The Disappeared

The Disappeared


The Rev. Lindsey Peterson is the Bridge Pastor at South Congregational Church, UCC in Springfield and Associate Director of the Sojourner Truth School for Social Change Leadership.

Scripture:  John 3:5 (NRSV)

Jesus answered, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.

Reflection: The Disappeared

DAWNLAND is an Emmy-Award winning documentary about stolen children. For most of the 20th century, government agents systematically forced Native American children from their homes and placed them with white families or in boarding schools. Many children experienced devastating emotional and physical harm by adults who mistreated them and tried to erase their cultural identity. DAWNLAND tells this story as it happened in Maine, though it has happened all over the U.S. and Canada.

I grew up in Salem, Massachusetts. I grew up in public schools in New England. I grew up in the UCC. I learned about the Pilgrims and the Puritans with pride, understanding that they were my spiritual ancestors. I learned John Winthrop's often-quoted benediction, "There is yet more light and truth to break forth from God's holy word," and understood that we were because of them. But I did not learn about the living Wabanki, the living Penobscot, the living Passamoquady, the living Wampanoag, the living Nonotuck and on and on. Indians were dead. We had killed them all. Or, they had just died in some more passive way because they couldn't figure out how to survive (us). That's what I learned.

The year 2020 marks 400 years since the landing of the Mayflower in Plymouth, with our UCC spiritual ancestors. It stands out to me that our ancestors were called "separatists", when today we are all so hungry for integration.

I sat in circle recently with 20 or so people, a mix of native and non-native, reflecting on Intergenerational Trauma in Indigenous Communities and Movements for Indigenous Cultural Survival, a circle that formed after a screening of DAWNLAND. In circle practice you have to wait. You have to listen. You have to consider whether you have something that needs to be said. And you wait. And you listen. And you speak if you need to speak when the talking stick makes it way around the circle - slowly - to you. There is no bouncing back and forth, jumping in, no competition of quick-wits; it is not a debate to win, but a time and space to deepen into. There is always a quality of healing in a circle; an integration of separated parts.

We all live with wounds of separation. We live with the losses of our beloveds. We live with the separation from our Godselves that happens very early, when we start to learn what we need to do and how we need to be to survive. That learning is different for each of us, and what we have to sacrifice varies a lot. Some of us live with the wounds of violent disappearances – as native peoples, as black and brown peoples, as queer peoples, as women. All of us live with the wounds of traumas past on through the struggles of our ancestors.

As we take up the charge of our UCC General Minister and President John Dorhauer to, "let our commemorations of 400 years of occupation not just be a rehearsal of our heroism, but a full telling of the impact of our colonial footprint on these shores," we need to build the spiritual capacity in ourselves and our communities of integration. Instead of separation, instead of the impulse to disappear that which is different, we need bear witness to the multiplicity of life and our own lives, healing what used to be separated not by white-washing but by deep learning and loving our being always many things at the same time; born of water and of Spirit.

You can view DAWNLAND on March 26th during a free Worldwide Screening Event. Register here. Gather your church and view this important film as a step in healing what has been separated.  


Holy spirit, help us to see and expose the truth in our history, to lift the voices of the past, especially those who have been silenced in our retelling of those events that shape our current lives, and to have the courage to heal rather than hide.

New Prayer Requests:

We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Drew Page at

Prayers of Intercession:

  • For those grieving or suffering after tornadoes struck in central Tennessee, leaving more than 20 dead last week and several missing

  • For the family and friends of The Rev. Mr. Guillermo Bergado, who served CT churches in Northfield and Hartford, and a UCC church in the Philippines. Rev. Bergado died on March 3

  • For the family and friends of The Rev. Dr. Nehemiah (Bob) Boynton, former pastor at the Congregational Church of South Dartmouth, UCC. Rev. Boynton died March 7

  • For those who have planned to travel for work, school, or pleasure but cannot due to restrictions related to viruses

Prayers of Joy and Thanksgiving:

  • For the staff and volunteers at Silver Lake Conference Center as plans and programs for the 2020 Summer Camp season accelerate after a successful Dean's and Counselors-In-Training retreats this past weekend

Please Pray for the Following SNEUCC Churches:

First Congregational Church of Wareham, Wareham, MA
The United Church of Ware, Ware, MA
United Church in Walpole, Walpole, MA
Evangelical & Reformed UCC, Wallingford, CT
First Congregational Church, Wallingford, CT
The Union Church in Waban (Affiliated), Waban, MA
First Congregational Church of Vernon, Inc., Vernon, CT
First Evangelical Congregational Church, Uxbridge, MA
United Parish of Upton, Upton, MA
First Church of Christ, Unionville, CT
The Congregational Church of Union, CT Inc., Union, CT
First Parish Church of Truro, Truro, MA

This Week in History:
March 9, 2011  (9 years ago) Illinois becomes the 16th state to abolish the death penalty. The state had issued a moratorium on death penalties in 2000 when several journalists had discovered evidence of wrongly accused inmates who were on death row. The National Academy of Sciences reported in 2014 that at least 4% of defendants sentenced to death in the U.S. are innocent. Today, only 20 states, including CT, RI, and MA, have abolished the death penalty while 4 have moratoriums in place.

“Study the past if you would define the future.”

Lindsey Peterson

Lindsey Peterson is a General Synod delegate and is the Designated Term Pastor at the South Congregational Church in Springfield, MA.

March 09, 2020
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