Thursday, October 29, 2015

All Saints/All Souls

Octave of All Saints/All Souls

Once again this year at St. Stephen’s we will devote an entire week to celebrate the saints in our lives. In preparation for the Feast of All Saints (which is one of the most important feast days in our Church year), we will be remembering all of the saints in our lives (those whom we have loved and who have shown us something of who God is). We will be offering several opportunities at St. Stephen’s to honor those who have passed on before us to the larger Communion of Saints.

+ A list has been placed in the Narthex for you to write the names of your deceased loved ones so they may be remembered at the special Requiem Mass we will celebrate on Wednesday November 4. You can also send any names to Fr. Jamie at and he will make sure they are remembered at the Requiem Mass and their names placed on the altar on All Saints Sunday.

+ A special altar has once again been placed in the Narthex. Please bring a photograph or other memento of your loved one to be displayed there through November 4.

+ Attend the All Saints Sunday Mass on November 1 and t
he Requiem Mass at 6:00 pm Wednesday Nov. 4.


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Pastoral Letter regarding Bishop's Smith's Letter in The Sheaf

This is my commandment, that you love one another
as I have loved you.
John 15.12

October 29, 2015
The feast of Bl. James Hannington and Companions

Dear Members and Friends of St. Stephen’s,

As you might know, Bishop Michael Smith, in the November issue of The Sheaf, issued a letter regarding the topic of same-sex marriage rites in the Episcopal Diocese of North Dakota. His letter in full follows this letter. I invite you to prayerfully and respectfully read his  letter.

The reactions of the members of St. Stephen’s to his letter may no doubt vary. Some may feel anger or frustration. Others may agree with Bishop Smith’s opinion.

In the recent past, I have purposely not responded to this issue because I, like many of you, have been waiting patiently for Bishop Smith to make a comprehensive statement regarding his making provision for same-sex marriage rites in the Diocese. On at least one occasion I attempted a conversation with Bishop Smith regarding this issue; no doubt, he already assumed where I stood on this matter.

As the priest of St. Stephen’s, it is not my duty to tell the people of our congregation what they should or should not do. I can only encourage. I can only walk beside you. And I, of course, will support any decision you make as a congregation. I can also share my own insights with you.

Bishop Smith’s letter was not a surprise to me, although I will admit that I was disappointed that Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight (DEPO) was the only option offered to the Diocese.  

His letter does now draw a very clear and distinctive line in the sand. He makes clear (and rightfully so) that this matter is no longer an issue of polity, nor is it an issue of loyalty—either to the Diocese or to the Bishop. It is now a very clear issue of conscience. Bishop Smith’s final statement makes this clear:

Each of us one day will be called upon to give an account before God for what we have done or not done during this life, as we stand before the “great judgment seat of Christ.” At this time in our history, I am keenly aware of the scriptural warning of the letter of James: “Not many of you should become teachers … for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness” (James 3:1)

I agree entirely with this statement. Each one of us WILL one day be called to give an account before God for what we have done or not done during this life. I, for one, am not willing to stand before “the great judgement seat of Christ” and say that I stood by quietly while people continued to be excluded and marginalized from the Church or given second (or third)-class treatment. For me, my goal as a follower of Jesus has always been to live out his command:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10.27).

As an Episcopalian, I take very seriously those vows we make from the Baptismal Covenant in the Book of Common Prayer (p. 305):

“Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?


“Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?”

In my opinion, the issue of  full and equal acceptance of all people in this Church and to its rites is an issue of justice. This is an issue of respecting the dignity of every human being. This is an issue of living out Christ’s command to love one another as God loves us.

St. Stephen’s has, from its very beginning in 1956, been a congregation that has worked hard to be a place of radical hospitality and acceptance. That mission of all-accepting love has been vital in the lives of countless people who have found with us a place of solace and sanctuary. We have consistently welcomed the alienated, the shunned, the marginalized and the discarded. For us, this is what it means to be Christians in this day and age. For us, this is what it means to make the Kingdom of God a reality in this world. And we will continue to do this in the most radical ways.  To do less would be to be untrue to our calling as followers of Jesus.

The ball is now in our court. How we proceed will be of the utmost importance. My hope is that we will do so intentionally and prayerfully, allowing God’s Holy Spirit to be with us and guide us

Whatever our decision may be as a congregation, these next weeks and months will be a time for discernment and introspection. I ask that we proceed in a spirit of grace and humility. I pray that we will allow the Holy Spirit to continue to work in our midst, and that we allow God’s all-powerful love to reign.

