Bishop folts with parishoners preparing for baptism

January 2021

St. Paul’s, Brookings: January 10th

The first visitation of the new calendar year was made to St. Paul’s in Brookings. The rector of St. Paul’s is the Rev. Dr. Larry Ort who, during this visitation, accepted the invitation to become a member of our diocese’s Examining Chaplains. Fr. Larry is a person of many talents, one of which is ice fishing — and although the fish were biting prior to my arrival on Saturday evening, Fr. Larry’s Episcopalian friends convinced him to get off the ice in time so that we could all have dinner together! (As a result, if Fr. Larry ever cancels on me during the winter months, I will be expecting a package of fish…)

This visit began with a lovely dinner with Fr. Larry, Judy (his wife), Kim (my wife), at the Pheasant Lodge. This was the same place where I had dinner with the Ort’s last year and I was glad that Kim was able to join me on this visit. It was a joy visiting with Fr. Larry and Judy again and catching up on how things were faring with them and their family.

The next morning, it was a hybrid service insofar as there were some people in the congregation while others joined us through Zoom technology. Fr. Larry had the computer set up in front of the altar and so, as I preached, I was able to see both the physical and virtual congregation.

Following the service, Fr. Larry had arranged a meeting with the Vestry of St. Paul’s. Some of the Vestry members had attended the service in person and others joined us virtually. We had a very good conversation about the continued outreach ministry occurring in their parish (including drug rehabilitation), their building projects, their partnership with St. James, Enemy Swim, and Grace Church in Huron, and their use of technology. Fr. Larry is also very active in the Brookings Interfaith Council and is a member of the board of directors for PFLAG. St. Paul’s congregation advocates for the LGBTQ community, minorities, immigrants, and the poor, and we are grateful for their ministry.

Afterward, Kim and I were invited by Fr. Larry and Judy to join them again at the Pheasant for a brunch. The specialty of that restaurant on Sundays is their Norweigan waffles (never heard of the things before). Taking the hint and cue from Fr. Larry and Judy, I ordered what they did and it was spectacular. Against my wife’s wishes (she drives when we’re together and is frugal in the number of stops that she’s willing to make on the road), I joined Fr. Larry in a third cup of coffee as we continued our discussion about, well, everything. Kim and I left there feeling grateful for our time with the Ort’s and with St. Paul’s.

On the way home, the wind was fierce — and, thirty miles outside of Pierre, the right hood latch of the Jeep (made of rubber) ripped off and went flying past my window. Last winter, the wind ripped off the left hood latch. As much as I revere tradition, I made a mental note to find and order metal hood latches for the Jeep….

St. Andrew’s, Rapid City: January 16th and 17th

The road trip to Rapid City was definitely an adventure. Given that I was still missing a hood latch and that the forecast was calling for 55-65 mph winds, we opted to take Kim’s truck instead of my Jeep. Twenty miles outside of Pierre, however, the wind was so strong that it ripped (and broke) the heavy tarp covering of the truck. I truly wish I had a video to share of Kim and I wrestling this cover, which was flapping in the wind like Superman’s cape, into some semblance of a roll. We drove back home, repacked all of our bags into our daughter’s Camry (she was with us), and we started off again.

This was truly a “packed” weekend. If Covid-19 was not a reality, I would have been physically attending Winter Talk which is a gathering of Indigenous communities across the Episcopal Church on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. Because of COVID-19, however, our time together was going to be virtual on those three days. Blessedly, thanks to technology, I was able to attend most of the conference and do a visitation on the same weekend.

The visitation at St. Andrew’s began with an Evening Prayer service on Saturday, January 16th. Usually, without COVID, a Holy Eucharist service is held at that time. Fr. Cody Maynus, rector of St. Andrew’s, and Deacon Marty Garwood were excellent hosts. The Evening Prayer service was extraordinary and I so appreciated the care that was invested into it. During that service, Fr. Cody asked me to ask God’s blessing upon St. Andrew’s new audiovisual equipment which I was happy to do. Obviously, one cannot be expected to sprinkle water over electronics, holy or not. So Fr. Cody had planned to have the Bishop swing incense over it. Unbeknownst to Fr. Cody, however, THIS bishop had never swung incense in his life. So, once again, St. Andrew’s is known for a new “first.” To my credit (I say in all humility), I did not set my vestments…or anyone else…on fire.

After the Evening Prayer service, I had the pleasure of sharing a meal with Fr. Cody and Deacon Marty at the church. It was so good to visit with the two of them and to learn more about their respective ministries and how life was treating them. I am truly overjoyed that these two saints are serving God and the people of St. Andrew’s with each other — they are a wonderful fit.

On Sunday morning, Fr. Cody and I shared some virtual fellowship time with some members of St. Andrew’s using Zoom technology. I appreciate the different ways that our congregations are using technology to stay in touch with each other and to share fellowship.

