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Keep It Moving: Reflections on the Act of Repentance

by Youngsook C Kang
April 28, 2012

“Keep being repentant. Repentance is a process!” George Tinker, Osage Nation, said last night at the Act of Repentance Service at the General Conference. Tinker concluded, “Your repentance doesn’t stop here. We must continue. It is a long process that we want to commit to.”

David Fridtjof Halaas, who was present at the service, representing the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, confirmed the notion of “repentance as a process.” After the service, he said, “I was moved by the service. So, keep it moving.”

The 2008-2012 Quadrennium was indeed a period of preparation for this continued spiritual journey of repentance. The journey began with the 2008 Resolution #3323 Healing Relationships with Indigenous Persons. As part of the Resolution, the General Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns was assigned to the task to “hold an Act of repentance Service at the 2012 General Conference,” along with the task of study and dialogue.

The following are some of the words at the listening gatherings that we have heard over the last several years (GCCUIC brochure on Giving Substance to Words).

  • Listen to us!
  • We are invisible because of our small and scattered demographics. We are voiceless because you do not listen. We are speaking, but, you do not hear.
  • The atrocities and injustices of the past live on in the historic trauma of today
  • Your guilt does not help us. Your partnership and advocacy does.
  • We are not sure the Act of Repentance will help. Is the Church ready for repentance?

In fact there was a concern as to how the Act of Repentance Service may be received. However, the entire service moved people’s hearts. Many had tears in their eyes when they heard the voices from the indigenous people. The Council of Bishops’ commitment was welcomed as a genuine voice of seeking repentance.

Keep it moving. Repentance as a process and was symbolized in the act of “getting a stone from river of life” during the service. Everyone was invited to the River of Life, following the liturgy which read, “Stones that were once hurled in ways that hurt can become listening “story stones” that led to life. We can take these back to our areas as covenant to continue to listen and to walk the journey of healing with one another. You are invited to come to the river – the center aisle-and get a stone that reminds us to “Listen.” At this “River of Life,” Otto Braided Hair met Bishop Elaine J.W. Stanovksy, who is the Residence Bishop of the Mountain Sky Area, holding a “Story Stone.”

When the service was over, Otto Braided Hair, Northern Cheyenne, a Sand Creek Massacre descendant, said, “I have a sense of hope.” In fact, he said before the service, “I don’t know how to feel about this. At the moment, I feel indifferent.” A move from “indifference” to “Hope!” Keep it moving.

With heart-felt words spoken at the Act of Repentance service, our spiritual journey of repentance continues. This night we began a journey – A journey of repentance FOR ALL OF US. This journey is a process of repentance along the trail of healing.

(Photo: Bishop Elaine Stanovsky with Otto Braidedhair at the Act of Repentance service)