Tim Nafziger (he/him) is a Mennonite writer who lives in the Ventura River watershed on the traditional lands of the Chumash people in southern California. He is a member of Community Peacemaker Teams and The Coalition to Dismantle the Doctrine of Discovery, which calls the Christian church to address extinction, enslavement, and extraction on Indigenous lands. He has been engaging with digital communities and social justice movements for more than 20 years as an organizer and strategist. Tim thrives on writing poetry, cross-pollination, relationship building, and small teams working for change. He works as a digital engagement consultant and web developer at Congruity Works.
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Protecting Oak Flat Is a Defense of Religious Freedom
LONG-DISTANCE RUNNING has long been part of Apache traditional lifeways. For Wendsler Nosie Sr., it is a core expression of prayer and communion with the Earth.
In October 1990, the then 31-year-old tribal chair of the San Carlos Apache Reservation ran more than 60 miles in two days as prayerful resistance to the destruction of sacred sites at Mount Graham in Arizona. Two years earlier, Sen. John McCain had turned over Mount Graham to the University of Arizona to install telescopes. Nosie’s prayer run was part of a wider Apache and environmentalist movement to stop destruction of the mountain for the observatory project.
Nosie also was promoting a revival of his traditional Apache spirituality. The prayer run helped him “realize so much about our identity, where we originated and the sacredness of what makes us who we are.” Nosie went on to establish Apaches for Cultural Preservation and the Spirit of Mountain Runners, hosting twice-yearly community prayer runs. Grounded in ceremony, these runs begin at the site of the prison camp where the U.S. Army held Nosie’s ancestors in the 1890s. The destination of the summer run is Mount Graham; in winter, it is Oak Flat, another sacred site.
Oak Flat (Chi’chil Biłdagoteel) is a high desert valley in the mountains east of Phoenix, roughly 2,400 acres of federal land in Tonto National Forest that is sacred to Native Americans. Its fresh springs nurture oaks, making it a traditional acorn-gathering site for the Apache, and its canyons are lush with medicinal plants. The Apache have held ceremonies here for centuries. Nosie speaks reverently about Oak Flat as a place where his people have conversations with angels.
A Carnival of Creation
First started in 2013, the Carnival de Resistance is a traveling arts carnival using dance, music, participatory theater, and fire performance to recover the ecological themes in the gospels and the Hebrew scriptures. During the carnival, midway games, costumed characters, and theater performance under the big top "enchant people of all ages with a holy wildness that questions faith in progress and technology."
Cynicism, Hope, Discipleship, and Democracy
How do we live out God's call to prophetic witness in an apathetic and disempowered society? How can we learn from others who have remained faithful to Jesus' radical call in the midst of failure?
These don't sound like the questions you'd expect to be hearing from a van full of exhausted young adults on a 12-hour drive back from Washington, D.C.
But last March, that's exactly what happened to a group of us from Living Water Community and Reba Place Church in Chicago on our way [...]