Representatives from Moscow First United Methodist Church enjoy a fellowship lunch at Lapwai UMC. This meeting served to express a true act of repentance between congregations and cultures, living in the vision of restoring the sacred circle.


An Act of Repentance:
Restoring the Sacred Circle in Moscow and Lapwai
By The Rev. Sue Ostrom | Photos by Kay Youngblood

IDEAS_MoscowLapwai_logoThe theme for last year’s PNW Annual Conference Sessions was “Restoring the Sacred Circle”. We repented the ways in which the Church has wounded our Native American brothers and sisters. Together, we heard stories about boarding schools which strove to “kill the Indian, save the child” by taking native children from their own culture.

It is easy to say “I’m sorry” and then make no lasting change. As part of the planning team for Annual Conference, we asked, “How do we make an act of repentance mean something?” Sadly, that has been the case for decades when it comes to the relationship between native peoples and the dominant, Anglo culture. In response to that question, the native peoples with whom we consulted suggested that we encourage churches to build relationships with tribes in their areas.


For Moscow, Lapwai is about 40 miles away and has several members who are enrolled in the Nez Perce tribe. I was delighted, when the lay members from Moscow First United Methodist Church, brought this recommendation to our church council and agreed that we should reach out to Lapwai UMC.

IDEAS_MoscowLapwai_foodLast February, we sent a delegation to worship with the folks at Lapwai. The delegation included our youth hand bell choir, Tommy’s Tinklers, as well as others, totaling 30 people. Tommy’s Tinklers played during worship at Lapwai and the rest of us simply shared in their worship. After the service, the folks at Lapwai laid out a marvelous feast for us, including salmon, roast pork, and many side dishes. We began to find ways to talk together and learn a bit about each other’s stories. I learned the Nez Perce word for Moscow (or probably more strictly the area in which the town of Moscow was built) is Tut-kin-ma. I also hope to gather a few Moscow people and try to learn The Lord’s Prayer in Nez Perce. We came home delighted and energized by the new friends we met.


The next step in restoring this circle will be inviting Nez Perce elders to Moscow and to help us observe Native American Awareness Sunday. This is one of the six special offerings set by General Conference – which, I’m sorry to say, has not been a day that I have emphasized enough in the past. But, no longer — learning The Lord’s Prayer in Nez Perce will be a small but vital step in nurturing and healing relationships.

Since I am taking a new appointment effective July 1, I have encouraged and empowered the lay people of Moscow (Tut-kin-ma) to make ensure the church continues to work at building a lasting relationship with the Lapwai church. Maybe, just maybe, we can take a baby step in restoring the sacred circle.

Susan E. Ostrom serves as the pastor for Moscow: First UMC.


  1. […] During the Acts of Repentance service we committed together to act toward the restoration of relationships with native peoples in the communities we live and serve. While participating in the Native American Ministries Sunday is one way to work towards restoration connectionally, we also want to hear what you are doing locally. The Rev. Sue Ostrom shared one example us this kind of work which you can read by clicking here. […]

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