An Expression of The United Methodist Church
native american ministries sunday
NAMS Podcast with Mary T. Newman

Moccasin Footprints:

When you support Native American Ministries Sunday, you equip seminary students who will honor and celebrate Native American culture in their ministries. You empower congregations that find fresh, new ways to minister to their communities with Christ’s love. This podcast introduces you to people who benefit from this special day. In today’s episode, we are pleased to introduce Mary T. Newman.

Episode Highlights

00:22 // Rich introduces Mary T. Newman to the show.

00:38 // Mary T. tells how she became involved in Native American ministries.

01:13 // Mary T. talks about her original resonance with Native American ministries.

02:05 // Mary T. talks about The Book of Principles and the Social Principles.

02:58 // Mary T. talks about Native American Ministries Sunday resources.

03:50 // Mary T. stresses the importance of Native American Ministries Sunday.

04:49 // Mary T. suggests, “Go back to the Bible,” to churches considering becoming a part of Native American Ministries Sunday.

06:30 // Mary T. talks about Tennessee Conferences and the impact in the community.

07:22 // Mary T. talks about the celebrations planned for the Tennessee Conference’s 14th anniversary.

08:37 // Mary T. offers contact information for more details.

Episode Transcript

Rich – Welcome to the Native American Ministries Sunday podcast. I’m super excited to have you listening in today, I know there’s a lot of things you could be doing today and we’re just honored that you would take some time out to spend with us.

Today we have Mary T. Newman us. Mary T. welcome to the show.

Mary T. – Thank you much.

Rich – I’m so glad you’ve decided to spend some time with us today as well. So I thought what we could do is start with, tell us a bit of the Mary T. story. Give us a sense of your ministry.

Mary T. – It’s a long one. Our family has a real history in the Southeast. My family in Northeast Alabama, when it was Indian Territory were on the Trail of Tears.

Rich – Oh wow.

Mary T. – And as coming forward, watching everything that my family grew into, it was easy for me to become involved in Native American ministries. Starting on the district level and growing into now the jurisdiction and the national plan.

Rich – So now, what’s the personal connection? Just because of the area you grew up in, that was your original resonance with Native American ministries?

Mary T. – It is because some people would say native people are invisible, but it’s also very hard for people to understand that just everyone I know, every language in North America has a word for God. People don’t realize that and so we really… my mantra has become understanding through education. So we constantly, I constantly, everywhere I go, talk about the fact that it was in the Bible that God said, “I’ll put you where you’re supposed to be,” in Acts 17:26. So that’s what I go from.

Rich – Very cool. Now the committee that you have been involved in, a real powerhouse, lots of great stuff with Native American ministries. Why don’t you give us a sense of what that’s looked like? Give us a sense of the kind of functioning of the committee.

Mary T. – We really took it to heart, The Book of Discipline and the Social Principles. Where very few denominations recognize tribal sovereignty, I’m very proud that we do. We also work diligently to fulfill The Book of Discipline, where it says monitor but also resource Native American Ministries Sunday.

So over the years we have created a huge binder of reproducible materials that we can give the local church. Displays and books and the resources that they would not have an idea to look for. History is written by the winner, so we find the books that are written by Native people who tell our side of the story.

Rich – Absolutely. Have there been a few of those resources that have been particularly popular or helpful, maybe for churches that are exploring Native American ministries?

Mary T. – There are. Ray Buckley’s early works, talking about United Methodists and Native Americans. Then we also played off of the information that Tom White Wolfe Fassett did with the UMW Studies, so that people can get a timeline, they don’t realize what a rich history there is in this country. They’re not aware of how many Native Americans there are, and we try to get them to understand that, in the state of Tennessee, as of 2010, over 20,000 Native Americans, but if you added another ethnic group, over 54,000.

Rich – Interesting, wow. So now Native American Ministries Sunday is a very special Sunday in our church’s tradition. What is special to you about this Sunday? Why is this such an important day in the life of our church?