With that in mind, I caution us from any temptation to demonize Bishop Smith or anyone else who shares a similar position. Our ministry of love and full-acceptance extends to our relationship with them as well. They are not our enemies; rather they are our sisters and brothers in Christ, and we must continue to see them as such. The command from Christ to love all as God loves us extends, of course, to them as well.

With all that in mind, we must now accept the fact that the line, as I previously said, has now been clearly drawn. We have been given an opportunity to weigh our options and to proceed in our following of Christ.

So, how do we proceed? First, I ask you to read Bishop Smith’s letter with an open mind and heart.

Next, I ask you to share your opinions with me, or with our Senior Warden, Leo Wilking, Junior Warden, Catherine McMullen or with any of our vestry members.  Your opinion is vital in how we proceed as a congregation.

Most of all, I ask for your prayers. Pray for the grace and wisdom to move forward. Pray for those individuals in our congregation who are most directly affected by these issues and who are, in this moment, feeling pain and discouragement as a result of this division. Pray that we can, in all integrity, make wise decisions, avoiding all malice and ill-will as we do so.

I ask that you pray for Bishop Smith and for all our sisters and brothers in Christ in the Diocese of North Dakota at this time. Please pray also for Bishop Michael Curry, who will be consecrated as the new Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church on November 1. Pray for the leadership of our Church.  

But especially pray for our congregation of St. Stephen’s. We ask that the Holy Spirit will be present with each of us as we discern our future together, as we strive to continue to do the ministry we have been called to do, and as we follow Jesus where he leads. Please pray for our Senior and Junior Wardens, as well as our Vestry as they weigh the option placed before them and proceed accordingly.

And please do pray for me. Know each of you remain, as always, in my prayers as well. It is a true joy for me to be your priest.




Bishop Michael Smith’s Letter from the November issue of The Sheaf:

Dear Friends in Christ:

My letter in the July-August issue of The Sheaf included the reasons why I cannot in good conscience authorize the trial rite of Same Sex Marriage for the Diocese.

Although the enabling resolution for the rite gave authority to the Diocesan Bishop to make such a decision, it also included the directive that the Diocesan Bishop “will make provision for all couples asking to be married in this Church to have access to these liturgies.”

I have concluded a process of consultation seeking the advice of those clergy who are responsible for solemnizing marriages about what course of action I should take. As one might imagine, our clergy are quite a diverse lot in terms of their views on same sex marriage: some are conscience-bound to uphold the traditional teaching of the church on marriage between a man and a woman; others hope to solemnize same sex marriages; still others do not believe the new rites are biblical marriage, but think a blessing of some kind is in order. (This last option is no longer possible, according to General Convention, for those who live in civil jurisdictions where same sex marriage is legal.) It is good for us to remember that theological diversity is honored in the Episcopal Church and “no bishop, priest, deacon or lay person should be coerced or penalized in any manner, nor suffer any canonical disabilities, as a result of his or her theological objection to or support for [same sex marriage.]”

After consulting widely with the diocesan priests-in-charge, I have decided to offer Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight (DEPO)4 to those congregations requesting it. According to the provisions of DEPO, if the priest-in-charge and two-thirds of the members of a vestry ask me, I will appoint another bishop to provide oversight for the three-yea rperiod between General Conventions.

Contrary to what some have understood, DEPO has nothing to do with a congregation’s relationship with the other congregations of the diocese. Rather, it has to do with the congregation’s relationship with the bishop. A congregation receiving delegated episcopal pastoral oversight would still remain active in the life of the diocese. My office would pay for an annual visit by the DEPO bishop.

In the course of these months of consultation, I have been reminded by some that the traditional view of marriage I hold is a “minority” one in the Episcopal Church. This may be true, as it is for other declining churches of Western secular cultures, but the fact remains that the traditional view of marriage between one man and one woman for life remains the teaching of our own Book of Common Prayer, as well as the teaching of the
vast majority of the Anglican Communion, and global Christianity in general. Just weeks ago, the primates of the Global South, representing the majority of Anglicans wrote:

We grieved one more time at the unilateral decisions taken by the last General Convention of the Episcopal Church (TEC) in the USA to redefine marriage and to accept same-sex marriages (Resolutions A036 and A054). We see these latest resolutions as a clear departure from not only the accepted traditional teaching of the Anglican Communion, but also from that of the one Holy, Universal, and Apostolic
Church, which upholds the scriptural view of marriage between one man and one woman. (Lambeth Resolution 1:10, 1998.)6

Each of us one day will be called upon to give an account before God for what we have done or not done during this life, as we stand before the “great judgment seat of Christ.” At this time in our history, I am keenly aware of the scriptural warning of the letter of James: “Not many of you should become teachers … for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness” (James 3:1). May the Lord have mercy on all of us whose responsibility it is to teach the Christian faith.

