CONAM Officers and Committee Information
The Upper New York Committee on Native American Ministries (CONAM) has elected Kae Wilbert (Cherokee) as Chairperson; Rosalie Schotanus (Onondaga) & Roselynn Kingsbury (Cree) as secretary; and Mary Alice Nyhan as treasurer.
"This team educates about and brings awareness of Native People and issues that affect them, and advocates for Natives and Indigenous People locally and globally," said the Rev. Sue Crawson- Brizzolara, past team leader and pastor of the Harpursville & Ouaquaga UM Churches.
Wilbert served as CONAM chair for six years in the former Western New York Annual Conference. Her mother is Cherokee, and was raised in Oklahoma. "Like many Native People of mixed blood, I did not grow up around a lot of Native People, but I knew about it," Wilbert said. She said that she began wanting to learn more in her late 30s, and that's when she learned "I had a hole in my heart that I didn't realize." Since then, her involvement with native communities has revealed how rich and rewarding it is to have the cultures of traditional people in church, she said.
In follow up to the Act of Repentance at General Conference 2012, CONAM is currently presenting learning sessions in every District (& 2 in Northern Flow) for local church members and clergy. Listening to and learning from Native Americans are the first steps in building relationships. True repentance is more than an apology and must be based on understanding and caring relationships.
"There is a very deep history between The United Methodist Church and traditional people that has gone into very strong feelings about the Act of Repentance just being words -- that our words need to be heartfelt,” Wilbert said.
Upper New York has three Native American United Methodist churches in the Conference: Onondaga Nation UMC in Syracuse, Crossroads District; Hogansburg UMC (Akwesane) in Hogansburg, Northern Flow District; and Four Corners UMC in Versailles, Niagara Frontier District. In addition, Native Americans live in all areas of Upper New York and attend many United Methodist Churches.
"There are people serving on the CONAM who are or have native heritage of Seneca, Mohawk, Cherokee, Shawnee, Tuscarora, Choctaw, Onondaga, Algonquin, Cree and Lenape; and this is not a full representation of the diversity among native people living in the Upper New York Annual Conference," Rev. Crawson- Brizzolara said.
CONAM continues adding names to its database of Local Church Representatives to CONAM who serve as liaisons for their local churches and CONAM. These people work to help relay information about Native American Sunday and ministry resources, and to make congregations "more aware of the work CONAM is doing and hopes to do." Wilbert described the liaisons as people who can generate excitement about CONAM's work and spark interest in incorporating native voices – in prayers, songs, readings, and perhaps hosting guest speakers.
Some information provided by Sharon Schmidt, Mohawk, CONAM member.