The Rev. Julie Hendrix has accepted a call to serve as Rector of St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Waupaca, Wisconsin. Completing her senior year at Nashotah House, Hendrix is preparing to graduate in May with an expected M.Div. God willing and the people accepting, she will be ordained a priest in July.
Born in Illinois, her family moved to the Diocese of Fond du Lac when she was 8 years old. Hendrix holds a B.A. from Carroll College, Waukesha, a J.D. from Columbia School in Law, Washington D.C. and a post graduate level certification in Education from Reagent University in Virginia. Fluent in Spanish, she was English teacher in Venezuela. Accompanying her husband Steve, a diplomat for the United States State Department, they have lived in many countries around the world. They returned to Wisconsin in 2014.
The people of St. Mark's are looking forward to this next chapter in shared ministry. Following the retirement of previous Rector, Fr. Nigel Bousfield, they began working with Bishop Matt and the Rev. Meredyth Albright, diocesan Transition Ministries Officer, towards calling their next Rector. "During her conversations with your vestry," Senior Warden Pat Pfeiffer shared in a letter to the congregations, "she spoke passionately of her love of church and bringing people together through their connections in the church and in ministry." Julie and Steve have three adult children and one grandson. She begins as Rector on June 1, 2021.
St. Mark's Episcopal Church is a parish church of the Episcopal Diocese of Fond du Lac in Waupaca, Wisconsin. First services were held in 1854 by Bishop Jackson Kemper, with a parish organized in 1858. It is a worship community of 110 baptized members with an average Sunday attendance of 54. Located on Main Street just south of Downtown, St. Mark's serves members of its congregation and community through a variety of programs and outreach opportunities.
Diocesan pandemic guidelines in the Back to Buildings document are to be medically safe, theologically sound, and pastorally attentive. For most of the past year, these guidelines limited in-person worship attendance to 4 or 10 persons. With a continuing trend of fewer Covid cases, decreasing stress and our health systems, and a growing numbers of vaccinations, Bishop Matt Gunter has announced that starting the First Sunday in Lent, February 21, congregations may expand in-person attendance worship services to no more than 50 persons, or 25% of space capacity, whichever is fewer. Congregations may accommodate additional worshippers through additional services, provided safety protocols are followed for disinfection between services.
The Back to the Buildings guidelines notes the importance of continuing practices that reduce the risk of transmission, especially masking and social distancing. "While the future looks hopeful," Gunter shared recently with diocesan clergy, "we are not back to normal. For the care and safety of those who join in-person worship, we must continue to practice the other protocols outlined in the guidelines. Also remember not everybody feels safe returning to in-person worship. Encourage those who decide to not attend to join with virtual worship opportunities available throughout the diocese."
The Task Force will continue to monitor the situation based on measures of community safety. Each congregation is reminded to consider the risk factors of the local community as well as demographics and risk factors of its members in making its decision about in-person worship.
"We are not out of the woods, yet," Gunter shared. "Gathering to lift our hearts to God is what the Church does - so we adapt and grow. Hopefully, we will carry these lessons forward and someday worship may return to the familiar. Whatever the future brings, Jesus is with us, and prepares a way for us, even now."
Prayers are asked for the repose of the soul of the Rev. Michael Minter who died January 25, 2021. He was 74. He is survived by his sister, Shirley Minter Trempel and his nieces and nephew.
Born in Louisville, Kentucky, he attended Northwestern University and Nashotah House Seminary. He was ordained a deacon and priest by the Bishop of Kentucky in 1973. Shortly after he became the Vicar of St. John's, Shawano and St. John's, New London from 1974-75 then served as an Assistant at Holy Apostles, Oneida from 1975-76. Remaining a priest, he made a decision to leave active parochial ministry earning a Master's Degree at the University of Wisconsin, a Ph.D. in Religion from Fordam University, and a Ph.D. in Psychology at New York University. Through his retirement he worked for the the New York court system as well as teaching college courses.
