By the Rev. Christopher J. Kurien
Director of Connectional Ministries
Our 2016 Annual Conference will offer important reports and resolutions, a moving ordination and commissioning service, great music and preaching in worship, inspiring prayers and fellowship with one another. But we will be especially blessed to hear the Rev. Thom White Wolf Fassett, a scholar, historian, author, church leader and renowned advocate for justice.
A clergy member of the Upper New York Conference, Dr. Fassett will lead our conference in observing the Act of Repentance and Healing for Indigenous Peoples. I pray for God’s healing touch and wholeness to be experienced by all, as we “open wide our hearts” with candor and compassion for one another.
Many in our congregations have studied Dr. Fassett’s enlightening, historical book, Giving Our Hearts Away: Native American Survival. Early immigrants came to America’s shores from everywhere seeking new opportunities, freedom, wealth and settlement in new territories. But their migration often led to intrusion on Native peoples’ lands, along with broken treaties, exploitation, displacement and tragic deaths among millions.
Today our church has a responsibility to alleviate the sad legacy of such tragedies and to identify with the hurts and pains of people who were treated wrongly.
We have an active, committed Conference Committee on Native American Ministry. With their help we, like many conferences, are making efforts to understand and address the atrocities done to Native people over the years and the mistreatment that continues today.
The 2012 and 2016 General Conferences both observed Acts of Repentance. The latter one focused on the painful memory of the Sand Creek Massacre, led by Col. John Chivington, a Methodist clergyman. Descendants of some of the victims of that terrible attack welcomed our efforts to repent. I hope the Act of Repentance we observe in Lancaster this month will not be seen as a onetime event, but will be an ongoing effort to make things right with Native peoples of this land.
Since we are meeting just after General Conference, I am sure many are thinking about our struggle to maintain denominational unity amid divisive issues. As the Council of Bishops creates a new commission to study the difficult issues of our doctrine and our Discipline, and as they bring forth proposals, let us pray for God’s wisdom to guide everyone involved.
We, as a nation, are also going through a contentious Presidential election season. So we need to pray for our nation and for God’s wisdom to guide our leaders, especially our President and the candidates for that office.
Let us pray that everyone will treat one another with respect. And let us pray for our communities and relationships, that we will be open-hearted and graceful to one another, always looking for ways build each other up, rather than tear each other down.
May God’s loving Spirit guide all of our deliberations and decisions during and after Annual Conference!
Photo: The Connectional Table, led by the Rev. Christopher Kurien (left) and the Rev. Bob Wilt, meets twice a year to connect and enhance ministry efforts. John Coleman photo