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William Hobart Hare was a missionary bishop to the Niobrara Territory and later the ﬁrst bishop of South Dakota.
Hare was born in Princeton, New Jersey, in 1838. Although he studied at the University of Pennsylvania, he never received a degree and prepared for ordination without attending seminary. He was ordained to the diaconate in 1859 and to the priesthood in 1862. He served St. Luke’s and St. Paul’s, Chestnut Hill, both in Philadelphia.
He moved to Minnesota in 1863 with the hope that a different climate would improve his wife’s failing health. It was there that he ﬁrst came into contact Native Americans, an encounter that would change his life and shape his vocation. Hare returned to Philadelphia in 1867 to become the Rector of the Church of the Ascension, but his personal interest in the church’s ministry among Native Americans never waned.
In 1871, the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church created the Missionary District of Niobrara encompassing much of the Dakotas. A year later, the House of Bishops elected Hare to become the Bishop of Niobrara and he was ordained to the episcopate on January 9, 1873.
Bishop Hare, often referred to as “The Apostle to the Sioux,” devoted himself to work among the Native Americans in the vast expanse of the Niobrara Territory. Well ahead of his time in his approach to mission work, Hare believed it was important to honor as much of the tradition and culture of the people as possible. His desire was not to destroy the fabric of Sioux culture, but to bring the gospel into the midst of it so that the people could also come to know Jesus. Instead of suppressing the customs of the people, he saw them as vessels that could communicate God’s grace.
In 1883, the House of Bishops divided the Missionary District of Niobrara into the districts of North and South Dakota. Bishop Hare from that point took responsibility for what would become the Diocese of South Dakota.
I. Wakantanka, Holy God, who didst call thy servant William Hobart Hare to bear witness to thee throughout the vast reaches of the Niobrara Territory, bearing the means of grace and the hope of glory to the peoples of the Plains: We offer thanks for the devotion of those who received the Good News gladly, and for the faithfulness of the generations who have succeeded them. Strengthen us with thy Holy Spirit that we may walk in their footsteps and lead many to faith in Jesus Christ, in whom the living and the dead are one; and who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
II. Wakantanka, Holy God, you called your servant William Hobart Hare to bear witness to you throughout the vast reaches of the Niobrara Territory, bearing the means of grace and the hope of glory to the peoples of the Plains: We give you thanks for the devotion of those who received the Good News gladly, and for the faithfulness of the generations who have succeeded them. Strengthen us with your Holy Spirit that we may walk in their footsteps and lead many to faith in Jesus Christ, in whom the living and the dead are one; and who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Preface of a Saint (2)
From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.
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