Celebrating the gifts of Native Americans to the church

Native American Day celebrated at PC(USA) Center chapel

September 23, 2015

The Rev. Irv Porter, associate for Native American Congregational Support, preaches at the PC(USA) Center 2015  Native American Day service.

The Rev. Irv Porter, associate for Native American Congregational Support, preaches at the PC(USA) Center 2015 Native American Day service. —Kristena Morse

LOUISVILLE

This morning, Native American Presbyterian women and men from across the United States joined together at the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) national headquarters in Louisville to celebrate Native American Day with a special worship service.

Led by the Rev. Irvin Porter, associate for Native American Congregational Support, the special worship service welcomed members of several Native American tribes, including Coushatta, Dakota, Choctaw and Nez Perce, and recognized and celebrated the contributions of Native Americans in the life of the Presbyterian church and the larger community.

“We celebrate the significance of Native Americans in the life of the church,” said Porter. “Native Americans have been an active presence and identity in the church. Often the genesis of this relationship has been through mission outreach of our predecessor denominations, as mission work with Native Americans began in 1641 with the establishment of a mission among the Shinnecock tribe on Long Island in New York That congregation still exists today, and is led by a Shinnecock Presbyterian minister.”

Representatives at the PC(USA) Chapel Native American Day include (left to right)  Sun Bai Kim, Madison McKinney (Dakota/Choctaw), Corbett Wheeler (Nez Perce), and the Rev. Irv Porter.

Representatives at the PC(USA) Chapel Native American Day include (left to right) Sun Bai Kim, Madison McKinney (Dakota/Choctaw), Corbett Wheeler (Nez Perce), and the Rev. Irv Porter. —Kristena Morse

“We give thanks for the unique gifts that Native American’s bring to our church,” he said.

Today there are 95 Native American congregations and chapels are located on reservations, and a total of 21 presbyteries and seven synods boast Native American constituents.

“Some of these churches are isolated by their remote locations,” Porter continued. “Native American congregations and worshiping communities face other unique challenges, including a shortage of ordained Native American clergy, which often leaves churches to rely on lay leadership, as many of these congregations cannot meet the presbytery minimum salary necessary to pay a full time pastor. These challenges haven’t stopped our Native American churches, however. They rely on connections and partnerships between non-native and native churches to focus on mission projects. Groups are working together in their local communities, helping meet the needs of the church, as well as families and individuals.”

Since 1994, Native American Day has appeared on the Presbyterian Planning Calendar as a day to recognize and celebrate the contributions of Native Americans to the life of the church. To learn more about the office of Native American Congregational Support, visit www.pcusa.org/nativeamerican