Etchieson United Methodist Church continues to grow
The Etchieson United Methodist Church was first built near Park Hill, Okla., and was called Riley Chapel. It was during the 1950s when it moved to Seneca Street in Tahlequah. It has more than 100 members from more than a dozen tribes and ethnicities. TESINA JACKSON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Since 1844, there has only been one Native American United Methodist Church in the Tahlequah area. And the Etchieson United Methodist Church still thrives today.
“That’s how long the Methodist have been here,” Wynema Smith, church member and Cherokee Nation citizen, said.
Smith has taught the Cherokee language for 20 years in different community buildings, at the church and at the tribe’s Cherokee Language Immersion School.
Currently located on Seneca Street, the Etchieson United Methodist Church was first built near Park Hill and was called Riley Chapel. It moved to Seneca Street during the 1950s.
“It was really a struggle when I first started here for the pastor and for the members, so we started serving meals every week to be able to pay our utilities and pay our pastor,” Smith, who began attending the church in 1985, said.
In 2011, with the help of grants, fundraisers and CN funds, a larger church was built where the parsonage once stood, next to the old church.
“This particular building here is sitting where the old parsonage, or the old house where the pastor used to be. And we needed more room, so there was a home over here where the parking lot is. So we just purchased that and made a parking lot out of it, and we find ourselves right now in a situation where we’re going to need more room as we go along because every Sunday we have had, since we dedicated the building in October 2011, we’ve seen new people come in,” Pastor Patrick Freeman said.
While attending the Methodist-affiliated Oklahoma City University, Freeman was appointed to the Etchieson United Methodist Church as a student pastor in 1956. The Muscogee (Creek) Nation citizen later left for another church, but returned as pastor in 2001. He plans to retire in June.
Church members still use the old church for Sunday school classes, while the new one-room church acts as a kitchen, dining area and church service area. With the new church, officials have seen attendance grow to more than 100.
“We’re able to reach out now to where we weren’t before,” Freeman said.
The church has citizens from different tribes attending such as Cherokee, Ponca, Muscogee Creek, United Keetoowah Band, Shawnee, Choctaw, Navajo, Kickapoo and Pottawattamie.
“Some are visiting. Some we’ve added to our fellowship as members, and we see a pattern here that we’re going to probably continue to grow,” Freeman said.
The church also has African American and Hispanic members, as well as Northeastern State University students from the campus ministries.
Parishioners are involved with a United Methodist Church camp, in which they donate food and clothes for those who need it. They have monthly Indian taco fundraisers on the first Thursday.
Since there are people representing different cultures who are part of the church, Freeman only preaches in English, but during worship there is a call for tribal hymns and each person is invited to sing hymns in their respective tribal languages.
“We have several representations of different tribes, and if we can, we try to use their music, too,” Freeman said. “All the music that our tribes have is oral. There’s no written. You can’t use a musical instrument to the songs. The Cherokees have translated their songs into English, and they use different instruments. But most of the tribes have no instruments for their music.”
Several church members sing in a Cherokee choir that is maintained by the Methodist Church. The group sings Cherokee hymns and has preformed in other states.
“A lot of the tribes don’t have their written language, and that’s where we are really thankful for Sequoyah because he was the one that invented our syllabary that we can read and write,” Smith said.
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ᏓᎵᏆ, ᎣᎦᎳᎰᎹ. – 1844 ᏂᏛᎬᏩᏓᎴᏅ, ᏌᏊᏭ ᎨᏒ ᏅᏁᎯᏴ ᎠᎹᎺᎵᎧ ᎤᎾᏓᏡᎩ ᏗᎾᏓᏍᏚᎵᏍᎩ ᏧᏂᎳᏫᏍᏗᎢ ᎪᏢᏒᎢ ᎠᎭᏂ ᏓᎵᏆ ᎢᎬᎾᏕᎾ. ᎠᎴ ᎾᏍᎩᏊ ᎡᏥᏏᏂ ᎤᎾᏓᏡᎩ ᏗᎾᏓᏍᏚᎵᏍᎩ ᏧᏂᎳᏫᏍᏗᎢ ᎤᎾᏂᎩᏏᏓ ᎪᎦᏴ ᏥᎩ. ᏍᎩᏃ ᎢᎪᎯᏛ ᎾᏁᎰᎢ ᏗᎾᏓᏍᏚᎵᏍᎩ ᎠᎭᏂ,” Wynema Smith, ᏧᏂᎳᏫᏍᏗᎢ ᎨᎳ ᎠᎴ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏰᎵ ᎨᎳ, ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ ᎢᎧᏃᎮᏍᎬᎢ.
