The Niobrara Convocation takes place in Fort Thompson, South Dakota June 21 - 24.
This once proud event was formed to gather Lakota/Nakota/Dakota Episcopalians once a year, and even served as a kind of second Diocesan Convention at times.
Like all things TEC, the event is a shadow of its former self, with smaller and smaller attendance and more and more aged attendees.
This year's event will have "several guest Bishops and other dignitaries in attendance including the Rt. Rev. Frank Griswold, the former Presiding Bishop. We are expecting a large number of people..." (this from a letter circulating in the diocese).
Look for this to be another piece of the current TEC media campaign. We had Rowan Williams on Time Magazine, Katherine Schori with Bill Moyers, and all kinds of favorable stuff in the mainstream media.
Look for photos and inflated claims of "a diocese where half the communicants are Native Americans!" But as we showed here, the diocese exists mainly on paper. There are 92 churches, but only 2,300 in church on Sunday... many of the Reservation Chapels have no functioning congregations. Fort Thompson, the host congregation for Convocation, had a 2005 ASA of only 19 (yes, nineteen).
Mission Vicars (compensated by funds from a large TEC grant) come and go through a revolving door, discouraged by isolation and by their only ministry being funerals and drive-by baptisms. TEC's insistence on '79 Prayer Book norms (Holy Eucharist with a priest as the only valid worship) undid traditions of lay leadership that had been strong on the reservations.
Perhaps the most telling comment came last winter at a meeting of the Diocese's Eastern Deanery. A Native American delegate stood and said, "We need you to get your spiritual message back. We have our traditional religion, and can go back to that. You send us priests who want to do scholarship funds, but we have tribal government money for that. We need Vicars who want to bring the Christian message."
He received a smattering of polite applause and some throat clearing. The meeting then turned back to a discussion of what properties might be sold to fund Diocesan needs.