By Beth Miller, Chair Mississippi Conference Committee on Native American Ministries
This past Tuesday night, I watched with praise and thanksgiving as a new model unfolded for our three
United Methodist Choctaw congregations. Native stakeholders from the three congregations -- John Memorial, Great Spirit and Green Hill -- who are also stakeholders in the Choctaw Mission, engaged in thoughtful, sometimes painful and yet open and hopeful conversation as they visioned a new way for themselves.
Their old structure of two churches aligned with the mission and one freestanding was no longer fruitful or sustainable. All the congregations and the mission in general have faced considerable struggles. A Choctaw pastor served one of the congregations, but each longed for someone who knew their culture, music, history and identity; someone who could pastor them, even as they supported and grew one of their own.
A new structure for growing vital native Choctaw congregations was born. The three churches will be aligned together led by Rev. Daniel Tubby. Rev. David Wilson, conference superintendent of the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference, will lead lay servant leadership training, which will become a "front burner" priority.
A new configuration, new leadership and fresh approaches to servanthood for the Choctaw Mission are still unfolding. Essential input from Choctaw stakeholders regarding the executive director job description and critical priorities for the focus and general future of the mission will be the substance of additional meetings and dialogue.
The input from the Choctaw people looked toward discipleship, meeting needs, a general excitement and attentiveness to their pastor. The input from the Mississippi Conference director of communications and connectional ministries, Rev. Dr. Connie Shelton; the superintendent of the Meridian District, Rev. Billy Owen and the conference treasurer and benefits officer, David Stotts looked toward acknowledging realities, while seeing real possibilities, offering encouragement and assurance of ongoing support. The process was beautiful to watch unfold. The pride in a pastor serving his people was profound. It was a demonstration of our Mississippi United Methodist connection and The POWER of We at its best!
As with any new thing, no doubt there may be rough edges to refine. But the process has begun. For me, as chair of the conference Committee on Native American Ministries, I share this experience with respectful joy.
I extend the invitation for participation. The committee itself needs representation from across our annual conference. If you feel a nudging of spirit to become involved in and support our Mississippi Choctaw United Methodists by serving on this committee, please contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 662.873.4226 (church office, Rolling Fork United Methodist Church).
I look forward to our serving together as we serve with the Mississippi United Methodist Choctaw congregations and Mission.
The POWER of We funded in part by your apportioned mission shares.