A Few Questions & Answers about Dayspring Church


Do you have to be Native American to attend Dayspring Native American UMC?

No. We welcome people of all races and ethnicities.

What is your worship service like?

Please go to our “What to Expect” page to get more information.

What Native American tribe are you from? 

The people of Dayspring Native American UMC are a blend of many different races and ethnicities. Some of the Native American traditions we practice are those that were handed down to us by the founders of our church while others were received and accepted by our elders and council members at a later time. We are open to making changes within our church as long as those changes follow our mission statement, “sharing the love of Jesus Christ through Native American traditions, spirituality, and culture.” 

How can you be both Native American and Christian?
People of other ancestries are not asked to give up their heritages in order to be Christian, and it actually even sounds odd to suggest that a person cannot be a German Christian or a Mexican Christian or an Italian Christian (to name just a few). The truth is that one’s ancestry has little to do with whether that person can or cannot also be a Christian. So, yes, not only is it possible to be both Native American and Christian at the same time, we also take great joy in employing Native American traditions in our worship of Christ.

Do you believe in God as a Trinity?

At Dayspring Native American UMC, as in many other Christian churches, we believe in one God who chooses to take on the form of 3 different entities, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We call that the Trinity. When we pray we are praying to one God, but we relate to that one God according to the type of relationship we need in the moment. Sometimes you might need to talk to God like you would a dad. Sometimes you need a brother like Jesus to understand your situation. Sometimes you need an inner Holy Spirit to influence and guide you. 

We also sometimes refer to God as Great Spirit, Creator, Grandfather, Great One, or some other name that connects into our particular relationship need in that moment. Just as the Bible calls God by many names including Wonderful Counselor, Bread of Life, Prince of Peace, and Everlasting Father, we don’t limit God to just one name or another. 

What is a 4 directions prayer and who are praying to when you do it? 

The 4 directions prayer is a prayer that begins with us facing each of the four cardinal directions to pray. This is a special prayer that our prayer warrior does before beginning a sage smudge and that we do as a congregation on special occasions. 

God is found everywhere, so you might say that God is in each of those directions as well. Each direction will symbolize something different for us, so it reminds us of what to pray for so we don’t forget anything important. For example: East=beginnings, South=learning, West=balance, North=wisdom, Down=all of creation, Up=universe, In=humility.

Do you smoke a peace pipe?

What many people call a “peace pipe” we call a “prayer pipe” because it is used in prayer to unite people for more than just peace. On very special occasions we will smoke a prayer pipe, but this doesn’t happen very often and usually only with people we know well.

What is a sage smudge?

Burning sage is used for prayers of preparation before going in to worship. The way that we practice this tradition is to go outside and have the selected prayer warrior light the sage in a shell. After his/her preliminary prayers (see 4 directions prayer) s/he will pray over each individual from head to toe, front to back while pushing the sage smoke over the person with a feather or feather fan. Although it is usual for us to prepare for worship in this way, it is not required. People with breathing difficulties may substitute a water blessing (click here) for the sage smudge.

What is a water blessing?

For many Native tribes water is considered sacred because it is life-giving and life-sustaining.  Praying with water is also an important daily ritual for many and is especially important prior to doing something that is sacred. Our water blessing station in the northwest corner of our Great Room makes it possible for people to privately engage in this prayer practice. A separate, more public water blessing station is provided for our use prior to Holy Communion. 

For private water blessing prayers, using the basin and water-filled pitcher, a person pours water over and into one hand, shares the water into the other hand and then prays for God’s presence, forgiveness, and blessing in preparation for worship. Wet hands may be brought to the face, shoulders, arms, or other parts of one’s body while the prayer is being offered. When the weather is too cold or windy to allow for a sage smudge, everyone is encouraged to use the water blessing station to prepare for worship. 

What languages are the drum members singing?

Some of the songs are sung are in Native languages including Oneida, Cherokee, Kanien’kéha (Mohawk), and Tihanama. The songs also use Hebrew and English words. Please feel free to ask the singers about their songs after the service is over. 

Many of our songs, however, utilize what we call “vocables.” That means that rather than words they are using syllables that carry the tune and have no real meaning. It’s sort of like singing “la, la, la” in English. The vocables reflect the thoughts and emotions of both the singers and the listeners. By way of the songs, the singers collect the unworded prayers of the people and express them through music to Creator.  

Why are there only men beating the large center drum?

