Archdeacon, Diocese of South Carolina
Vicar and Subdean
Grace Church Cathedral
Charleston, South Carolina
May the Holy Spirit within you
reflect the true fiber of sweetgrass…
Yes, delicate, fragile-looking sweetgrass…
strong enough to be woven into a basket…
May your ministry be blessed
with the strength and stability
of the giant live oak.
And may the giant live oak trees,
with their beards of Spanish moss
always inspire you to reflect the wisdom and peace
of all the ancients and elders—
God’s people whom God has used to mold you…
This prayer was written by Elizabeth Allston Smoak for my
ordination to the priesthood. Such a prayer, though, is not only for me,
but for each of us who calls the Diocese of SC home—either by
adoption or by birth. We know that carefully cultivated, pampered
sweetgrass makes for baskets that unravel. The best sweetgrass for the
most durable baskets is that which has known not perfect growing
conditions, but rather adversity—wind, storm, flood, and drought.
My early faith was nurtured in St. John’s, an old parish on John’s
Island, one of the sea islands just south of Charleston, where we lived
and breathed the rhythms of tides and seasons. Just down the dusty
road the storied Angel Oak makes her home. Some of my earliest
memories of church include playing in the expansive, nurturing limbs of
the great live oak.
Years later, when we launched a Spanish-speaking ministry, it
occurred to me that in earlier times the tree had provided shelter and
solace for native peoples of SC and was sacred ground. It seemed
fitting, and poignant, that the parish would endeavor to provide
sanctuary to indigenous peoples of the Americas—a redemption of
sorts, even. One of the island ministers said to me at the time: “Child,
you come from the dust. And you’re just going back to the dust that
It is that sense of rootedness and ease with the dust that kept me
in SC—especially when, during seminary at Sewanee and as a new
priest—siren calls in the voices of mature priests seeking my best
interest urged me to flee as the diocesan winds of secession began to
But then I began to spend time with the 19th century activist
Angelina Grimke. Her strength, her courage, her example. Yet her
letters expressed an agony at the loss in her soul for having left the land
she loved. And those to whom she wrote her famous appeals did not
even read them, for a mob burned the pamphlets. I found myself in a
moment of decision: What good would it do to lose one’s voice and
ministry among those whom one most dearly loves?—and during such
a time of challenge and upheaval.
So, dear people of South Carolina:
“Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have I give to you: In the
name of Jesus Christ rise up and walk.”
We have places to go and people to love and good news to give!
As part of process of electing the XV Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina, in-depth interviews were conducted with the five candidates on the slate. Veteran newspaper journalist, Elsa McDowell (who also served on the Bishop Search Committee) conducted the interviews, asking each candidate the same six questions, which were provided in advance.
The Venerable Calhoun Walpole was asked to introduce herself to the diocese in a short video and answer the following question: "Why do you feel called to serve in the Diocese of South Carolina as Bishop?” Click the video to hear what she has to say to the diocese.