In the spaces between

Daily Reading for June 12 • Enmegahbowh, Priest and Missionary, 1902

The irony in Enmegahbowh’s name is evident in his life and ministry. Born Ojibwa, and reborn a Christian by baptism, he was a man of two peoples. To be “the man who stands by his people” meant, in his case, to be forever in the middle ground between two peoples. . . .Those in the middle really know the poverty of having no country of their own; to them God’s kingdom is offered as homeland. Those in the middle cannot rely upon either side to feed or nurture them; for them God will provide sustenance and the laughter that balances and buttresses the spirit against heartbreak. Those in the middle know what it is to be hated and mistrusted by both sides; their reward in this life is elusive, their reward in God’s realm guaranteed.

Enmegahbowh reveals that all Christians are called to the centrism we Episcopalians can only emphasize, but never monopolize. We are all of at least two peoples, and sometimes more. Standing by our own peoples of necessity puts us in the margins, in the spaces between. Thus we do not minister at the center so much as on the edge, in the hard places, where emotions are conflicted, opinions divided, and motives mixed.

But Enmagahbowh reveals also that this is the work of the true “Medicine Man,” that this is where and how healing comes to the peoples who, despite their pluralism, are all God’s people. In baptism we are made members of multiple peoples in order that we might be ministers to all peoples. In a world increasingly balkanized, tribalized, atomized, particularized, individualized, and personalized, we die to our singularity that we might rise to new life and new ministry as old as humankind and as urgent as ever—to be medicine to this fragmented, broken world.

From Brightest and Best: A Companion to the Lesser Feasts and Fasts by Sam Portaro (Cowley, 2001).

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