Son of Kitson and John
by C. Robin Janning
Father of Charleen and Shane and Rebecca; grandfather of Shelby, Julia, Allison, Shani, and William; brother of Lani; husband of Elizabeth, stepfather of Robin. “For what it's worth,” Scott says, “White People tend to introduce themselves by what they do. Native people introduce themselves traditionally by who they're related to. Being vs. Doing.”
Trying to get a statement from The Rev. Scott Fisher about who he is and what he does is like trying to grab a handful of fog. You are better served by looking at the people, places, and things around him. The emphasis, he says, must be on the Church, St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Fairbanks, Alaska. About his ministry he says: “It is not my ministry, it is His ministry” and “the only thing, aside from telling me to stay close, I’ve ever had a sense of God telling me is tell them I love them. I’ve never had a sense of anything else.”
He says that he came to Alaska as a lay volunteer in the Fall of 1970, “living in Chalkyitsik, Stevens Village, Beaver. Small (50-75 folk) Athabascan communities in the Northern Interior.” There follows an interesting chronology, which includes marriage, Seminary in Austin (“a GIANT cross-cultural collision, but we return to Alaska [Beaver] in the Summers”), graduation from Seminary, children, a return to rural Alaska, time as an assistant to the Bishop in Fairbanks (“I spent 80% of my time flying in to the Interior and Arrtic Coast villages—teaching, training, and pastoral care”), and then in 1991 he is called to St. Matthews. About being called to be the Rector of St. Matthew’s he says “I have been here since 1991, and I keep remembering That Voice saying “Stay close to me and I’ll stay close to you.” Nothing Scott says about the life and work he engages strays far from that sense, that understanding, that God stays close.
St. Matthews is anchored in the people, land, and traditions of Alaska—yet, reaching out and up, in the ultimate symbol of the Christ Life, holding the traditions of The Episcopal Church. The truest and most accessible image of St. Matthew’s and its Rector appears when reading the newsletters. In particular, the “Winter Voices” which not only testifies to his guardianship and watchfulness, but also shows the interrelatedness of people and land in a way that makes you understand the concept of "One.”
The April/May 2008 issue of St. Matthew’s newsletter begins: “Finally the ice is running now; these Northern rivers emptying themselves. The parade of Winter and its memories sweep by, fragmented with the ice. There goes early November on that piece; and the dark one there carries dark Advent. Across, that clean snowy white one must be part of Christmas; and that little one barely there carries that one day in February. Past us; past us; past us go the Winter and its memories. Good bye and thank you and don’t hurry back, please.”
Whatever else you were doing, or thinking, now you settle down to see, to listen, and to remember. When Scott talks about the newsletter he says: “And Maggie Castellinni's role on the Newsletter needs to be noted. She's the Editor. All I do is gather and type. She puts it in readable format, while managing two lively boys and a career/calling as a Marine Biologist. Well, and her husband too.”
“Voices” in the newsletter testifies to the river in all of us, a running leaping, joyful, and tearful catch of moments and whispers, emotions and prayers. It can’t be contained here, it is too long, too wild. But go to the newsletter and read it, you will breathe in its icy reality and some river in you will loose and also run wildly.
Scott’s photographs have appeared at Episcopal Café in the past. Photographs taken by him to document places and moments of Spirit. But these photographs were not taken by him. As he says: “I didn't take any of the Eagle Summit photographs. I'm too busy to take photos then. They were taken by our Sexton, who also does the fancy photo computer stuff on the web site, Tree Michael Nelson.”
Who is The Rev. Scott Fisher? A friend writes this:
“As to Scott, it's unimaginable that he and Alaska would not be part of each other. The influence has been mutual. He listens profoundly, says little. This is the first rule for surviving up here. But it's more than that. Scott is the most non-violent person I have ever met, which does not mean he is a pushover. Far from it. He is non judgmental, and his vision of leadership is kenotic. Scott is also inclusive; like early Semitic Christians, no questions are asked; everyone is welcome. He has an amazing improvisational gift, and if you read the newsletters, especially "Voices", you can understand how valuable this is. For Scott there is no distinction between sacred and secular; he is one of the most unified people I’ve ever met.”
Another friend writes simply “I am still stunned to think that I know a friend like this.”
Who am I? asks The Rev. Scott Fisher? “I am someone who has said Compline at Midnight, 7 nights a week, for nearly 30 years. Compline always includes The Song of Simeon, for these eyes of mine have seen...”.
“To pray it at the conclusion of the day is to ask the question: so when did I , like Simeon, see Christ today; where were the Moments of Beauty and Grace. Hence going through the day requires some attentiveness to watching for the moments of Beauty and Grace. This connects with traditional (as far as I can tell) Interior (at least) Alaska Native worldview. Here in the Interior, I think, Life is viewed primarily as GOOD. God is seen as good (as opposed to scary or judgmental). He gives us fish in the Summer, moose in the Fall, geese in the Spring, etc. Life is seen as good, as Gift, from the Creator of us all.”
It is an often-used editorial device to posit that one is the heart of a movement or a place. But The Rev. Scott Fisher is not the heart of St. Matthews. He is the Shepherd of the hearts and that makes St. Matthew’s a place where we would all like to be. In Scott’s sense of sacramental, that place is close to God—and we are all there already. Always.
On View: Midnight Eucharist. The Rev. Scott Fisher, celebrating Eucharist at midnight at Eagle Summit in Alaska.
Author C. Robin Janning serves as Director of Communication for ECVA. An artist and photographer, you can see her work at
www.gramercygalleria.com and www.gramercydigitaldiary.blogspot.com.
Hat tip to Ann Fontaine, http://seashellseller.blogspot.com