Native Style Prevails at Church Dedication

Native members of the Adventist church in Fort Belknap, Mont., dedicated their new building during a Native camp meeting held this summer in the area.

The service had special meaning, for the now moved-and-remodeled building had once served as a mortuary. A building that had represented death needed to become a “house of life” to the Fort Belknap Native community.

Participants were determined that the service be done in Native style, reflecting their unique ways of expressing reverence and dedication.

After John Loor, Conference president, presented dedication thoughts, David George, Missoula Adventist Church pastor, led the congregation in a unique ritual.

After exiting the building, all worshipers filed back into the church, past Native Elder Naomi Abbott, who stood at the door. She held dedication oil in her cupped hands, and each worshiper dipped a finger into the oil upon entering the building. Then, with the pastors, each person dabbed the oil onto pews, pulpit, and doors and windows, taking time for a special prayer in each room.

The solemn service made a deep impression on the minds of each adult and child. After dedicating the inside of the church, all filed out, once again dipping fingers into the oil and dabbing a spot of oil on the sole of a shoe. They then walked around the property, single file, silently praying that their new sanctuary would be a powerful witness to all who came onto its grounds.

Though unusual by today’s standards, the service reflects in many ways the ritual Moses and the Children of Israel used to dedicate their tent sanctuary.

Featured in: December 2002


Monte Church

North Pacific Union Native American Ministries associate director