Return to Navojoland

Cathedral group returns to Navajoland after long absence

By David Thomson and John Grate


After more than a decade-long absence, a team from Christ Church Cathedral’s Native American Council will be returning to Navajoland July 7. The team plans to offer Vacation Bible School and work on a construction project at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Coalmine, New Mexico.

The Vacation Bible School leaders will focus on biblical miracles and teach leather-working as a craft project. The construction crew plans to install a wide exterior door in one of the rooms of the church to permit easier access for funeral caskets, complete roof repairs and relocate playground equipment.

Canyon de Chelly

Canyon de Chelly

In addition to the work at St. Mark’s, the team will be building internal as well as external relationships as a future cathedral resource. They will have opportunities to enjoy Navajo cultural events on several evenings and to explore the scenic beauty of Canyon de Chelly.

Members of the team planning to make the trip include Martha and Ray Earls, Alex Koepke, Lisa and Steve Lemen, Judi and Olivia Stoker, Michael Thompson and David Thomson. During their stay, they will stay at the old vicarage on the grounds of Good Shepherd Mission and will be responsible for their own cooking and cleaning. The team plans to blog daily about their experience so that others may share in their experience (Read the blog) and to offer a presentation to the congregation in the fall that will cover their mission work in more detail.

Team member Olivia Stoker says, “I’m excited to do something that’s different from my traditional church experience.” Michael Thompson adds, “I want to immerse (myself) as (much) as I can in a few days in the Navajo culture, music and language. I definitely know I will learn far more than I can possibly give.”

For team leader David Thomson, the trip will be a homecoming, what he calls “a true gift to be among his Navajo ‘family’ once again and experience the deep spirituality of this special culture.”

The Rev. Chan Osborn de Anaya

The Rev. Chan Osborn de Anaya

The Episcopal Church in Navajoland is based in the southeast region of Navajoland and consists of the Good Shepherd Mission, St. Mark’s Church and St. Joseph’s Church. Good Shepherd is located in Ft. Defiance in eastern Arizona, near the New Mexico border, and includes a beautiful church and other buildings that serve as a resource to the Navajo community. The Rev. Chan Osborn de Anaya is the rector. She also oversees St. Mark’s and St. Joseph’s. The sanctuary at St. Mark’s in Coalmine, New Mexico, serves as a gathering place along the Arizona-New Mexico border. The house church of St. Joseph’s in Many Farms, Arizona, serves those who live in the more remote areas of Navajoland.

*Yatahe is the traditional Navajo greeting meaning hello or welcome.

David Thomson and John Grate are members of Christ Church Cathedral and serve on the cathedral’s Native American Council.