By Alan Sorensen
Everyones invited to Our Saviours Lutheran Churchs Dedication Weekend activities on Rocky Boys Indian Reservation today through Sunday.
The three days of activities get under way at 6 p.m. today with a community feed at the Rocky Boy Senior Citizens Center.
A round dance and feed will begin at 7 p.m. at Stone Child College Saturday.
The Sunday morning worship service will be extra special because Sunday is Reformation Sunday one of the most revered days in the Lutheran Church. Pastor Joe Bailey will give the 11 a.m. service in the old sanctuary, which will include four confirmations and the communion service.
Pastor Marlene Whiterabbit Helgemo, a Winnebago, will preside at the service of dedication at 3 p.m. Sunday. Giving the dedication sermon will be ELCA Vice President Dr. Addie Butler, who also serves as the dean of Philadelphia Community College.
Presiding over the traditional Indian blessing ceremony of the new church will be Mr. Paul Small, Sr. of Rocky Boy.
Pastor Bailey said a number of dignitaries from around the state and country, including ELCA assistant bishop in Montana Pastor Tom Lee, are expected to attend the dedication weekend activities and Sunday services.
Others attending will be Marilyn Bode, lay minister at Rocky Boy a few years ago and now an ELCA official; Marilyn Sorensen Bush, Anmerican Indian Coordinator for the ELCA; Pastor Peter Lai, Taiwanese pastor, multicultural person for northwest; Dr. Paul Julsrud, radiologist from the Mayo Clinic, a summer builder; Pastor Fred Rajan of India, multicultural director for ELCA in Chicago; Father Pete Guthneck of Rocky Boy Catholic Church; Father Kenn Green from the Presbyterian and Episcopal churches in Havre.
But dont come Sunday afternoon expecting to attend a conventional church.
The new church has a traditional design. But its the traditionally round shape preferred for ritual sites by the Chippewa Cree and other Plains tribes.
The front door faces south and the center of the sanctuary ceiling is dominated by a skylight.
But first and foremost, the newly constructed church is home to a member congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA).
The church was constructed with the aid of 584 volunteer workers from around the United States and 237 from surrounding communities, including Rocky Boy, Box Elder, Big Sandy and Havre. Work teams came in weekly to perform various construction chores and then left so other teams could put in a weeks work on the church.
Workers this week were conscientiously finishing up work on the churchs interior and exterior and its surrounding landscape. By Sunday, project supervisor Leon Sutherland said, the plumbing will be in working order, the kitchen on the east end of the building will be operational, and the sanctuary will be spic-and-span for the dedication ceremony.
We kind of have to be, Sutherland said. Everybodys been helpful, on and off the reservation.
Chippewa Cree workers on Tuesday were staining the entry, finishing the front porch and railings in preparation for their staining, and laying the last of the wood-patterned floor.
Rock work will eventually be completed behind the free-standing wood-burning stove adjacent to the south entry. A worker said Tuesday that a baptismal pool will be constructed adjacent to the pulpit in the northern arc of the round sanctuary.
Rather than pews, congregants will sit on portable chairs that can be stored away when the sanctuary is used to host various church and community activities.
Bailey said it was also important to thank area churches and people for their kind assistance with the church, which was built in the round as a tribute to Native tradition.
The Christ Lutheran Church in Big Sandy and some of its members donated a whole beef and a pig and lots of other food items, Bailey said. Messiah Lutheran and Pastor Will Olsen have been good about donating milk and cereal and just all kinds of stuff. First Baptist made a real generous contribution to our building fund. First Presbyterian and St. Marks Episcopal, Pastor Greens churches, donated a lot of food stuffs and plan to come out and help. Faith Lutheran in Box Elder gave us some tables and food, and Father Pete and Rocky Boy Catholic Church have been real kind by helping us with a lot of food and partnering with us in a lot of ways, and theyve been praying for us.
Bailey also acknowledged all the help given by Rocky Boy residents.
The tribe has donated a couple of stoves and refrigerators for the new building, and then just the countless individuals who have brought canned goods, stopped to visit, shared their culture, and opened their homes and their hearts.
Bailey added that the theme this summer, Weve Come This Far by Faith, spoke as much for the growth of the Rocky Boy church as about the volunteers who came from across the country. The summer of building was as much about building relationships through love and understanding as it is about building a church.
Thats what this is really about, Bailey said.