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Oct 05, 2017 | The Rt. Rev. Jeff W. Fisher

Filling Your Plate With Grace

Bishop Jeff W. Fisher Reflects on House of Bishops Meeting in Alaska

Bishop Harrison and I recently participated in the House of Bishops meeting in Fairbanks, Alaska. Bishop Doyle and Bishop Monterroso stayed in our diocese to be attentive to our congregations and people, post-Harvey, especially in our south region. 

The Bishop of Alaska, Mark Lattime, and the folks in that diocese did an excellent job planning and executing a transformational time for the bishops and spouses. We experienced the beautiful natural resources of Alaska, and we learned from the generous and kind people, who live so closely to the land.

On Saturday, bishops and spouses split up in 12 small groups to travel across Alaska, some in tiny airplanes to villages north of the Arctic Circle. At 2pm, all groups simultaneously offered a moving liturgy of the Blessing of the Land. 

My wife, Susan, and I traveled by bus to Chatanika, about an hour north of Fairbanks. In the middle of the 20th century, Chatanika had a productive gold mine. Yet now the mine has been abandoned and not cleaned up, painful evidence of a violation of the land. A hulking machine, several stories high, is rusted and creaks with an eerie groaning, a lamentation.

On Sunday morning, we worshipped in 3 different congregations, in Fairbanks, North Pole, and Nenana. All of the bishops and spouses gathered that evening in the village of Nenana for a Potlatch (not a potluck) meal. 

The Potlatch is a ceremonial meal of gift-giving and abundance offered in native cultures. The people in the village had killed 3 prized moose as a gift to us. We were served moose meat, moose head soup, fried bread, salmon, salads, and Alaskan blueberry pudding. The chief of the village taught us that it is impolite to say “no thank you” to food that was offered to us as a gift. My full plate of food gifts reminded me that Jesus fills my plate with overflowing grace.  

From the House of Bishops meeting in Alaska, I have brought home new understandings about my lamentation over misguided environmental stewardship, about the generous witness of faithful Episcopalians in Alaska, about the abundant ways that Jesus fills my plate with grace.

-The Rt. Rev. Jeff W. Fisher, Bishop Suffragan