A Pastoral Letter from our Bishop on the Charleston Tragedy

June 19, 2015

Dear brothers and sisters,

Shortly after the devastating news of the mass murders at Emmanuel AME Church began to spread, a deacon of our diocese wrote to me.  “Why?” he asked.  “How could such a thing happen in a sacred place?  What can I say to people who are looking for an explanation?”  I have pondered those questions for a day and still am unable to answer.  The “Why?” and the “How?” are unfathomable in the face of overwhelming evil.  Nine people are dead, brothers and sisters in Christ.  They were cut down solely because of their race.  How could one human being inflict such a thing on another?  How can we hear God’s voice in the midst of the storm of emotions – from fear to anger to bewilderment – that sweep over us?

In the end, we are reduced to silence and prayer.  I find myself seeking to be still in the presence of the Lord.  I find myself gazing at the cross, and into the face of the One who suffered immeasurably on our behalf.  I find myself allowing the questions simply to be, now and perhaps forever unanswered.  Meanwhile, we can seek comfort in the familiar and oft-prayed words of the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer – words that themselves were written by people who asked the same questions and struggled with their own version of the same pain.

Here are some texts that have seared themselves into my heart.  Perhaps they will touch yours as well.  In the first, the Psalmist – like us – pleads for understanding, and then slowly, tentatively, recognizes the Lord presence, without “explaining away” the evil.

O God, why have you utterly cast us off?
Why is your wrath so hot against the sheep of your pasture?
Remember your congregation that purchased long ago,
and the tribe you redeemed to be your inheritance,
and Mount Zion where you dwell.
Turn your steps toward the endless ruins;
the enemy has laid waste everything in your sanctuary.
Your adversaries roared in your holy place;
they set up banners as tokens of victory.
Yet God is my King from ancient times,
victorious in the midst of the earth.
(Psalm 74:1-4,11)

In the second, the author of Hebrews reminds us that Jesus himself suffered our sufferings and prayed our prayers (indeed, his Prayer Book was the Book of Psalms).  He walked the way of the Cross not only to rescue us from sin, but also to drink to the dregs the pain of human life.

During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.  Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered.
(Hebrews 5:7-8)

And finally, two prayers from the Book of Common Prayer.

Lord Jesus Christ, we commend to you our brothers and sisters Cynthia, Sharonda, Ethel, Tywanza, Clementa, Myra, DePayne, Daniel, and Susie, who were reborn by water and the Spirit in Holy Baptism. Grant that their death may recall to us your victory over death, and be an occasion for us to renew our trust in your Father’s love.  Give us, we pray, the faith to follow where you have led the way, and where you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, to the ages of ages.  Amen.
(BCP, p. 498)

O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son:  Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.
(BCP, p. 815)

I ask that this Sunday, in all the parishes of the Diocese of Northern Indiana, prayer be offered for the victims, for their families, for the city of Charleston and all touched by this tragedy, and for our nation.  With all blessings I am

Yours in Christ,


2 – 4:00 PM

Start your summer off with attending the above event in the great little town of Buchanan, Michigan.  Buchanan is a mere fifteen minute drive from South Bend when you take the by-pass and exit on the Buchanan/Niles Road.  Go thru the town and at the second stoplight and up the hill a bit is the art center.  Park on the street or the church parking lot next door.
Here is what to expect:   Three very diverse artists, great finger food, wine, punch, conversation with interesting people and a  walk thru three art galleries.
Artists showing are, Butch Welch (A Journey Along the Shores) photography that is guaranteed to blow your socks off in color and content.  Photos of lake country like you have never seen before.  Samuel J. Gillis  (Impressions of an Artist), colorful, high energy, abstract paintings that definitely get you thinking.  And finally, myself, Susan Adamek, (“Text Me”, or What is Black, White, & Read All Over?) a fiber/multi-media artist who explores new ways and twists to the old way of painting, sewing, quilting and collage.  The artistic diversity of this group will entertain your senses on a Sunday afternoon.
If you can’t make the party on Sunday, the show will continue thru July 19th.  Hours are listed on the web site.

Impromptu BBQ—A Lesson in Respecting the Dignity of Hospitality

Christina Hicks led some of us into a backyard adventure in hospitality this past Tuesday. Our first indication that something might be afoot came on Monday, when Chris called Mtr. Terri to request a ride home from the Martin’s Grocery Store on Ellwood Ave. The ride was not for Monday, however. Chris said she was buying a box or two of meat that she was to pick up the next day at 3pm.

“Sure, I can give you a ride home tomorrow!”

“Could we stop by the church on the way, so I can divide the meat up and put it into bags?”

“Um….okay. We can do that. As long as I can make it back to the church in time for 6:30 Mass.”

An hour or two later—just after 3pm, in fact—Chris called back.

“Chris, I thought you said you needed the ride tomorrow?”

“I do. I just wanted to ask whether we have any charcoal and a grill at the church.”

