By Rev. Richenda Fairhurst | Pastor, Camas United Methodist Church
I am headed for Standing Rock.
Over the last number of weeks I have read the stories of the struggle at Standing Rock. I can feel those stories in my gut. They feel heavy, I feel the heat of them, the nausea. I blink in disbelief to see the pictures of police in military gear. I cringe to see Native medics wiping pepper spray from the faces of men, women, and teenagers.
Over the last two years I have been one of many voices in Southwest Washington speaking against the enormous expansion of fossil fuel projects on our Washington coastlines. These three proposed projects would be massive—each the largest of their kind in North America. Millennium Bulk would move 44 tons of coal per day onto barges headed for Asia. Tesoro would require the transport of millions of gallons of Bakken crude by rail through the Columbia River gorge. A methanol refinery proposed for Kalama would use 4 million gallons of water a day processing 2.5 million gallons of fracked gas to make Methanol to ship to Asia.
I know this fight for clean water, clean air, and a safe environment a little tiny bit. But I have never had to stand on the front lines of a camp filled with my neighbors and their children, facing police in riot gear using dogs and military weapons. I have never had to try to stop a pipeline that would risk my access to water. Water is life.
When the call went out for Clergy to come to Standing Rock, I knew I had to go.
God calls unlikely people to his service. I know this because God called me. I am a poor camper. I know nothing about North Dakota. I know little of Native American life or culture. I like French bistros, fair trade coffee, and fast Wi-Fi.
But I am willing. And with my whole being I feel the power of what God is doing right now. I go to Standing Rock to pray and to witness.
I have been reading John Norris recently. John Norris was a huge influence in the theology of the Wesley family, including John, Charles, and Susanna. In one of John Norris’s essays he explores a question raised by the Lord’s Prayer, ‘what does it mean for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven?’ This question could not be more important for our time.
Angels do not frack. Angels do not despoil water. Angels do not covet worldly prizes of wealth. Angels do not fuel the smoke stacks of Climate Change.
As Christian people, this is our ‘daily’ prayer. Every day we ask for God’s will to be done on earth as the Angels perform God’s will in heaven. And I would assert that Angels do not frack. Angels do not despoil water. Angels do not covet worldly prizes of wealth. Angels do not fuel the smoke stacks of Climate Change.
Clergy from many denominations are responding to the call to come to Standing Rock. Our goal is prayer, solidarity, and presence. We will participate in public and visible vigils, songs, and prayers. We will receive training in non-violent protest.
I am bringing just a few things with me. A knapsack for my stuff, boots, my cellphone and external chargers, my bible, and the cross I received when I was commissioned. Of all the items this cross is the most personally meaningful to me. In bringing it I feel the love and support of my connection. This cross was handmade by a United Methodist craftsperson in our Conference. It connects me to each of you who are my Pacific Northwest brothers and sisters in Christ. We struggle together—in agreement or not—with the reality of this work.
The Lord bless you and protect you.
The Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you.
The Lord lift up his face to you and grant you peace.
Editor’s Note: Rev. Fairhurst is traveling 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 will join over 300 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.
Photo Credit: Featured image accompanying this article by Fibonacci Blue, CC BY 2.0.