What Happens When Jesus Calls?

 

Westminster Sanctury
Westminster Sanctuary
Rev. Dr. Timothy Hart-Andersen
Rev. Dr. Timothy   Hart-Andersen

The subject of vocation returned to Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church on February 9th. A prior post examined the service’s music on the subject while another set forth the Scriptures for the day: Psalm 27 and Matthew 4:12-23.[1]

The sermon that day was “What Happens When Jesus Calls?” by Rev. Dr. Timothy Hart-Andersen, the Senior Pastor.Here are excerpts from that sermon.

“If the question is what happens when Jesus calls, the answer may be that when Jesus calls we take a good, long, hard, deep look at what we perceive to be the purpose of our lives. That may suggest a job change, or not; perhaps a shift in careers, or not; it may mean finally discovering our life’s vocation.

The fishermen on the Sea of Galilee have that kind of experience with Jesus when he comes calling. His goal is not that they abandon their chosen vocation arbitrarily, but, rather, to rethink it. He never asks them to stop fishing; he asks them to rethink how and why they are doing it. In fact, Jesus even says to them that they’ll continue in the same line of work – only now they’ll be ‘fishing for people.’ He wants them to ponder who they are and what their focus ought to be in life.

 When Jesus calls, it occasions an examination of our purpose in life, no matter what work we’re engaged in. In the story of Jesus calling the fishermen at least two things happen.

First, Jesus comes looking for them. The call is his idea, not theirs. They were minding their own business when he shows up and invites them to rethink their lives. We don’t have to take the first step toward Jesus; he comes for us, if we’re ready. This is what the psalmist refers to in writing, ‘Wait for the Lord. Be strong. Wait for the Lord.’

So often we think the business of faith depends on us; but it’s a gift from God, not an achievement we attain through hard work and hours of effort. Jesus comes looking for us.

Second, Jesus meets them right where they are. He looks for ordinary people who live ordinary lives. Those four fishermen had no apparent special gifts that made them uniquely attractive candidates to become disciples.

The Church will be built not of princes and priests and power brokers, but of common people who are just like anyone else. Those fishermen went from their boats to become the inner circle of Jesus and later to lead the early Church. Nothing about them suggested that they would be suited for this work. Jesus meets us right where we are.

The call Jesus extends to the fishermen changes them. We who want to follow Jesus without making much in the way of change in our lives, be it in how we conduct our business, or how we spend our time, or how we use our resources, are missing the whole point of Christianity. Faith transforms us. The old life is gone; a new life has begun.

Understanding what it means to be called, to have a vocation, is at the heart of the Presbyterian way of Christianity. Writing in the 16th century, John Calvin said.

  •  ‘The Lord bids each one of us in all life’s actions to look to his (or her) calling. For God knows with what great restlessness human nature flames, with what fickleness it is borne hither and thither, how its ambition longs to embrace various things at once.’

 Calvin may be giving us a peek inside his own personality and psychological make-up when he names the ‘great restlessness’ of human nature. But many of us know precisely what Calvin refers to when he laments the way we flit about from one scheme to another as we seek to find what we’re supposed to be doing in life. Especially today, it’s difficult to know what direction to pursue when our vocation in ten years – or even in one year – may not even exist right now.

‘Therefore,’ Calvin goes on to say, ‘Each individual has his (or her) own kind of living assigned to him (or her) by the Lord as a sort of sentry post so that he (or she) may not heedlessly wander throughout life.’ (John Calvin; Institutes, III.x.6.)

‘Our own kind of living assigned to us so that we might not heedlessly wander throughout life.’

These days the average person will hold between 10 and 15 jobs in a lifetime. I was heading in that direction myself until I finally gave into the nagging sense of call to serve the church. I started seminary at age 27; by that time I had made several exploratory attempts – at least three – to test one career or another, None of them was right. I was having a hard time finding the ‘kind of living assigned to me.’ I was wandering.

Finding my vocation, my calling, depended on my feeling at home in what I was doing. I resisted accepting the call to ministry as long as I could, but in each vocation I tested – teacher, academic scholar, social service worker– I felt as if I were a stranger, as if were not quite at home. Frankly, it also had to do with needing to be sure it was my call and not something I was doing to please someone else – my parents, in particular. [2]

When I was in my mid-20’s, some 15 years later, with my life in a time of upheaval, I began, finally, to consider what I had avoided all those years: whether or not I was called into ministry. I wrestled hard with the decision– for nine months, in a kind of gestating process, I prayed and listened.

And one September Saturday morning, as I was in the bath tub, it came to me that I needed to go to seminary. The water was making a deep connection, I realized later, between baptism and vocation.

Ordained ministry was the one possibility that didn’t leave me feeling as if I were a stranger. It felt like home.

I was finding my vocation, not what my parents wanted me to do, but what I felt called to do.

Think back on your own employment history; you may be surprised how many different jobs you’ve held or careers you’ve tried, but that may or may not have anything to do with the ‘heedless wandering’ Calvin was concerned about. Christian vocation is less about a particular job and more about how we approach that job, less about what career we choose and more about the underlying purpose we sense in our lives, and how that purpose manifests itself in whatever work we do.

Nothing more thrills a pastor than to see changes happening in the lives of parishioners. I’ve seen hard-charging business leaders switch to non-profit careers because they feel called to serve the community in a new way. I’ve seen teachers give themselves over utterly to their students because they sense a call to live like that. I’ve watched retired people discover new ways to serve and follow Jesus in their later years. I’ve seen young adults light up as they discover their vocation and pursue it with determination.

When Jesus calls we get up and go, stepping forward in the direction of the one calling us. Being a follower of Jesus is not a destination; that’s what those fishermen learned that day. Being called to follow Jesus is a way of life, a pilgrimage on which we embark together.

The occasion of a memorial service – any memorial service, not only that of a much-loved public figure [like Joan Mondale][3] – invites us to reflect not only on the life of the one who has died, but also on the life you and I lead.

Someday it will be we about whom they will be speaking. What will they say? What will be the summary of the highest priorities of our lives? What will they say was the central theme of our lives?

Thanks be to God.”


[1] The bulletin, a copy of the sermon and an audio and video recording of the service are available online as are the ones for the January 26th service about vocation. Prior posts have discussed that service’s (a) Prayer of Confession; (b) an anthem beginning with the words “God be in my head;” (c) passages from the Bible’s book of Acts and the sermon’s drawing on them for comments concerning the vocations of Tabitha, Peter, Lydia and Paul; (d) a passage from Paul’s epistle from a Roman prison and the sermon’s drawing on them for comments about the preacher’s and her people’s vocations; (e) a hymn, “How Clear Is Our Vocation, Lord;” (f) another hymn, “Give Thanks, O Christian People;” and (g) an anthem, “Forth in Thy Name, O Lord, I Go.” Clicking on “Westminster Presbyterian Church” in the Tag Cloud at the top right of the blog will give you all of the posts about the church in reverse chronological order of posting.

[2] Rev. Hart-Andersen’s father–Rev. Dr. Henry William Andersen–was an esteemed Presbyterian minister, who died last year.

[3] The prior day Rev. Dr. Hart-Andersen had presided at the memorial service at Westminster for long-time member and former Second Lady Joan Mondale, with remembrances from friends and acquaintances, including Vice President Joe Biden and former President Jimmy Carter. Included in the 1,000 people at the service were her husband and former Vice President Walter Mondale, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton (who is a Westminster member), two U.S. Senators, half the Minnesota congressional delegation, several mayors, brass and strings from the  Minnesota Orchestra, the Macalester College Choir and Pipe Band, gospel musicians, and a Japanese solo vocalist Another 5,000 people, including this blogger, attended via the live-stream video, which is available online.

Jury Duty

Hennepin County Government Center
Hennepin County Government Center

In late April I received a Minnesota Jury Summons ordering me to appear at the Hennepin County Government Center in downtown Minneapolis on May 6th for two weeks of jury duty.[1]

The form advised me that my name “was randomly selected from a list of licensed drivers, state identification card holders and registered voters in [the County].” Each year approximately 30,000 such summonses are issued.

The Summons contained a Qualification Questionnaire that had to be answered and returned to the court within 10 days. In addition to basic personal information, the Questionnaire asked if you were a U.S. citizen, were at least 18 years of age and a resident of Hennepin County, were able to communicate in English, had any physical or mental disability that would affect your ability to serve, had ever been convicted of a felony, had been on jury duty in the State in the past four years and were a judge in the judicial branch.

Although I was eligible for an automatic excuse from such duty for people over 70 years of age, I did not exercise this right. I thought I was fit and able and should fulfill this obligation of citizenship. As a former lawyer who tried some jury cases, I also thought it would be educational and interesting to see the trial process from a different perspective. I thus answered the call for service even though I thought it most unlikely that I would sit on a jury because trial lawyers are reluctant to allow current or former lawyers on a jury due to fear that they would dominate other jurors and use their pre-existing  legal knowledge to influence their decision.

On May 6th at 8:15 a.m. I joined 124 other citizens in reporting for duty in the Jury Assembly Room at the Government Center. Our attendance was taken by having the bar codes on our summonses read electronically.

Before we watched a movie describing the jury system in Minnesota and read the State’s Jury Handbook, we were told there were 105 pending cases that might require juries, that we were not to discuss any cases or read or see any media coverage of cases while we served and that we were not to do any independent Internet or other research or investigation regarding such cases. We also were told not to discuss the cases on any social media until they were over.

Around 10:00 a.m. 14 potential jurors were called and escorted upstairs to the courtroom for a case.

Potential Juror in a Civil Case

Hennepin County Courtroom
Hennepin County Courtroom

A half hour later I was included in a panel of 16 for another case, and we were escorted upstairs to the courtroom of Judge Mel Dickstein[2] for a civil case by an interior design company against Bernard Berrian[3] for alleged unpaid fees for work on a condo in downtown Minneapolis.

Judge Mel Dickstein
Judge Mel Dickstein

After brief introductions of the trial lawyers and their clients, the prospective jurors were subjected to voir dire, questioning by the Judge and then by the lawyers to try to determine if any of us had any reasons why we could not be fair and impartial in this case. This process took an hour in the morning and one and a half hours in the afternoon.

One of the judge’s questions was whether we ever had been deposed, i.e., given sworn testimony before trial. I answered “Yes,” and when I said it had lasted for five days, the Judge asked for my reactions to that experience. I said I often was frustrated and had greater sympathy for the many people I had deposed in my legal career and for the clients I had defended in depositions taken by other lawyers.

When trial lawyers question the prospective jurors, in addition to trying to see if there are reasons for disqualifying an individual, they also have other objectives. They want to obtain a sense of what the individuals are like to aid the lawyers’ exercising their preemptory challenges, i.e., dismissing some individuals for no stated reasons. They also try to give prospective jurors a peak at what their case is about and build rapport with the prospective jurors.

One of the attorneys in this case, I thought, failed in these secondary objectives by engaging in very detailed and unnecessary quasi-cross examination of some of the members of the panel. At least it annoyed me. Finally the judge called the lawyers to the bench and undoubtedly told them to speed up the questioning because thereafter the questioning was much shorter and was soon over.

As I sat in the jury box, I wondered why this case had not settled, as most similar cases do. Each side had two lawyers (or one lawyer and a legal assistant) at the counsel tables, thus increasing the costs of litigation for both parties. In this preliminary phase, we were not told how much money was at stake, but I could not believe it was immense.

Only one of the panel was excused for cause; she was responsible for taking care of her elderly mother. The lawyers then exercised their preemptory challenges. I was one of those thus striken.

I, therefore, returned to the Jury Assembly Room until 4:00 p.m. when I was released for the day. Later I was told that 124 of the 125 citizens in the Room that day had been called upstairs as potential jurors.

The next day (May 7th) 86 other citizens and I reported to the Jury Assembly Room at 9:00 a.m. This included some who had been on On-Call status the prior day. We were told that there were 35 potential jury cases on the trial calendar for the day.

Around 10:30 a.m. a group of potential jurors was called for a case. However, the Room’s computer had gone down, and all of us had to write our names on slips of paper, and the requisite number of slips was drawn at random from a bowl.  I was not included.

