Native American Ministries Sunday is May 4, 2014
Across The United Methodist Church, congregations and communities are encouraged to recognize Native American Ministries Sunday, one of the denomination’s six churchwide special Sundays with offerings.
May 4 has been set aside to acknowledge the contributions and presence of Native American members of the faith and to celebrate their continued successes celebrated across the United States. Indigenous communities from the North American continent have been in contact with Methodism since the day of John Wesley, who had contact with Muskogean ancestors during his brief time in the Savannah colony. Many Native American Christians, some of whom were also Methodists, endured the horrific policies of assimilation as numerous tribes and communities were removed to various reservations throughout the United States.
Oklahoma, once known as Indian Territory, was the final destination of numerous tribal groups whose origins came from throughout the continent. Many of the displaced survivors carried the roots of Methodism with them, evidenced in the birthing of the Wesleyan movement in Indian Territory. The Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference was the mother of Methodism in the area, even predating its sister conference, Oklahoma Annual Conference.
Native American Ministries Sunday reminds United Methodists that throughout our connection are people of faith whose ancestry comes from those historically indigenous to this continent and who still maintain a presence. Today, communities and churches provide ministry to their communities, even though financial challenges exist, and Native American pastors are often on the lowest end of the pay scale in our denomination. Yet, Native churches exist in all parts of the United States from North Carolina to Michigan and from New York to Arizona.
Funds shared through the special offering on Native American Ministries Sunday are life giving. Annual conferences have used their portion to fund churches, pastoral salaries and expenses for Committees on Native American Ministries, whose job is to oversee those ministries in the annual conference. Without these funds, some ministries would not exist. Funds shared on this day also assist Native American seminarians. Throughout modern day Native United Methodism, leaders, assisted by the funds provided to them by Native American Ministries Sunday, serve our churches and agencies.
Today, funds shared on Native American Ministries Sunday give a much-needed breath of fresh air to Native ministries already operating on miniscule budgets. Funds support children’s ministries in southeastern and western Oklahoma for programs serving the young people of Choctaw and Cheyenne tribes. In Tennessee and Delaware, funds enable gatherings of Native people to receive training on how we can make the church our own in today’s world. Even at this moment, funds help communities follow up to the Call to Repentance toward Indigenous Persons, acknowledged at the 2012 General Conference. Through these efforts, Native leaders of the church hope to revitalize our Native churches and communities as past wrongs are acknowledged.
Today, we encourage everyone to take a moment to remember this special Sunday, when we celebrate what true inclusivity in the church could be. Today, Native Americans in the United States make up around 1 percent of the total population, but we recognize that in our midst are Native persons and communities who have endured many challenges. Help our denomination celebrate this year’s Native American Ministries Sunday. Please give generously!
Written by The Rev. Glen Chebon Kernell, Executive Secretary of Native American and Indigenous Ministries with The General Board of Global Ministries.
Learn more at: www.umcgiving.org/giveNAMS
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