NAVAJOLAND: Leadership workshop helps area mission move forward

November 23, 2009

More than 80 participants attending a leadership workshop held by the Episcopal Church in Navajoland (ECN) heard their new "co-leader" the Rev. Canon David Bailey say that it is time for the area mission to move forward.

The Nov. 21 workshop at All Saints Episcopal Church in Farmington, New Mexico, was attended by President of the House of Deputies Bonnie Anderson and all members of the ECN Council.

Anderson said there was a "vibrant expression of hope, enthusiasm, support for service and real commitment" at the workshop.

Bailey said he would be working to make sure "there is a solid structure in place" when the next bishop of Navajoland is chosen in about five years, according to an ECN news release. "The structure will include education and training, revision and updating of the ECN canons, and increased attention to development efforts," said Bailey.

The area mission has been without a bishop since Steven Plummer died in 2005. ECN has since been led by Bishop Rustin Kimsey, who served as assisting bishop for an interim period of 2 years, and Bishop Mark MacDonald, who served as assisting bishop from June 2006 until July 2009.

Bailey was selected as interim canon to the ordinary at an Oct. 17 convocation, bringing the Episcopal Church in Navajoland a step closer toward its eventual goal of selecting a Navajo, or Diné, bishop by 2013. The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori has said it is her hope to ordain a Navajo bishop during her tenure as Presiding Bishop.

"Maybe the larger church is waking up" to the needs and the value of Native American ministry, Anderson told the workshop participants. "It really is a bright time, and Navajoland is an important part of that."

Anderson asked people from Navajoland who are serving on the Episcopal Church's Committees, Commissions, Agencies and Boards (CCABs) to report on what they were doing for the Episcopal Church. They had just returned from a meeting of the CCABs in Chicago.

Maggie Brown from ECN's Southeast Region serves on the Standing Commission on Small Congregations. The Rev. Rosella Jim and Cornelia Eaton, both of the New Mexico region, serve on the board of the Executive Council Committee on Indigenous Ministries.

Anderson encouraged others to become involved in church activities outside of Navajoland.

Created by General Convention 1978, Navajoland is the only area mission in the Episcopal Church. It functions much like a diocese but with more oversight from the office of the Presiding Bishop and the House of Bishops. The ECN was carved out of parts of the dioceses of Utah, Arizona and Rio Grande. Its border is contiguous with that of the Navajo Nation.

The workshop concluded with Eucharist and a celebration of the lives and ministry of the Rt. Rev. Wesley Frensdorff, first bishop of Nevada, who died in 1988, and his wife Dee, who died in October 2009.

Anderson and the Rev. Jack Fowler, senior priest in Navajoland, read "The Dream," a vision for the church in mission that Frensdorff had written.

Fowler noted the prayer that Frensdorff had offered at a meeting in Farmington on May 14, 1988: "God give us clear minds, open spirits and loving hearts."

Frensdorff died in a plane crash in the Grand Canyon the following day.

His prayer is on a banner in the Farmington church. "What a mission statement. It says it all," said Fowler.

His wife, Anna Fowler, a member of the ECN Council, said she thought the workshop "was needed now, and was very well done. The group discussions were very helpful.

"There was a lot of people involved, good ideas and positive energy," she added.

Related Topics: