A Prayer for Standing Rock: A Service to Support the Water Protectors

A Native American Celebration on Thanksgiving Eve at Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in St. Paul.
A blue cloth representing the Missouri River was laid down the aisle of  Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in St. Paul, as part of a service offered to support Water Protectors. The service was held Thanksgiving Eve.

Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in St. Paul held a Thanksgiving Eve service to honor, pray for, and support the Water Protectors at Standing Rock.

It was a beautiful service, and it included prayers and readings that could be modified and used for many faith traditions. The service is reprinted below.

As background, the ELCA recently voted to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery, a way of thinking and acting tied to 15th Church doctrine that saw indigenous people as savage and subhuman. (More on the Doctrine of Discovery here.) On Nov. 14, the ECLA also issued a statement in support of Standing Rock and its opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).Lutheran Church of the Redeemer created a service to reflect those values.

Senior Pastor James Erlandson and Pastor Joann Conroy (Oglala) led a service. (Conroy also is President of the American Indian/Alaska Native Lutheran Association.) The service opened with Erlandson holding up a copy of the Doctrine of Discovery, ripping it in half, saying: “Just to get us started in the right way.”

Prayer, song and responsive readings filled the evening. (Erlandson credits the United Church of Christ for much of the readings.)

Much of the service is reprinted here for others to adapt and reuse.

Native American Celebration on Thanksgiving Eve

Welcome

We have gathered as people of faith to Repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery, give thanks to God for the gifts of water, the earth and all of creation, and to stand in solidarity with the Water Protectors at Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.

Rite of Solidarity with Standing Rock (Eden Theological Seminary Chapel, Oct. 10 2016, adapted from a rite by Rev. Mike Mulberry, Billings, Montana)

One:

From the chaos God has drawn boundaries
night from day;
water of the earth from water held in the sky,
earth from sky,
sea from dry land,
Boundaries are intentional, necessary, and purposeful
for life and healthy growth to occur

Many:

Today we affirm that human boundaries
have not been kept.
Profits and pipelines have been preferred over people.
Production and consumption
Cannot be the sole path.
Oil should not outweigh the value of life-giving water.

One: (Drawing the blue cloth down the aisle)

We begin to re-draw a boundary.
around human desecration of the waters.
We re-draw the boundary between
the sacredness of the waters and
unlimited corporate greed.

Many:

We say, “This is not the way of the Maker of All Things. The Creator of the Universe has a different way, a different path, a different order to the earth.”

One: (dipping in water)

In Christian tradition,
the waters of Baptism remind us of our connection to all things:
We come from water,
and live in communion with plant, animal, earth, water, and air.

Many:

Water is life. It purifies, quenches, cleans,
brings about renewal and transformation.
Through baptism, water washes away all that divides us,
so that we might know our common ancestry in a loving Creator.
In prayer and solidarity,
we are one with the tribes gathered at Standing Rock.

One:

The impact of what happens
among the Lakota, Nakota, Dakota
and all the other tribal nations who have gathered at Standing Rock,
happens to us all.

Many:

We belong to each other.
We covenant today to
help protect the waters of this land, and this earth.
We will also speak and act,
that death may not overtake our Native sisters and brothers.

One:

Let us remember our baptism, feeling the water on our skin.
By these waters of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers,
we affirm our sacred covenant to creation,
our common ancestry with humanity,
the necessity of boundaries,
and the truth that water is life. Amen!

Hymn: Wade in the Water

Reading of Psalm 100

Hymn: Heleluyan (Muscogee Indian) Sang as a round

Second Reading: Phillippians 4:4-9

Honor Song (Native American Drum Group)

Smudging and Litany in Solidarity (Rev. Marie Siroky, Trinity United Church of Christ, Gary, IN)

Smudging Ceremony: This Native American practice of burning sage and fanning smoke over one’s body with sacred intentions is a way of cleansing negative energy, offering prayers to God, and receiving blessings.

Leader: We are all breathing. We are all connected. We stand in solidarity with Standing Rock.
Mother Earth grounds our feet. If she crumbles we do as well.

All: It is time we respect our earth — the waters — the animals — and one another.

Leader: We recognize our ancestors — those who were good stewards of the land — those who encouraged us.

All: We are grateful to those who came before us — who are with us in Spirit — may we honor them as we Stand with Standing Rock.

Leader: Give us courage to speak out — to challenge those who took authority that was not theirs to take.

All: May our voices blend with those at Standing Rock in calling for justice.

Leader: Let us now honor the Four Directions, in the Spirit of the Dakota Nation.

(Congregation stands and faces north.)

Reader North: We turn to honor the North, which brings the cold winds of autumn and winter. These winds cause the leaves to fall. The North winds envelop the earth in a blanket of snow allowing her to rest. Today as we Stand in Solidarity we face these winds as the buffalo. We face the harsh realities with our heads directly into the winds. We will endure. We will be patient — waiting for those who will come to our aid — but we will also gain the strength to move as one people. We will not stand still.

ALL: Be with us, Spirit of the North.

(Congregation faces east.)

Reader East: We turn to honor the East, where the day dawns. The light of day brings wisdom and awareness. May we see one another in the light of a new day. As we stand in solidarity with the Water Protectors, may we truly see our strength in our diversity. May we have the clarity to see the role each of us has in our world.

ALL: Be with us, Spirit of the East.

(Congregation faces South)

South Reader: We turn to honor the South, where the sun is at its highest. All of us, people, plants, animals, are warmed and strengthened by the southern winds. The rays of the Sun nurture us, in all our endeavors. As we stand in solidarity, may we grow stronger together. May we rise as one to speak for justice.