While not serving in a parochial capacity, Fr. Minter was active as a priest. In his regular reporting to the Bishop through the annual non-parochial clergy report, he often noted how he was "booked solid" doing supply work through each summer, though more "infrequently during the rest of the year." He was regular in celebrating weekday Masses in congregations near him, including at Trinity Church, Wall Street.
Although not able to be physically present in the diocese, his niece noted he took delight in being able to participate in the 2020 Diocesan Convention virtually. "I think you all were more of a touchstone for Michael than you knew" she shared.
Private services for the family will be held.
The Rev. Frank H. Maxwell has accepted a call to serve as Interim Pastor of St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Sister Bay, Wisconsin. Pastor Frank is a retired Pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America and licensed by Bishop Matthew Gunter for Extended Service in the Episcopal Church. His tenure follows the retirement of the Rev. Barb Sajna.
Born and raised in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Pastor Frank attended Carthage College. "The best thing about college," according to Maxwell "is that is where I met my wife, Mary!" After attending Northwestern Lutheran Seminary in St. Paul, he was ordained in the Lutheran church. He has served Lutheran congregations in Bayfield County, Menomonee Falls, Fort Atkinson, and Verona. After Mary took an early retirement from teaching, they moved to Door County and Pastor Frank served Trinity Lutheran on Washington Island, retiring in 2013. As many retired clergy will attest, retirement doesn't end your ministry. Pastor Frank has served interims in Ellison Bay, West Allis and , Milwaukee.
Pastor Frank has a long connection to the Anglican tradition and the Episcopal Church. He worked closely with an Anglican priest in Halifax, Nova Scotia. and Episcopal clergy while serving in various congregations. He has assisted, preached and served as a supply at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Key West, Florida (yes, a favorite vacation spot) over the years.
The people of St. Luke's are excited and grateful to receive this experience minister of the Gospel who will serve with them for the next 12-18 months. The congregation will work with the Rev. Meredyth Albright, diocesan Transition Ministries Officer, towards calling its next Rector. Pastor Frank's began his work on January 25, 2021.
St. Luke's Episcopal Church is a parish church of the Episcopal Diocese of Fond du Lac in Sister Bay, Wisconsin. Starting with services in 1994 held at Scandia Village senior living campus, St. Luke's became a mission in 1999 and then parish in 2008. It is a worship community of 100 baptized members with an average Sunday attendance of 63. As a congregation in a tourism community, there are 50 persons who are active, though not technically be members. Located near the intersection of Highways 57 and 42 in Sister Bay, St. Luke’s has a commitment that all people, regardless of circumstance, are welcomed and accepted as the love of Christ gives unity in diversity while seeking to share that love with others.
The Rev. Christopher Arnold has announced his resignation as Rector of Trinity Episcopal Church, Oshkosh, to pursue the changing shape of his ministry. "The exact shape of my future is unknown right now." Arnold shared in a letter to the parish, "but I believe it lies in a strong dedication to contemplative prayer, retreat work, and spiritual direction, in greater silence and solitude."
Fr. Chris has served Trinity since January 2016, serving previously in the Diocese of Kansas. His last Sunday will be February 14th. There will be opportunities for good-byes virtually as well as individual "drop-in" times for those who wish to meet in person, observing pandemic precautions. Fr. Chris and Celeste will remain in Oshkosh and he continues to be a Priest of the Church.
The leadership of Trinity has begun working with the Rev. Meredyth Albright, diocesan Transition Ministry Officer, in this season of transition.
Diocesan Youth Ministry Coordinator Erin Wolf has announced 2021 diocesan Summer Camp information. Camp sessions focus on faith development for campers using volunteer staff, many of whom were once campers. Plans are in development for sessions to be in-person and on-site as pandemic circumstances allow. In addition, an at home version of camp will be offered.
