My Beloved Sisters and Brothers,
This message comes to you as I officially step into retirement. This is my fourteenth year serving as Executive Director of the Native American Comprehensive Plan of the United Methodist Church. It has been my privilege to serve in this extension ministry appointment.
I have experienced great joy with our Native American churches and communities as we have worshiped together, sung tribal hymns together, shared in baptisms, and Holy Communion services across the U.S. I have experienced the radical hospitality of our Tribal Peoples who fall at the bottom of the economic ladder yet give in the most sacrificial of ways.
It has been an amazing experience to witness the increase in U.S. annual conferences forming Committees on Native American Ministries (CONAMs), even as we have strived to provide the training and consultation needed for these vital bodies to function according to their full potential. I pray for strengthening and growth of the CONAMs and that annual conferences recognize these valuable resources in their midst.
I have witnessed firsthand the tremendous gifts and graces of my Indigenous brothers and sisters from Nations all across the U.S. We have amazing writers, musicians, preachers, teachers, professors, artists, adults, children, youth, elders, and on and on. I say to you, United Methodist Church, look long and hard at these faithful ones…realize what we have to offer and what you can learn from us…do not relegate us to invisibility or to the margins where we do not really exist until we serve a purpose in your worldview.
To the Native and non-Native clergy and laity who serve in leadership for our Indigenous churches, I say thank you. To the Native and non-Native persons who serve in annual conferences, general agencies and UM organizations who stand with us, advocate for us and help to carry our voices into places where we cannot go, I say thank you. To local churches across the UMC who have shared resources and offered prayers for our ministry, I say thank you.
This letter represents the first step of the next chapter in my ministry. Creator has put within me a spirit of optimism -- Despite the painful inheritance which most Indigenous Peoples share – an inheritance of displacement, forced migration, ancestral land loss and destruction, historical trauma, epidemic diseases of poverty, addiction and depression, the list goes on…despite this, I find hope for our future. I find hope that Creator God has made me in God’s own image, a person of color, a female, a tribal person, a descendant of Native American grandfathers and grandmothers who sacrificed that I might live. I am responsible to those who came before me and those who will come after me to live as a truth teller and respecter of traditional and ceremonial ways given to our many Peoples by the Maker of all creation. We have within our DNA a vision of what can be -- of the intricate spider’s web upon which we all have a place, and which puts us all in relationship with one another and with the Creator.
I find hope that Creator God has not given up on us. Despite our struggle and frequent failure as humanity to “do no harm”, to “do good”, and to “stay in love with God”, God has not given up on us. The life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ shows us the lengths to which our Creator will go to bring to life the reality of love, justice and hope both among us collectively and within us individually.
I offer my love and prayers and look forward to the good things Creator God will do.
Your sister in Christ,