Mde Ia Udan (Lac qui Parle), July 8, 2012. For the first fourteen years of his life, John Baptiste Renville woke up to this view every day.
Yesterday, Sunday July 8, I was privileged to speak in the historic reconstructed chapel at Lac qui Parle.
More than 70 people gathered for the morning worship service which kicks off a yearly reunion of descendants of Dakota Christians and the missionaries who founded a Protestant mission here in 1835 at the invitation of Joseph Renville, John B. Renville’s father.
The worship service is always lead by a Dakota Pastor from the Dakota Presbytery, which ordained John its first Dakota pastor in 1866. This year’s pastor was Rev. Enright Bighorn of Ascension Church.
Members of the choir from Ascension Church, where John pastored for 30 years on the Sisseton and Wahpeton Reservation in South Dakota, led us in hymns in the Dakota language, accompanied by the Ascension organist on the chapel’s pump organ.
After a pot-luck lunch by the lake, people began drifting back up the the chapel for the “reflective” –according to the MHS PR department –talk. This year, I was the speaker.
There were about a dozen people in the chapel when I arrived, which struck me as about right. As you might imagine from the fans in the photos, this little building has no air conditioning but its windows and 1:00PM on the second Sunday in July has a deserved reputation of being unbearably hot here –especially when seated on a backless wooden bench.
So this annual afternoon talk attracts a handful of hardy people who take turns speaking and listening for the love of this place. I’m told there were 48 people in the audience as I spoke.
Most humbling, three of them are current pastors in the Dakota Presbytery, like Rev. Michael Simon, pictured with me above. By far the most meaningful part of the day for me was connecting with John’s spiritual descendants and hearing how John and Mary Renville are still alive in oral history.
I am also quickly learning the rudiments of book-signing, like writing down the inscription first, before the ensuing conversation erases the name of the “To”–the relative or friend of the person presenting the book!
Lac qui Parle today lies in Chippewa County, Minnesota, northwest of the city of Montevideo.
Photo credits: Chapel, Minnesota Historical Society via Google Images. Mde Ia Udan, Carrie Zeman. Program photos, Lois Glewwe.