An Act of Holy Remembrance

Recently after reading a letter from the ELCA American Indian/Alaska Native Assoc., the NC Synod Council approved a motion to engage in this sacred remembrance on Sept. 30.

September 24, 2021 |

Dear North Carolina Synod,

At its September meeting, the North Carolina Synod Council read from the letter shared by the ELCA American Indian/Alaska Native Association. The letter, dated July 23, 2021 reads:

“We speak to you all today on behalf of the Indigenous people throughout North Americas. We come with sad hearts at the news of 215+ children of the Kamloops Residential School whose remains were recently found in a mass grave and of the children of the Rosebud Sioux whose bodies were returned to their homeland this past week.

They are being remembered by many by the color orange. The color orange is symbolic and came from the inspiration of a survivor of that era, Phyllis Webstad, who stated that when she was a 6-year-old girl arriving at a residential boarding school, she was stripped of her clothes which included a new orange t-shirt her grandmother had gifted her and was never given back. The orange shirt/color now symbolizes how the church and the schools they administered took away the Indigenous identity of the children in their care.

In honor and memory of the children of the First Nations people and of our Native children who never made it home, and for those still living the nightmare imposed on them as children of Canada and the United States we humbly ask our brothers and sisters of the church to hang an orange banner in the sanctuaries of your churches for 225 days. In remembrance and lament of each child that was thrown into those graves, and those yet to be discovered we honor each of their lives.

Please grieve with us and remember us as the Indigenous people of this land who are going through a very sad and heartbreaking time in our collective psyche. We invite all our Christian brothers and sisters, in solidarity with us, to honor all our First Nations and our Native children that never made it out of residential schools by hanging an orange banner for 225 days.”

Our synod council reviewed the letter and approved a motion from leaders across our synod to engage in this sacred remembrance—and to continue to take steps of lamentation, confession, reconciliation, and healing.

Beginning Thursday, September 30, the day when many will wear orange to remember, we too will be wearing orange and draping the synod office chapel with orange fabric.

Will you join us? Join us in draping this fabric, not out of obligation or guilt, but as a sacred remembrance. Make space in your sanctuaries for the memory of children lost far too soon in traumatic and unjust ways. Make space in your sanctuaries for pieces of orange fabric as a commitment to healing with our First Nations siblings.

Orange fabric is only one step in our journey together to honor and heal relationships with our native siblings. Join us in this step. We will continue to share other ways you can grow including making a land acknowledgment, contributing to the AROC Fund of the synod that will support the ongoing work of Living Waters, Cherokee, and lifting up advocacy opportunities in your local community.

Walking with you,


Diana Haywood, Vice-President, North Carolina Synod Council

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Additional Content

Pastor Jack Russell of Living Waters, Cherokee, a survivor of boarding schools himself, powerfully shares his own story and the ways residential schools took the lives of so many children. Hear from Pastor Jack why it matters that his Lutheran siblings around the synod recognize the lives lost and tell this part of history truthfully.

Pastor Jack serves Living Waters Lutheran Mission—the only First Nations mission congregation of the ELCA east of the Mississippi River.

Watch “Sacred Remembering with Pastor Jack.”

Read the full letter from the ELCA American Indian/Alaska Native Association.

Learn more about the Orange Shirt Day Movement.

Use this Prayer for the Children Who Didn’t Return Home.

Learn how your congregation can make a land acknowledgment.

Read Living Lutheran’s Bishop Eaton, other Churches Beyond Borders leaders issue letter on Doctrine of Discovery.

Give to the All Races, One Church Fund of the NC Synod.

Read the Special e-News of September 24, 2021, “An Act of Holy Remembrance.”

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