Renewal at Niobrara
“A renewed gathering of the people.” “a turning point in the life of the Niobrara Deanery” “just like old times” “so much more participation,” “a coming together of our cultures.” ‘‘a real sense of feeling new beginnings.”
The phrases and words above were used to describe the 115th Niobrara Convocation held this past June 18-21 at the Bishop Hare Center in Mission on the Rosebud Reservation. With over 2,000 in attendance and visitors from as far as Germany and Central America, Niobrara Convocation represented a new beginning and a renewed and strengthened Niobrara Deanery.
It was indeed a rich and varied religious gathering with something for everyone. Liturgically, this year’s Convocation included over 100 confirmations and several baptisms and receptions. Our Presiding Bishop celebrated one of the daily Eucharists and preached at the concluding Eucharist on Sunday.
There was a public service of healing which for many was the liturgical highlight of the Convocation.
On Sunday morning Charles Montileaux was ordained to the priesthood and started his ministry on the Cheyenne River Reservation immediately following the Convocation.
On Saturday evening two young persons were married by a former South Dakota priest who now exercises his ministry in North Dakota, the Rev. Harold Eagle Bull.
One person commented that the only thing we missed liturgically was the burial rite.
In addition to the varied and exciting worship, there were stimulating plenary sessions of the Niobrara Convocation including wrestling with issues such as the future of St. Mary’s School, the Bradley Bill, the translation of the 1979 Prayer Book into Lakota/Dakota/Nakota.
Saturday evening brought a traditional naming ceremony for the Presiding Bishop who received the name “Inyan Wicasa” which means Man of Rock.” This was followed by a pow wow, dancing, and a giveaway.
A new organization was formed during this year’s Convocation, the Native American Clergy Association. With Fr. Andrew Blackmon from the National Network of Episcopal Clergy Associations and others present, the new Native American Clergy Association gathered and elected its first president, the Rev. Webster Two Hawk. The group discussed the Black Hills legislation and the Indian Health Care Act and attempted to come up with ways of empowering Native American persons legally and spiritually.
The hospitality of the Convocation was contagious. The members of the Rosebud Mission Council and Rosebud Deanery did a wonderful job of making everyone feel welcome and a part of the Convocation.
Frank Gangone deserves special thanks for his gracious hospitality and his involving the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and the community of Mission, South Dakota.
What does it all mean? As 1 reflect on the experience of this year’s Convocation. I think that this 115th Convocation marks a renewal of interest, enthusiasm and commitment to and for the work of the Niobrara Deanery as an integral and vital part of the Diocese of South Dakota.
Deacon Ruth Potter of the Central Deanery expressed it very well when she said, “There will be greater healing, renewal and reconciliation at the next convocation.”
Sister Margaret Hawk likewise shared the enthusiasm that was sensed by so many at the Bishop Hare Center. She noted that in many ways it was like “old times”, old times with the revival of some of the traditional practices at Niobrara Convocation and the tremendous increase in participation and the number of persons attending. While like “old times”, she also noted that this year’s Niobrara Convocation represented a “turning point’ in that it signaled a new day for greater self determination and self reliance.
I too, share the excitement and enthusiasm that I felt at this years Niobrara Convocation. Under the strong leadership of Fr. Bob Two Bulls, Dan Campbell, Cordelia Red Owl, James Standing Bear and others of the Niobrara Convocation and Council, I sense the desire for a strengthened and dedicated Niobrara Deanery.
With the increase in the number of our Native American clergy and a whole new generation being presently trained at Seabury-Western, we can anticipate new and courageous indigenous ordained leadership.
With growing lay participation and a restoration of some of the very old lay ministries (Catechist, Sr. Catechist. Helper), we can anticipate greater involvement and increased representation and participation in shared ministry within the Niobrara Deanery