Following the fellowship time, we all worshipped together, celebrating the Holy Eucharist, and rejoicing in the confirmation of two new parishioners, Kristen and Carissa. I had met both of them when I was at St. Andrew’s for Fr. Cody’s installation and it was a joy to confirm them both as new Episcopalians. Kristen and Carissa are teachers on the Pine Ridge reservation.

After the service, Kristen, Carissa, Deacon Marty, and I participated in a “drive-by communion.” Parishioners who had watched the service online then drove to St. Andrew’s to receive communion. It was truly a holy moment. I would distribute the sacrament to those who came; Deacon Marty would then introduce Kristen and Carissa and then one of them would deliver slices of a special confirmation cake to the car!

Afterward, Kristen, Carissa, Deacon Marty, Fr. Cody, Kim, Chloe, and I shared a wonderful pulled pork lunch and great conversation. And, blessedly, the trip home was not nearly as adventuresome as our ride there!

Christ Church, Chamberlain: January 23rd

Christ Church in Chamberlain is a delightful small congregation overseen by the Rev. David Hussey. Fr. David, who also is the Supervising Presbyter of the Mne Sosa Mission, preaches and presides over the Eucharist at Christ Church every other Saturday. This was my first visit to Christ Church as the previous visits had been canceled and rescheduled due to concerns related to the COVID-19 virus. Although the winter weather threatened to cause us to have to postpone this visit again, all was good and Fr. David and I made the journey together to Chamberlain in my Jeep on that Saturday afternoon.

Four members of Christ Church’s congregation were present and we all had a nice introduction to each other before the service began. I learned that the building of Christ Church was most likely the oldest in the community and it’s a building worth seeing if you are in the area. Although we may have been small in size that evening, we were mighty in spirit!

Following the service, the six of us went downstairs for a wonderful dinner of fried chicken, potato salad, and a jello dish (that was extraordinary!). Best of all, we enjoyed a good conversation about Christ Church, the challenges of being a small congregation that has to compete with “mega-churches,” and general life in our nation and local communities. I also discovered a special connection between me and one of Christ Church’s parishioners. It turns out that Sondra Zigler’s maiden name is “Foltz.” (For the non-linguists out there, “Folts” is Dutch and “Foltz” is German.”) I truly appreciated this opportunity to meet the members of this congregation for the first time and I look forward to coming to know them even better.

It was a delight spending time on the road with Fr. David who is no stranger to traveling all over South Dakota. Fr. David had served as Bishop John’s Canon to the Ordinary and had spent much “windshield time” visiting churches. In fact, as we were traveling back to Pierre that night, we were enjoying talking with each other so much that we overshot our exit by about twenty miles… (We are missionaries, after all…)

Trinity, Watertown: January 31st

Kim and I drove to Watertown on Saturday, January 30th. During the drive, I was able to participate in a very good meeting of the Thunderhead Episcopal Center board facilitated by Julie Gehm, the board’s President. I am so very grateful for her work and for all the board members and participants: The Revs. Portia Corbin, Cody Maynus, and Mercy Hobbs — and Bob Mayer, Jan Sanford, Christopher Soukup, Tamara Fonder, and Cassie Boettcher, the board’s newest member!

After arriving, we had a delightful BBQ dinner at the Country Road Barn which is owned and operated by two parishioners of Trinity, Watertown — Brenda and Bob Boettcher. If you happen to be in the area, do stop by — Between the two of us, we were able to sample their ribs, brisket, and pulled pork. (Then, on Sunday, Brenda brought their chicken to the potluck!) Because the rush had not yet hit, Kim and I were able to have a good visit with Cassie Boettcher, Brenda and Bob’s daughter (mentioned above), who is a student of Bexley-Seabury seminary and who helped to run the virtual camp experience from Thunderhead Episcopal Center last summer.

Trinity Episcopal Church in Watertown is housed inside of a one-time school building. The worship space is in a large room that has been beautifully and thoughtfully decorated and arranged so that, no matter where a person sits, everyone can see everyone else. Trinity is a wonderful congregation with strong outreach programs (“Laundry Love,” AA, and prison ministry tops their list). At this point in time, Trinity does not have a rector but that does not slow them down in the slightest. When they are not conducting Morning Prayer, they are faithfully served by supply clergypersons such as Fr. George Parmeter and Mother Marion Paulis.

On this Sunday, we celebrated the confirmation of a member named Londa and the baptism of her two sons, Elijah and Sebastian! And for the first time in my almost 25 years of ministry, a baptismal candidate looked right up at me in the middle of the baptismal service and said in a loud voice that he needed to take a “nature break” — so, in true South Dakota flexible fashion, we listened to some music while he took his break, and then the service continued right on along! Afterward, we enjoyed a bountiful potluck and visit while a host of children were playing all around the gymnasium! I was introduced to two middle-school friends who shared with me that they had found Trinity Church all on their own, were asking questions about the Christian faith and Episcopal Church, and had been attending services together and helping with the “Laundry Love” project. It was indeed a lively and joyful Sunday to experience!