The Rector's Blog
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December 8, 2016, 12:00 AM

Standing Rock

Some of you will remember T.J. Freeman, as a veteran and Hanover student who discerned for the priesthood here a few years ago.  A few of us were able to attend his ordination to the diaconate in Indy, and his ordination to the priesthood in Pittsburgh not very long ago.

This week, I learned the T.J. is (was?) on his way to Standing Rock to join the ‘deployment’ that two or more thousand veterans planned to stand in support of the Sioux nation in their struggle against the Dakota Access Pipeline.  He is going in a triple role: veteran, Episcopal priest, and trauma chaplain.  As I write this (on Tuesday), he is holed up in a hotel in a small town between Fargo and Bismarck due to a blizzard, along with two other people who all met at the car rental counter when their flight to Bismarck was re-routed to Fargo.

I thought you’d like to know about this, so you can say a prayer for T.J., that he stays safe and warm, and that in the time he spends at Standing Rock he will be able to provide moral and spiritual support to any who can benefit.

I asked T.J. if he had anything he’d like to tell us and this is what he sent:

On one level I am very disappointed that I have been unable to make it to the camps. I truly felt called as a priest and a veteran to be there with the tribes and the veterans. On the other I give thanks for the work of the chaplains that were able to gather. They traveled from across the nation to support these people and that is inspirational. And I give thanks for the decision by the Obama administration and the Army Corps of Engineers, with the change coming in January this fight is far from over.

The SSJE word for the day was really fitting. "Be - People in trauma need our presence and our prayer rather than our preaching. We will bear a much more comforting witness to someone facing deep loss by simply being with them, and in so doing, representing God Emmanuel – God with us – by our being with them. Not by our words, but by our presence. -Br. Curtis Almquist"

I was never going to "fix" this situation but being with is enough.  And it is holy and precious and what God asks of us. Keep praying; it matters. In the coming months they will need our prayers and support and presence more than ever.

The decision of the Army Corps of Engineers he mentions is that the ACE has refused to grant an easement for the pipeline company to cross the Missouri River in the location they had planned, just a couple miles north of the reservation border, and in defiance of the wishes of the Native people who call that area home, and sacred ground.  The ACE plans further consultations, and has indicated it will be looking at other possible routes. 

Meanwhile Energy Transfer Partners (the pipeline company) has publicly stated that they regard the ACE decision as temporary and politically-motivated – and they fully expect to be able to complete the pipeline right where they are. 

Please do keep this situation in your prayers.  I also ask that you keep an eye and ear out for other places where greed and distrust may bring suffering and sorrow, and seek ways to bring God’s grace into those situations.

Yet when they were diminished and brought low,
   through stress and adversity and
He lifted up the poor out of misery
   and multiplied their families like flocks
   of sheep.
The upright will see this and rejoice,
   but all wickedness will shut its mouth.

  Ps 107: 39,41-42

TJ’s final message on Wednesday (Dec 7):

“Well friends... I finally made it to Bismarck, unfortunately road conditions are still not great and I will not be making it to Standing Rock. This has been a long and complicated trip, I am trying to remind myself that making the journey is sometimes as important as reaching your destination. I am thankful for new friends made, old friends seen, and the conversations that I have been a part of: with water protectors, members of the sheriff’s department, Vietnam veterans, pipeline workers, real estate agents, and insurance adjusters.

“The world is a lovely place full of hope and beauty and love if we just take the time to experience it. God willing and the flight isn't cancelled I will be home tomorrow afternoon. Thank you for all of your love, support, and prayers throughout this journey.

“The fight for clean water and respect for native peoples is far from over.  Keep praying, keep paying attention, and keep pressuring your representatives.

“May Christ whose second coming in power and great glory we await make us steadfast in faith, joyful in hope, and constant in love.  Amen.”


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