I arrived in Fairbanks on an Alaska flight from Seattle filled with bishops and other support staff headed for our meeting in Alaska. We were all warmly welcomed in Fairbanks by Bishop Mark Lattime and by members of the diocese. The first night was mostly about getting settled in and resting. That was easier for me this time considering Alaska is basically in our neighborhood and this is most often not the case.
Thursday we met with several of the elders of the Athabascan people and heard presentations about culture in Alaska. The Presiding Bishop was gifted with a beaver skin miter and then the visiting elder reminded him, and us, that it is customary to dance after receiving a gift. Our PB did not miss a beat!
We visited the Morris Thompson Cultural Center which is filled with all kinds of history and information about Alaska, and of special interest to this group, has the plane Bishop Bill Gordon flew to his visitations in during his long tenure as Bishop here. We were treated to a film from 1951 which was all about Bishop Gordon and his family. His wife Shirley is with us for this meeting. Some of the Gordon children live in Seattle and attend church there. I have met Shirley there but never here. It was great to see her, to hear her tell stories about their time here, and to have her view on ministry in this place. . We ended the day with Eucharist, which included the Celebration of New Ministry for the Rt. Rev. Todd Ousley, yes, Lance’s brother, to the position of Bishop for the Office of Pastoral Development. After that, an opening dinner.
Today, we started the day with more cultural formation and education. We were blessed with the presentation of Ms. Poldine Carlo, 96 years old. She was amazing in so many ways. She wrote a book entitled “Nulato An Indian Life on the Yukon” “So much has changed for our people”. She was asked about the role of women. She spelled that out, especially as it pertained to the fish camp. She was asked, “Could women be chief?” To which she replied emphatically, ” NO WAY! ” but went on to say much has changed and much will. Bishop Lattime told us she was known for her singing and so we asked her to do some for us. She sang “Blueberry Hill” for us all, and had all singing along before long. I got a bit of it on video and she told me I could share it with you if I showed her first! Which of course I did! Here it is:
We broke for lunch after that, and I had my first meeting with the Presiding Bishop’s Council of Advice which I now serve. More meetings about our village visits coming up tomorrow, then Eucharist, and tonight are class dinners, meaning dinner with the class of bishops we came into the House of Bishops with.
Tomorrow some drive and some fly to villages. I will be flying to the village of Tanana. I will have much to report after that day I am sure. We have been so warmly welcomed in this beautiful land by the beautiful people.. You can read more at the Episcopal News Service http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2017/09/22/episcopal-bishops-gather-in-alaska-with-focus-on-indigenous-culture-environmental-justice/
Blessings to all,