Director of Connectional Ministries Sam Royappa welcomed attendees to a worship service about “repentance, confession, reconciliation, forgiveness, healing, and above all, hope and renewal.” The Walk the Trail of Repentance service featured special music from a group of Oneida singers, presentation of a drum commissioned by the Native American Ministries Wisconsin Plan, and liturgy adapted from Anita Phillips’ book On the Spirit Walk.

Bishop Jung added, “We have much to be ashamed of and much to repent. Sadly, there is no way we can go back and change the past. However, we have the power to change the story, to be open and honest about injustice done, and to take responsibility for those wrongs committed to Native Americans in earlier times.” Following 2008 General Conference, every Annual Conference was asked to hold an Acts of Repentance service, but Bishop Jung said it was difficult for the Wisconsin Conference to come up with a service “because in many ways, nothing seems adequate. There is simply no one act of repentance that feels sufficient. True repentance is a process, not an event.”

Chebon Kernell echoed Bishop Jung’s sentiments in his sermon. He said that when he was asked to help the Council of Bishops in 2008, he was skeptical that anything would change. But he realized that “we have a right to live in wellness every day of our lives; we have a right to do something different than we’ve done before” and that this service can be the first step in a long reconciliation process to harmony, justice, and making things right. He said repentance is like discipleship; you don’t simply give money to your church once and never give again. “We must work every day to be better than yesterday.”

He called “silence in the midst of harm” the worst sin. “Today we come here hoping to break that silence, not only with our voices, but with our actions. We are hoping that something will change.” When his ancestors were forced out of their homes, told they could not wear their native clothes or speak their native language, and women and children were killed and kidnapped, it was done in the name of Christianity. But he asked how the Gospel could ever direct people to commit such acts. “When Jesus stood up with the poor, hurting, less than human, he gave power to the community, to not take it from those wanting to cause them harm,” he said. “When will we say, ‘no matter what path you walk and all your scars, I respect you and you are better than me? When will the Church do that? “

“I hope; I pray; I implore you the moment you walk out these doors, that you are not the same person,” he said. “You may never see me again, but that does not alleviate the burden of representing our creator and sharing that no one should be harmed, and we’re working to give back what was taken from the people. Hope and prayer will be your first step in walking this long journey.”

A new drum was commissioned by the Native American Ministries Wisconsin Plan on behalf of the Conference to be presented by Bishop Jung to the Wisconsin indigenous nations as a symbolic gesture relating to the Acts of Repentance. The drum is to be the center of revitalization of our ministries. The maker of the drum, Napoleon Janczak, explained that drums are sacred and used at ceremonial gatherings, celebrations, birthdays, and for healing. It is made of all-natural living materials, including animal hides and tree bark, and named Spirit Wind. “This drum brings together all people, natives and non-natives,” he said. “Today is a big step in that you recognized us and allowed us to speak to you. My hope is that this drum follows along after we’re gone, that the reins will be carried further on, and that this tradition will carry on.”