At Dayspring Native American UMC our men’s Spirit Drum follows an age-old tradition of having only men in the center circle beating out the rhythms of the prayer songs. However, the women who form a circle around the men and sing with them provide spiritual strength and prayer support for them and are considered to be as much a part of the drum circle as the men. The “Men-Only Tradition” of the men’s drum is a way to walk in balance and harmony. Women feel heartbeat in pregnancy and give birth to life. To keep things in balance, men were gifted the role of feeling the heartbeat of the drum and giving birth to the prayers of the people.

Do women ever beat the large center drum?

Women never touch or beat the men’s Spirit Drum, which we have dedicated to the exclusive use of men. However, Dayspring Native American UMC has a second drum – a women’s drum – that was born out of the desire to have a large center drum in the circle for our worship services when the men’s drum is traveling. This second drum is much smaller than the men’s Spirit Drum and, because it is dedicated to the exclusive use of women, men don’t sit at or even touch that drum. Most of the songs that the two drums sing are different from each other.

Why do you worship in a circle?

Everything that is important in life happens in a circle: the earth, sun, moon, seasons, hugs, kisses. Once completed, a circle has no beginning or end, and everyone on the circle is equally important. By worshiping “in the round” we are demonstrating that all of us are equal before Creator. No one is more important than another. We can also see each other’s faces for sharing celebrations and concerns, and hear each other better when we talk. When we pray with drum song, we celebrate and dance together in a circle and focus our hearts together. All this is possible because of the circle. 

Do you celebrate Christmas and Easter?

Yes, we celebrate both Christmas and Easter. We don’t actually know the exact date of the birth or resurrection of Jesus, so we celebrate it on the same date as many other Christian churches – Christmas on December 25, and Easter on the 1st Sunday after the 1st full moon after the March equinox. 

Do you celebrate Thanksgiving?

The first “thanksgiving” celebrated with the Wampanoag people and the Plymouth colonists took place after harvest in 1621, which means it probably didn’t happen on the third Thursday of November. Even so, Dayspring hosts a Thanksgiving day feast every year for friends and family. Like many other people, we serve turkey, casseroles, and pumpkin pie, even though we know that venison, and not turkey, was more likely a part of the first harvest feast. (We eat the turkey anyway because it’s a lot easier to find and fix than deer meat.)

Do you believe in the Bible?

We believe that the Bible is the story of God and God’s interactions with a certain group of tribal people and the interactions of those people with each other. 

We believe that the Bible is the Word of God, and that it teaches us about who God is, how God feels about humans, and what God wants for humans. 

We believe that the Bible teaches great lessons about how humans are and how to be relationship with each other. By reading of the mistakes and successes of other humans we can learn much about ourselves. 

We believe that God doesn’t change, so the stories we read in the Bible are still relevant to us today. 

Why is there a cross in your church?

We have a cross hanging in our church because we are Christian people who believe that Jesus is both God and the Son of God who lived, died, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven to return to God. The cross symbolizes our Christian belief.

What is a friendship dance?

After the initial strike of the drum, prayer, and the song that calls us to worship, we form a human, hand-holding circle around the drum. Then we do a simple 2-step dance moving clockwise around the drum while the singers sing and strike a moderately paced heartbeat on it. Everyone is welcome to join us in the dance, but no one is obligated.

What is a prayer tie?

A prayer tie is another traditional Native American way to pray. We take a small square piece of cotton cloth and place tobacco in the center, gather the 4 corners up together, and tie a cotton string to form a bundle. While making tie, prayers are said for the person or situation that needs them. Once completed, the prayer tie the one who made the it may choose what to do with it. Some of the options include 

- giving it away to the one for whom the prayers were said, 

- burning it, 

- hanging it in a tree or bush until it disintegrates naturally, 

- destroying it by releasing the tobacco to the earth. 

When the prayer tie is burned or the tobacco is released to the earth, it signifies to us that we are fully accepting whatever answer Creator has given, even if that answer is not what we had hoped to receive.

What is a Spirit fire?

On very special occasions, when we have deep need for prayers of thanksgiving, intercession, or unity, we light a Spirit Fire on our grounds in a fire circle that has been dedicated to that special use. The Spirit Fire will remain burning and tended for 96 hours (four 24-hour periods) during which time prayers will be said and visitors may stop by at anytime day or night to pray with the firekeeper and fire tenders (assistants). A trained firekeeper is responsible for the fire and making sure that it remains lit the entire time and must also be certain that the fire tenders who are assisting with the task are trained and prepared for the task. No alcohol, drugs, abusive language, fighting, or anger is permitted around or near the Spirit Fire. Firekeepers and their assistants (fire tenders) must also be substance free for 4 days prior to their time at the Spirit Fire.