by holly mccray
Annual Conference starts earlier this Memorial Day, with the first worship service at 3 p.m. Monday, May 30, in OKC-St. Luke’s Church.
That’s important to note whether you attend in person or watch the live stream on your digital device.
The meeting also concludes sooner — by noon Thursday, June 2, at Oklahoma City University’s Freede Center.
Healing relationships between the Church and Native Americans will be in focus at Annual Conference for a third year.
The opening worship on Monday afternoon is a "Service of Repentance." The liturgy contains four movements, drawing on those questions, said Shyloe O’Neal of the worship design team. She is Muscogee (Creek) and an associate pastor at Norman-McFarlin UMC.
The work by the seven-member team included meeting at the unfinished Native American museum at the crossroads of Interstates 35 and 44 in Oklahoma City.
"I began to gather a sense that things get started and never finished," Rev. O’Neal said, and she grieved that.
In 2012, a Church resolution called all United Methodists to engage in acts of repentance and reconciliation with indigenous people, with accountability assigned to the bishops.
Bishop Robert Hayes Jr. of the Oklahoma Area activated a three-year process, especially seeking connections between members of the Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conferences.
Actions the first two years taught the history of Methodism and Native Americans, O’Neal said.
"Now we want to move forward. We want this service to bring the history from acts of repentance and reconciliation to the contemporary experiences of all of us. We want people to leave claiming continuing repentance with our churches and our neighbors, to see the Christ in each of us."
Oklahoma United Methodists must recognize healing is not only between the two conferences, O’Neal insisted. "Tribal members are not all OIMC. What are we confessing here? Who is asking for repentance and reconciliation? It’s our conference (too)!"
Storyteller from Alaska
Native Alaskan and storyteller Ray Buckley is keynote for the "Service of Repentance."
From Palmer, Alaska, he just completed a seven-year project among the Ainu of Hokkaido, Japan, and Siberia, Russia.
He has taught in Ghana and Nigeria and twice at the Pontifical Biblical Institute at the Vatican. He was a preacher for the joint General Conference/General Assembly of the UCC and DOC denominations. He was Preacher of the Year for Phillips Theological Seminary.
In UM leadership he has directed the Native People’s Communication Office (UMCom) and also Connectional Ministries for the Alaska Missionary Conference. He is author of nine books.
Buckley said he likes pot roast and mashed potatoes. Sounds to me like a yummy story topic! — Holly McCray
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