The schedule includes Senior Session June 20-26 (completing grades 9-12), Middler and Junior Sessions June 26-July 1 (completing grades 2-8) and KinderCamp July 1-3 (ages 4-7 with an adult). We are also inviting 2020 high school graduates, honoring their inability to attend in-person in 2020 because of the pandemic. 2021 camp sessions will be held at Waypost Camp on Mission Lake (crosswayscamps.org/waypost) in Hatley, Wisconsin, about 20 minutes east of Mosinee. Waypost is a site of Crossways Camping Ministries, a multi-site outdoor ministry organization rooted in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).
“We are very excited to be going to Waypost this year” camp director Erin Wolf shared. “It has great facilities that match our program needs and will allow for better flexibility in both activities and pandemic protection protocols.” Located on a mile and a half of natural shoreline of Mission Lake, Waypost offers swimming and canoeing, arts & crafts, a variety of outdoor activities including a low-ropes initiatives course along with comfortable meeting and sleeping spaces. A beautiful chapel provides a sacred space for worship in the camp tradition.
“Our summer camp is a wonderful example of a truly diocesan program,” Bishop Matt Gunter recently shared with the Executive Council. “Except for diocesan convention, it is the longest running program of the diocese and has drawn campers and staff from each diocesan congregation.” Beginning in 1926 with Bishop Weller as the first Chaplain, there has been a diocesan camping program almost every year Camp goals can be described as three C’s: Community – building relationships between each other and with God; Creation – being in, honoring and enjoying God’s creation; and Cloister – separating intentionally from everyday life to enhance our focus on Community and Creation.
The diocese has never owned a camp facility but instead has rented or leased space from other camps including Nepco Lake (Wisconsin Rapids), Camp Cleghorn (Waupaca), Fort Wilderness (Rhinelander), Chute Lake (Mountain), Camp Robin Hood (Green Lake), Camp Pilgrim (Green Lake), Camp Talaki (Waupaca), Camp Webb (Wautoma), Camp Anokijig (Plymouth), Nature’s Edge Camp (Waupaca), Crescent Lake Bible Camp (Rhinelander) and Camp Lakotah (Wautoma).
Registration information will be available by the middle of February at diofdl.org/camp.
The Rev. Barb Sajna has announced retirement from active ministry as a Priest of the church effective the end of January 2021. She has served as Rector of St. Luke's, Sister Bay since 2004. Technically already retired according to Church Pension Fund rules, she has continued to serve a congregation with permission of the Bishop which Bishop Matt gladly gave each year.
Sajna was born in Rhinelander and earned a law degree from the University of Madison. She practiced as a lawyer for a number of years before entering Perkins School of Theology, Dallas, where she earned a Masters of Divinity. Ordained a priest in 1999, she served Episcopal congregations in Dallas prior to coming to the Diocese of Fond du Lac.
Leaders of St. Luke's have noted her exceptional gifts as preacher, teacher, pastor and priest and that "due in large measure to her leadership, St. Luke's is strong and healthy." She is active and well known in the community. She served the diocese in a number of ways including as Dean of the Green Bay Deanery, Deacons School instructor, and Summer Camp Chaplain.
Mthr. Barb plans to continue to live in northern Door County.
Bishop Matt Gunter has issued a Call to Prayer for the Episcopal dioceses of Wisconsin during the Inauguration week. Episcopalians are encouraged to offer prayers daily using the prayers found on pages 820-824 in the Book of Common Prayer. These prayers include prayers for the President of the United States and all in Civil Authority, for Congress or a State Legislature, for Courts of Justice, for Sound Government, for Social Justice and In Times of Conflict. The call document also includes a prayer from the Anglican Fellowship of Prayer for Government Transition.
