Standing Rock church celebrate opening of new church after arson

The people of St. James Episcopal Church on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in Cannon Ball, N. D.,opened a new church on Sunday. In her story for Episcopal News Service, Mary Frances Schjonberg describes a joyous celebration, then writes of the difficult past:

The scene was a far cry from the night of July 25, 2012, the Feast of St. James, as an arson fire tore through the wooden church building and guild hall.

Phoenix Martinez, 19, pleaded guilty to a charge of arson and was sentenced Sept. 30 to three years and four months in federal prison, to be followed by five years of supervised release. He was ordered to pay restitution of $354,100.

The sole visible reminder of that night is the cross that hangs in front of a star quilt above the pulpit. It is made of two rugged and charred pieces of timber from the floor of the St. James Guild Hall, the only wood that was not reduced to ashes in the fire.

“It feels like a homecoming,” said Senior Warden Florestine Grant before the service began. “We’re dreaming about the things we can do here for the children, for the elders and for the culture.”

Bonnie Anderson, former president of the House of Deputies, helped raise the money to build the new church. There is video, at the link above of a sermon given by the Rev. Terry Star, a deacon who grew up in St. James and is a seminarian at Nashotah House and a member of Executive Council.

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