Restoring the Sacred Circle with Indigenous People

Remembering the Acts of Repentance

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By Kristina Gonzalez | Director of Leadership Development for an Inclusive Church

The Acts of Repentance that you will find below were offered during the opening worship of the 2015 Pacific Northwest Annual Conference directed at Restoring the Sacred Circle with Indigenous People. In these words Rev. Ann Adkinson, Darin Gemmer, and Rev. Jenny Phillips each expressed different key aspects of this important work. The full service is available at the top of this page.

LOGO_AC2015_FinalMandala_clrThis Sunday, April 10th, is Native American Ministries Sunday. On this day (which can be recognized on a different Sunday of your choosing), we have the opportunity to connectionally support the empowerment of Native American pastors, congregations, and seminary students. Click here to learn more and to download resources for this Special Sunday.

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.

If you have an example to offer of how your church has worked toward restoration in your local community, please share them with Kristina Gonzalez (email), Director of Leadership Development for an Inclusive Church.


An Act of Repentance: Understanding Privilege

Rev. Ann Adkinson

I didn’t learn any of what we just heard this morning in school. But then, history was never my favorite subject.

It is my privilege as a white, middle-class woman and citizen of the U.S. that enables me to make that statement: “History was not my favorite subject.”

History, for me, (and for others with privileges like mine) is just that: optional. It’s a field of knowledge I can have interest in, or not—an acquired taste, like jazz, or mountain biking. It’s a subject I can be good at, or not, and my ignorance doesn’t cost me that much.

It seems strange to think of ignorance as a privilege. But since I’m in the dominant group, staying ignorant of history isn’t likely to cost me my job or my property. It doesn’t cost me my homeland or my language. It doesn’t cost me my cultural heritage or my identity.

That is what living in a system that presumes my goodness based on the color of my skin gives to me, unearned: the privilege to stay tuned out of other people’s pain.

Jesus, however, does not give me that option.

Jesus calls me to repent from ignorance that disconnects me from my neighbor. In order to love my neighbor, I have to see her. I have to be curious about his life. I have to be willing to turn and face the ways that my ignorance costs other people their rights. And I have to face that this ignorance also costs me my wholeness.

I cannot repent on my own power; it’s not something I can do on my own. The power to repent is grace from God. I’ve been given power to repent- to turn, to shift direction.

I can repent by admitting I don’t have the accurate story.
I can repent from ignorance and educate myself anew.
I can look at my own history, my own ancestors’ and family’s history with a different mind and heart and see how it is not separate, but bound up together with the history of others.

If we claim we are one people, created by God to love one another as neighbors – as brothers and sisters in Christ – then history is not optional.


An Act of Repentance: Offering Respect

Darin Gemmer, Camp Indianola Director

At Camp Indianola, our vision is that every person who steps foot on our grounds would discover the spirit of sacred space. I believe the Spirit of God used our understanding of sacred space and our tradition of selfless service to motivate our recent decisions to rename a majority of the buildings at our camp.

Last December, we were honored by Barbara the wisdom and stories of Lawrence-Piecuch who brought the Suquamish people to a gathering of camping professionals from all over the country. With bravery and humility, she also shared the wishes of the Suquamish people that their language not be used to name our buildings nor spaces. She explained that so much had been taken from her people, and that language was one of the few things that remained distinctly theirs. Additionally, she pointed out that many of the words we were already using, like “Chak-Chak,” were, in fact, Chinook jargon, forced upon the Suquamish people as a sort of catch-all native dialect acceptable to white military and missionaries.

While the native names were chosen in consultation with members of the Suquamish Tribe and intended by the original team as honoring, the interpretation of their use had changed with deeper understanding of the history and culture of the area.

As our understanding changed, the Indianola Site Advisory Team chose to continue the tradition of honoring our Suquamish neighbors, and all of the buildings now carry the name of wood found onsite: Madrona, Driftwood, Maple, Alder, Evergreen. When I followed up with Barbara to inform her of the change, she was silent for a long moment before expressing her deep gratitude. It was as honor for each of us at Camp Indianola to be a part of this small step toward reconciliation.


An Act of Repentance: Advocacy

Rev. Jenny Phillips, Minister for Environmental Stewardship and Advocacy

What does advocacy have to do with discipleship? To me, they’re both about witnessing the suffering of the world and walking with one another through the pain and shame and confession and repentance that’s needed so that we can be reconciled with one another, with the earth, and with God.

Advocacy casts a vision for manifesting God’s realm here on earth and then drawing others into that vision with us. It’s about naming the broken places between our selves, one another, the earth, and God, and inviting the community to help repair them.

This is hard work, this work of standing up and acknowledging that something is wrong. Most of the time, people don’t really want to hear it. It’s embarrassing to have other people point out the gaps between our values and our actions. Frankly, I find it’s hard to be the one who’s pointing out those gaps sometimes, because we all have a few gaps between our values and our actions, right? And some of us might feel a bit of shame about some of those gaps and that can make us resistant to wanting to name them when we see them.

It takes a special kind of humility and fortitude to ask a person, or an institution, or a government to turn away from the way they do things for the sake of justice. Especially when you’ve been complicit with, and benefitted from that broken system you’re trying to change.

For example, we all here in this room have benefited from the clean energy generated by the dams along the Columbia River. But now we need to stand up and address the costs of that energy to Native peoples. Likewise, some of our communities have much to gain financially from proposed terminals to export fossil fuels. But our Native American brothers and sisters are calling us to fight these terminals and to extricate ourselves from the fossil fuel companies that are building them because of the devastating implications for their sacred lands.

Advocacy calls the advocate into constant confession and repentance. But the more we do it, the easier it gets and the better we get at inviting others to confess and repent with us. The more we peer into the depths of those broken places, the more we are able to invite others to join us. And if we can stay in relationship with one another and tolerate the pain and brokenness we see, we might just be able to do the work we need to do to transform the world.

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