2013 Bishop's Associates Awards
May 22, 2013
Bishop Lee with Richard Mylander, Angela Smith, Brooks Davis, Patricia Abrams, Polly Tangora, Newland Smith and Lawson Whitesides
On May 16, the Bishop’s Associates held its annual luncheon at the Union League Club. At the event, held in Bishop Lee and Bishop Epting’s honor, the group presented its Bishop’s Associate’s Award to six lay leaders who have “made an outstanding achievement in service to the church, to the broader northern Illinois community, or to the world.”
Patricia Abrams has been a member of St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Chicago since 1977 and has served as the parish’s senior and junior warden, a deputy to General Convention and a member of the diocese’s strategic planning committee, bishop search committee and task force on the legacy of slavery. She is the Midwest regional director of the Union of Black Episcopalians.
After a corporate career, Abrams became the founding executive director of The Renaissance Collaborative, Inc., a ministry founded by St. Thomas and three other churches in 1992, that promotes self-sufficiency through supportive housing, employment, and educational services.
In his recommendation letter, the Very Rev. Fulton A. Porter praised Abrams’s ministry by saying, “Christ is incarnate in the life of Patricia Abrams because she chooses to allow the risen Jesus to live through her. Every day of her life she strives to be God’s sheep. She strives every day to be Christ’s hands of hope in a world full of pain. Her presence in this church, this community and this world makes it a brighter and more compassionate place.”
Dick Mylander, a member of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Glen Ellyn for more than 45 years, has served the parish “in nearly every imaginable capacity,” according to the Rev. George Smith and the Rev. Donald Sutherland, who nominated him for the award. Mylander, a retired agricultural engineer, is best known for being an expert carpenter. He was a Habitat for Humanity volunteer construction crew leader for 17 years and most recently has given his time and talent to make the home of fellow parishioner Perry Knutson, newly paralyzed by a fall, wheelchair accessible.
“To me, Dick’s talents are priceless gifts,” writes Sue Crosson-Knutson, Knutson’s wife. “Upon arriving home from work and then visiting my husband at RIC (Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago), I would discover Dick’s handiwork. It was like Christmas. Santa Claus a.k.a. Dick had been at my house and had left me a wider door or a new ramp…Upon the therapists’ suggestion, Dick developed a blue print for raising a section of the deck so Perry will be able to enjoy his home both inside and out.”
His nominators at St. Mark’s are especially glad to see Mylander recognized with the Bishop’s Associates Award because he is so modest about his contributions. “He is a true unsung hero,” wrote Kim Hesterman Reed. “When we are looking for Christ in our brothers and sisters, we see Him in Dick, someone who models Christ’s love and selflessly gives of his time.”
Angela Smith’s commitment to peace and justice ministry in the Diocese of Chicago includes serving on the diocese’s Peace and Justice Committee and as peace and justice convener for the Episcopal Church Women, participating in CROSSwalk, and serving on a Thrive team, but she is perhaps best known for her vital ministry with women and children in Latin America.
Beginning in Costa Rica in 2005 through a relationship with Cristo Resucitado in Heredia, Smith’s work in Central America now includes supporting a women’s cooperative based at San Andrés Apóstol in the barrio of Amatepec, San Salvador. The program, founded while she was in San Salvador as an international election observer in 2012, is “on its way to becoming a real solution to the challenges of poverty for families and communities,” she says. LaSalle County Episcopal Ministry (LCEM), on whose board she serves, supports the project. “Her ministry is helping the people of St. Paul’s Church, LaSalle and the other member congregations of the LCEM to form a revitalized sense of mission and impact, locally and internationally,” wrote her husband, the Rev. Bobby Smith, in her nomination, “Her ministry is changing lives.”
“She delivers much more than a message,” wrote Joanne Kammerer, a fellow LCEM board members from Christ Church in Ottawa. “She creates a memory, an indelible impression you can’t possibly forget. Not just of the conditions in El Salvador but a passion for God and all His people.”
In 1999, Professor Newland Smith, librarian and associate dean of academic affairs at Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, met the Rev. Joseph Garang Atem, now bishop of the Diocese of Renk in the Episcopal Church of Sudan. Garang was studying at Seabury in preparation for becoming principal of Renk Theological College (RTC) in Sudan. Smith promised Garang that he would organize a library for RTC.
In 2008, after the college had been rebuilt through the support of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Barrington, Smith traveled to Sudan to organize and classify books, work with Garang and travel with him to visit the libraries of several other theological training schools. Smith continues his support for RTC and hopes that the country will soon be stable enough for him to return.
Smith’s ministry in the Diocese of Chicago, where he is a faithful member of St. David’s Episcopal Church in Glenview, also includes service on the diocese’s archives committee and anti-racism commission. In the wider church, he is a nine-time deputy to General Convention and has served on the board of the Archives of the Episcopal Church, as a member of the Standing Commission on Social Justice and Public Policy and on a task force on the doctrine of discovery.
In a letter of support for Smith’s award nomination, Professor Timothy Sedgwick of Virginia Theological Seminary wrote, “But what makes Newland exceptional and a model, an exemplar, to all is his faithful work and witness to matters of justice, serving and organizing others through the committees and structure of the church at the parish level, diocesan level, and through the work of General Convention. His focus on addressing poverty, racial understanding and change, justice in the Middle East, and the cries for justice and solidarity to the people of Sudan have been commitments of his life.”
Polly Tangora arrived at All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Chicago on the fourth Sunday of Advent in 1992, “singularly one of the most important days in our congregation’s history,” according to the Rev. Bonnie A. Perry, the parish’s rector. “At that time we had six children in attendance. These days our church school draws from 135 children and we see weekly more than 80. Much of this has happened because Polly had a vision and a heart for teaching our young people about Jesus.”
Tangora, who is a lifelong Episcopalian with a master’s degree in math education, is an experienced vestry member and warden, a two-term member of the Diocese of Chicago’s Bishop and Trustees and a member of the diocese’s congregations and budget committees. Praise for her ministry is abundant, but perhaps the most compelling testimony comes from the students she has taught in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program. “Ms. Polly to me has been a Good Shepherd herself,” wrote Alex Gee, who is now a sophomore at Walter Payne High School. “Throughout the years I have been a kid under her guidance she has not only taught the history and importance of Jesus’ love but she has taught the understanding of it…the reason she is so good at teaching, the reason I have learned so much, is because if you watch Ms. Polly, you can see how much she truly believes.”
Lawson Whitesides, a long-time member of Church Church in Winnetka and a successful financial planner, has contributed his considerable leadership and expertise to many worthwhile ministries across the Diocese of Chicago. In particular, he served two terms as trustee of Episcopal Charities and Community Services (ECCS), including three years as president.
After overcoming initial reluctance, Whitesides became a strong proponent of the organization’s New Ventures program, which employed $3 million of ECCS assets to addressing emerging social issues. He served on a task force charged with creating partnership guidelines for Episcopal Charities and the organizations it funds, and has advocate for the organization’s capacity building program, which helps grantees develop strong governance, fundraising and communications.
“Lawson Whitesides has left an indelible mark on the lives of his peers at Episcopal Charities,” wrote ECCS Executive Director Georgianna Gleason in nominating him for the award. “His service as been a testimony of what one person of great faith can accomplish who shares the belief…that every life can be transformed by the power and love of God.”
The Bishop’s Associates assist the bishop of Chicago by sponsoring activities, providing financial support and nurturing new programs. In 2013, the Bishop’s Associates have raised funds to support CROSSwalk, the movement of Episcopalians and partners who are working against the escalating violence against young people in Chicago. Learn more.