Since I was a young child, I’ve heard people say, “March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.”
As I grew older, I realized that was not necessarily true. The child in me still wants to believe that March is going to end with calm weather, like a docile lamb. I can only hope that the weather cooperates in that manner.
The first day of spring this year is March 20, which corresponds with the time of year that Citizen Potawatomi Nation begins various outdoor activities and general outdoor preparation for the Family Reunion Festival.
CPN already has a wedding planned for our Mission Church in March. No doubt, there will be other weddings to follow. We have up to five weddings in our Mission Church during a year. Our beautiful church is mainly set aside for Festival with the exception of a few special events like weddings, memorial services or receptions, and all are very important to our Tribal members and employees. Recently, we had a memorial service for a longtime resident of Father Joseph Murphy. The Mission Church is a perfect setting for events that require seating for up to 50 to 60 attendees. Anything over that number is extremely crowded, and even with 60 people, the seating is rather close.
I am trying to gather as much modern history about the church as I can. My reference to modern history is mainly what structurally has occurred to the church building. I want to get the upgrades to the church documented so we can keep an active file in Tribal archives at the Cultural Heritage Center.
During the late 1980s, the church was completely renovated. At that time, the building was sitting on logs for the foundation. Although the church was stripped down almost completely, the contractors made every effort to preserve the building’s original form, features and character.
The building was leveled and restored with a new foundation, roof, siding, reconstruction of pine floors and heating and air conditioning. The extensive pine on the inside of the original church was replaced with beautiful, new pine on the walls, ceiling and floors. The windows were kept intact, as was the west door, but the past 30 years of Oklahoma weather has not been kind to the building.
Since the 1980s reconstruction, we installed wood flooring and updated the men’s and women’s restrooms in 2006. The windows were replaced three years ago in a supreme effort to capture the original appearance as near as possible. We had new lighting and a new heating and air conditioning unit installed two springs ago in preparation for Festival time.
The original pews were refurbished in the 1980s and have been worked on since then. You can imagine the wear and tear on pews well over 100 years old.
The main entrance is limited to the east door to avoid stress on the original door on the west side. Both the inside and the outside of the church building are beautiful. As you walk inside, the ambiance readily demands respect, as you can almost feel the well-over 100 years of past worship in the vintage church.
The Shawnee Mission was established in 1871. The Society of Friends opened it for the Absentee Shawnee, with Christian work continuing for 53 years among all Indian tribes living in the area. The first log house of the Mission was replaced by the present church building in 1885. CPN archives are still collecting data on the Mission Church.
I hope you enjoy this depiction of our Mission Church. I will bring you more information about it during 2018. The glory about what I consider modern history is that we know all of the contractors’ names that have worked on the church since the 1980s. We have employees within construction trades departments who have worked diligently and caringly on the building. We know them by name and are in the process of getting all the information documented. If you have never been in the CPN Mission Church, please make plans to visit the next time you are in Shawnee.
(Black Bird Woman)