At 11: 45 a.m. those of us still in the Room were released for our lunch break.

Potential Juror in a Criminal Case

Judge Lyonel Norris
Judge Lyonel Norris

After we had returned at 1:30 p.m., I was included in a panel of 35 potential jurors and escorted upstairs to the courtroom of Judge Lyonel Norris[4] for a criminal case. The defendant was an African-American man accused of domestic and sexual abuse, as I recall.

Judge Norris and then the lawyers in the case questioned 21 of us who were in the jury box to try to determine if there were any reasons why we could not be fair and impartial jurors in the case. This process lasted the rest of the afternoon until nearly 5:30 p.m. and most of the next morning (May 8th).

We were asked if we or any members of our families, including close friends, had ever been a victim of sexual or physical abuse or ever been accused of such crimes. I was astounded that 9 of the 21 said that they had. Some of the nine were then questioned about the circumstances at the judge’s bench while a “white noise” machine was turned on so that others in the courtroom could not hear what was said. Others of the 9 provided details involving other members of their families in open court. Afterwards one of the 9 was excused when she said she could not be fair and impartial in this case because of the nature of the criminal charges.

I was also surprised by how many of us answered affirmatively to the question of whether we or any members of our families, including close friends, had ever been accused of a crime, including DUI. Most talked about relatives and friends accused of DUI.

Each of the 21 people in the jury box provided basic personal information.  I said that I was a retired lawyer and adjunct law professor, that my wife was also retired, that one of our sons lived in the Twin Cities area and was a principal of a gourmet coffee company, that our other son lived in Ecuador and was the C.E.O. of a non-profit environmental group and that I was an active member of Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church.

In response to specific questions, I disclosed I had been a defendant in two civil cases, both of which had been resolved in my favor; that I had testified as a foundation witness in a federal court criminal case; that in the early 1970’s I had been a pro bono (no fee) lawyer for the Minnesota Civil Liberties Union in a lawsuit against a group of Minneapolis policemen for a political raid and that we had obtained compensatory and punitive damages against some of the defendants; that although I had never practiced criminal law, I had become interested in international criminal justice and the International Criminal Court as a result of my teaching international human rights at the Law School; and that my wife had been a volunteer coordinator at Minneapolis’ Neighborhood Involvement Program and Chrysalis Women’s Center which had programs for battered women.

After the questioning of the potential jurors was completed, no one else was excused for cause. Again, however, I was striken by the attorneys.

I returned to the Jury Assembly Room and was excused for lunch. When I returned at 1:30 p.m., I was informed that all of the other potential jurors and I were excused from the balance of our jury duty.

This week I received my State compensation for my jury duty $30.00 ($10.00/day) plus $11.34 for mileage.

Conclusion

I was impressed by the operation of the jury system. People in the Jury Assembly Room were attentive to the instructions and information being conveyed and respectful of the court officials and their fellow potential jurors.

In the two courtrooms the judges and trial lawyers were courteous and respectful of one another and of the potential jurors. I was most impressed with the judges’ emphasis of the need to have fair and impartial jurors and by their questioning of us, especially in the criminal case.

I also got to know some of my fellow prospective jurors and was most impressed by all of our ability and willingness to answer in public questions about our personal lives. I certainly believed that all of us were striving to do our best to provide information to the court about our personal circumstances that might affect our ability to be fair and impartial.


[1] Information about jury service is available on websites for the Minnesota State Courts and for the Hennepin County District Court.

[2] Although I knew or had appeared as an attorney before 19 of the 61 Hennepin County District Judges, I had had no prior experience with Judge Dickstein. Later I did research and discovered that he holds undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Minnesota and was a former Assistant U.S. District Attorney and a former Associate and Partner attorney in the Minneapolis law office of Robins Kaplan Miller & Ciresi, with which I had had several cases in my career. Mr. Dickstein was appointed to the bench in 2002 and elected for retention in 2004 and 2010.

[3] As several other prospective jurors and I stated to the court, we recognized Mr. Berrian as a former professional football player who had played for the Minnesota Vikings football team. After I had been dismissed as a juror in the case, I did some research and discovered that he had his own website.

