Saturday, July 14, 2012

Reflections on Commemorating Bishop Scott

Almighty and everlasting Father, by whose grace and power your servant Thomas Fielding Scott triumphed over hardships and sufferings to bring your good news to the people living in a new land.  Grant us, who now remember him with true thanksgiving the courage and devotion to gently and persistently share the new life that you give through the love of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

At its last Convention, the Episcopal Diocese of Oregon chose to make July 14th of each year the annual commemoration of our first Bishop, Thomas Fielding Scott. Scott was not just another Bishop. He was a man of tremendous personal courage, skill, vision, and faithfulness.

This commemoration, currently locally observed and not yet part of the wider Episcopal Church’s calendar, is a good example of how the Episcopal Church remembers and celebrates those whose “heroic sanctity” serves as a model for all of us.

A local community or region discerns that a Christian known to many has lived a life worthy of being remembered by all. The local diocese or regional dioceses determine the validity of such claims and whether or not to place the commemoration on their local calendars. If so, a date for the commemoration is determined (often the date of the person’s “entrance into heaven” through death; but sometimes another appropriate date), a proper collect is drafted, scripture lessons selected, and a biography compiled. All of this is then accepted at Diocesan Convention.

 After a period of use on the local level, a diocese may then approach the wider Church (through appropriate governance committees and finally the General Convention) with the request that the commemoration be added to the National Church’s calendar. If the wider Church consents to this, the commemoration may then be officially used by anyone in the Church.

The proposed collect above deserves consideration and revision, in my opinion. It is a fine prayer that both recalls the person being commemorated and asks God for the grace to live holy lives based on Bishop Scott’s pattern. It uses language appropriate to the person and era being commemorated, and (perhaps often overlooked in the drafting of such prayers) it reads/prays aloud well. However, it uses language that has significant problems (I would think) for many Native Peoples. Oregon was not “a new land” to them, though it may have been for Euro-American settlers. I would suggest a re-write replacing “…a new land” with something like “the Oregon Country,” which was a geographical term used in that period that covered the area Bishop Scott served so well.
A fine overview of the bishops of our diocese may be found at the Diocesan web site here.

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