People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.’ And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.
— Mark 10:13-16
Greetings in the name of Jesus who sets captives free and binds up the wounds of the broken.
To say that we are in a period of reckoning on many fronts is an understatement. The reckoning with regard to race, culture and ethnicity is especially rife in North America right now. The social reckonings that come to help us better understand who we are and how we got to be that way do not come on a particular timetable and never feel particularly comfortable or convenient. They may have been predictable but our human propensity to suppress and placate them as a way of avoiding them always prove futile. The end we hope for is not shame and guilt; it is repentance, reconciliation, healing and justice. But the journey starts with acknowledgement and repentance.
In this window of time, we are invited to especially acknowledge the harm done to the Indigenous People of North America across half a millennia and particularly Native American children who were forced into “Indian boarding schools”. This practice and those schools were not the finest hour of this nation. To add insult to injury churches, including the United Methodist Church were among the sponsors of such schools. These schools separated thousands of children from their families. Their practices stripped these children of their dignity and culture. Some children died while at these schools and were buried in mass graves. There is an abundance of work being done right now to understand the extent of the harm.
In a previous issue of NewsNet we were all reminded of the opportunity to observe a Children’s Sabbath. I recall putting great energy into this when I was privileged to serve local congregations as pastor. By the way I have been around just long enough to remember the robust observance of Children’s Day. My enthusiasm for such observances has not waned. These efforts can serve to center the voices and lives of children especially those that have been marginalized, abused, made invisible. So, what if we put the memory of and justice for Native American boys and girls, whose voices cry out from unmarked graves and bulldozed boarding schools, at the heart of a Children’s Sabbath this year? I have attached a beautiful litany below for you to use whenever you choose to bring attention in your local church to this overdue work.
In the face of renewed focus on the damages done by the boarding schools I invite you to:
- Observe a Day of Remembrance for Indigenous Children,
- Welcome the investigation underway by the U.S. Department of the Interior,
- Pledge to support the study and investigation of Methodist-related boarding schools,
- Seek to embody in our work the spirit of our church’s 2012 “Act of Repentance Toward Healing Relationships with Indigenous People,”
- Review and implement as possible recommendations for healing and reconciliation found in the resolution of 2016, including measures to increase the role and visibility of Indigenous persons and communities, and
- Promote equity and justice for Native Americans in both church and society.
Thanks for joining me in this good work. I am,
† Bishop Gregory V. Palmer