When the newly ordained 12th bishop of the Diocese of North Carolina visits Wilson Sunday, the first order of business will be a blessing of the soccer fields.
Today, the Rev. Samuel Rodman will be ordained and consecrated at Duke Chapel in Durham and his first official visit will be Sunday when he comes to the combined congregations of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church and La Iglesia De La Guadalupana Episcopal Church at the corner of Nash and Reid streets in downtown Wilson.
Rodman will head up churches in 39 North Carolina counties.
“I think it says a lot about who he is,” said the Rev. Phil Byrum, who will attend Saturday’s ceremony and host Sunday’s events. Byrum has led the congregations since 2000.
Byrum said that on Sunday, at 12:30 p.m., Bishop Rodman will deliver a short blessing of two soccer fields that have been built on a 13-acre gift of land off Wilco Boulevard near the Smithfield Packing plant in Wilson.
In a phone call with the bishop-elect last weekend, Byrum said Rodman agreed to perform the blessing with “no hesitation.”
Byrum said the church is small and a large turnout is expected. For some, attending the blessing at the soccer fields may be the best opportunity to see the bishop.
“So we’re going out there at 12:30, have a very simple blessing and then we’ll come back here and have church at 1:30,” Byrum said on Friday. A meal will be served following the service.
A few weeks ago, Rodman’s administrative assistant asked if the congregation would be willing to host his first appearance as bishop
“The bishop-elect would like to have his first visit at La Guadalupana not 24 hours after he becomes bishop,” Byrum said he was told.
Alice Freeman, of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church and Isrrael Jaimes, of La Guadalupana Episcopal Church, were both members of a search committee looking for candidates to fill the position of bishop.
In that role, both Freeman and Jaimes got to know Rodman.
“One reason, just a hands-on reason, is that he learned through them what this place is all about,” Byrum said. “It’s not through me. It’s them. I introduced myself to him as a friend of Alice and Isrrael, which caused him to be alert.”
The combined churches have a widely diverse congregation.
“I think what he will see affirmed is the diversity of the church,” Byrum said. “I don’t think he’s out to make a great proclamation. I think it is a witness to the fact that he rejoiced in the fact the Episcopal church is a welcoming fellowship church for all of God’s people.”
An older Hispanic member of the congregation told Byrum how impressed he was that the bishop had chosen this church.
“He looked at me and he said ‘just think of all the places that he, the bishop, could be going, and he wants to come here, that really is affirming. That really is loving and that really is the gift that he is bringing,’” Byrum recalled.