I took time off from my regular duties last week to go on a spring break trip to the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, with a stop in Indianapolis. The time off gave me a chance to connect with nature, to do some reading, and to spend time with loved ones. Two memorable experiences from the week occurred at a museum in Indianapolis and a waterfall in Tennessee.
Located in downtown Indianapolis by the White River, The Eiteljorg Museum houses a collection of art from the American West by Native and European artists. Upstairs, they have exhibits of Native American culture, history and art. The installation that affected me most powerfully was in the entrance hall to the Native American section. Unlike the Ziibiwing Center here in Mount Pleasant Michigan, which focuses on Anishinaabe history and culture, the Eiteljorg Museum encompasses the range of Native American cultures. In the entrance hall what struck me specifically was the recorded greeting to visitors in many Native languages.
The recordings play at different locations in the entrance hall, where I could pick up a receiver like an old-fashioned telephone earpiece, and hear the voice of a Native American welcoming me in their language while a screen in front of me translates the words. I also picked up a receiver and heard the singing of a traditional song. Hearing the voice of living people speaking or singing an ancient and little-known language is powerful and alive for me–more than than static displays of clothing and tools and weapons. In the recorded voices I felt both the history and aliveness of Native culture.
My three days in the Smoky Mountains were spent mostly connecting with nature. Just as I connect spiritually with the Chippewa River in Mount Pleasant, I was drawn to running water in the Smokies. On my last day there I hiked to Upper Meigs Falls, a waterfall in a small valley with mountain laurel growing up the hillsides. The flowing water brings life and beauty and a sense of peace to the scene. I felt connected to everyone and everything in that moment.
Back from my trip now, in front of me on my desk is the plastic container that originally contained trail mix and now is half-full with water from Upper Meigs Falls. In the water is a small rock that I took from that place. This rock and this water will be placed on the altar of our sanctuary and used for the ritual of joy and sorrows that we follow every Sunday. Like everyone else in this congregation, I carry the congregation with me in my heart when I travel; when I return from travel I bring something of that experience back with me.
May safety guide the comings and goings of this congregation.
May we go out in the world to explore and to serve; may we share with one another what we find there; and may we return to a place and a community that we call home.
Rev. Andrew Frantz
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Rev. Andrew Frantz
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