The call includes an announcement of an overnight prayer vigil held in the Cathedral of each Wisconsin diocese. From 8:00 p.m. Tuesday, January 19 to 12:00 Noon Wednesday, January 20. There will be a livestream the entire time, with prayers offered each hour on the hour from Christ Church Cathedral (Diocese of Eau Claire, episcopaldioceseofeauclaire.com), St. Paul’s Cathedral (Diocese of Fond du Lac, diofdl.org) and All Saints’ Cathedral (Diocese Milwaukee, diomil.org).
Bishop Gunter has been eighth Bishop of the Diocese of Fond du Lac since 2014. He was elected to serve as Bishop Provisional for the Diocese of Eau Claire the end of 2020 and is also currently serving the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Milwaukee as its Visiting Bishop. He notes that "in these distressing times, it is fitting for Christians to lift our voices together to God. It is also fitting for us to engage in ways small and large as we seek to bear witness to the way of Jesus which is the way of love and to play our part in the healing and restoration of what is broken."
Download the Call and Prayers here.
Bishop Matt Gunter joins other bishops of the Episcopal Church in issuing a letter encouraging the People of God to stay away from protests and counter-protests that may happen up to the inauguration of President-elect Biden. The letter acknowledges "public demonstrations carry significant risk of both violence and exposure to COVID-19" and "we can best follow our vocation to be peacemakers by staying away from places where harm could come to God’s people."
The call may be to stay home from protests, but as the bishops note, "staying home does not, however, mean staying silent." A number of avenues in "raising our voices to support our country’s democracy," are provided. The Episcopal Public Policy Network provides opportunities to advocate for peace, justice and the dignity of every human being. You join the network here.
"Most of all," the bishops conclude, "in the coming days, we ask you to pray. This collect from the Book of Common Prayer holds particular meaning as we seek to face the days ahead with courage, wisdom, and grace:
Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so move every human heart, and especially the hearts of the people of this land, that barriers which divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The complete letter may be downloaded here or read below.
Prayers are asked for the repose of the soul of the Rev. Dcn. Susan C. Burman who died January 10, 2021. She was 82. She is survived by her husband Harv, her four adult children and their spouses and numerous grandchildren.
Sue was born in Kenosha, Wisconsin and baptized at St. Matthew's Episcopal Church. She became a nurse and worked in that profession in a number of areas. Prior to pursuing ordination, she served as a volunteer parish nurse at St. Paul's Cathedral, Fond du Lac and as manager of The Parish Press housed the Cathedral. She noted in her letter of application for the ordination process the interest in "becoming more involved with projects involving stewardship of our earth, housing projects, exchange and partnership programs and work and mission projects." Following discernment and attending the diocesan Deacon's School, she was ordained to the Diaconate on October 3, 1998. She was assigned to serve St. Paul's Cathedral, Fond du Lac until assigned to serve Holy Trinity, Waupun in 2002.
Deacon Sue pursued her stated interests as a deacon. She helped coordinate diocesan mission trips to such places as Honduras and New Orleans, served as a nurse at summer camp, advocated for a number of events related to stewardship of the earth, and was the diocesan Episcopal Relief and Development Coordinator for many years. She participated in the life and worship of the church by her regular presence at diocesan events (especially loving to fly a Dove banner in processions) as will as a member of the diocesan Executive Council and Abuse Prevention Committee.
Due to the Covid pandemic, her funeral will be delayed until a time that all her loved her are able to be together in-person.
Deacon Sue requests that all memorials be made by donation to Episcopal Relief and Development.
An obituary is available at zacherlfuneralhome.com.
Completing the Parochial Report is an annual practice, one of the oldest, continuous gathering of data by The Episcopal Church. The Diocesan Office has prepared a 40-minute presentation on completing the 2020 Parochial Report. It is not meant to replace the direction provided by the General Convention Office or other resources, but to highlight areas that might need additional explanation.
There are four areas covered: the purpose of the parochial report, an overview of its forms, how to submit and file the report, and how to prepare the information needed to complete it. If you are one of the persons who may be completing the report, you will want to watch this presentation on the Diocesan YouTube page at https://youtu.be/784OYvTtgXk.
