construction masks) to RST Law Enforcement, the Adult Corrections Facility, the Juvenile Detention Facility, the White River Nursing Home, and Todd County School District breakfast and lunch program, and then asked people around the country to make cloth face masks for us.
In the past several weeks, we have received and then delivered more than 200 cloth face masks to Community Health Representatives, which in turn took those masks out to the community.
Today, we were able to deliver another 600 cloth face masks, which came from partners across the country. Wopila tanka to Ellen Kentnor of Sonora, Arizona; to the Northern Colorado (NoCo) Mask Making Team and Laura Gurney; and to Dawn Jurgens of Pleasant Hill, Iowa, for these marvelous masks.
Together, we can take care of each other!