Honoring Native American Heritage

Honoring Native American Heritage

By Amy Ezell

Director, Center for Communication

Rev. Dan Read

Each November, Native American Heritage Month is a special time to celebrate the rich and diverse cultures, traditions, and histories of Natives. This time is set aside by United Methodists as an opportunity to reach out to indigenous groups in our communities and to learn about—and from—our Native sisters and brothers.

The Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church is rich with Native American clergy and lay heritage.

Rev. George Odell, senior pastor of West Memphis FUMC, learned of his Native heritage through doing a study in genealogy. He learned that his ancestors immigrated to America from Canada. Rev. Odell is part of the Algonquin Nation.

Rev. Dan Read, pastor at Greers Chapel UMC and Stephens UMC, is a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, a federally recognized sovereign nation.

“Everyone in my family has been a registered tribe member going back to the final Dawes roll. Membership in my tribe is not based on blood quontum, but on lineage to an original Dawes roll member,” shared Rev. Read.

In October, a group of Arkansas United Methodist clergy and laity convened in Oklahoma City with the Oklahoma Indian Conference for the 5th annual Immersion experience. The purpose of this event was for those attending to learn more about Native American history, context and its unique perspectives.

Provided by Rev. Dan Read: This document was signed by Pierre Durant, the grandfather to Cassie Durant (grave photo). This document is the treaty of Doak’s Stand that ceded a portion of Choctaw land in Mississippi for most of western Arkansas. Unfortunately, Rev. Read’s Durant ancestors were not allowed to settle in the land.

Attending from the Arkansas Conference were Rev. Walt Garrett, Associate Pastor at Benton FUMC and his wife, Kenda Garrett and their daughters; Rev. Art Torphy, Associate Pastor at Village UMC in Hot Springs Village and his wife, Susan; Nechi Fullerton, of Canvas Community Church in Little Rock; and Paul and Belinda Jones of Benton FUMC.

The group from Arkansas visited the First Americans Museum that just opened in September 2021 and offers an experience of the collective histories of 39 distinctive First American Nations in Oklahoma. They also visited Standing Bear Park, Museum and Education Center in Ponca City, which honors its six area tribes: Osage, Pawnee, Otoe-Missouria Kaw, Tonkawa and Ponca.

Immersion concluded with a visit to the Sovereign Community School that emphasizes Indigenous culture and traditions to students while challenging the next generations to understand and affirm their roles as citizens of Native nations; activating and empowering healthy indigenous leaders and citizens of this country’s first nations.

“The closing ceremony was a very powerful experience that included cleansing and blessing with sage, fire and feathers,” shared Nechi Fullerton, member of Canvas Community Church.

When asked the purpose for himself, his family and two church members attending, Rev. Walt Garrett shared that “it was totally Holy Spirit-driven.”

“What began as an issue with no potable water for two days in Benton during the winter storm in February has now turned into a mission emphasis on water-insecurity issues on Native lands,” shared Rev. Garrett. “So far, we (Benton FUMC) have worked with the United Methodist Four Corners Native American Ministries in New Mexico to build 15 above ground water tanks… and we are planning a mission trip to Chewey, Oklahoma in mid-June to assist the Native community with water insecurity there,” he added.

With a desire to learn more about supporting indigenous heritage and community, connections made through the Native American mission focus of Benton FUMC are how Garrett became part of the Immersion experience.

The grave of Cassie Durant, Rev. Dan Read’s 3x grandmother, who was the first generation of his family born in Oklahoma. Her parents traveled the Trail of Tears.

When asked about how he currently embraces his Native heritage, Rev. Dan Read shared, “I have grown closer to my Native heritage over the years through my native friends from college, and my genealogical research.”

Recently Rev. Read has begun making regalia which is the traditional and often sacred clothing, accessories and artifacts worn or carried during various ceremonies.

He explained that, “Each piece (of regalia) has significance and is used by Powwow dancers with feathers that hold great significance among Native Americans. The hawk and eagle feathers are the most revered as they carry prayers high in the sky to the Creator.”