The Rev. Nigel Bousfield has retired from active ministry as a Priest of the church. He served as Rector of St. Mark's, Waupaca from 2008 until his retirement the end of 2020.
Bousfield was born in the United Kingdom and received his M.Div. from Nashotah House. He was ordained in the Diocese of Quincy in 2003. He served congregations in New York State and on diocesan committees such as Stewardship, Commission on Ministry and the Committee for Canon Law prior to coming to the Diocese of Fond du Lac.
Fr. Nigel is what is sometimes called a "second-career" priest, having worked for many years in marketing in Arizona, California and Illinois. During his time at St. Mark's, he worked with congregational leaders to demolish a neighboring house owned by the church and install an outside worship space, the Garden of Blessings. He served the diocese in a number of ways including on the Trustees and Executive Council.
Fr. Bousfield has moved to Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, planning to take some time for refreshment.
The Rev. Michael Scolare, Rector of Blessed Sacrament Episcopal Church, Green Bay, Wisconsin, has announced he has accepted a call to St. Peter & St. Paul Episcopal Church in Mission, Texas. In a letter to the congregation, Fr. Mike shared "I have enjoyed serving through our spiritual journey together."
Fr. Mike grew up in the Episcopal Church in the Milwaukee area. He served as an ordained minister in the Evangelical Free Church in Iowa and Aruba, returning to Wisconsin where he pursued Holy Orders in the Episcopal Church through the Diocese of Fond du Lac. He was ordained to the diaconate and priesthood by Bishop Russell Jacobus in 2011. He has been Rector of Blessed Sacrament since December 2012 and will conclude his ministry there in January 2021.
It was reported in October that members of the Diocese of Fond du Lac responded generously to the appeal for our companion Anglican Diocese of Masvingo. An additional $5,000 was received in October and November and been sent to the diocese. Over 115 people responded to the appeal raising nearly $25,000 to assist with the need of our companion diocese. This special appeal exceeded funds raised during 2019's Bishop Appeal and reflects the commitment of the people of the Diocese of Fond du Lac to support the broader church beyond our local community. Gifts will continue to be received and forwarded.
The Rev. William L. Bulson has accepted a call to serve as Rector of Grace Episcopal Church, Sheboygan.
Originally from Kentucky, Bulson has degrees in Russian literature and Slavic linguistics from the University of Kentucky in Lexington and The Ohio State University in Columbus. This included brief study in Moscow with the Pushkin Institute. He received his Master of Divinity from Virginia Theological Seminary, and has served parishes in Appalachia, Minnesota, and Japan, mostly in multi-ethnic and multilingual congregations. With the Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota Fr. Bulson co-translated the Book of Common Prayer into Hmong.
Fr. William served as Rector most recently at St. Alban’s Anglican-Episcopal Church in Tokyo, Japan. He has been an Oblate with the Order of St. Julian of Norwich in White Lake, WI since 2008.
Fr. Bulson’s first Sunday presiding at Grace was the First Sunday of Advent, November 29, 2020.
Grace Episcopal Church is a parish church of the Episcopal Diocese of Fond du Lac, established in Sheboygan, Wisconsin in 1847 in the Anglo-Catholic tradition . It is a worship community of 200 baptized members with an average Sunday attendance of 100. Located on Sheboygan's lakeside just north of downtown, its members are dedicated to "to bring all persons to the knowledge and love of God, and to respect the dignity and freedom of every human being."
Learn more about Grace here.
Read the letter to the congregation about Fr. Bulson's call here.
Bishop Matt has released an update letter on the status of the pandemic and its impact on in-person worship in the Episcopal Diocese of Fond du Lac
The Task Force has released a 15-minute video with an overview of its work in advising the Bishop in developing guidelines for the congregations of the diocese. The video explains how the Task Force works with three criteria: medically safe, theologically sound and pastorally sensitive. Hear from Bishop Gunter, Dr. Lauderdale, Fr. Arnold and Mthr. Burkert-Brist as they provide information on the response to the pandemic.
