Exchanging gifts is an honored tradition for many Native American peoples. Sherry Wack exchanged the gift of visitation in November, when she leads her congregation at Evansburg UMC in celebrating the nation's Native American Heritage Month.
Wack, a Christ Servant Minister, is not Native American, but she co-chairs the Eastern PA Conference's Committee on Native American Ministry (CoNAM). She emphasized Native American cultures and concerns as worship leader and as her church's CoNAM representative.
Committee on Native American Ministry (CoNAM) is supported by your offerings on Native American Ministry Sunday.
Wack and fellow CoNAM member Bob Hinderliter attended a ceremony honoring St. John UMC in Fordville's remarkable longevity as the only Native American UM church in New Jersey, one of only five in the Northeastern Jurisdiction and the fifth oldest in the nation. The church received a new, official designation as a Historic Native American Methodist Church during the ceremony.
Wack's guest speaker was a leader of the 176-year-old, interracial congregation. Cynthia Mosley accepted Wack's invitation to return the favor of a visit. She serves on the Greater New Jersey Conference's CoNAM and is St. John UMC's Lay Delegate to Annual Conference and Staff-Parish Relations Committee Chairwoman.
"I went to St. John on their celebration because I had heard it was the closest Native American church to us in Eastern PA," said Wack, who offered greetings there on behalf of our conference's CoNAM. "In the past, our CoNAM had talked about establishing a relationship with them. I also wanted to help them celebrate this honor and invite one of their leaders to come speak at my church."
There are no Native American UM churches in Eastern PA, but there is one in central Delaware.
During St. John's celebration, the Rev. Glenn Conaway, District Superintendent, preached a homily titled, "How Long Will You Tell the Story?" He compared their perseverance to that of the Israelites getting to the Promised Land. Near the end of the service, a drum circle and dancers blessed the ceremony.
Celebrating 176 years of continuous operation, "through oppression, fire and finally recognition," St. John has been home to many members of the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation, and some members have served on the tribal council. According to a resolution at their 2017 Annual Conference, "The church building has been a place of meeting for tribal affairs when none were available or allowed and a place of ministry to help (with) spiritual and physical needs…"
This historic acknowledgment is a significant contrast to the tribal nation's pursuit of reaffirmation and its struggle for sovereign recognition by its state. Visit the church's Facebook page to see images and learn more. St. John UMC is located at 680 Fordville Road in Bridgeton, N.J.
Adapted, Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference
One of six churchwide Special Sundays with offerings of The United Methodist Church, Native American Ministries Sunday serves to remind United Methodists of the gifts and contributions made by Native Americans to our society. The special offering supports Native American outreach within annual conferences and across the United States and provides seminary scholarships for Native Americans.
When you give generously on Native American Ministries Sunday, you equip seminary students who will honor and celebrate Native American culture in their ministries. You empower congregations to find fresh, new ways to minister to their communities with Christ's love. Give now.