Bishop Webb listens and learns on Native American Ministries Sunday
On Native American Ministries Sunday (April 19), Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb visited the Hogansburg United Methodist Church located on the St. Regis Mohawk Territory at Akwesasne to listen and learn – an initiative to listen to indigenous persons discuss their history, pain, accomplishments, culture, beliefs, and more.
Mark Garrow, the Iay worship leader at Hogansburg UMC, said it was a blessing to have Bishop Webb join the church for worship and communion.
“We felt passionately that the timing was appropriate as The United Methodist Church follows through on the 2012 Act of Repentance,” Garrow said. “Our small church family is one of the three native congregations in the Conference. We wanted to share our faith, our culture, and our hospitality with the bishop and our brothers and sisters from neighboring congregations.”
Blenda Smith, a member of the Conference Committee on Native American Ministries (CONAM) and who was a member of the General Commission on Christian Unity & Interreligious Concerns and co-chair of the 2012 Act of Repentance task force, said the commission and task force realized European Americans didn't know much about the history or current effects of history on indigenous persons' lives, which helped spark “listening sessions.”
“We realized that first we must listen and learn,” Smith said. “Only then can we begin to build healthy, respectful relationships. From that may come true repentance by European Americans and eventually healing for Native Americans.”
There have been "listening sessions" in more than two dozen locations – mostly in the United States, but also in the Philippines, Norway, and Africa. CONAM held 14 District Learning Sessions from February to May 2014 around UNY.
Bishop Webb was part of the three listening sessions held at the three Native American UMCs in the Conference: on April 1 at the Onondaga Nation UMC located on the Onondaga Nation Territory, on April 19 at the Hogansburg UMC, and on April 21 at the Four Corners UMC located on the Cattaraugus Territory. “My time with our sisters and brothers in our Native American congregations was a rich blessing,” Bishop Webb said. “The ministry they offer in the name of Jesus Christ is offering hope and transforming lives. My prayer is that we will continue to listen to one another more deeply and discover the ways in which God is calling us into the future as the Body of Christ.”
The Hogansburg UMC extended an invitation to Bishop Webb asking him to join the church in celebration of Native American Ministries Sunday. Garrow said the congregation was very excited when Bishop Webb accepted.
“The bishop is a dynamic and Spirit-filled leader,” Garrow said. “His message, ‘Essentials for the Journey,’ was uplifting and inspirational; a calling to mix heat and passion into our ministries; a reminder of the need to fold-in the many gifts of the people that are the Church.”
After the service, Bishop Webb and the congregation gathered for a meal.
“The fellowship of sharing a meal strengthens the bond between family and friends and provides opportunities to develop new friendships,” Garrow said.
Garrow said in moving forward, it is imperative that The United Methodist Church re-examine past interactions with indigenous peoples and take ownership of wronged relationships.
“The 2012 Act of Repentance is a good start moving toward the healing that is necessary in order for the love and light of Christ Jesus to shine forth for all people, of all races, and of all nations,” he said. “Worshipping together, healing old wounds, and recognizing the gifts of all people that are the Church is a good recipe for feeding future generations of United Methodists.”