By Rev. Richenda Fairhurst | Pastor, Camas United Methodist Church
It is 10:39pm North Dakota time and I am frankly exhausted. But it has been a day to remember.
Today 544 clergy and people of faith gathered at the Oceti Sakowin Camp. We said prayers, and burned the Doctrine of Discovery with high ceremony. We then were smudged with lovely smoke and walked together to the bridge where militarized police block the road.
Rev. John Floberg had negotiated a truce for a few hours and that allowed us to gather there. We walked up singing Dona Nobis Pacem–after all, we are clergy. We formed an enormous circle, then gathered together again to hear the speakers.
I don’t know who said it but one phrase stuck with me, ‘You can pretend to care, but you can’t pretend to show up.” Well, we showed up.
As the speakers talked, the tribes also came onto the bridge. Our presence allowed the Sioux and their Native allies to occupy this space without fear of arrest. They danced and prayed also, and even brought a few horses. There were children in that place again!
After the speakers finished, we made a large circle again and passed the peace so that the circle folded back and rolled over itself. This allowed everyone of us to greet every other one with peace. As you can imagine this took a while! More than an hour. So you can see it isn’t just your local Sunday service that can run over time!
When we were finished greeting we ate lunch, right there in that space. What a tremendous blessing to bring a few hours of normalcy right there again to that patch of earth that has seen protest and suffering. How hopeful it felt to share sack lunches with children and horses and Nations and neighbors and many, many denominations from across the country and beyond.
After, we headed back to the camp. I was among the last to leave. I like to pray. I was glad to be there to sing and listen, but what a call I had upon me to pray! And so I did, I knelt down there in the road near the spot we cannot go. I watched with gratitude the Indian men who served to make sure no one passed that point and into danger. And I closed my eyes and prayed.
Rev. Jessie Smith got a picture of me as she was leaving, so I am including it with her permission.
I am well and truly tired but I am not prayed out. If I could have prayed that pipeline away and all the suffering that accompanies it, I would. I prayed for everyone, the clergy, the Nations, and every police officer. In my prayer I saw that pipeline as a huge and flailing mass. I felt so small.
I await God. And as I wait, I am reminded that God reveals God’s self by choosing actions which surpass human capability. In this way, God’s power is made known. Knowing this, I would pray then, that by God’s great power some small child might set this pipeline back and free us all.
Your servant in Christ,
Rev. Richenda Fairhurst
Editor’s Note: Rev. Fairhurst has travelled to Standing Rock as a representative of our PNW Conference Board of Church and Society, attending “as an act of faith and statement for justice” on their behalf. Fairhurst and several other individuals from the PNW joined over 500 clergy and religious leaders in responding to a call to stand in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Nation.
Last week, the active and retired bishops of the Western Jurisdiction sent a letter to President Obama expressing their opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline and support of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation.