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Southwest Orange Wednesday, Sep. 29, 2021 1 month ago

Sacred space

Windermere Union Church hosted a Native American Sunday service to promote respect and understanding through worship.
by: Jim Carchidi Associate Editor
Retired United Church of Christ minister David Houseal led the service.

Windermere Union Church held a special service Sept. 26 to celebrate the spirituality of ancient cultures while spotlighting a special segment of its own congregation.

Native American Sunday incorporated the prayers, hymns and artifacts of different tribes in a first-of-its-kind worship service for the local ministry.

“We have had a group, going on three years now, that focuses on Native American spirituality, and it just adopted the name, Windsong,” retired United Church of Christ minister David Houseal said. “A number of months ago, we started having, on a monthly basis, a time during the worship service when we would have a Native American prayer. But this is the first time where the whole service is focused around native culture and native spirituality.”

“There’s a lot to be learned; it’s very relevant.Especially the need to take care of the earth and respect nature.”

— Gail Engelking


Houseal led the service and has been passionate about Native American culture since his teenage years. 

“I became very active in Boy Scouts and started building costumes and studying the culture.” he said. “When I retired, it allowed me to spend a lot more time studying. … I follow a Native American path for myself.”

Gail and Fred Engelking inspect Native American artifacts displayed for the service.

Members of the congregation were invited to inspect Native American artifacts on display at the front of the sanctuary. The service included an Aztec prayer, titled “A Call to the Spirit,” and Houseal spoke of the struggles for survival, endured by every tribe. Gentile drum beats and a flute accompanied the congregation as they sang “The Dakota Hymn” which dates back to 1862 and was sung by 38 Dakota men as they were lead to the gallows.

A wolf fetish, displayed for the service, was sculpted by the Zuni people of New Mexico.

Houseal was joined by nationally known feng shui master and medicine woman, Melinda Joy Miller, for The Path of Directions; a visitation to nine bags of stones that hang in the sanctuary and represent sacred spiritual practices. East represents inspiration, clarity and growth. South is love, trust and communication. West represents ancestors, along with honor and achievement. North is wisdom, gratitude and unity. Above and Below represent sky and earth, respectively. Within represents truth while the direction of Peace is wholeness, and Love is a direction of energy.

“The sacred principals represented in each direction serve as a guide,” Miller said. “The stones are held in bags. I refer to them as blessings bags, because they are a kind of blessing in what they have to offer.”

“There’s a lot to be learned; it’s very relevant,” congregation member Gail Engelking said of the service. “Especially the need to take care of the earth and respect nature.”

Future plans for Native American observances at Windermere Union Church are also in the works; A “blanket exercise” symbolizes the relocation of native people by having the congregation gather on a field of blankets that are removed, one-by-one. A “giveaway” encourages families to bring personal items that can be taken by other families as a means of sharing and strengthening the community.


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Jim Carchidi is an associate editor for the West Orange Times & Observer, Southwest Orange Observer and He has more than two decades of journalism experience in Central Florida, including positions at the Orlando Sentinel and the Orlando Business Journal. He holds a...

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