Reflections on the Province V Big Provincial Gathering

Reflections from EDNIN participants

I want to say a word of thanks to those that participated in the Big Provincial Gathering, the first of its kind in the Episcopal Church, that took place in Kalamazoo, MI. I want to say a word of thanks to all those in our diocese from several faith communities who participated, who were presenters, and a special word of thanks to Christopher Hillak, to Fr. Matthew Cowden, and to Sean Meade who worked as part of the Provincial team to make the event as wonderful as it was.
— The Right Reverend Dr. Douglas E. Sparks, VIII Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Indiana
Province V’s Big Provincial Gathering far exceeded my expectations. Our keynote speaker, The Rev. Lorenzo Lebrija, captivated those gathered with his joyful, enthusiastic, and insightful presentation on leadership and innovation. Workshops of all descriptions highlighted vital ministries and best practices all around our province, fostered stimulating conversation, and encouraged action in our own communities. Worship was a wonderful mix of old and new, formal and informal, with powerful singing and preaching. I look forward to (hosting?) the next one!
— The Very Rev. Brian G. Grantz, Dean and Rector, The Cathedral of Saint James (South Bend)
There is such high value in simply being together. The BPG allowed for that and much more. The educational topics ranged from farm-food ministries to incorporating newcomers to racism to being the church in the 21st century. if you were not able to attend I highly recommend going to the Province V Facebook page and watching the keynote address, even a portion of it. Lorenzo Lebrija was inspiring and entertaining as he encouraged us to try new and unique ways to be the church in the world. Try something new and don’t be afraid to fail. Make a new friend within and beyond to the church. After all, that’s what we did at the BPG.
— The Rev. Matthew Cowden, Rector, Saint Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church (South Bend)
My biggest take away from the gathering was the hunger I experienced for something new that echoed throughout the conversations and workshops I attended. Everywhere I went I encountered people willing to step out of their comfort zones to try new ideas and approaches to proclaiming the gospel message. Some ideas were simple, others grand but each had its root in a desire to spread knowledge of Gods love to others. The willingness to try something new was no more inspiringly presented than in the message from Father Lorenzo. The openness to trying new things is a wonderful exercise of our faith in action. Part of trying is failing but if at the core of what we are doing is a desire to share God’s love with others, then I fail to see the failure in trying.
— Jordan Trendelman, St. Alban's Episcopal Church (Fort Wayne)
I enjoyed the Big Provincial Gathering. It was good to meet and talk with people from other dioceses in an informal setting. The various presentations were well done and interesting. I was particularly impressed with Marcia Ledford’s session on the role of progressive voices in the public square. That information will be very useful to us in the future. Our own talk on racial reconciliation in Marion was well attended with lots of good questions.

The most interesting thing happened in the hotel lobby on Friday. I was wearing my clericals and carrying signs for the Lights for Liberty event that evening. A man approached me with questions, and it became apparent that he thought I was an anime character in costume from their convention which was also in the hotel. That was unique.
— The Rev. Cn. Dr. James Warnock, Rector, Gethsemane Episcopal Church (Marion)
Saturday morning mass was a great coming together of members of a newly formed community united by song, scripture, and Eucharist. I felt made new and ready to “go forth.” As a presenter of part of a workshop dealing with the difficult issue of racism, I was heartened to work with a diverse, thoughtful, and committed group. Besides a couple of beautiful summer days in Kalamazoo, who could ask for more?
— Bill Munn, Gethsemane Episcopal Church (Marion)
It was a joy and privilege for me to participate in the Big Provincial Gathering of the Province V of the Episcopal Church and be repeatedly immersed in the blessings, which were sparkling from the simple smile of a friend, little chat I had with some new and old friends I met, warm welcome from hosts and organizers, meals, exhibitors’ booths I visited, keynote speech, workshops, music, and Eucharist celebration.

Dismantling Racism workshops will be my focus in the following lines as I share my takeaway. I was vividly struck by the increasing enthusiasm and dedication that shine through various and diverse activities churches are carrying on in their initiatives to respond to the harm and hurt engendered by racism.

“Finding Common Ground Through Racial Reconciliation” (workshop #12) was presented as part of an initiative of Northern Michigan Diocese, focusing on, among other things, building positive relationships with indigenous communities. After one of the presenters, who happened to be Native American, shared his healing story, a strong voice rose up in the room, asking about how much White Americans are participating in the healing journey of the above mentioned initiative. The voice added that the essence of dismantling racism, or of racial reconciliation, or whichever name the initiative takes should be that of mutual liberation instead of making one feel good, referencing Lila Watson, an Australian Aboriginal woman. That voice received standing applause from the audience.

Mutual liberation, what a profound meaning! How much substance of mutual liberation do we intentionally put in our works towards opposing racial discrimination, marginalization, and social injustices? As one once said, “Liberation is not something to be given, but rather it is a movement.” Is it why every Diocese in our Province V in particular should consider embracing Becoming Beloved Community Initiative as a way to more engage the church with surrounding communities and best tackle the tough challenges? Indeed, it is in Becoming Beloved Community Conversations that people start to humanize each other, identify the problem, and establish trust.
— Cn. Adrian Niyongabo, Missioner for Community Engagement, Episcopal Diocese of Northern Indiana

Presenters from the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Indiana

Diocese of Northern Indiana

Workshop Titles:
Evangelism Through Communications
Do-able Social Media Evangelism Projects to Share your Faith Stories and Build Community

Cn. Christopher A. Hillak, Missioner for Digital Communications

Gethsemane Episcopal Church (Marion)

Workshop Title:
Racial Reconciliation in a Small Indiana Town

Rev. Cn. Dr. James Warnock, Rector
Kresha Warnock
Bill Munn
Rev. Mindy Hancock
Evan Doyle

Holy Family Episcopal Church (Angola)

Workshop Title:
Enriching Worship with Music Ensembles

Sean Meade

St. Alban’s Episcopal Church (Fort Wayne)

Workshop Title:
OIW: How Becoming a More Open, Inviting, and Welcoming Faith Community Can Change the Way We Evaluate Success Within Membership Development

Jordan Trendelman
Christina Connelly

St. David of Wales Episcopal Church (Elkhart)

Workshop Title:
The Parable of the Garden: How Stewardship of Creation is an Act of Evangelism

Rev. Joshua D. Nelson, Priest-in-Charge

St. Margaret’s House (South Bend)

Workshop Title:
Creating Community, Changing Lives: How St. Margaret’s House Created a Ministry of Hospitality for Women and Children in Poverty

Kathy Schneider, Executive Director
Mary Fran Brandenberger, Associate Executive Director
Tanika Harris, Director of Guest Services

Participants from EDNIN that did not facilitate presentations

Cathedral of Saint James (South Bend) - The Very Rev. Brian Grantz, Tamisyn Grantz, Rev. Tina Velthuizen, Dana Sparks

Holy Trinity (South Bend) - The Rev. Cn. Dr. Terri Bays

Saint Michael and All Angels (South Bend) - Rev. Matthew Cowden, Michael Griffith