Church mouse: Episcopal Church of the Messiah

Episcopal Church of the Messiah is located at 1760 Chakya St., Welch, Minn.

There’s a church listed on the worship directory in the paper with the same ZIP code as where I lived for 20 years, but I’ve never been to it.

I put the address in the navigational feature on my phone and was blithely following directions to the Episcopal Church of the Messiah as provided by the mechanical voice when all of a sudden I hit the brakes. Backing up a few feet, I looked at the sign that said “warning.” I was about to trespass on tribal property. I literally repented a.k.a. turned around.

Continuing driving around the loop on Prairie Island, I had some sense of where to look in hopes of seeing the structure. I spotted it, as well as a wild turkey strolling along the tracks. (Note to self: look out the window if/when taking Amtrak to St. Paul.)

It looked well tended as I gazed upon it from afar. A brief thank you to the caretakers was one of the few things I’d found on public media. I did eventually see one picture of the interior with bright colored patterns out of geometric shapes on the white altar cloth and matching wall hangings.

I thought of the white buffalo statue I’d seen in Mankato. First I was delighted when I saw it — then I was horrified to learn of the systematic killing of dozens of Dakota done there by the U.S. government.

Recalling something I’d seen online about interpretive signage recently installed at the base of the bluff in Red Wing — along with positive commentary by the local Indian Community about the well-regarded process and impressive results — I made my way over there. It wasn’t quite where I’d anticipated. I had to go a little bit farther to find something previously unseen.

With my umbrella open overhead in a light drizzle after hearing thunder earlier, I pressed the button to hear the spoken language corresponding to the Dakota text. I stood quietly and listened.

Some edges of the signs look like gray tree bark. Some have decorative metalwork. There are lots of bright colors. A new stairway has been built. Flowering trees have been planted. There are cut stones upon which to sit. The outline of the circle quadrants is yet to be filled in — presumably with the same symbolic colors as those next to the little silver push buttons.

I’m now inspired to watch for wild hyssop as shown in an artist’s rendition. I wonder if any is ever taken into the church building. 

As a life lesson, I might seek to remind myself — if you go a little bit farther, there can be a new way up.

Kate Josephson worked as a church secretary in Red Wing. She seeks out religious experiences wherever she goes.

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