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Douglas Everett Sparks, Eighth Bishop
Bishop Douglas Everett Sparks, the eighth bishop of the Diocese of Northern Indiana, is the current incumbent. Born on 8 January 1956, he studied Philosophy at St. Mary's Seminary College, graduating with a Bachelor's degree in 1980. Subsequently, he received a Master's degree from De Andreis Institute of Theology in 1984. Ordained a priest in the Roman Catholic Church in 1984, he served parishes in Missouri, Colorado, and Illinois. In 1989 he was received as a priest into the Episcopal Church, serving as rector of St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Whitewater, Wisconsin, from 1990 to 1995. He also married Dana Wirth and had three children: Christina, Graham, and Gavin.
Sparks later served at St. Matthias Church in Waukesha, Wisconsin, then went to New Zealand to become Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral in Wellington. On returning to the United States, he became rector of St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Rochester, Minnesota. From here he was elected bishop on 6 February 2016. He was consecrated at Trinity English Lutheran Church, Fort Wayne, on 25 June 2016 by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry.
Bishop Sparks has adopted a five-point plan of mission that will guide his episcopate:
1. Tell the Good News of the Kingdom.
2. Teach, Baptize, and Nurture new believers.
3. Tend to human need with loving service.
4. Transform unjust structures of society.
5. Treasure God's Creation and renew the Earth.
Bishop Sparks has reversed previous diocesan policy and approved same-sex marriages being performed in the diocese with the consent of individual parishes. He was personally present for the wedding of South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg to Chasten Glezman on 16 June 2018 in a ceremony at the Cathedral of St. James in South Bend. He also permitted openly gay priests to be ordained and serve in the diocese. He has also formed a strong pastoral partnership with Bishop Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows of the Diocese of Indianapolis, marching for social justice issues, against gun violence, and in favor of greater acceptance of all marginalized groups in the Church. He is an "activist bishop" and comfortable in that role, but he is always careful to ground that advocacy in his faith.
On a national level, the Episcopal Church began an initiative under Presiding Bishop Michael Curry to become a "Beloved Community" and to promote racial reconciliation and more loving, Christian relationships. The movement provided materials to individuals and congregations to "help us to understand and take up the long-term commitments necessary to form loving, liberating and life-giving relationships" with one other. "Together," promoters said, "we are growing as reconcilers, justice-makers, and healers in the name of Christ." This effort was also coined "the Jesus Movement" by the Presiding Bishop. Part of that process involved studying and apologizing for sins committed against minority groups throughout the Church's history. During his sabbatical in 2022, Bishop Sparks walked the Potawatomi Trail of Death, traveling on foot from Plymouth, Indiana, to Kansas. He left an account of his pilgrimage. It symbolized the work of the Diocese of Northern Indiana to account for acts of racism in its past.
For several years during Bishop Sparks's episcopate, from 2020 to 2022, the nation suffered under a devastating COVID-19 epidemic. In-personal worship was canceled, and services were conducted remotely online through Zoom, a computer meeting software. When vaccines became available and the virulence of the epidemic eased, congregations met in limited form with enforced masking and social distancing. Bishop Sparks was instrumental in developing protocols that had never been previously considered in diocesan history.
In 2023, the Diocese of Northern Indiana embarked on an exploratory path to discern the possibility of reuniting with the Diocese of Indianapolis. That process remains ongoing at this writing.
Episcopal News Service:
Consecration of Bishop Douglas Sparks, 25 June 2016, Trinity English Lutheran Church, Fort Wayne
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St. Barnabas-in-the-Dunes, Gary
St. Barnabas-in-the-Dunes, located at 601 Pottawatomi Trail, was built in 1961 in an area once known as the village of Miller. The story begins with Christ Episcopal Church, founded in Gary in 1908, just two years after the city itself was created. In 1954, Christ Church's leaders realized that due to the development of the Miller subdivision and the Ogden Dunes area, a mission church in the northeastern segment of the city would be highly appropriate. Property for a new mission was donated to Christ Church, and in 1960 a group of interested Episcopalians in Miller took action to organize it.
During Lenten season of 1960 parishioners held meetings every week in the homes of interested members, forming the nucleus of what would become St Barnabas. The development moved rapidly. Parishioners chose a name and through their combined efforts held the first church service on 17 June, St. Barnabas Day, in Dr. Walfred A. Nelson's waiting room. By the middle of July the gathering had expanded enough that it was necessary to move the services to the Nobel School across the street.
Shortly afterward the congregation formed an advisory board, and the women of the mission formalized their organization. They sponsored a Sunday school picnic and worked on making Christmas decorations to sell. The Sunday School increased in membership each Sunday. The first baptism in the church occurred on 18 September 1960, when Diane Audrey Thiene was baptized. By Christmas, the congregation made plans for erecting a permanent building on the church property. The Rev. Arlo Leinback became the first vicar.
In 1961, the congregation paid for the land and made preparations to build a church. Both the men's and women's groups continued to grow and were active in their temporary quarters. The Men of St Barnabas hosted a Deer & Beer dinner, while the women organized many other kinds of activities, such as dance classes and Christmas sales. The popular English Tea started in the late 1970s after the church was well established.
From the beginning Coffee Hour has been an important part of St. Barnabas' history. Simple fare of coffee and sweets were originally served, but later a more nutritious meal became common. Father Charles Hensel, the second longest-serving priest who returned in the 1990s to supply and join the CEMP clergy team, gave interesting history-based sermons. These led to conversations after the service, which became the Coffee Hour. Being a small parish, these social events kept the members connected, provided a time to greet visitors, and offered some warm sustenance to our senior members who lived alone.
In the 1980s, Father Donald Milligan made a strong effort to engage youth. He coached a baseball team for a local high school and organized camping trips to the Boundary Waters in Minnesota. Later that decade, Father William Klatt shared his intellectual knowledge and his experiences as a college chaplain at Purdue.
During Father Robert Lynn's tenure, St. Barnabas's congregation reached out to the community by opening Episcopal Community Services (ECS), a home setting that offered food, clothing, and homework tutoring. It also provided school supplies by filling shoe boxes with elementary school necessities. Today, the congregation collects larger quantities of supplies for a Gary school chosen each year. Numerous supply priests, including Father Dewey Schartzenburg, Pastor Kris Graunke, and Father Maxwell Johnson, provided spiritual guidance, memorable sermons, and pastoral care,
Mother Delores Wiens was named Priest-in-Charge in 2008. Her musical talents enabled the congregation to enjoy hymns that she recorded on the Clavinova, a gift from her close friend. She also introduced the Alpha Series to the neighborhood. Since 2012, members have been part of the Calumet Episcopal Ministry Partnership (CEMP) with the Rev. Michael Dwyer initially as Priest-in-Charge.
Arlo Leinback, 1960-1964
Charles H. Hensel, 1964-1973
Donald Arthur Milligan, 1978-1983
William Klatt, 1983-1994
Robert N. Lynn 1994-2002
Kristine Graunke, 2003-2008
Delores Wiens, 2008-2012
Michael Dwyer, 2012-2018 (CEMP)
Kristine Graunke, 2015-2020 (CEMP)
Michelle Walker, 2014-2020 (CEMP)
Pamela Thiede, 2020- (CEMP)
Cynthia Moore, 2020-2021 (CEMP)
Text adapted from St. Barnabas' website: http://www.calumetepiscopal.org/st-barnabas/about.php