TOPEKA — The night before he was formally installed as the episcopal leader of the Great Plains Conference, Bishop David Wilson joined family, friends, and colleagues from the past and present for a dinner.
“These are the people who support me, keep me in check and make me better,” he said during the dinner at Spring Hill Suites in Topeka.
Leaders from the Great Plains, Oklahoma and Oklahoma Indian Missionary conferences gathered around tables to interact in conversation before and after the dinner, encouraged by the Rev. Maria Campbell, chair of the episcopacy committee, to share stories.
Scott Brewer, conference treasurer and director of administrative services, hosted the program.
“Bishop Wilson might be a new bishop,” said Brewer, a lay delegate to the South Central Jurisdictional Conference, “but he is the most experienced new bishop you could have.”
The Great Plains new bishop previously served 20 years in the OIMC and the Oklahoma conference.
In one of the more touching moments of the night, Bishop Wilson was presented with a ceremonial shepherd’s staff by Bishop Bruce Blake, former episcopal leader from the Oklahoma Conference. Bishop Blake was given the staff by Rev. Dr. Thomas Roughface, who preceded Bishop Wilson as the district superintendent in the OIMC.
The beaded staff, adorned with feathers and a cross-shape tassel, was presented to Bishop Wilson by Bishop Blake and Roughface’s family members in attendance. It is Native American custom, Bishop Wilson has said, for family members to take surviving members of other families into their fold and call them their own, which is what that family did for him.
Bishop Wilson in turn, presented gifts as well, including a blanket to Campbell and a turquoise necklace to Barb Black, administrative assistant to the bishop.
The evening also included several hymns sung by the visiting Native Americans in indigenous languages while sitting at their tables.
Speakers included Vance Blackfox, director of indigenous ministries and tribal relations for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and a longtime friend of Bishop Wilson.
“Congratulations to the church for accepting his call,” Blackfox said.
Bishop Wilson said he was especially proud to introduce his Oklahoma family, friends and colleagues to people in his new life in the Great Plains, where he said he’s been happy since his assignment began Jan. 1.
“They had to come here to make sure that was true,” he joked.
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