Embracing the Mosaic Community
Dr. Neal Siler
Sacred Ground: The Way of Love, Reconciliation, and Healing
“Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself? Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?”
In this Forum we will look at one people whose wisdom about the land allowed settlers to survive, and some of the ramifications of that decision. The Pine Ridge Reservation is in southwestern South Dakota, and inhabited by the Oglala Lakota people. As an Episcopal priest serving nine Lakota congregations, Rev. Michelle Dayton invites us to consider exploring the stories of the first nation people of the land on which we live. The following narrative, written by Rev Michelle informs the direction of our discussion.
Sacred Ground: The Spirit Will Mess with You
Rev. Michelle Dayton
My story about Sacred Ground will read like those pharmaceutical ads: exclaiming how wonderful it is, followed by a warning: Spirit shows up, and she messes with you. The story that I told myself before Sacred Ground was that I couldn’t be racist because I engaged in cultural competency and implicit bias work and read broadly.
The story that I told myself was that I couldn’t be racist because I had lived in several African countries for a couple of years. The story that I told myself was that I couldn’t be racist because I led medical missions to Central America for a decade. But the problem with the story I told myself was that I was missing a significant data point: I grew up in a white supremacist society, went to schools that whitewashed history, and consumed media that defined “normal” as White. Participating in and subsequently facilitating Sacred Ground circles provided additional data points, like peonage, identifying Jesus as White instead of Brown, and the toxic othering of God’s beloveds. As long as white supremacy was the air I breathed, I couldn’t see it until I choked on it. I faced a crisis of belief: Either every single person matters, or my faith doesn’t matter. Either God is love, and all of God’s creation comes from love, for love, in love, or it is all a lie, a delusion. A false fixed belief.
When I finished being furious at my educational betrayal, Spirit blew me from Southern Ohio to the Pine Ridge Episcopal Mission in South Dakota, where I now serve nine churches as superintending presbyter. The story I had told myself was that I would continue to support my family by practicing medicine, and on the side, out of my own generosity, I would serve the church a little. But Spirit had a different plan. Spirit messed with me; she blew me into the arms of the descendants of the massacre at Wounded Knee. Instead of being the physician with the diagnosis, prescriptions, and answers, I am now the supplicant. I am the student. And in some mysterious way, my soul is being healed.
What story do you tell yourself?
Be careful. If you participate in a Sacred Ground circle, Spirit will mess with you, and she just might blow you all the way to South Dakota.
About the Speaker-The Rev. Michelle Dayton trained and practiced as an emergency department physician in Appalachia before answering a call to ordination. She is now superintending presbyter with the Pine Ridge (South Dakota) Episcopal Mission, where she serves nine congregations. She is a Cohort A graduate of HCM's spiritual director training program. In listening to the stories of the people she serves she notices wisdom that directly reflects the gospel. As we know better, we do better. (Maya Angelou)