Envision a priestess of the Goddess, a rabbi, a Sufi, a Methodist minister, a Lutheran pastor, a Quaker, a Hindu, a Muslim, Native American leaders and representatives of several other faiths passing around a pipe that once belonged to Crazy Horse, making prayers and sharing insights as the pipe came to them. All in a Catholic Church!
It happened in the neighborhood last Sunday. The 28th Interspiritual Celebration of Gratitude at Thanksgiving took place at St. Patrick’s with the theme, a Ceremonial Call to Illumine and Restore the Sacred. It was centered on the Sacred Pipe Ceremony. Hereditary Chief Phil Lane Jr, an enrolled member of the Ihanktonwan Dakota and Chickasaw Nations, noted that his tribe has had Crazy Horse’s pipe in its possession for several decades. But they are only bringing it out now.
This is a time when prophecies of Crazy Horse and other elders are being fulfilled, Lane said. After 500 years of darkness a spiritual renewal is bringing people of many faiths together to protect the Mother Earth. So Native people are beginning to share more of their ways with us. Bringing out the pipe was one manifestation of that.
Native spirit was at the center of the event. We were welcomed by Ken Workman, a member of the Duwamish Tribal Council and a fourth generation grandson of Chief Seattle. Sundance Chief Rueben George of the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation gave an extended talk with some deeply poignant moments. His son, Cedar George, was at the Marysville-Pilchuck High School when the tragic shooting happened recently. Healing was one of the intentions of the event. Rueben broke up for a moment describing how much he hurts for his son. Cedar spoke about how his grounding in Native spiritual ways gave him the strength to endure and help his classmates.
Rueben George and Phil Lane are both leaders of the Nawtsamaat Alliance of Native and non-Native people. The Alliance is taking a stand against oil and coal trains, ports, terminals, and pipelines in order to protect the Salish Sea, the inland waters from Puget Sound through the Georgia Straits. This stance was the background of the Ceremonial Call. Faith communities such as those represented in the Sunday ceremony increasingly understand the Earth is sacred. They are prominent in the movement against coal and oil expansion because they understand that fossil fuels threaten our climate and our waters. Rueben talked about the growing movement coming together to protect the waters, noting how 25 years after the Exxon Valdez spill, Prince William Sound is still polluted. That could happen to our waters if we let the fossil fuel industry’s insatiable greed have its way, he said.
I have to admit I’m a recovering Catholic who rarely passes the door of a Catholic Church. But it’s no surprise I found myself at St. Patrick’s. The church is committed to keeping alive the ecumenical and progressive vision of the early 1960s Vatican II conference. This must have been challenging through the conservatism that has prevailed since, but the tradition of openness seems to be returning with Pope Francis. Maybe I’ll find my way back for a regular mass. It would make my mother happy.
Sunday’s Ceremonial Call was deeply moving, indeed stirring gratitude this Thanksgiving season. In a world where so much seems enveloped in darkness, this brought light.