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The Gift Of Native Worship

*Photo courtesy of Native Christian leader Charles Robinson

Experiencing Native American dance (Urbana03), Aztec song and dance (CCDA10), and prayers/communion by a tribal leader with their headdress worn (#prayforreform) have been some of the most powerful times of worship. Each of these experiences reminded me that we must work hard to re-imagine worship that includes the distinctive of all peoples. All of our God-given cultural beauty can be offered in our worship to the praise of our King.

How is that done? That’s too much to cover here–but check out #thenextworship

What I will share is that re-imagining worship is a continual journey. This week I learned how much I didn’t know about Native people groups outside of the US Midwest. I felt a little lost and needed some helpful guidance from Moanike’ala Nanod-Sitch and Brennan Takayama (of Hawaii) and Megan Murdock Krischke (Native Ministries coordinator) along with a few others. I guess you can be doing this for decades and still not have enough memory to hold all of the nuances of both the domestic and global expression of worship. Maybe that is why so many communities don’t try to broaden their worship—you are constantly confronted with your ignorance and your need of others which can be very humiliating! Can we have the courage to try?

Holy Spirit Fiyah was a song birthed by Hui Poly in Hawaii. Jasmine Laupola, who is a part of the Hui Poly ‘ohana (family), will be leading us at SC17 through hula. Courtland (Lakota) and Rashawn (Navajo) will also be leading. It was such a powerful gift for students and staff at Urbana so a year later we hope it will bless you. More background can be found at Story of God and Song

Prayer for the People was crafted by Megan Murdock Krischke and Andy Kim for the previous AAM staff gathering, and has been modified to fit this gathering and the native people of the region.  A friend of mine, Mark Charles (Navajo), explains that it is important for us to say “Thank You” to the people whose land we are visiting.  He shares a very helpful analogy that should be read by all staff. (Actually, read anything by Mark!)

The Alaskan Song, Fly (Wayahaya), is gifted to us from the native Alaskan staff. The dance (see here at 1:45:00) was created by Native students at UAA and UAF in collaboration with the author of the song Guy Peters. They worked with Guy because they wanted to make sure they were honoring him and his creative piece. We are very excited to share this song as we hear about student ministry in Alaska through video.

We as a worship team enter in with courage and humility as we recognize just a few of the many gifts our Native staff offer to deepen our worship of God.  May the Lord also give us the courage and humility to stand in solidarity and partnership beyond singing. Given all the powerful worship encounters with friends such as Charles Robinson (Christian Native Leader of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma pictured above) I can’t watch our national news, celebrate a national holiday, or experience a museum the same way. Listening and learning from Charles and his wife Siouxsan (Lakota / Blackfoot) and their ministry The Red Road invites me into deeper worship. A worship that moves beyond singing!

Also, here are some Native clarifications I received that I pass onto you:

  • Pasifika, a.k.a. Pacific Islanders (Polynesian, Melanesian and Micronesian) staff are in included in Native Ministries, not Asian American Ministries. Pasifika peoples are categorized on the census as Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islanders (NHOPI).
  • Brennan Takayama wrote a short piece last year for the MEM blog that that was very helpful.
  • When Holy Spirit Fiyah is sung the languages of the peoples represented in the gathering are sung.
  • The Alaskan song will be sung, but since no native Alaskan staff or students are present the dance will not be danced.
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