+ Michael Smith

Monday, October 26, 2015

The week of October 26

Join us this week at St. Stephen’s

Wednesday October 28   
6:00 p.m. – Holy Eucharist
Fr. Jamie, celebrant/ preacher
Incense will be offered at this Mass
Supper afterward at a local restaurant

Sunday November 1  – All Saints Sunday
11:00 a.m. – Holy Eucharist
Children’s Chapel
Fr. Jamie, celebrant/preacher
Coffee Hour following

12:45 pm - Vestry

Monday, October 19, 2015

The week of October 19

Join us this week at St. Stephen’s

Tuesday October 20
7:00 p.m. Deacons class

Wednesday October 21   
6:00 p.m. – Holy Eucharist
Fr. Jamie, celebrant/ preacher
Incense will be offered at this Mass
Supper afterward at a local restaurant

Sunday October 25  – 22 Pentecost
11:00 a.m. – Holy Eucharist
Children’s Chapel
Fr. Jamie, celebrant/preacher

Coffee Hour following

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Rick Holbrook committal

Prayers for the soul of Rick Holbrook (+ 1/7/2015), whose ashes are being buried today after Mass in the Memorial Garden. It is very appropriate that Rick will be the first to be interred in the Memorial Garden.   Prayers also for Sandy and her family today. 

(several of these photos were taken by Vanessa Bourgois) 

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Delegates to Diocesan Convention

Radisson Hotel, Bismarck, ND. October 17, 2015. (from left) Fr. Jamie, William Weightman, John Baird, Gin Templeton, Leo Wilking, Sandy Holbrook and Donna Clark

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Congratulations, Jessica and John

Our very own John Anderson and Jessica Pitzel won first prize for their vintage (1970s-era) costumes at the premiere of season 2 of the Fargo series the Fargo Theatre  

Monday, October 12, 2015

Letter to Bishop Smith from Dan Rice and Amy Phillips

St. Stephen’s members, Amy Phillips and Dan Rice, wrote the following letter to Bishop Smith regarding the acceptance of same-sex marriage rites in the Episcopal Diocese of North Dakota.

Bishop Smith’s response follows, followed by Dan and Amy’s response.

TO:                 Michael Smith, Bishop, Diocese of North Dakota
FROM:           Daniel Rice & Amy Phillips, Members, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Fargo
DATE:                        October 7, 2015
RE:                  Marriage Equality in the ND Episcopal Diocese

Greetings, Bishop Smith. Thank you for taking the time to read this message, particularly since we are new members of the Episcopal Church (and St. Stephen’s specifically).

We were heartened by the news that the General Convention recently passed a Resolution (A054) which reflects and forwards the Good News of God’s love and acceptance of all people.  One of the reasons we decided to become Episcopalians and join St. Stephen’s was the leadership the Episcopal Church has often provided in matters of inclusivity and social justice. Resolution AO54 helps the Church continue to provide this leadership.

We are writing to ask that you, as the Bishop, also exercise your leadership to support the inclusive and forward-thinking message manifest in A054. As you know, marriage rituals in the church proclaim both a sacred commitment on the part of the couple and support for that commitment on the part of the congregation. We feel strongly that this two-fold proclamation should be available for same-sex/same-gender couples.  Further, we do not believe this sacrament should be subjected to officiation or oversight by “stand-in” clergy or bishops, thereby indicating the “unacceptable” nature of the union in the minds of some people. Such policy reminds one of anti-miscegenation laws and has no place in the Church. 

 We are writing to request that you:
1)      Provide to the entire Diocese, as soon as possible, the two A054 liturgies;

2)     Authorize, as soon as possible, priests and congregations to use the liturgies, if they so desire; and

3)     Let your heart be opened to the idea that there is no unchanging “order established in creation,”[1] but that creation is continuous (creation continua),[2] that through continuous creation God is doing something new,[3] and that God’s creation is a renewing unfolding of love, inclusivity, and justice.[4]

Thank you for your attention to this letter and for your inclusive leadership in the Diocese.


From: Michael Smith
Date: Thu, Oct 8, 2015 at 9:59 AM
Subject: Re: letter

Thank you, Daniel and Amy, for sharing your thoughts on same sex marriage in the Diocese of North Dakota. I have been consulting widely and will answer your concerns more fully in the November issue of The Sheaf, our diocesan newsletter.