ALL: Fortify us, Spirit of the South.

(Congregation faces west.)

Reader West: We turn to honor the West, where the sun sets and the day ends. West is the direction which brings darkness. It is in the darkness that we face unknowns — yet we see the stars against the black sky. In the darkness we can dream, it is the power of change. West is the source of water, the rivers, the streams. As we stand in solidarity may we respect and protect the water for all of us.

ALL: Spirit of the West, transform us.

Leader: We lift our eyes upward — to the sky — to the possibilities — to the realization of the vastness of our world. To the knowledge we are part of the world and one another. We acknowledge what is below us. The Earth. May we be grounded in our solidarity with one another. May we not forget those who lived on this earth before us. May we be faithful.

ALL:

I lift my voice with the Water Protectors.
I lift my voice so they know they are not alone.
I lift my voice to remain faithful to end persecution.
I lift my voice in thanksgiving to those who place themselves at the front lines.
I lift my voice to educate others to these acts of violence.
I lift my voice as long as it takes.
The violence against the Water Protectors must end now. Today.

Anthem: Be Thankful to God

READINGS FROM BLACK ELK, HOLY MAN OF THE OGLALA SIOUX

Earth Prayer (In unison)

Grandfather, Great Spirit, once more behold me on earth and lean to hear my feeble voice. You lived first, and you are older than all need, older than all prayer. All things belong to you — the two-legged, the four-legged, the wings of the air, and all green things that live. You have set the powers of the four quarters of the earth to cross each other. You have made me cross the good road and road of difficulties, and where they cross, the place is holy. Day in, day out, forevermore, you are the life of things. Hey! Lean to hear my feeble voice. At the center of the sacred hoop You have said that I should make the tree to bloom. With tears running, O Great Spirit, my Grandfather, with running eyes I must say the tree has never bloomed, here I stand and the tree is withered. Again, I recall the great vision you gave me. It may be that some little root of the sacred tree still lives. Nourish it then that it may leaf and bloom and fill with singing birds! Hear me, that the people may once again find the good road and the shielding tree.

THE SUNSET

Then I was standing on the highest mountain of them all, and round about beneath me was the whole hoop of the world. And while I stood there I saw more than I can tell and I understood more than I saw; for I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of all things in the spirit, and the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being.  And I saw the sacred hoop of my people was one of the many hoops that made one circle, wide as daylight and as starlight, and in the center grew one mighty flowering tree to shelter all the children of one mother and one father. And I saw that it was holy …

But anywhere is the center of the world. A long time ago, my father told me what his father had told him, that there was once a Lakota holy man, call “Drinks Water,” who dreamed what was to be … He dreamed that the four-leggeds were going back to the Earth, and that a strange race would weave a web all around the Lakotas. He said, “You shall live in square gray houses, in a barren land….”

Sometimes dreams are stranger than waking. (1932)

Solidarity Prayer for Standing Rock (Lyla June Johnson, Navajo/Cheyenne)

We pray for our family at Standing Rock.
We pray for Our Sister Water who is our life.
We pray for the healing and safety of the water protectors.
We pray for all those gathered at the Standing Rock Camp.
We pray for those who are suffering from the trauma
Unleashed by the Violence that occurred on 27 October.
We pray for traditional communities that have borne
The brunt of generations of violence, even at times,
Turning that violence on themselves and each other.
We pray for healing for the police;
For the healing of the pipeline workers;
For bankers who fund the pipeline.
We pray for the people who are so disconnected
from their mother that they continue to injure her.
We pray for those who are on the Forgiveness Walk
on Sunday to the police station in Mandan ND.
We pray for healing for the hatred that was
Generated on 27 October.
We acknowledge the sins of our ancestors,
the horrific acts perpetrated on our brothers and sisters
as a result of the Doctrine of Discovery.
We ask for forgiveness and healing from our sisters and brothers.
We pray for unity and oneness for all creation.
Without this healing we can’t think clearly, we can’t act rightly,
And we can’t serve our Mother in the fullest manner.

OPPORTUNITY FOR PEOPLE TO OFFER THEIR REFLECTIONS ON STANDING ROCK AND THE PIPELINE

HYMN: Many and Great, O God

OFFERING: To Support the Water Protectors

OFFERING PRAYER: Merciful God, as grains of wheat scattered upon the hills were gathered together to become one bread, so let your church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into your kingdom, for yours is the glory through Jesus Christ, now and forever. Amen.

For Standing Rock — A Commission (By Maren Tirabassi)

Go, therefore, among the many nations whom God loves, and standing on their own ground not on yours, remember that to baptize is to recognize the holiness of water.

And teach yourselves so that you can learn with others how Jesus walked on the earth with justice and compassion, with healing and with hope.

God will be with those who face pepper spray and tanks, dogs trained to attack, rubber bullets, concussion cannons, who are arrested as I was, till the end of the age, which is no vague metaphor, nor an individualistic platitude.

God will be with you in each place where the need is great and you are full of fear, just as Christ in Standing Rock, facing the Dakota Access Pipeline, in the name of the Creator of sacred earth, the spirit in all wind that blows, and his name, born in the water of the womb, washed in death, risen in the river of life.

The evening closed with a traditional Native American handshake ceremony, where everyone formed a circle around the sanctuary and peeling off, one by one in a clockwise manner, to shake everyone’s hand.

This blog has a page dedicated to Standing Rock and the Dakota Access Pipeline. Click here for more.

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