The Executive Council of the Episcopal Diocese of Fond du Lac has released the approved 2021 Clergy Minimum Compensation and Benefits schedule which provides a 1.5% increase to the base. The schedule provides minimum compensation for clergy working full-time. Two scales are provided: one for clergy who live in church provided housing and the other for clergy providing their own housing. The compensation increases with the cleric's years of credited service. Congregations with clergy working less than full-time are encouraged to provide for compensation on a proportional basis.
In additional to details on clergy compensation and benefits (pension, insurance, etc...), comparison information is also provided. The Finance Committee reviews key compensation information when preparing a recommendation to the Council including federal poverty guidelines, Social Security Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA), and national Episcopal clergy compensation reported by the Church Pension Fund. Based on the best information available, clergy of the diocese receive adequate compensation, although slightly below the national median.
While specifically for minimum compensation, many congregations follow its recommendation adjustment to change compensation for their cleric. Each diocesan congregation does meet the minimum with a majority exceeding them. The impact of the pandemic on giving in most congregations has been minimal in 2020, though it may impact giving more in 2021.
Download the scale and information here.
Each week, the diocesan Covid Task Force receives an informational update on the status of the pandemic in Wisconsin compiled by one of the Task Force's doctors. This report captures information from many sources. To allow comparison with other states and countries, the new case number is converted to cases per million. To help our clergy and congregations be as fully informed as possible, this report will be made available each week on the diocesan Covid webpage at diofdl.org/covid.
Bishop Matt Gunter is calling the people of the Diocese of Fond du Lac to pray for the election taking place November 3rd. A Season of Prayer resource offers a new prayer each day starting October 9th. To download this resource, as well as other voter education resources for people of faith, visit diofdl.org/votingresources.
The sharing of blessings was bountiful as members of the Diocese of Fond du Lac responded to the appeal for the Anglican Diocese of Masvingo. In late August, Bishop Godfrey Tawonezvi reached out because his diocese was "struggling financially under the current circumstances of economic meltdown in the country coupled with the pandemic of COVID19." Bishop Matt Gunter immediately launched an appeal. In less than a month, 100 people responded, raising nearly $20,000 to assist with the need of our companion diocese.
"It is amazing how the people of this diocese respond to need," Bishop Matt noted. "It is encouraging that when our brothers and sisters ask for help, we respond in a way that shows a high level of caring and reflects a love of God and our neighbor."
Gifts to the Masvingo Appeal continue to be received and an additional international wire transfer will be made at the end of October.
Following consideration by the diocesan Covid Task Force of the increased rates of infection along with a variety of other factors, Bishop Matt has determined a strengthening of pandemic related limitations for congregations. These changes go into effect on September 29, 2020, will be temporary, with details published in a revised Back to the Buildings policy document.
The significant change is in returning to the limit of 4 persons being physically present in congregations who offer in-person worship. Such in-person is limited to Sunday services only. "Returning to 4 participants at Sunday worship is intended to make the safest environment for our members while continuing to offer the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist," Bishop Matt noted. "As our Prayer Book notes, the Holy Eucharist is the principal act of Christian worship on the Lord’s Day, and this small assembly is able to represent the whole congregation at the Altar."
Not all congregations may offer in-person worship and that is perfectly acceptable. In-person participation is strictly voluntary and no one, including our clergy, should feel, or be made to feel, obliged to be physically present. A number of diocesan congregations livestream their in-person services so praying with them is encouraged. Those who do offer in-person services are encouraged to integrate additional participants virtually, as able.
Another change is that all other in-person church activities are suspended. The church office may remain open as long as the guidelines in the policy document are followed.