“I’m not sure. The grill we use may be John’s. I’d have to check.”

“Okay, well I’ll just pick up some charcoal, and you let me know about the grill.”

Mtr. Terri did ask John Zanka the next day, and discovered that the grill was, in fact, in the Holy Trinity garage, having been rescued from a neighbor’s trash by John a few years earlier.

“What does Chris have in mind?”

“I honestly don’t really know. I’m picking her up and helping her divide up some meat into packages. I’m guessing she wants to grill some of it to eat today, and, knowing Chris, she will make enough to share, but I have no idea what quantity we’re talking about. How about we give you a call once we reach the church?”


When 3 o’clock rolled around, Chris loaded a shopping cart full of food—including two large boxes and one small box of meat into the back of Mtr. Terri’s car. They went to the church and unloaded the groceries into the kitchen. After getting Chris set up with bags and counter space, Mtr. Terri dialed John’s number and handed Chris the phone to discuss what Chris wanted to do with the grill. John was in the middle of something just then, but said he could get to the church in about 15 minutes.

While Mtr. Terri went into the office to print up readings for the evening mass, Chris started dividing up the meat. Suddenly Chri appeared in the office door, holding a double slab of beef ribs.

“Where do you want me to put yours, Mtr. Terri?”

“Chris, that’s huge! You don’t need to give me that!”

“But I want to!”

“Um. . .Well. . . I’m going to be here at church until after mass and bible study, so we had better put it in the freezer.”

What you need to know here is that Chris often needs assistance with her own groceries. Her income goes to a payee, who pays her rent and is supposed to give her enough money for groceries and incidentals, but the payments are not always regular, and sometimes Chris needs to rely on the assistance of friends. She can tell you where to get a free meal at what time on what days, because she walks that circuit with some regularity.

Chris is also a member of the Church of the Holy Trinity, worshiping with us on Tuesdays and Sundays. When she has a few dollars she puts some in the plate. When she has extra canned goods she donates them to the food pantry. She gives her priest a Mother’s Day card every year.  She has a kind word for everybody. Chris is a real disciple.

So what to do when she wants to give the priest a slab of ribs, and when it turns out that she wants to give the priest a gallon bag of smoked turkey tails and another of pork rib tips as well? What to do when someone we think of as poor starts handing John a slab of ribs, and another to Miss Pat down the street, and another to Donny, and another to Miss Betty and probably to other folks when Mtr. Terri wasn’t looking because she was trying to get the charcoal lit? Do we stop her, protecting her from her own generosity, or do we honor that generosity, and enjoy with her the memory of having done the same with her family and friends in years past?

Lighting the charcoal is hot work, especially when your experience of charcoal lies more in the area of thuribles. Miss Pat came over to keep Mtr. Terri company as she tinkered with the fire. Chris came and went with bags of meat. She brought out chairs. She wandered off again. Suddenly she returned with three pints of ice cream from the convenience store. As we waited for the coals to heat up, we sat and chatted and ate our ice cream.

“Now do we think this food will be ready before 6:30? That’s when I need to go in and do mass.”

“Why don’t you do mass out here?”

“Well, Pat, I suppose I could . . . I’d need a table. . .I wonder whether that garden table can be turned around or whether John has it bolted to the wall. . .”

The table, rickety though it was, could be turned around without collapsing. By that time we had been joined by Miss Anne from next door, who added her brats and some salmon burgers to the grill. Mtr. Terri fetched the books and vessels, setting up for mass on the table outside. She posted signs on the doors, directing folks around back.

When Randy and Will and Stephanie arrived for mass, they came around back and found us. Miss Anne volunteered to participate from beside the grill, where she could keep the meet from scorching while we directed our attention to God. Chris did the first reading and Randy the second. Mtr. Terri noted that Chris had already preached us a sermon for the Feast of the Visitation—women coming together and celebrating God’s ability to lift up the lowly. The seven of us took communion.

After mass we settled in to eat. Randy and Miss Anne engaged in a friendly argument over whether the pork was cooked through. As we sank our teeth into smoked turkey tails, we compared notes on what foods were more tasty when a turkey tail was added to the pot. Pork in the greens or special seasonings? Which greens?

Eliezar and Johnny Jonathan wandered over with their mom. We kicked the soccer ball around, and Eliezar showed us some fancy footwork he picked up from watching how the college players dribble the ball. Jonathan ran to get his preschool graduation pictures to show us how dignified he looked in his cap and gown. Chris snuck back into the kitchen to wash the dishes while Mtr. Terri doused the fire.

It was 9 o’clock by the time Mtr. Terri finally dropped Chris off at her home. Out of three boxes and a bag of food, Chris was down to one bag, and she spoke of how pleased she was with her afternoon and evening’s work. She was particularly pleased with having taken everybody by surprise. No one had known they were being invited to a feast that day, but there in the backyard, she got to give them a taste of the heaven.

Just another Tuesday in the Garden of Ste. Therese!