A Word from Bishop Skip for the Feast of St. Andrew the Apostle

Dear People of Eastern and Western Michigan,

It seems appropriate that on this Feast of Saint Andrew the Apostle, and right on the cusp of Advent, that I send you a word of greeting in the name of our Savior, Jesus.

It is with a grateful heart that I have accepted the invitation of each diocese’s Standing Committee, and will walk with you once again for a time as your Assisting Bishop. When I was ordained a bishop in 2001, then Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold gave me a framed statement from St. Augustine. It reads:

“For you I am a bishop, but with you I am a Christian; one is an office, accepted; the other is a gift, received. One is danger; the other is safety. If I am happier to be redeemed with you than to be placed over you, then I shall, as the Lord commanded, be more fully your Servant.”

It is with such an attitude that I seek to walk the way of faith with you these next months. You are a remarkable people who have endured much. I want to honor the faith that is clearly present among you and in you. My hope is that we will have the opportunity to celebrate well all God in Christ is doing, and will be doing, among us. When given the opportunity, I seek to call forth that grace so abundantly present, name it when I see it, and with you, stay rooted in gratitude that springs forth in joy and hope.

Below you will find a short reflection that I offer, hoping it grounds us in the work we have before us.

Blessings and peace,

The Rt. Rev. Skip Adams
Assisting Bishop
The Episcopal Dioceses of Eastern and Western Michigan

St. Andrew the Apostle

November 30, 2023

“Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” So says Matthew 4:19 in the Gospel appointed for this Feast of St. Andrew. Some would call him the first missionary in the company of disciples. One of the two main images for mission and ministry in the New Testament is that of fishing. The other is that of a shepherd.

I am drawn to the fishing metaphor in the context of remembering St. Andrew, whom we know along with his brother Peter, was a fisherman. It will not be a surprise for some of you that I find the image of fishing compelling, as I am a passionate fly fisher. If you need evidence, all you need to know is that a rainbow trout appears on the front panel of my green set of Eucharistic vestments.

What may be a surprise, however, is that when my mind goes to fishing, it also goes to grace, that unmerited, undeserved gift of God. Norman Maclean, in the novella “A River Runs Through It,” says it best: “My father was very sure about certain matters pertaining to the universe. To him, all good things—trout as well as eternal salvation—come by grace and grace comes by art and art does not come easy.”

When I wave a bamboo fly rod in the wind, made from a living grass by loving hands through a process of drying, splitting, milling, sanding, gluing and varnishing that takes 300 to 500 hours of crafting; cast a fly that I wrapped and tied to a hook through the manipulations of my own fingers; use feathers and hair from animals of God’s creation that once had blood coursing through their veins; and watch a sleek muscular trout rise to take it, that I am told has been virtually unchanged in the gene pool for 2 million years; that is grace, it is art, and it is never easy.

We pray in the Collect for this day that we would have the same grace given to Andrew to readily obey the call of Jesus Christ. Christian ministry is pure grace, it is an art and it is never easy. Yet it is joy, for it is the self-emptying way of the cross bringing hope to all.

Almighty God, who gave such grace to your apostle Andrew that he readily obeyed the call of your Son Jesus Christ, and brought his brother with him: Give us, who are called by your Holy Word, grace to follow him without delay, and to bring those near to us into his gracious presence; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Icon Image: Apostle Andrew, the Holy and All-Praised First-Called via the Orthodox Church in America.