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Ordination Rich With Navajo Tradition

 KIRTLAND, NM - The Rev. David Bailey was ordained and consecrated bishop of the Episcopal Church in Navajoland Aug. 7 in a ceremony rife with tradition, joy and hope at the Brooks/Isham Performing Arts Center in Kirtland, New Mexico.

Several hundred Diné -- many wearing traditional Navajo clothing -- visitors and guests attended the 11 a.m. service. Medicine Man Herbert Yazzie led the procession with prayers, followed by Catharine Plummer, widow of the late Navajo Bishop Steven Plummer. 
She and Cathlena Plummer, using sacred blessing bowls and eagle feathers, smudged the gathering with smoldering sage and sweetgrass incense, a traditional ritual of blessing and cleansing.

The two-hour service wove past struggles into hopes for future vitality, said retired Bishop Rustin R. Kimsey of Eastern Oregon and former assisting bishop of Navajoland, who served as guest preacher.

"You have chosen well in selecting David Bailey to be your next bishop. He has known and loved you a long time," Kimsey told the gathering. "He knows, with [Presiding Bishop] Katharine [Jefferts Schori], the importance of indigenous leadership and he embraces the charge to equip you ... to call a Navajo person to be his successor," he said.

"What wonderfully exciting times for the faith community of the Navajo Area Mission. David is a fortunate man to be called to be your shepherd," he added.

Bailey thanked everyone for participating. "I am humbled and honored by the Diné in Navajoland and look forward to participating with them as we grow the church," he said, according to a prepared statement.

The presiding bishop was chief consecrator; co-consecrators included Kimsey and Bishop Carolyn Tanner Irish of Utah, where Bailey most recently served as canon to the ordinary and deployment officer.

Other co-consecrators included: Bishop Michael G. Smith of North Dakota, an enrolled member of the Potawatomi Nation of Oklahoma; Assisting Bishop Carol J. Gallagher, the first female Native American (Cherokee) bishop in the Episcopal Church, also of North Dakota; and Bishop Jerry Lamb of the Diocese ofSan Joaquin.

Also attending the celebration were bishops Edna Bavi "Nedi" Rivera, provisional of Eastern Oregon; Dena Harrison, suffragan of Texas; Mary Gray-Reeves, diocesan of El Camino Real; Mary D. Glasspool and Diane J. Bruce, suffragans of Los Angeles; Robert O'Neill, diocesan of Colorado; and Michael L. Vono, bishop-elect of Rio Grande.

Themes of unity, growing together and moving forward were echoed throughout the service. Water from each of the regions of Navajoland -- Utah, Arizona and New Mexico -- was poured into the baptismal font, blessed and sprinkled among the people as worshippers renewed their baptismal covenant, said the Rev. Dick Snyder, administrator of Navajoland Area Mission.

Bailey received a Navajo bible, presented by the Rev. Rosella Jim, currently the only Navajo priest, and Ruth Morris, a long-time member of Good Shepherd Mission. Both were active in the formation of the area mission, Snyder said. Bailey also received an English language Bible.

Jim led the congregation in a "blessingway" prayer, a traditional Navajo prayer recognizing God's blessing in all creation.

"All the People of Navajoland" presented Bailey for ordination, according to the service bulletin. Bailey's vestments symbolized powerful connections and the intertwining of his own story with that of the Navajo. He wore an alb that had belonged to Bishop Wesley Frensdorff, who was an interim bishop of Navajoland from 1983 until his 1988 death in a plane crash. The alb was discovered in a suitcase that survived the crash.

Bailey's crosier had belonged to Bishop Fred Putnam, the first bishop of Navajoland. Bailey's cope and mitre once belonged to Bishop Joseph Heistand who wore them when ordaining Bailey to the priesthood.

Rose Ann Sandoval, sister of the late Bishop Plummer, is producing a cope and mitre with traditional Navajo design for Bailey. Sandoval, from Shiprock, New Mexico, said she was excited about new possibility.

"Dave Bailey will make a great bishop; he will bring us together and help us to build up our church," she said.

In 1990, Plummer became Navajoland's first elected bishop. He was also the Episcopal Church's first Navajo priest and bishop. The Episcopal Church in Navajoland has had interim bishops since his 2005 death from cancer.

Kimsey told the gathering that, although the consecration was "a moment that belongs to the future," his heart was filled with images of the past.

He recalled the birth of the Episcopal Church in Navajoland as an area mission in 1978 and struggles to blend "your ancient ways with Christianity" as pathways to "a more sensitive awareness of who we need to be as an Episcopal Church."

Kimsey, who also served as interim bishop in the Diocese of Alaska referred to "dark times of history" such as the stripping of Navajo culture in Christian schools and the Long Walk to Fort Sumner. In 1864, the U.S. government forcibly removed the Navajo from the eastern Arizona territory to New Mexico, a trip that took 18 days. An estimated 200 Navajo died along the way.

Kimsey also praised Bailey as one who will "listen, expecting to be guided by your wisdom ... honor your history and personal stories, building on your energy of weaving and blending."

Bailey has expressed intentions to address such issues as melding tradition and church custom, empowering lay and ordained leadership, substance abuse and domestic violence, and embarking upon a broad capital funds campaign for future diocesan stability.

Alice Mason, who translated the Gospel lesson into Navajo during the service, said she was excited by future possibilities. "It really feels like people are moving," she said. "Navajoland is coming together and starting to move forward and has embraced the concepts David Bailey talked about, about bringing more Navajo into leadership and ordained offices."

Bailey, 70, was selected as interim canon to the ordinary during a special Oct. 17, 2009 convocation attended by 40 delegates in Farmington, New Mexico. The House of Bishops at a March 24, 2010 meeting elected him bishop.

Prior to serving as Utah's canon to the ordinary and deployment officer, he was rector of St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Phoenix. He had chaired Native American Ministries in the Diocese of Arizona and was a diocesan liaison to Navajoland and assisted Plummer in an administrative capacity.

Bailey replaces Bishop Mark MacDonald who resigned July 27, 2009 after serving three years as an interim bishop of Navajoland.

Bailey was ordained to the priesthood in 1980 and is a graduate of the Episcopal Seminary of the Southwest, receiving a Master of Divinity degree in 1991.

 

-- The Rev. Pat McCaughan is a national correspondent for the Episcopal News Service. She is based in Los Angeles. The Rev. Dick Snyder, administrator of Navajoland Area Mission, contributed to this report.



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