News Column

Making amends

June 14, 2014

By Loretta Sword, The Pueblo Chieftain, Colo.

June 14--The Rocky Mountain Conference of the United Methodist Church will gather in Pueblo next week for a five-day conference that will include a mass pilgrimage to the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site on Friday.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the murders of innocent American Indians at their camp east of Eads.

Former Union Army commander John Chivington led the Colorado Volunteers in the massacre. Chivington was an elder in the Methodist Church and was allowed to continue his ministry even after the government rescinded his military commission and removed Territorial Gov. John Evans from office for their roles in the massacre.

The regional church body in 1992 adopted a resolution recognizing its role in destroying the culture and religions of Native Americans for generations.

The measure has twice been amended, in 2004 and 2008, to include vows of amends and continued repentance, including a $50,000 gift for improvements at the historic site.

Descendants of those killed in the

massacre invited church members to visit their hallowed grounds and hear their stories.

Church leaders thought it was time for worshippers across the region to not just learn more about the ugly chapter of American and Colorado history, but to stand shoulder to shoulder with those whose ancestors' blood stained the ground that day.

Charles Schuster, chair of the Rocky Mountain Conference Task Force on the Acts of Repentance, wrote a printed guide for pilgrimage participants. He described the purpose of the trip using the Greek word metanoia, which can be translated as repentance.

"It means to turn around and look at who we are and what we have done. Ashes have served this purpose for Christians," the pamphlet says. So participants will smudge their foreheads with ashes before boarding buses to the massacre site Friday.

The journey also is intended as a means of healing, because "what happened those long years ago continues to haunt us and speak to us," and hearing the stories of massacre descendants will bring more clarity to what was done and the damage that remains.

"While we cannot repair the pain our church has created, if we do not acknowledge it, we will perpetuate the pain by our unwillingness to own what happened. Sometimes the right thing to do is not the most convenient. The time has come for us to do the right thing. . . . This is a great opportunity to learn something about ourselves, our church, and our connection to each other. We will be changed by the experience," the brochure says.

The annual conference begins Wednesday and will conclude Sunday at the Pueblo Convention Center, with a variety of panels and speakers scheduled on all but Friday, the day of the tour.


(c)2014 The Pueblo Chieftain (Pueblo, Colo.)

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Source: Pueblo Chieftain (CO)

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