Reopening and Rejoicing!
The first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Oklahoma in early March 2020. Without hesitancy, Susan Hart, the Pastor of the Koinonia Indian Mennonite Church, closed the Church. She told the congregants: “We shall meet again.” By March 16, 2020, Oklahoma declared a State of Emergency. It would turn out to be “possibly the longest continual state of emergency in Oklahoma history”.
In early January 2021, the Clinton Indian Health Service Unit and the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes opened vaccination sites for adult Tribal members. Congregants, aware of the danger of the virus to themselves, elders, and other family members, welcomed the two-step vaccinations. Their belief in the vaccination program was founded on their memories and stories of the losses suffered by tribal families due to epidemics in the early 20th century. One lingering memory was the loss suffered by John Heap of Birds, whose father died in the 1920’s flu epidemic. In memory of his father, John Heap of Birds, a Mennonite leader, wrote the Cheyenne Spiritual Hymn “Jesus, Nahetotaetanome” Jesus, We Rejoice to Gather Together With You based on Matthew 18:20…“Where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them”.
By March 2021, the Congregation is fully vaccinated, and are proud of the cards showing their faith in Maheo’o and medicine. The congregation also strongly desired to resume worshiping Christ’s journey and agreed to follow the CDC guidelines which included the waiting period after the final dosage, masks, front-door temperature checks, use of sanitizing gel, and social-distancing in the sanctuary.
As Pastor Hart had told the congregation in March 2020: “We placed our hope in the hands of Maheo’o for his mercy and grace so that we could come together to worship.” And so they did.
On Palm Sunday, 2021, the congregation held their first in-person service in over a year. “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind” (John 1:4).
–Pastor Susan Peak Hart, April 8, 2021