Today is the feast day of Enmegahbowh, whose name means the one who stands before his people. An Odawa or Ottawa, he is the first recognized Native American priest (1867) in the Episcopal Church. He was raised both as a Christian and with a complete knowledge of his traditional healing ways. His ministry is marked by an ability to encourage the interweaving of traditional culture and Christianity. He with others founded St. Columba's mission at Gull Lake in 1852 and traveled across Minnesota training many Native Christian leaders. He helped develop mission strategies and policy across the Episcopal Church. Enmegahbowh was most of all a man of peace.
Today is also the birthday of Barbara Harris, a saint among us. She has offered herself to the whole church as one who also stands before the people, fighting for justice and inclusion across all boundaries in the Church and beyond. She is a warrior for justice, love and inclusion and she is constantly using her humor and compassion for the good of the Gospel and the people. When I was in my final year in seminary, I was blessed to attend her consecration as an usher. We seminarians were pressed into service (happily) and came early to help with the set up and preparations for an historic day. I watched and listened and saw a woman, filled with the Holy Spirit, willing to put her life on the line and take rejection for a whole host of people she could not even imagine. She stood for her people.
I want to give thanks today for Enmegahbowh and Barbara, and for all of those who stand for and with the people. I want to give thanks for those who were first, who went forward alone, not for glory but for others. I want to serve God today like Enmegahbowh and Barbara. Fully, fiercely, with enormous compassion and as a person of peace. God is calling for us to stand with the people today and has given us great examples. May we have the courage to follow in their footsteps today.