Today at the House of Bishops Spring Retreat, Bishop John Tarrant spoke about some of the challenges that confront him and his people in the Diocese of South Dakota. The Office of Public Affairs’ release includes this:
Bishop Tarrant spoke of the ministry of the bishop in the midst of the prevalent alcoholism, poverty and trauma among the Native American population in South Dakota. Bishop Tarrant spoke of Jesus’ prediction that his disciples will be persecuted, hated, and killed by all nations. Historically, Native Americans, with and among whom his diocese serves today, have been hated by only one nation, the United States. The bishop spoke of being aware, as he travels in the diocese and makes his pastoral rounds, of the spirit of those peoples, victims of racism, injustice and genocide, and of being aware also of the Spirit of the Creator who never intended these lands to be possessed. “There is an emotional price to be paid for this awareness,” he said.
He said that over 50% of Episcopalians in South Dakota are Lakota, 60% of whom live below the poverty line. Unemployment is as high as 85%. He told several stories of contemporary Lakota women and men in his diocese, modern day Holy Women, Holy Men whose courage, perseverance and amazing generosity in such a difficult context are continually inspiring.
Bishop Tarrant spoke of feeling, at times, discouraged, angry, and in despair in this situation, but that he did not feel freedom to give in to such feelings. Instead, there is profound inspiration to be found in the witness of such God-imaged people, and we are called not to live out of our feelings but out of our being, called to be present in a hope-filled, loving, respectful, way. “I keep showing up, and when I do, I meet Jesus.” He added that we don’t have all the answers, but that is freeing. He continued that we need to be bold enough to say with conviction that nothing can separate us from the love of God which is ours in Christ Jesus. People who embrace the love of God will never settle for being treated as less than God’s beloved, or expect to live as other than totally dependent on Christ.