Drumbeats and song greet new Native American missioner

November 29, 2004

To the ancient pulse of the drum -- for Native Americans a sign of the heartbeat at the center of God's creation -- Janine Tinsley-Roe, a member of the Shinnecock and Poospatuck Tribes of Long Island, was officially installed as Native American Missioner for the Episcopal Church on November 22 at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York.

The celebration of the Eucharist and institution ceremony featured participants from across North America's "Indian Country," representing Native Hawaiians, the Athabascan peoples of Alaska, the Navajo and Pascua Yaqui of the Southwest, and the Seneca Nation of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) in New York. Southern Virginia Bishop Suffragan Carol Gallagher, an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation, and Frank Oberly, Comanche/Osage, co-chairs of the Episcopal Council on Indigenous Ministries, presented Tinsley-Roe for installation.

In his sermon, Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold recounted his first experience of Native American ministry as a teenager at a work camp sponsored by the Episcopal Church at St. Andrew's, a parish of the Cheyenne River Episcopal Mission in the Cherry Creek community in South Dakota. "When I returned home, my mother said, 'you've changed,'" Griswold said. Among the Mnicoujou, Itazipco, Sihasapa, and Oohenumpa Lakota at Cheyenne River, he said, he learned to count not simply "clock time" but "right time" -- the moment when the people come together. "Looking at the clock, we often miss the encounter" with God and with others. He also learned from the Lakota the value of kinship and the idea that "nothing is ultimately ours; everything is gift."

"Dominant societies think they hold the full truth," Griswold said, but the true path to the restoration of unity lies in "traveling the 'Red Road' to wholeness and balance, into the boundless, healing love of Christ." Within some Native cultures, "walking the Red Road" is a metaphor for living in harmony with the Creator's intention.

The newest of the four missioners at the Church Center, Tinsley-Roe was welcomed by her fellow missioners in the Office of Ethnic Congregational Development. She began her work at the Episcopal Church Center on June 17, 2004.

Tinsley-Roe is a founder of the Shinnecock-Sewanaka Society, a grassroots community development organization based in Bellport, Long Island, which advocates for the rights of members of the Shinnecock tribe living off the reservation. For several years she served as its executive director.

On display during the service was a portion of the lace altar linens made by the women of the Sybil Carter Indian Mission and Lace Industry Association and donated to the Cathedral by Amy Townsend in 1911 when the Choir and the Memorial Chapels of St. Saviour and St. Columba were consecrated.