[4] I also had no prior experience with Judge Norris. Later I did research and discovered that he had been a Law Clerk for Judge Michael J. Davis in state and federal courts, an Assistant Public Defender, Public Defender, Director of the Minnesota Department of Education’s Office of Equity and Assistant Federal Defender before he was appointed to the bench by Governor Mark Dayton in 2011 and then elected to retain his judgeship in 2012. Growing up in Washington, D.C., Mr. Norris in an interview after his judicial appointment said he was a runaway and homeless at age 16. He was fortunate to meet someone “in the business of helping kids,” who lead him to Runaway House and later to Carleton College, one of Minnesota’s premier private liberal arts institutions. There he became interested in law and then attended, and was graduated from, the University of Minnesota Law School.

Save the Minnesota Orchestra!

Osmo Vanska
Osmo Vanska
Minnesota Orchestra @ Orchestra Hall
Minnesota Orchestra @ Orchestra Hall

 

Under the baton of Maestro Osmo Vanska in recent years, the Minnesota Orchestra has played beautifully. When they performed at Carnegie Hall in March 2010, a New Yorker reviewer said, “The Minnesota Orchestra sounded, to my ears, like the greatest orchestra in the world.” As Minnesotans, we loved the music produced by the Orchestra and the praise from New York City.

Alas, the Orchestra’s entire 2012-2013 season has been cancelled due to an unresolved dispute over the musicians’ compensation. As a result, some key members of the Orchestra have left for positions elsewhere.

Even more ominous, on April 30, 2013, Maestro Vanska in a letter to the Orchestra’s Board of Directors said, our “musical policy of excellence in symphonic music programming . . . is now under critical threat.” After noting the need to prepare for scheduled recording sessions in September and Carnegie Hall concerts in November (“one of the most significant goals of my entire Minnesota Orchestra tenure”), Vanska said that if those concerts were cancelled, “I will be forced to resign.”

The dispute started last September when the Board proposed a new contract with the musicians that called for an average annual salary of $89,000 with a minimum of a 10-weeks annual paid vacation, a comprehensive medical plan and defined benefit pension plan. This represented a huge decrease from their compensation under the prior contract and was necessitated, according to the Board, by the immediate need to stop additional significant draws on the Orchestra’s endowment.

According to public information, the Musicians rejected this proposal, but have never made a counteroffer on compensation. Instead, they have proposed a review of the Orchestra’s finances and binding arbitration. Such a financial review has been undertaken, but not without apparent disputes regarding some of its details. The Board rejected binding arbitration as inconsistent with their fiduciary duty to guard the endowment.

Most recently the Board proposed submitting the dispute to mediation next week (the week of May 20th), but the Musicians apparently have not yet responded to this proposal.

We are obviously saddened by the ongoing dispute between the Orchestra’s Board and the Musicians. We also have empathy with the Musicians on being presented with a proposal last Fall for a large reduction in compensation. No one wants to be subjected to such a jolt.

Early last December I sent an email to Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton saying the “Orchestra’s cancellation of many concerts has left a major void in the cultural life of the Twin Cities and thus has caused a major negative impact on the quality of life here and in the State as a whole.” After noting that “over the years Dayton family members have been strong supporters of the Orchestra . . . [and] the cancellations have to be particularly sad for you and your family,” I implored the Governor “to become involved in this matter. Publicly invite both sides to meet with you at your office to explore how this dispute could be resolved. If there are any mediation services the State can offer, perhaps that could be offered as well. I also wonder whether there is any State funds that could be provided to help pay for the renovation of Orchestra Hall so that the gifts for same could be re-directed to the endowment to help pay the musicians.”

I received no response from the Governor, and there have been no public reports of his being involved in any way to try to resolve this dispute. I, therefore, reiterate my plea for his help.