“Feathers are often given to honor accomplishments,” shared Read. “And by federal law, feathers of all native migratory birds cannot be bought, sold, or bartered with. They can only be possessed by Native Americans and gifted to other Natives.”

Rev. Read proudly shared that he is currently waiting for eagle feathers from the National Eagle Repository that he looks forward to giving to his daughter, Alyce, for her graduation and other accomplishments in life.

To learn more about Native American History Month, visit https://www.resourceumc.org/en/content/november-11-native-american-heritage-month-november-2018.

To learn more about the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference, visit http://www.umc-oimc.org/.

Written by Amy Ezell with contributions by Nechi Fullerton

Through Loss and Grief, OMP Partnership Provides Mental Health Support

We are all aware of how difficult it has been for anyone in ministry since March 2020, when COVID-19 arrived in Arkansas. In late 2019, the sadness and grief preceded the pandemic for friends and supporters of Ozark Mission Project. This tragedy arrived unexpectedly through the death of OMP volunteer, Alexis Faupal, from ovarian cancer at the tender age of 21.

“Our whole community was grieving and personally I wished I could have done more to help. I didn’t have the words and felt like I didn’t have the tools to offer. The summer of 2020 led to more loss and I kept hearing of volunteers saying things like, ‘I feel like everything I love is being taken away,’” shared Bailey Faulkner, Executive Director of OMP.

Through all of the trauma caused by quarantine and loss, it became quite evident that many people could benefit from mental health counseling and support.

Faulkner stated, “Today each one of us is experiencing grief in some way, and I believe healing happens when we are able to talk through it. Now, through this partnership with Chenal Family Therapy, anyone who wants a place for free mental health support can have that.”

Ozark Mission Project recently announced its partnership with Chenal Family Therapy and that they are offering free counseling to their non-profit partners (local churches) and to ALL of those that they serve. Chenal Family Therapy has over 20+ graduate interns available in-person and by Zoom for individual, couples, and family counseling.

“We are so thankful for this partnership and hope that local churches, youth groups, and Wesley Foundations will all take advantage of these free services. And we would love for all churches to share this information on social media and in newsletters,” said Faulker.

To get confidential help today, please email Help@ChenalTherapy.com.

For over 35 years OMP has transformed lives and communities. To learn more about how your church can become involved with OMP, please visit www.ozarkmissionproject.org or call 501-664-3232.

Incorporating Mission Moments

What if you could build a team of people who could share how grateful they are to be a part of your church? And in return create a stronger sense of discipleship and service?

“Mission Moments” are small examples of how your church is doing ministry and the only rule about these mighty tools, is that they have to be connected to groups, individuals, or locations that are near and dear to the hearts of your church family.

Where should you begin?

  1. Utilize this Engagement Template for the month of October to organize your Mission Moments both in-person and online. There are also ideas for social media too.
  2. Dive deeper into incorporating Mission Moments into a worship service with ResourceUMC.
  3. Use only ONE Mission Moment at worship each week.
  4. Utilize a layperson each week, who is already involved with this mission or who can share how it has directly affected them. Remind them more than three times, that this should be less than 2 minutes. Leave people wanting MORE, not exhausted from an overshare. Possibly consider having your Discipleship Team plan these in the future.
  5. Most importantly, make sure that the Mission Moment reflects someone, something, or somewhere that is well known to your church family. Examples include local feeding ministry, youth ministry, UMM, UMW, local schools, after-school ministries, upcoming events, and volunteers in ministries with the community.

Each Mission Moment doesn’t have to have a happy ending. It just needs to instill a sense of loyalty, passion (through giving and serving), and joy in knowing that your church family is serving way beyond the walls of the building.

Solid Tips for Creating A Healthy Online Presence

Solid Tips for Creating A Healthy Online Presence

twitter bird

By Amy Ezell

Director, Center for Communication

A few weeks ago, the Rev. Todd Vick of Lakeside UMC sent me a “tweet” that had recently gotten a lot of engagement. It was shared by a layperson who I do not know and it read:

“If you are looking for a church home, along with the usual things to weigh, I would add one more: see if the pastor is on Twitter. If he or she is, observe how they conduct themselves there. Hard to believe we’re at this place, but here we are. I can’t urge you to do this strongly enough.”

