The March 11 edition of The Living Church is available online to registered subscribers. In this edition, news editor Matthew Townsend reports about the work of Episcopalians in the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Reservation:
The churches of the Sisseton Mission are in a far-removed corner of the Dakotas. The Lake Traverse Reservation, of which the city of Sisseton is a part, lies between the comparative bustle of Fargo and Sioux Falls, a million acres of farmland, grazing hills, and quiet lakes. The reservation mostly falls in South Dakota, extends into North Dakota, and borders Minnesota and its titular lake to the east. While tourists may make the trek to Rapid City, the Badlands, or Deadwood to see western South Dakota’s intense natural beauty, far fewer people venture to its bucolic east.
Four of the mission’s five churches are on the reservation and have native lay leaders: Epiphany in Sisseton, St. John’s in Brown’s Valley, St. James’ in Enemy Swim, and the 135-year-old St. Mary’s in Old Agency, the oldest mission church in that part of the Dakotas. One church is not on the reservation: St. Mary’s in Webster.
The five congregations share one full-time priest: the Rev. Charley Chan. Chan, who has spent 13 years as priest-in-charge at the mission, may seem an unlikely deployment. Born in Hong Kong, Chan went to a boarding school in California and eventually ended up at Nashotah House. He was ordained in the Diocese of Colorado but has never served there. His work troubleshooting within Chinese-speaking congregations brought him to Hawaii and New York, where he served as priest-in-charge at Church of Our Savior in Chinatown in 1981. He worked in Milwaukee after that and returned to New York in 2003, where he again served as priest-in-charge at Our Savior. Chan also helped translate the Book of Common Prayer into Chinese.
Chan told TLC that he never planned on becoming priest at a cardinal parish in New York, or moving to South Dakota. The call was set into motion when he was reviewing a copy of The Living Church and saw mention of a former colleague who was serving in South Dakota. He called and left a voicemail message, which grew into an invitation to come visit.
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