On May 5th the Musicians had a full-page ad in the StarTribune that, among other things, called for the Board leaders “to step aside so that truly civic-minded and globally aspirational leadership can step forward” to resolve the dispute. This was a totally unfounded and unwise move by the Musicians, in my opinion. The Board members, some of whom are friends of mine, are all honorable citizen unpaid volunteers who have given of their own time and financial resources to help the Orchestra. Therefore, on May 10th I sent an email to the Musicians that said the following:

  1. “As we understand, the Musicians have never made a counteroffer on compensation. As a retired lawyer, I have been involved in many negotiations to settle legal disputes. The normal process in such negotiations is offer and counteroffer, often with many iterations. A similar phenomenon often occurs in buying a house. Wake up. Engage in the process.
  2. The Musicians must recognize that the national financial collapse of several years ago has caused damage to the finances of many corporations, organizations and individuals and made it more difficult for non-profit organizations to raise charitable contributions. In addition, the low interest rate policies of the Federal Reserve System have made it very difficult for all persons to obtain significant income on their endowments and savings. As a retiree, I am very aware of this phenomenon. So too the Musicians have to be aware of these facts.
  3. The financial problems of our Orchestra are not unique in the U.S. The Musicians obviously are aware of this.
  4. To respond to these facts, as the Musicians have done, with calls for binding arbitration, financial studies, no further negotiations unless the lock-out is ended and resignation of the honorable, unpaid volunteers on the Orchestra’s Board is unreasonable and irresponsible.
  5. In our opinion, the Musicians have known enough from the first day of this dispute to make a counteroffer of reduced compensation, undoubtedly as an initial position by the Musicians the reduction would be modest. But it would facilitate the negotiation process.”

The Orchestra’s website has information about the dispute as does the website for the musicians. The dispute has received extensive coverage in the Minnesota media along with full-page ads by the Board and the Musicians. And the New York Times had an extensive article about the dispute.

End the dispute! Save the Minnesota Orchestra!

Commemoration of the 150th Anniversary of the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862

August 17, 2012, marked the sesquicentennial of the incident that started the U.S.-Dakota War in southwestern Minnesota in 1862. This dark side of U.S. and Minnesota history has been commemorated in various ways in Minnesota this year.

Governor Mark Dayton’s Proclamation

Governor Mark Dayton

Our current Governor, Mark Dayton, proclaimed August 17th a Day of Remembrance and Reconciliation in the State.

The Governor said that on August 17, 1862, the “first victims of the ‘U.S.-Dakota War of 1862’ lost their lives . . . . The ensuing attacks and counter-attacks killed hundreds more U.S. soldiers, Dakota braves, conniving traders, and innocent people. Tragically, those deaths started a vicious cycle of hate crimes, which continued long after the war was ended.”[1]

Moreover, he said, the “events leading to those atrocities actually began before 1862. The United States Government, through its agents in the new State of Minnesota,  . . . persuaded, deceived, or forced the state’s long-time inhabitants from Dakota and Ojibwe Indian tribes to give up their lands for promises of money, food, and supplies. Many of the government’s promises were repeatedly broken.”

As a result, the “displaced Dakota and Chippewa tribes watched newly arrived settlers claim the lands that had been theirs. They were denied their treaty payments of money and food, which resulted in starvation for many of their children and elderly. Often, when annuity payments did finally arrive, they were immediately plundered by some dishonest officials and traders.”

The war ended, Governor Dayton said, “but the attacks against innocent Indian children, women, and elderly continued. They were even encouraged by Alexander Ramsey, then the Governor of Minnesota, who on September 9, 1862, proclaimed: “Our course then is plain. The Sioux Indians of Minnesota must be exterminated or driven forever beyond the borders of the State. . . . They must be regarded and treated as outlaws. If any shall escape extinction, the wretched remnant must be driven beyond our borders and our frontier garrisoned with a force sufficient to forever prevent their return.”

Governor Dayton said he was “appalled by Governor Ramsey’s words and by his encouragement of vigilante violence against innocent people; and I repudiate them.” [2]

Therefore, Governor Dayton asked everyone on August 17, 2012, “to remember that dark past; to recognize its continuing harm in the present; and to resolve that we will not let it poison the future.” Everyone, he urged, should “practice not only remembrance, but also reconciliation.”

Governor Dayton also offered his “deepest condolences” to “everyone who lost family members during that time” and ordered that state flags to be flown at half-staff on that day.