An addition to the policy is being made. Permission is now given to Reserve the Blessed Sacrament in the form of consecrated bread. This allows clergy to be able share communion when it is pastorally appropriate, such as at the time of death.
Bishop Matt offers these words of encouragement to the diocese: "As we continue to grapple with the realities of the Covid-19 pandemic, let us not become discouraged. Let us acknowledge whatever anxiety, frustration of loss we are experiencing. We can offer all of that at the feet of Jesus asking for his healing and peace. We know that he is with us. Trusting him and encouraging one another we can continue to make our way together through this season of challenge. By the Holy Spirit, Jesus is with us. Jesus is with you. The way before us is not straightforward or altogether clear. But Jesus goes before us to prepare a way. If we keep our eyes on him, he will see us through."
The Rev. Dcn. Dale Hutjens has announced, and Bishop Matt Gunter has accepted, his resignation from active ministry as a Deacon of the church. Resigning is the canonical term, but is similar to retiring. He continues to be a Deacon, but will not be assigned to a particular congregation or ministry by the bishop. He was assigned to St. Anne's, De Pere since 2003. He also worked for a time with the people of St. Paul's, Suamico while their Vicar was ill.
Hutjens was received into the Episcopal Church at St. Anne's, De Pere in 1993. He became an active lay leader. He served as a lay reader, lay eucharistic visitor, a number of outreach programs and served on the Vestry. He was active in maintaining the building and grounds. After completing the diocesan School for Christian Studies, he was ordained a deacon on August 30, 2003.
As a Deacon Dale continued to serve at St. Anne's and was active in diocesan ministry. He was on the Deacons Council, Companion Diocese Task Force and worked on Happening for High School Youth. After retiring from his secular job in 2014, he pedaled his bike 4,253 miles across America on the TransAmericaTrail to raise awareness of Episcopal Relief and Development. He recently biked from De Pere to the Diocesan Office in Appleton for a visit.
He and his wife, Winnie, continue to live in De Pere and will continue to be a part of the life of St. Anne's. They have two adult children.
Dear brothers and sisters in the Diocese of Fond du Lac,
The shooting this past Sunday of Jacob Blake in Kenosha places violence, racism, policing, protesting, rioting, and looting in front of us again. There is a lot we do not know, and we expect there will be a full and just enquiry into it all. But any shooting is tragic. And given what we have seen in recent months a black man being shot in the back is disturbing.
It is also disturbing that out-of-state armed vigilantes were allowed to wander the streets after curfew, leading to the killing of two people and the wounding of another. That the shooter was white and able to walk away without interference from the police is troubling.
We know that police work can be dangerous. And most police officers intend good. Still, there are policies for the legitimate use of potentially lethal force. When we see repeated examples of excessive use of force, disproportionately toward people of color, we sense that something must change. We can appreciate and support the work that police officers do while also seeking reform for better policing practices.
Our African-American brothers and sisters report a pattern of violence and mistreatment by too many police officers. This causes grief, anger, outrage, and fear. We can disapprove of rioting, violence, and looting while also supporting legitimate protest against mistreatment. Sadly, the stories of their own experiences of mistreatment are not hard to come by from people of color. For the sake of truth and love, we need to listen to their stories.
There has been progress in race relations in our society, yet racism remains pervasive. Our diocesan Mosaic Task Force continues to work to help us listen, learn, and better understand the persistence of racism. We must reflect with rigorous honesty upon our own racial prejudices – as we do with every sinful tendency.
Whatever else we know about Mr. Blake, he is a child of God, beloved by Jesus. As Christians we are called to love him. We pray for him.
Whatever else we know about Officer Sheskey, he is a child of God, beloved by Jesus. As Christians we are called to love him. We pray for him.
As disciples of Jesus, we are called to pray and to love. We are called to be people of the truth – even when it is inconvenient. We are called to care and to seek justice – especially for the people society does not seem to care about. I call on us to commit ourselves to being such a people. Pray for peace; pray for justice.