Part of my work is spent coaching church leaders on using social media to build a solid brand. Whether it is a church brand or a personal brand, it is very important that each of these speaks intentionally as to who they are for their online audience.

Since the mandatory shift to online ministry and branding because of COVID-19, church leaders are getting many mixed messages that make it even more difficult to create a positive brand. Some examples are: “Be authentic but avoid discussions that could be construed as political.” “Be relatable but make sure not to come across as too eager to connect.” “Be encouraging but be careful not to follow groups or like posts that could be seen as questionable.” “Be creative but don’t be awkward.” The list could go on and on…

To make it as clear as possible, I have broken it down as three easy tips for church leaders to consider when building a positive brand which contributes to a larger online audience:

1. Identify how people feel when they see your name on social media. Could there be any anger or confusion from posts that you’ve shared? Could there be resentment from topics that you frequently like to discuss? Do you cause eyes to roll because you share things that are interpreted as you are in need of attention? Do people feel encouraged by your words? Are people proud to share and like and thank you for what you have posted?

2. Mirror your in-person persona on social media. Developing an online persona is something to avoid. It is very easy to hide behind a keyboard and type things, like posts and make comments that would never be said face-to-face and eye-to-eye.

3. Be kind. Would you want to be around yourself based upon the things that you post, share and like on social media?

Whether we like it or not, people are watching what church leaders are saying. This is a great opportunity for growth, or failure, depending on how you want to be seen online. It’s not easy, it takes work, but it creates an amazing new opportunity for meaningful evangelism.

Are You Having Fun Yet?A few words of wisdom for communication leaders

Are You Having Fun Yet?
A few words of wisdom for communication leaders

By Amy Ezell

Director, Center for Communication

Take a second to ask yourself: When was the last time that you did something FUN through your online ministry? Something that actually makes you have the most contagious smile and energy and, of course, engages exponentially with your audience?

Here are a few ideas for adding some fun to your online ministry:

Do something out of your comfort zone and film yourself doing it. Bake something for your family to surprise them out of love, but be prepared to laugh at yourself if needed. Go fishing/kayaking for the first time. Volunteer for a local pet shelter on a dog wash day. Take a nature walk to someplace you’ve never been before and share the beauty of God through new eyes.

Plan a “game show” with your staff / lay leaders. You may do this via Zoom and record it and then share it on Facebook. You may also upload the video to YouTube and share on your website. It’s super easy. Some ideas include: “Get to know the new pastor” or “Crazy purchases made during the pandemic” (this could possibly lead to creating a stockpile of unused items that could be donated to those who need it). You could also host a “Big Dreams Mission Work: if money, time, and health were not barriers, where would you go and what would you want to do?”

Plan a backyard photo share. Ask members to share photos of animals, plants, garden goodies, yard art, sunsets, sunrises, food on the BBQ grill, a seating area, a tree, critters, etc. from their backyards. This is a great conversation engagement and opens the door to discuss some of God’s beautiful creations. Remind them not to share pictures of other people unless they have their consent. Who knows? Maybe this could be the beginning of a small group ministry that meets in the backyards of neighbors?

Host a virtual food drive. There are so many hungry kids out there. Why not host a virtual food drive where you let people contribute ONLINE for different levels of food packages for young ones? For example, ask for $5 to cover a big jar of peanut butter. Ask for $10 to cover three boxes of cereal. Ask for $15 to cover a toiletry kit (toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, shampoo, shower gel). GET CREATIVE, but encourage online giving so that you can purchase all of the items at once from a local grocery store and then donate to your local food pantry. Anytime that we assist the hungry, a smile usually finds itself on our faces.

Encourage an online choir performance. Invite each choir member to hop on a Zoom call from their homes and sing away! Your audience will love this. Maybe consider having a kid sing on Zoom in the same format. Go acapella, play a guitar or piano, whatever. This is something that can be recorded and then shared in a worship video or even in person when you get to this time.

These are just a few ideas that can add some fun to your ministry. If you are struggling with technology, please reach out to the Center for Communication and we will be glad to help.

Just get out there and have some fun, all in the blessed name of Jesus!