Other Commemorations

This Fall the Saint Paul Interfaith Network presented Wokiksuye K’a Woyuonihan  (Remembering and Honoring), a series of conversations about the War to witness and hear the personal stories and experiences of Dakota descendants; to engage in structured and facilitated dialogue about what was heard and what is experienced today; and to deepen understanding between American Indians and non-American Indians; creating a climate of respect and possibilities for new stories, acts of justice and healing.

One of the leaders of this series of conversations was Jim Bear Jacobs, a member of the Turtle Clan of the Mohican people, one of 564 federally recognized tribes. A Christian with degrees in Pastoral Studies and Christian Theology, Jacobs believes that Christian faith and American Indian spirituality are complementary. The latter teaches us, he says, that it is inappropriate to hear a story and not give something back; the spirit gives us courage to hear voices long silenced; and it is our responsibility to recreate our spiritual vision in community.

On October 7th Jacobs and other Native Americans helped lead the World Communion Sunday worship service at Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church, which will be covered in subsequent posts.

This October the William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul held a Symposium on “The Law and the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862.” Various speakers discussed (i) Military Tribunals, Executions & Pardons; (ii) Genocide, Human Rights, and the Need for Reconciliation; (iii) Reflections on my Ancestors: Artemas Ehnamani and the U.S.-Dakota War; (iv) Rethinking the Effect of the Abrogation of the Dakota Treaties and the Removal of the Dakota People from their Homeland; (v) A Program of Extermination: Governor Ramsey, the Minnesota Adjutant General, and Dakota Bounties; and (vi) Modern Communities: Court Systems of the Minnesota Dakota. The papers at this Symposium will be published in a future issue of the William Mitchell Law Review.

Minnesota History Center

A special exhibit about the War is being presented through September 8, 2013, at the Minnesota History Center, 345 West Kellogg Street St. Paul, Minnesota. The exhibit includes many, often conflicting, interpretations of events relating to the War. Visitors are encouraged to make up their own minds about what happened and why, to discuss what they are seeing and learning, and to leave comments. The History Center also has created a very useful website about the War.

James J. Hill House

There is an exhibit of works by 20 Native American artists created in response to the War–“Ded Unk’unpi—We Are Here.” The exhibit is open through January 13, 2013, at the James J. Hill House Gallery, 240 Summit Avenue in St. Paul.[3]

Fort Snelling

From November 7 through 13, a commemorative march from the Lower Sioux Agency Historical Site on Highway 2 near Morton, Minnesota to Fort Snelling (near the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport) will take place to honor the 1,700 Dakota women, children and elders who were forced to march 150 miles to a stockade at that Fort soon after the end of the U.S.-Dakota War. Along the way, they were assaulted by angry townspeople and soldiers, and an unknown number of Dakota were killed. Those who managed to complete the march were then held under brutal conditions at a concentration camp below Fort Snelling, where approximately 300 died during the winter of 1862-1863. In the spring of 1863, the survivors were exiled from the state. On the commemorative march this November the walkers at  approximately each mile will stop and place in the ground a prayer flag with the names of two of the families from the forced march. The names will be read aloud, and participants will offer prayers and tobacco.

Finally Dakota spiritual leader Jim Miller several years ago had a dream that ended up at a river bank where he saw his 38 ancestors hanged in Mankato on December 26, 1862. Afterwards Miller organized a ride on horseback tracing the journey of his dream, all in the interest of bringing healing among Native Americans and within the broader community. This ride is the subject of a documentary film, Dakota 38, that can be seen on YouTube.


[1] Prior posts gave a short summary of the U.S.-Dakota War and the contemporaneous account of the War by a white settler in nearby Iowa.

[2] Today Governor Ramsey’s statement would be a crime under international law. Under Article III (c) of the Genocide Convention of 1948, it is a crime to make “[d]irect and public incitement to commit genocide,” which is defined, in part, in Article II (a) of that treaty as “killing members of [an ethnical or racial] group” with “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, [the group].”

[3] James J. Hill, 1838-1916, who was known as “The Empire Builder,” was the chief executive officer of a group of railroad lines headed by the Great Northern Railway that served the Upper Midwest, the northern Great Plains and the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. His mansion in St. Paul today is operated by the Minnesota Historical Society.