In the meantime here's a link to an article I read just this morning. It may be of interest to you.

I would appreciate your prayers. There are very few congregations in North Dakota for whom this is not a contentious, very divisive issue. My job as bishop is to try to hold folks together. It's a tough job to say the least.

Peace to you. I look forward to meeting you in person.



From: Dan Rice and Amy Phillips
Date: Fri, Oct 9, 2015 at 7:51 AM
Subject: Re: letter
To: Michael Smith

Hello, Bishop Smith.  Thank you for your response to our letter. 
The history of the church is one of increasing inclusiveness and equality. We are reminded of St. Paul advocating for the church to include both Jews and gentiles, and Martin Luther advocating for the laity's access to the scripture. The church has faced the same question with regard to slavery, race, the role of women, and other issues.  In each of these instances, there were those in the church who argued for the status quo and the preservation of the church's unity above justice and inclusion.  These voices in the church were unable to see God doing anything new in their time.  As our Bishop, we hope you will lead the Diocese to a more open and inclusive understanding of what God is doing in our time.
Thank you.

Daniel & Amy

[2] The Episcopal Church, Network for Science, Technology & Faith
[3] 2 Corinthians 5:17; Book of Common Prayer, p. 861 (“God does not limit himself to these rites. There are countless ways by which God uses material things to reach out to us.”)
[4] Luke 4:18-19

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The week of October 12/Prayer for our Diocesan Delegates

Join us this week at St. Stephen’s

Tuesday October 13
7:00 p.m. Deacons class

Wednesday October 14   
6:00 p.m. – Holy Eucharist
Fr. Jamie, celebrant/ preacher
Incense will be offered at this Mass
Supper afterward at a local restaurant

Friday October 16
7:30 pm – Fr. Jamie on Prairie Pulse on Prairie Public Television

Friday October 16-Saturday October 17   
Diocesan Convention

Sunday October 18  – 21 Pentecost
11:00 a.m. – Holy Eucharist
Children’s Chapel
Fr. Jamie, celebrant/preacher
Coffee Hour following

Committal of Rick Holbrook’s ashes in the Memorial Garden

Prayers for our Diocesan Convention Delegates

The Prayers of St. Stephen’s are requested for our Delegates to Diocesan Convention this weekend in Bismarck:
John Baird
Donna Clarke
Sandy Holbrook
James Mackay
Gin Templeton
William Weightman
Leo Wilking
Almighty and everlasting Father, you have given the Holy
Spirit to abide with us for ever: Bless, we pray, with his grace
and presence, the bishops and other clergy and the laity
soon to be assembled in your Name, that
your Church, being preserved in true faith and godly
discipline, may fulfill all the mind of him who loved it and
gave himself for it, your Son Jesus Christ our Savior; who
lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one
God, now and for ever. 

Monday, October 5, 2015

Prayer for and a request from Holly Eklund

I ask St. Stephen's for prayers for our very own Holly Eklund,  who is in need of a kidney. Please keep her and her husband Michael in your prayers. And if you know of anyone willing to donate, please contact the number below

The week of October 5

Join us this week at St. Stephen’s

Tuesday October 6
7:00 p.m. Deacons class

Wednesday October 7   
6:00 p.m. – Holy Eucharist
Fr. Jamie, celebrant/ preacher
Incense will be offered at this Mass
Supper afterward at a local restaurant

Saturday October 10   
Schierholz/Tri wedding (off site)

Sunday October 11  – 20 Pentecost
11:00 a.m. – Holy Eucharist
Children’s Chapel
Fr. Jamie, celebrant/preacher
Coffee Hour following

12:45 p.m. – Vestry

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Prayers for the repose of the soul of Lawrence Leclerc

The prayers of St. Stephen’s are requested for the repose of the soul of
Lawrence “Larry”  Leclerc
father of Martha Leclerc and father in-law of Leo Wilking
who died early this morning (October 4)
Please keep Martha, Leo and their family in your prayers at this time.

Rest Eternal grant to him, O Lord;
And let Light perpetual shine upon him.

May his soul, and the souls of all the departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. 

Pet Blessing 2015

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Letter from St. Stephen's Vestry regarding same-sex marriage rites in the Diocese of North Dakota

Dear St. Stephen’s Community,

Following is the September 24 letter from the St. Stephen’s Vestry to Bishop Michael Smith regarding same-sex marriage rites in the Episcopal Diocese of North Dakota, followed by Bishop Smith’s response as of today (October 1).

