On July 1, I preached my last sermon at Hominy Friends Meeting. After packing up my things, I am back in Hutchinson with my family, in a few days it will be back to Indiana waiting to start classes at my new position. I have much to be thankful for.
I just spent the month of July with native american Friends. In that time I delivered 3 sermons at Hominy Friends (Osage), visited Kickapoo Friends Center, and attended Quivering Arrow camp held on the property of Council House Friends meeting. In addition, I was able to hold a brief conversation with the pastor of Wyondotte Friends — so I had at least brief contact with each of the four meetings.
Hominy Friends serves the Osage people. David and Beth Nagle were gracious hosts, and I enjoyed worshiping with Friends there. Services were ‘programmed’, having somewhat less silence than I’m accustomed to. They have some members who are musical, so some Sundays there was a piano player, every Sunday we had singers with strong voices.
Attendance ranged from only 1/2 dozen to maybe 25. The Nagles have served this community well for many years, and have become accepted as part of the Osage community. The meetinghouse has people in it many nights of the week, and Beth is working to build a volunteer base to increase services to more members of the community.
One of the challenges in this meeting is that *weekly* attenders are extremely rare. In general, the people have multiple demands on their time on Sundays — which makes the volunteer pool for positions like Sunday School teacher rather low. Another challenge they face is a lack of ‘good’ jobs in the area. Their pastors work over an hour’s drive from the community. (Pray for economic development — also for David’s current job search.)
Kickapoo Friends was a joy to visit. I heard a sermon from a senior attending Barclay college, and was able to learn about changes in the Haviland community. I also was able to talk with Brad Wood, who I respect deeply. I found the worship service a blessing to me.
Council House Friends was also a blessing. Westfield Friends sent volunteers to prepare the property for all the campers. Wabash Friends provided the program and brought dozens of children as campers to share the experience with Native American campers. Wabash Friends provided all the necessary adults, including kitchen help, child supervision, sermons. Paul (From Wabash) preached in a way that kept the children’s attention. Over the period of the camp, 6–12 year old kids went through, and discussed the whole book of James. For the last sermon Brad Wood gave an overview of Christian theology which managed to keep every one’s attention. Its rare that I’ve seen a camp so well done. I look forward to visiting Wabash Friends.
Because I was not responsible for making camp work, or supervising kids — I did my best to find at least a few useful things to do (moving things, for example). The closest thing I saw to a problem was that the planners were somewhat more schedule orientated than the natives, followed by they were a little more worried about constant supervision than natives. (Some of the kids complained mildly about this — but, all of them were able to get past the complaining stage and have fun.)
Council House, (Seneca-Cayuga nation) unfortunately, though it has a significant ministry to the other native churches likely will no longer be a place of regular worship after a few older people die. Their cemetery has fresh graves. There is a building with looms where women make craft items to sell — raising money for missions and other ministry. Until recently, there was a week-day children’s ministry. In many ways the meeting cannot close, however it also does not have the membership to continue as a monthly meeting. A special challenge is that it is a rural meeting — all jobs require a drive. Though there was a time when the meetinghouse was full, I wonder if that time could come again.
One of the biggest difficulties in the Indian Churches seems to be weak local leadership. The group seems strongly dependent on the pastor — and the pastors are not Native. To be fair, both Brad Wood, and the Steven Johnson, pastor at Wyondotte Friends grew up in the meeting, but while all of these meetings are pastoral — Natives do not seem to become pastors. In spite of this difficulty, I see that leadership is making steps to improve the situation. My prayers are with the native churches as they try to fulfill this complex mission.