Monday, April 28, 2014

Native American Ministries Sunday

Like many Oklahomans, I have some Native American ancestry.  It is fairly distant but on my mother's side, I have a great great great grandmother, Eliza Anne Raby, who was Cherokee and came west on the Trail of Tears.  Her mother died on the way and she was separated from the tribe.

Eliza was taken in by the Haney family and eventually married her adopted brother.

I can't imagine what it would be like to be forced from your home and then to lose not only your home but your family as well.  She must have been a tough woman.  She reared seven children and lived to be 68 which was above average for the 19th century.  

At that time, Native Americans were not granted the same social status as the European settlers.  In fact as they were brought into the Christian faith, many of their native cultures and traditions including their languages were considered inferior and were repressed.
I'm hopeful that the Cleveland Indians of Major League Baseball
may be phasing out the use of Chief Wahoo as a mascot.
Unfortunately, it is still an emblem on this season's uniforms.
To be honest, I'm shocked that it is still being used
in the 21st century.

Within many Christian traditions, these were even viewed as sinful. The spirituality of much of Native American culture was not seen as a valid vehicle for the grace of God.

Within United Methodism, we have begun to move past this and we do recognize the Holy Spirit working in and among Native American people within their own cultural traditions. As Wesleyans, we see that prevenient or preceding grace is present throughout the world and it is this understanding of God's love that allows us to see Christ at work within other faith traditions.

This Sunday is recognized as Native American Ministries Sunday in the United Methodist Church.  

This traditional Native American prayer has been included in our hymnals since 1989:

O Great Spirit,
    whose breath gives life to the world,
    and whose voice is heard in the soft breeze:
We need your strength and wisdom.
Cause us to walk in beauty.  Give us eyes
     ever to behold the red and purple sunset.
Make us wise so that we may understand
     what you have taught us.
Help us learn the lessons you have hidden
      in every leaf and rock.
Make us always ready to come to you
      with clean hands and steady eyes,
so when life fades, like the fading sunset,
      our spirits may come to you without shame.  Amen.

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