Smith ᏔᎵᏍᎪᎯ ᎢᏧᏕᏘᏴᏓ ᏂᏓᏕᏲᏍᎪᎢ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗᎢ ᎥᎿ ᎯᎵᏍᎩ ᏂᏚᏓᎴᏒᎢ ᏗᏍᎦᏚᎩ ᏓᏓᏁᎵᎸᎢ, ᎥᎿ ᏧᏂᎳᏫᏍᏗᎢ ᎠᎴ ᎥᎿᎢ ᎠᏂᎳᏍᏓᏢᎢ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗᎢ ᏧᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗᎢ.
ᎾᏊᏃ ᏥᎩ ᏏᏂᎧ ᎦᎳᏅᏛᎢ ᎤᎾᏓᏡᎬ, ᎾᏃ ᎢᎬᏱᎢ ᎡᏥᏏᏂ ᎤᎾᏓᏡᎩ ᏗᎾᏓᏍᏚᎵᏍᎩ ᏧᏂᎳᏫᏍᏗᎢ ᎤᎾᏁᏍᎬᎮᎢ ᎠᏭᏂᏴᏍᏗᎢ ᎾᎥᎢ ᎠᎴ Riley Chapel. ᎠᏃᏐᎯ ᎨᏒᎩ. ᎤᏓᏅᏏᏃ ᏏᏂᎧ ᏗᎦᎳᏅᏛᎢ ᎢᏴ ᏭᏂᎷᏤᎢ 1950s ᏥᎨᏒᎢ. “ᎢᎬᏱᎢ ᏣᏆᎴᏅᎲᎢ ᎢᎦ ᎦᏁᏄᏟ ᎤᎷᏤᎲᎢ ᏗᎦᏘᏱ ᎠᎴ ᎠᏁᎳ, ᎣᎦᎴᏅᎮᎢ ᏒᏂᏙᏓᏩᏍᎩ ᏂᏕᎦᎵᏍᏔᏁᎬ ᎠᎵᏍᏓᏰᏗ ᎣᏥᏯᏙᎯᎲᎢ ᎡᎵ ᏗᎦᏲᎦᏈᏴᎡᏗ ᏗᏨᏍᏗ ᎠᎴ ᎬᏲᏣᏈᏴᎡᏗ ᏦᎩᎦᏘᏯ,” Smith, ᏥᎩ ᎤᎴᏅᎮᎢ ᏕᎦᎳᏫᏥᏙᎲᎢ 1985 ᏥᎨᏒᎢᎩ, ᎠᏗᏍᏴᎢ.
2011 ᏥᎨᏒᎩ, ᏩᏥᏂ ᎢᎵᏍᎪᏟᏔᏅ ᎠᏕᎳ ᎤᎵᏍᏕᎸᏓ, ᎣᏥᏟᏏᎲᎢ ᎠᏕᎳ ᎠᎴ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏰᎵ ᎤᎵᏍᏕᎸᏓ, ᎤᏔᏂᎯᎨᏍᏗ ᏧᏂᎳᏫᏍᏗ ᎤᎾᏁᏍᎬᎮᎢ ᎥᎿ ᏦᎩᎦᏘᏯ ᎤᏁᎳᏗᏍᏗ ᏣᏓᏁᎸᎢ, ᎾᎿ ᎤᏟ ᏗᏜ ᎤᏪᏘ ᏧᏂᎳᏫᏍᏗᎢ ᎠᏓᏁᎸᎢ.
“ ᎯᎠᏃ ᎤᏤᏟᏓ ᏣᏓᏁᎳ ᎤᏪᏘ ᏣᏓᏁᎸᎢ ᏦᎩᎦᏘᏯ ᎤᏁᎳᏛᎢ ᎠᏓᏁᎳ, ᎠᎴ ᎤᏪᏘ ᎦᎵᏦᏕ ᎢᏳᎵᏍᏔᏅᎢ. ᎠᎴ ᎣᎩᏂᎬᎬᎢ ᎤᎪᏗ ᎡᏓᏍᏗᎢ, ᎠᎭᏂᏃ ᏙᏆᎴᎷ ᏧᏂᏗᎢ ᎠᏁᎳᏗᏍᏗᎢ ᎠᏓᏁᎸᎢ. ᎣᎩᏩᏒᎢ ᎠᎴ ᏙᏆᎴᎷ ᏧᏂᏗᎢ ᎣᎪᏢᏅᎢ, ᎠᎴ ᎾᏊ ᎣᏣᏕᎳᎰᏍᎦ ᎣᎦᏚᎵᎲᎢ ᏏᏊ ᎤᎪᏗ ᎤᏜᏅᏓᏗᏍᏗᎢ ᎣᏣᎢᏒᎢ ᏂᏓᏍᏆᎸᎯᏒ ᎤᎾᏙᏓᏩᏍᎬᎢ, ᎠᏂᏍᏆᏗᏍᎬᎢ ᎠᏂᎸᏉᏗᎲᎢ ᎠᏓᏁᎸᎢ ᎾᎯᏳ ᏚᏂᏃᏗ 2011,ᏄᎾᏓᎴ ᎠᏂᏤ ᏴᏫ ᎠᏂᏴᏟᎢᎲᎢ,” ᏗᎦᏘᏯ Patrick Freeman ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ.
