Special Sunday serves as reminder of Native American contributions
Native American Ministries Sunday is one of The United Methodist Church's six churchwide Special Sundays with offerings. It is a day United Methodists focus on the gifts and contributions made by Native Americans to society and the church.
The special offering received during the celebration supports outreach ministries with Native Americans and provides scholarships for United Methodist Native American seminarians.
Native American Ministry Sunday is officially observed on the third Sunday of Easter (April 10, 2016), but churches may observe the day and receive the offering at a time most convenient for them.
Resources to help you have a successful Sunday honoring and supporting Native American ministries abound on a variety of general agency websites. Among those to look for are:
Calls to worship and other resources from Discipleship Ministries, www.umcdiscipleship.org
Sermon starters, www.umcgiving.org/pastors/preaching
Resources for 21st ministry, www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/21st-century-worship-resources-for-native-american-ministries-sunday
Places to visit Native American churches, www.umcgiving.org/ministry-articles/native-american-ministries-sunday
Relationship building, www.umc.org/news-and-media/gc2012-starting-along-the-path-of-repentance
Exploring Native American ministries
Mary T Newman, coordinator of Native American ministries for the Tennessee Conference Committee on Native American Ministries, says most people don't realize what a rich Native American history there is in the United States, including in The United Methodist Church.
"We want people to understand Native people are alive!" she says. "They aren't freeze-dried in history. They aren't just in a book. We want people to know they can come to a Native American service and hear someone speak, listen to someone play the flute, watch someone dance, and it is all part of the service – not entertainment – but worship."
Consider these 10 tips from the Rev. Chebon Kernall, executive secretary of Native American and Indigenous Ministries with the General Board of Global Ministries, to help your church celebrate Native American Ministries Sunday:
1. Contact your annual conference Committee on Native American Ministries (CONAM) about inviting a guest speaker to your church. Work with your annual conference CONAM and your bishop to bring awareness to Native American ministries.
2. Design a worship service using The United Methodist Hymnal to sing Native American hymns or hymns with Native American translations such as:
"Amazing Grace" with verses in Cherokee, Navajo, Kiowa, Creek and Choctaw (378)
"Great Spirit, Now I Pray," a Kiowa prayer (330)
"Heleuyan" from the Muscogee (Creek) tradition (78)
"Jesus Loves Me" with a Cherokee verse (191).
3. Enrich your worship experience by using:
"Prayer to the Holy Spirit" from The United Methodist Hymnal (329)
"Kiowa Hymn: A Call to Worship" from The United Methodist Book of Worship (184)
4. If your congregation or charge does not have a designated person to represent Native American concerns in the local church, assign one. Work with your annual conference cabinet secretary to add the designated person's name to the charge conference team.
5. Learn about the "Acts of Repentance toward Healing Relationships with Indigenous Peoples."
6. Notice who your neighbors are. If you do not think you have Native American neighbors, look again. Once you discover the Native Americans in your area, learn their stories.
7. Plan a Bible study or small-group study to explore sections of the United Methodist Social Principles and United Methodist Book of Resolutions that pertain to Native Americans.
8. Use Native American Ministries Sunday sermon starters to help with planning the Special Sunday celebration.
9. Use "21st Century Worship Resources for Native American Ministries Sunday" on the Discipleship Ministries website.
10. Visit and worship with members of a Native American United Methodist church.
Compiled by Polly House, freelance editor and writer based in Nashville, Tennessee.