Our First 40 Days: A Reflection from Bishop Singh

Dear saints,

I call you saints as the Apostle Paul did because we all aspire toward holiness in Christ Jesus. I greet you from the spring House of Bishops in Houston, TX. Thank you for your support and prayer for the people of Ukraine and Russia.

I ask your prayers for all who are ill, especially the Rev. Canon Bill Spaid, retired Canon Missioner of Western Michigan, who has decided to move to hospice care. We give heartfelt thanks to God for Bill’s 35th anniversary of his ordination on March 21. If you wish to write a note to him and his spouse, Greg Fitzgerald, their address is 2008 Hudson, Kalamazoo, MI 49008.

Thank you for the warm welcome I have received from both of our dioceses. Your cards and welcome baskets with locally made goodies have filled me with joy and belonging. I am more than pleased with the way my relocation has gone. As some of you know, I bought a house in Stanwood, a village in Canadian Lakes near Big Rapids. It’s tranquil and roughly in the state’s middle, an hour north of Grand Rapids and a little over an hour west of Saginaw. I bought most of my furniture locally. The house fire helped me downsize quite radically, which meant that two trips in my Prius Prime and one for my smoke-restored books and a few other sundries did it. The Rev. Diane Stier of St. John’s, Mount Pleasant graciously received my stuff in my absence on January’s frozen winter’s day when I cried out for help.

After over a month of beginning this journey, let me share a few brief observations and seek your prayer for a few things.

Your deep devotion to Christ and the church moves me. Your many new practices to connect with formation and creation inspire me. I suspect that this devotion translates into a hope-filled resilience that you practice seemingly effortlessly. Despite the pandemic and other challenges, you and the Holy Spirit have raised, discerned, and formed many leaders for Holy Orders. God willing and the people consenting, we will joyfully ordain five transitional deacons in April and three vocational deacons in June.

Thanks for the gentle flurry of generosity across the board, in and outside the church. It all began with meeting your search committee on Zoom last summer, followed by your Joint Standing Committee leaders. Once your Joint Convention called me in October, I visited with your fantastic staff in November. I find that we have an excellent staff team, Standing Committee, Council, and Commission on Ministry leaders serving Christ in our dioceses. I have met some vestry members who demonstrate a deep love and loyalty to Christ and Christ’s church. Your welcoming liturgy that the Rev. Pam Lenartowicz of St. Andrew’s, Gaylord, Canon Missioner Anne Hallmark, and Canon Katie Forsyth put together at St. John’s Midland and live-streamed was beautiful. Your leaders entrusted me with the croziers of the dioceses along with a tippet bearing both diocesan seals. The gift of chasuble stole and mitre from my siblings of African Descent from the House of Bishops is a stunning work of worship art created by my friend, Colleen Hintz.

A neighbor visited and give me a list of the neighbors and their contact information. I guess that is Pure Michigan hospitality! I have also encountered much grace outside church circles through the kindness of a relocation specialist, Mary Smith-Uitvlugt, who took me on tour and introduced me to my realtors, Lisa Sabo and her brother Patrick Clark of Greenridge Realty.

Let me give you a sense of my first set of visitations and a few encounters.

February:

  • Visitation with St. Christopher’s, Grand Blanc, where I met with and installed their new rector, the Rev. Jerry Lasley. We also blessed former Eastern Michigan Canon to the Ordinary, the Rev. Canon Michael Spencer, on his last Sunday before transitioning to his new call in the Diocese of Southern Ohio. 
  • I went sledding with youth leaders from Western Michigan’s Southern Region at St. Timothy’s, Richland and broke my pinky. No, I was not training for the Olympics!
  • Visitation with St. John’s, Ionia where we also celebrated the retirement of their priest, the Rev. John Kirkman. 
  • Visitation and vestry meeting with Trinity, Lexington. 
  • Visitation and meetings with leadership with Grace, Port Huron. They grieve the loss of their former rector, the Rev. Dr. Lydia Agnew Speller, who died last year. 
  • Had dinner with our bi-diocesan chancellor, Bill Fleener, Jr. of St. David’s, Lansing. 


March:

  • Spent a Friday and Saturday engaging in a training led by Communities Organizing for Racial Equity (CORE), organized by our Dismantling Racism team. 
  • Visitation with St. Mark’s, Grand Rapids, including meetings with their rector, the Rev. Dr. Christian Brocato, as well as their vestry and other leaders.
  • Spent the weekend with the Academy for Vocational Leadership, engaged with and met with Dr. Val Fargo, the Academic Dean, as well as the other instructors and our students in formation.
  • Visitation with Trinity, Bay City and meetings with their rector, the Rev. Sue Rich, vestry, and other leaders considering strategic steps forward as a congregation.
Bishop Singh smiles for a selfie with the faculty and students of the Academy for Vocational Leadership, a bi-diocesan program of formation for ordination.

For now, I have a rhythm of spending my Tuesdays at the Grand Rapids office and Wednesdays at the Saginaw office for staff and other increasingly face-to-face meetings. We attend to staff and other pastoral care issues as we come by them. I have met with the Rev. Canon Tracie Little for onboarding as she prepares to begin as Canon to the Ordinary serving Eastern Michigan on March 22. She is participating in the Episcopal Church Transition Officers conference this week to get oriented even before she officially starts her new ministry.

We have competent staff in both dioceses and I am listening and observing to help us be more responsive as necessary. We have one monthly joint staff meeting right now, apart from separate staff meetings. I am impressed with how you have identified and worked on common issues while exploring further cooperation and collaboration. Congregational development is a common issue and both dioceses are asking similar and different questions. Some common and some separate conversations would be helpful. Strategically, a common language shared by lay and clergy leaders across the two dioceses would be fantastic. It would help to have a task force explore some orientation and engagement in leadership formation to help with congregational development.

Kindly uphold these intentional engagements in your prayers: a joint staff retreat, April 4-5; a Building Bridges Steering Commitee retreat, May 14; a clergy retreat and chrism mass, coming up on May 10-12. And for the Task Force on the Eucharist, who are working hard to bring some recommendations to Bishop Perry and me within the next week or so.

I give thanks for serving our great, big, wonderful God with you. We give thanks for the life and witness of St. Patrick. Have a holy Lent!

With affection,

+Prince

The Rt. Rev. Prince G. Singh, Ph.D. is bishop provisional serving the Episcopal Dioceses of Eastern and Western Michigan. He was elected in October 2021 and officially began in this role on February 1st, 2022. 

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