It was October 1, 2012, when I had my first service at Four Corners UMC. I restructured the service a little so that it was more in line with the Book of Worship and changed it so we celebrated communion every other week. We celebrate by intinction now so they didn't have to wash those tiny cups every other week.
I remember the first day I walked into Four Corners UMC. I was greeted with very friendly smiles and welcomes, which is the way that I would expect to be welcomed at any church. We talked and they gave me a bulletin and they informed me of the way their service was laid out. We sing "He Is Lord" as our Call to Worship in the Seneca language. We recite "The Lord's Prayer" and we sing the "Doxology" in Seneca. I was given the Hymns in Seneca hymnal and they assured me that they would help me. Practicing with the Seneca Hymn Singers, which is an ecumenical group that practices at our church, has allowed me in the pronunciation of the language and also helped to understand it.
Everything I knew about Native Americans I learned on TV, movies, and in elementary school around Thanksgiving. I was not well prepared for this appointment, at least in accordance with the world's standards. However, there was a sense of belonging as soon as I walked in the door. It is true that God does not call the equipped, God equips the called. (Heb 13:20-21).
The Seneca struggle with the same things that we all do: financial challenges, divorce, drugs, alcoholism, and malnutrition are just a few of them. Four Corners is a small congregation and we appreciate the help that the UMC has sent to us through the offerings that our brothers and sisters in Christ share with us through the Native American Ministry Sunday offerings and the Committee on Native American Ministry (CONAM).
Through CONAM, we are in the early stages of connecting with our Native American UM brothers and sisters in Christ at Hogansburg UMC and Onondaga UMC. As Christians, we all have the same struggles of keeping our membership up and being relevant to the areas we serve. However, our Native American Churches have the challenge of teaching that we are God's children and that Jesus came into the world for everyone. One of the best things that we did at Four Corners is to combine our studies and special services with Versailles and Gowanda United Methodist churches. Our Churches understand that we are all equally loved by God through this journey of study and worship that we are taking together. Combining our Churches has been beneficial to all of our churches and our congregations.
I am still learning about the Seneca Nation, "Long House," the "Thomas Indian School," and the role the Church has played in the spreading of the Gospel to the Seneca Nation. Through all the things that the Church has done, it is no wonder that the indigenous people of this land have termed Christianity as "White Man's Religion." In spite of what the early Church has done "in the name of God," the Holy Spirit has managed to work through them or in spite of them and continues to do to this day.
When our friends from Hamburg UMC come to Four Corners and visit on Sundays, it is great! I call it Hamburg-er Helper because it helps fill the pews and makes worship even better. They walk into our Gathering Hall, sit down and have coffee before the service, and we laugh and talk and have fellowship. It is the same as they do at Hamburg UMC and probably at your church as well.
Four Corners United Methodist Church is an awesome Church where all are welcomed and made to feel as though they belong. I believe you can sense the presence of the Holy Spirit when you walk in the door. Every day is Native American Sunday at Four Corners UMC!
Pastor David Rood, Four Corners UMC
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.