ᎾᎯᏳ ᏥᎨᎳᏗᏙᎲ ᎥᎿ ᏗᎾᏓᏍᏚᎵᏍᎩ-ᎤᎾᎵᎪᏛ ᎣᎦᎳᎰᎹ ᏗᎦᏚᎲ ᏩᎦᎸᎳᏗᎬᏴ ᏧᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗᎢ,
1956 ᏥᎨᏒᎢ ᎠᎦᏑᏰᏒᎢ Freeman ᏧᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ ᎥᎿ ᎡᏥᏏᏂ ᎤᎾᏓᏡᎬᎢ ᏗᎾᏓᏍᏚᎵᏍᎩ ᏧᏂᎳᏫᏍᏗ. ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎠᏂᎫᏏ (ᎠᏂᎫᏐᎢ ᎠᏰᎵ) ᎠᏁᎳ ᏐᎢ ᏧᏂᎳᏫᏍᏗ ᏧᏙᏢᏒᎢ ᏭᎾᏖᎳᏕᎢ, ᎠᏎᏅ ᎢᎤᎷᏤᎢ ᏗᎦᏘᏯ ᎾᎯᏳᎢ 2001, ᏕᎭᎷᏱ ᎧᎸᎢ ᎾᎯᏳᎢ ᏚᏭᎪᏛ ᎤᏣᏪᏐᎧᏍᏗᎢ.
ᏧᏂᎳᏫᏍᏗᎢᏃ ᎠᏁᎳ Ꮟ ᎠᏅᏗᏍᎪᎢ Ꮎ ᎤᏪᏘ ᏧᏂᎳᏫᏍᏗᎢ ᎤᎾᏙᏓᏆᏍᎬᎢ ᎥᎿ ᏓᎾᏕᏲᎲᏍᎪᎢ ᏓᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᎪᎢ, ᎢᏤᎢᏃ ᏌᏊ-ᎧᏅᏑᎵ ᏧᏂᎳᏫᏍᏗᎢ ᎥᎿᏃ ᏓᎾᏓᏍᏓᏴᎲᏍᎪᎢ, ᏧᎾᎵᏍᏓᏰᏗ ᎤᏜᏅᏛᎢ ᎠᎴ ᏧᏂᎳᏫᏍᏗᎢ. ᎢᏤᎢ ᏧᏂᎳᏫᏍᏗᎢ, ᏄᏂᎬᏫᏳᏌᏕᎩ ᎤᏂᎪᎯ ᎤᏂᎪᏛᎢ 100 ᎢᏳᏂᏨᎢ.
“ ᎡᎵᏊ ᎣᏣᏙᏯᏅᎯᏗᎰ ᏗᎦᏲᏥᏍᏕᎸᏅᏗ ᏧᏩᎫᏔᏅᏃ Ꮭ ᏰᎵ ᏗᎦᏲᏥᏍᏕᎵᏗ ᏱᎨᏎᎢ.” ᎠᏗᏍᎨᎢ Freeman. ᏧᏂᎳᏫᏍᏗᎢᏃ ᏧᎾᏓᎴᏅᏓ ᎠᏂᎳᏍᏓᏢᎢ ᎠᏁᎳ ᎢᏳᎾᏍᏗᏃ ᎠᏂᏣᎳᎩ,Ponca, ᎠᏂᎫᏏ, ᎠᏂᎩᏚᏩᎩ, ᎠᏂᏌᏩᏄᎩ ᎠᏂᏣᏔ, Navajo, Kickapoo, ᎠᎴ Pottawattamie, “ ᎢᎦᏓᏃ ᎠᎾᏓᏩᏛᎯᏙᎯᏭ. ᎢᎦᏓᏃ ᏙᏤᎸᏕᎢ ᏙᏥᎳᏫᎬᎢ ᎠᏁᎳ, ᎠᎴ ᎣᏥᎪᏩᏘᎭ ᏓᏓᏁᏟᏴᏎᎬ ᎠᎭᏂ ᎡᎵᏊᏃ ᏓᏲᏥᎪᏙᏏ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ Freeman.
ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᏧᏂᎳᏫᏍᏗᎢ ᎾᏍᏊ ᎠᏂᎬᎿᎨᎢ ᎠᎴ Ꭰ.ᏍᏆᏂ ᎠᏁᎳ, ᎠᎴᏍᏊᎢ ᎤᏴᏢᎢ ᎧᎸᎬᎢ ᏍᎦᏚᎩ ᏩᎦᎸᎳᏗᏴᎢ ᏧᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ ᏗᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᎩ ᎥᎿ ᏧᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ ᏗᏂᎳᏫᎩ.
ᎤᏤᏟᏓ ᏍᎦᏚᎩ ᎠᏁᎳ ᎠᏁᎳᏗᏙᎰᎢ ᎤᎾᏓᏡᎩ ᏗᎾᏓᏍᏚᎵᏍᎩ ᏧᏂᎳᏫᏍᏗᎢ ᎠᎾᏅᏍᎩ, ᎥᏍᎩᏃ ᎠᎵᏍᏓᏰᏗ ᎠᎾᎵᏍᎪᏟᏗᎰᎢ ᎠᎴ ᏗᎿᏬᎢ ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎤᏂᏂᎬᎩ ᏧᏂᏁᏍᏗ. ᏏᏅᏓ ᏳᏓᎵ ᏴᏫᏯ ᏔᎪᎯ ᏓᏃᏢᏍᎪᎢ ᏓᏂᎾᏕᎪᎢ ᎢᎬᏱᎢ ᏅᎩᏁ ᎢᎪᎯ. ᏦᏥᎳᏫᏥᏙᎯ ᎢᎬᏩᎾᏓᎴᎢ ᏧᎾᏁᏟᏗ ᏂᏓᏳᎾᏓᎴᏅᎢ, Freeman ᏲᏁᎦᏭ ᎠᎵᏥᏙᎲᏍᎪᎢ, ᎠᏂᎸᏉᏗᏍᎬᎢᏃ ᏓᏂᎳᏍᏓᏢᎢ ᏓᏂᏃᎩᏍᎪᎢ, ᎠᎴ ᏂᎦᏲᎦᏛᏁᏗ ᏱᎩ, ᎣᏣᏁᏟᏗᎰ ᎩᏲᎦᏙᏗ ᎢᏳᏍᏗ ᎤᏂᎲᎢ ᏧᏂᏃᎩᏍᏗ, ᎾᏍᏊ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ Freeman. ᏂᎦᏓᏃ ᏐᎧᏃᎩᏍᏗ ᏙᎩᎲᎢ ᎠᏯ ᎣᏥᏅᏍᏓᏢᎢ ᏱᏗᎦᏪᏍᏗᏊ. ᎥᏝ ᏗᎪᏪᎳᏅᎯ ᏱᎩ. ᏗᎧᏃᎩᏍᏗ ᏴᎩᏓ ᎯᎠ ᏗᎧᏃᎩᏍᏗ ᏱᏛᎧᏃᎩᎠ. ᎠᏎᏅ ᏭᎪᏛ ᎠᏂᎳᏍᏓᏢᎢ ᎥᏝ ᏱᏓᏅᏗᎰᎢ ᏗᎧᏃᎩᏍᏗ.”
ᎢᎦᏓ ᏧᏂᎳᏫᏍᏗ ᎠᏁᎳ ᏓᏂᏃᎩᏍᎪᎢ ᏣᎳᎩ ᏗᏂᏃᎩᏍᎩ ᎤᎾᏓᏡᎬᎢ. ᏗᎾᏓᏍᏚᎵᏍᎩ ᏧᏂᎳᏫᏍᏗᎢ ᏓᏂᎦᏘᏲᎢ. ᎯᎠᏃ ᎤᎾᏓᏡᎩ ᏂᏚᏓᎴ ᏗᏍᎦᏚᎩ ᏚᏙᏢᏒᎢ ᎥᎿᏃ ᏓᏂᏃᎩᏍᎪᎢ.
“ ᏭᏂᎪᏛᏃ ᏓᏂᎳᏍᏓᏢᎢ ᎥᏝ ᏳᏂᎭ ᏱᎬᏁᏗᎢ ᏧᏃᏪᎶᏗᎢ, ᎠᎴᏍᏊ ᎣᏣᎵᎮᎵᏍᏗᎰᎢ ᏍᏏᏉᏯ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏥᏚᏬᎷᏩᏛᎮᎢ ᏧᏬᏪᎶᏗᎢ ᏗᎧᏁᎢᏍᏗ ᎡᎵᏃ ᏗᎦᏲᎩᎪᎵᏰᏗ ᎠᎴ ᏦᎪᏪᎶᏗᎢ ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ Smith.