Tag Archives: Alaska Natives

Down by (or near) the Riverside

Saturday 30 June brought Riverside Conversations (the convention center is on the Allegheny) at the 220th General Assembly (2012) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Commissioners, advisory delegates, and others gathered to consider a range of topics. Some conversations looked at issues before the assembly, some at broader topics in the life of the church.

My friend and colleague Irene Pak and I (our mutual friend and colleague Bruce Reyes-Chow took the photo for us) led an introductory conversation on the church’s need to address racism if we wish to live into the wondrous diversity God creates.

We started with prayer and then had participants (somewhere near 50 in number) introduce themselves and share an experience of diversity. A brief reflection on diversity, race (social construct built on the diversity God creates) and racism (people with power granting themselves privilege based on that construct) followed. We acknowledged that the Presbyterian Church has a mixed record on race and racism – as do all churches and institutions. We have helped create racism – we help perpetuate racism – and we help dismantle racism. A litany affirming God’s intention that we live together in diversity and reminding us of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s commitment followed.

The group then heard three remarkable stories of efforts to dismantle racism: the work of the Presbytery of Pittsburgh that began with a focus on slavery in Western Pennsylvania; the New Beginning Initiative toward reconciliation between the Alaska Natives and Presbyterians; and a range of efforts that focus on racism in the criminal justice system.

Participants then used Mutual Invitation to engage in conversations about what they had heard. The event closed with the song “I’m Going to Live So God Can Use Me” as our prayer.

In my closing observations, I noted that working to dismantle racism is a calling for a life-time. It is ongoing work. It is challenging work. It involves us in encountering other systems of oppression, privilege, and domination. It is a journey. But it is a journey God calls us to make. And it is a journey on which we have wonderful traveling companions.

See you along the Trail.


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Filed under Antiracism, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

It was enough

From the Presbyterian News Service:

The Rev. Walter Soboleff, one of the first Alaska Natives ordained to ministry in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) died May 22 in Juneau, Alaska of bone cancer and prostate cancer. He was 102.

We met once. It was a few years back, before Walter had turned 100. I had the privilege to attend the Native American Presbyterian Men’s gathering at Cook College in Tempe. It was humbling to be welcomed into the group.

I remember walking the dormitory hall on the Saturday afternoon. As I so often do, I was checking my BlackBerry.

“Don’t you ever quite working?” one of the men asked.

“He never does,” said another.

I smiled. And only now I confess that I was checking football scores. Why disillusion anyone was my thought at the time. Besides, we were in Arizona. I went with that old axiom: in the West, “when the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

Turning the corner in the hallway was Walter. We greeted each other briefly. I took about two steps and then stopped in wonder. I stared at the BlackBerry – seeing the device, not the screen. I looked down the hall at Walter, walking away from me, then back at the BlackBerry, then back at Walter.

Amazing as the BlackBerry was, I could only imagine how much more amazing – how much more marvelous – how much more wonder-filled, Walter’s life must have been. What he had seen – and done – and experienced – during his years. I stood for a time in awe, watching as he made his way back to his room.

I stood in awe again that Sunday morning – as Walter preached – his faith, his grace, his courage, his commitment to justice shone through.

Walter lived over 36,500 days. I was blessed to be with him on parts of 3 of those days. I wish it had been more. It was enough.

For Walter’s life and love and witness, thanks be to God.

See you along the Trail.

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Filed under Football, Friends