Mary T. – We personally get a moment to tell just a little bit about how important it is to reach people, so that they will understand that Native people are alive, they’re not freeze dried in history, they’re not just in a book. We want people to know that they can come to a service and hear someone speak, someone play the flute, someone dance is part of the service, not just as entertainment but as a part of worship. That way we’re able to say, “We do have the resources on our conference level to share with you as a local church.”

Rich – What would you say to a church who maybe have never done Native American Ministries Sundays before and they want to take first step, they want to try something out? Maybe they don’t have a strong committee in their church, they’re not quite sure where to start, where would you suggest they start?

Mary T. – I’d go back to the Bible and I’d say, “If we believed that Jesus was, is and always will be a tribal man, then what better way for God to work with people who are from tribes and from nations?” That gives them a little bit of something to think about. We put this back to Jesus. Then we go forward, we may reveal traumatic past, but we’re not there to make people cry, we’re there for people to see hope. There’s so many times that there is no hope in native communities, but if we can instill hope and Jesus into the disciple of that, then I think we’ve pushed that a little bit.

Rich – Very cool. Now when you look to the future, where are the bright spots? Where are the ministries that you think are doing a great job working with, doing great ministry with Native American folks in our country?

Mary T. – We don’t want to be missionized. That has turned the corner now.

Rich – Absolutely.

Mary T. – So it is really good for us to work with local churches who decide that they want that to be a part of their mission. So we’ve helped them partner with other places, who then, those folks become part of their connection. We’ve watched people go all over the country and come back and say, “We want them to come see us.” They form a real relationship, not to take the place of another place, but it brings them back to family.

Rich – Very cool, Mary T. Is there anything else you’d like to share before we close up? I really appreciate you being on the show today.

Mary T. – I do, I do. Tennessee Conferences, we’ve really rocked. We’ve partnered with Native American Indian Association, that’s a 35 year plus charter with the state of Tennessee. I believe we’re the only denomination they work with so we sponsor a huge health fair that’s not just about health, but it’s about spiritual health too.

Everything we give away is free. All of our resources  we garner. You may see a young girl, 10 years old, walk by and we give her a book with great graphics, teaching wellness and with her will be an elder who says, “I don’t want one, I can’t read.” So you see the impact in the community itself as people stay committed to being a community, not just one but a community.

Rich – I appreciate this. This has been super encouraging today, I really appreciate your time, Mary T.

Mary T. – Well I want to tell you, Tennessee Conference itself, this will be our 14th year in August for what we call Native Moccasins Rock. Over the years we’ve developed a powerhouse of leadership. We’ll have about 20 guest leaders. I would say 18 out of the 20 will be Native. It’ll be all interactive. You may be taking a class to learn how to make a basket or you may be learning about genealogy or about the Bible and worship. So there’s a great diversity in that. They’ll be a baby, they’ll be a granny. We have a lot of children, we have a lot of youth, so it’s a very intergenerational event and this year will be our 14th.

Rich – When is that and where is that?

Mary T. – It’s August 7th through 9th in Bon Aqua, at Lake Benson Christian Camp. It is powerful because people come there, Native, non-Native, churched, un-churched, community. Three years ago we have 4 jurisdictions out of the 5 represented. It was pretty cool.

Rich – Wow.

Mary T. – It was pretty cool.

Rich – That’s very cool.

Mary T. – Usually 12 to 16 tribes.

Rich – Wow that’s incredible.

Mary T. – People leave there with tears with laughter and saying, “I’ve got to come back.”

Rich – Absolutely. If people want more information on that where can they find it? Is there like a website, or is there a place online they can find more information about it?

Mary T. – Sure, it’s

Rich – Nice very cool. Well Mary T., I appreciate your time today. You have a great day, I know you’re busy, you have a lot going on, but thanks so much for taking a few minutes out to spend with us today.

Mary T – Thanks a lot.

Rich – Thank you.

Mary T – Ski as we would say from Cherokee.

Rich – Thank you.

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