A Missionary Bishop

Posted by Ruth Beresford on

I touched his moccasin. Well, not really - I touched the small stone moccasin of a statue of the first missionary bishop, Jackson Kemper (commemorated today in our calendar of saints). As a child, I passed that statue every time I came in the side entrance of the nave, and I'd rub his toe and look higher to his miter. Who was this moccasin-wearing bishop? When the General Convention of 1835 made all members of The Episcopal Church also members of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society (who knew that?), missionaries were sent into the wilderness of America and abroad to foreign countries. Kemper served as the assistant to Bishop William White at Christ Church, Philadelphia. Consecrated a missionary bishop in 1835, Kemper was assigned to Indiana (my home state) and Missouri, but the moccasin bishop laid foundations for the church in Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Kansas and made many missionary tours in the South and Southwest. He went everywhere to tell the story of Jesus and draw people into the beauty and holiness of worship. Kemper brought his love for God to the Native Americans and encouraged the translation of the Prayer Book and Bible in their languages, pleading for more attention for their spiritual needs.

We are in a new missionary age, but the wilderness isn't that far away. The mission field is a royal wedding and a few talk shows, and the missionary bishop's name is Michael Curry. But, true to our name, today's missionaries are all the members of all the Episcopal congregations, sent into the wilderness where anyone is lost or hurting, scared or lonely; where anyone feels unloved and unworthy; where harsh reality meets the soul's search for beauty, truth, peace, and above all love. So grab your moccasins, topsiders, crocs, lace-ups, heels, or whatever suits your environment and bring to every encounter with every "neighbor" the loving, life-giving, and liberating power of God. Me? I'm wearing my Pentecost red heels to remember the words of Isaiah 52:7: "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace and salvation."

Lord God, grant that every member of the Church may always be faithful to its mission and have the vision, courage, and perseverance to make known to all people the Good News of Jesus Christ. Amen.


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alan robb May 26, 2018 11:02am

Dear Ruth,
I felt my Cherokee heritage stirring as I read your wonderful (as always) meditation. I ahave a pair of deer skin moccasins, which have no hard soles because my ancestors wore them when stalking deer. With a soft sole, the hunter could feel for sticks under the leaves, which would spook a deer if it cracked.

Alan Robb