By Jessica Brodie
GREENVILLE—Embracing a spirit of awareness, love and inclusiveness, Annual Conference gathered for a Native American worship service, “A Service of Reconciliation and Healing,” Tuesday afternoon.
The service featured Native American music and drumming from Keepers of the Word, as well as songs, prayer and preaching on wounds and healing.
“My belief is when we have open minds and open hearts, we can come together as the body of Christ to be one,” said Zan Tracy Pender, chair of the South Carolina Conference’s Native American Committee in his opening.
In the opening prayer, Native American Missioner the Rev. Cheryl Toothe said now is not a time for fingers or blame.
“It is a time for us reach out to one another in love and forgiveness,” Toothe prayed. “We understand that forgiveness must begin with ourselves.”
She closed her prayer acknowledging, “Under the skin we all look alike. For our differences, help us to celebrate them, and help us to weave them together for worship of you, betterment of your kingdom and making disciples of your children.”
South Carolina Resident Bishop L. Jonathan Holston shared about what he called “scar stories” with the crowd. Some are funny, some are filled with shame and some with pride, but everyone has one, Holston noted.
He shared a story of a scar he received from an injury when he was 4 years old.
“There are a lot of scars in this rollercoaster of the world in which we live,” Holston said—some we got ourselves, and some others have given to us.
In John 20:24-29, Holston preached, Jesus himself identified himself to his disciples by showing the scars on his hands and feet, which he received from being crucified. When Thomas saw the scars, he knew who Jesus was.
He said United Methodists are not people who are prone to hate or injustice, but people who have come to witness. “We seek to be in reconciliation with all people.”
LaShella Kirkland spoke on “Being Culturally Sensitive,” helping the body understand how to be respectful and inoffensive when it comes to living with Native Americans, including not to look at Native American dress as “costumes.”
Revonda Hardesty spoke on “Going Forward,” lifting up ways non-Native people can work with Native Americans, including making an effort to work with, not for, them and taking an active political stance in solidarity.
And Cathy Nelson spoke on “Trail of Reconciliation and Healing.”
Holston led the room in a prayer for the hundreds of Native American elder baskets that had been assembled by churches across South Carolina to be used to help elderly Native people.
The service closed with a hymn, “The Sacred Circle,” a prayer, and sacred drumming.
If you wonder why there needs to be a reconciliation or an act of repentance, then research, Toothe wrapped up the service by stating—read about the boarding schools, the massacres.
“Then read your Bible and understand we all need to put those things behind us and move forward,” Toothe said. “Let’s move forward together.”