Your continued prayers and support on this issue are requested.


Letter from the St. Stephen’s Vestry:

 September 24, 2015

Re: Same Gender Marriage Liturgy in the Diocese of North Dakota

Dear Bishop Smith:

At its General Convention in Salt Lake City this past summer, as you know, the Episcopal Church adopted Resolution A054, which states in pertinent part:

                        Bishops exercising ecclesiastical authority or, where appropriate,
                        ecclesiastical supervision, will make provisions for all couples
                        asking to be married in this Church to have access to these.

We are aware that you have consulted with some priests within the Diocese, soliciting their view on the matter as you decide how you will “make provision” for same sex couples in our Diocese to exchange marriage vows within the context of our church’s liturgy. As such marriages may take place beginning on the first Sunday of Advent, November 29, 2015, and because this is an issue of paramount importance to gay and lesbian couples within our congregations, we respectfully ask that you share your initial thoughts on the matter of “making provision” prior to Diocesan Convention in Bismarck on October 16-17, 2015, and invite feedback and comment from delegates at that Convention before making a final decision.

We also ask that you give strong consideration to a process by which priests in the Diocese of North Dakota who are willing to do so are allowed to perform marriage rites for same sex couples in their home parish. We feel strongly that a couple that is resident in North Dakota should be allowed to marry in the Diocese of North Dakota, and not be required to travel to Minnesota, South Dakota, or other states. We are aware that some bishops in the Episcopal Church who are in good conscience opposed to same-sex marriages are referring gay and lesbian couples within their dioceses to neighboring dioceses, often in neighboring states. This quote from a letter sent recently by St. Andrew’s Church in Albany to the Bishop of Albany captures our concern about such an approach:

Compelling priests who support the Convention’s action to deny
                        their parishioners access to the approved marriage rites goes
                        beyond merely coercing them to say “no” in order to be obedient
                        to their Bishop. It puts them at odds with the Holy Spirit moving
                        within them, doing damage to their own souls. It makes them into
                        liars – falsely representing their beliefs to those couples, their
                        parishes, and to the world outside to whom they are charged with
                        carrying Christ’s message. It makes them complicit with a
                        policy that they know to be destructive in the lives of their
                        parishioners. It erodes the bonds of trust necessary if a
                        pastor is to be able to minister to the entirety of their

Some have suggested that this issue can be addressed via the provisions of Delegated Episcopal Oversight (DEPO). This is not an option we support because it would create division among congregations in our Diocese – some being DEPO-designated congregations and others not. At St. Stephen’s we value our longstanding relationship to other congregations within the Diocese and see any solution which brands some congregations as “different” from others in this way as damaging to those relationships and to the Diocese as a whole.

We recognize and respect your strong view on this matter, as reflected in your participation in the Communion Partners Salt Lake City Statement issued on July 2, 2015. At the same time, we ask you to recognize that a large majority within The Episcopal Church do not share those views.
We ask that you “make provision” for marriage of same sex couples within the Diocese of North Dakota in a manner which honors and respects their devotion to each other and our church, and makes known to them that they are loved and welcomed by many within our own Diocese.

This letter is sent on behalf of the undersigned and the other members of the vestry of St. Stephen's: Bryan Gelinske, Sandy Kenz, Annette Morrow, and Gin Templeton.


Leo F.J. Wilking
Senior Warden

Catherine McMullen
Junior Warden

cc: All Priests and Priests-in-Charge, Diocese of North Dakota
      All Senior Wardens, Diocese of North Dakota

Response from Bishop Smith:

October 1, 2015

Dear Father Jamie, Leo, Catherine, and the St. Stephen’s Vestry:
I received your thoughtful, respectful letter on “Same Gender Marriage Liturgy in the Diocese of North Dakota” this week. I notice you copied the priests and senior wardens of the diocese, so I am attaching your letter and adding the deacons and other lay leaders to keep them in the loop.

You can expect a fuller treatment of some of the issues you raise in the November issue of The Sheaf. In this week before the pre-convention meetings, however, let me make three observations for the good of our order:

1. My conversations have been with the priests in charge on these matters because they alone have the responsibility and authority to make decisions on which marriages to solemnize or not.

2. Same sex marriage is not currently on the agenda for the upcoming diocesan convention. If you or anyone else wants to bring any issue for discussion at convention, our diocesan canons state that a resolution must be submitted sixty days in advance, unless two-thirds of the delegates want to take up a matter.

3. The level of controversy and division over this issue is reflected in the mail I am receiving. It is running about 50% in support of my position and 50% against.