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‘Come to us, Holy Spirit’

When hundreds of young-adult pilgrims rolled into Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in Red Shirt Table, South Dakota, for a Memorial Day weekend gathering, small echoes of familiarity greeted them even as they entered a different world.

Across from the pasture where they pitched their tents stood a tiny white building, Christ Church, where the Book of Common Prayer is used as often as the Lakota language hymnal. Water came from an outdoor hand pump rather than a faucet. But the Water of Life was in no short supply, just like at pilgrims’ home churches in Monterrey, Boulder, St. Paul, and points beyond.

Common touchstones from Christian tradition helped water seeds of reconciliation at Taizé Pine Ridge. More than 500 accepted the open invitation from Oglala Lakota hosts to gather, pray, learn, and seek under the guidance of six monks from the ecumenical Taizé Community in France.

“It’s not just a nice meeting that we want to do,” said Brother Alois, abbot of the Taizé Community, on the opening night. “Our coming together will help us to understand something new of the Gospel, to understand the Gospel in new ways. … We hope the Holy Spirit will disturb us [to] find new ways of creating communion.”

Christianity and white people have long met with suspicion on parts of this reservation. Here a disenfranchised people remember how missionaries helped the federal government bypass treaties and take the gold-rich Black Hills from the Lakota (Sioux). Fresh painting on a grave marker at Wounded Knee, site of an 1890 massacre, said Black Hills Not For Sale. At the Taizé campsite, pilgrims were warned not to visit a Ghost Dance site in the distance because it’s considered sacred.

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