My Spiritual Journey
By Robert Patton
When we were born our Creator set us out on journey. Each one of us was given our own special path. As we set out, we encounter many great moments of beauty and distractions along the way. Each one teaches us, we learn of the world around us, of the joys and the beauty and the struggles placed before us. Sometimes the biggest lessons are the mistakes. We must always walk with our Creator by our side. We must always have an attentive ear, listening for our Creators voice to gently guide us and have the faith He is with us always on this journey.
I want to tell you a story of my nearly eight decades long journey and I had fun along the way. Sometimes I didn’t listen too much.
We grew up on a farm with a mother who always had faith and love for our Creator. She taught us all about the bible and its teachings, about the great gifts our God gave to us and to be always thankful for these blessings. We lived a couple miles from the village. I remember the long walks to town with my brothers and sisters to go to Sunday school and later church. I thank my mother for the love we were given. My father was an Ironworker who worked away in New York City. He was hard worker and so taught us, sometimes tough, but we all learned great lessons that has carried us all our lives and we are so thankful for his love and teachings.
I have spent my life trying always to hear God’s voice. I was always active in our United Church here in Kahnawake.
A long time ago I became friends with a young minister nearing the end of his studies towards his ordination, we became close. One day he’s asked if I ‘d be interested in taking classes on a Shared ministry program in the city. It lasted for 8 weeks. It was put on by teachers from McGill university. I loved it, now this was over 40 years ago. I learned so much and was so excited of my new knowledge and kept dreaming of going further.
I heard the call but, I had a young family and had a good job in the city as an Elevator Installer and travelled quite a bit, and for some years in the United States. Still my dream was becoming a Minister in the Church. Again, I was tapped on the shoulder.
One day my friend – a student Minister in our community — came to show me papers about a special consultation on ministry in our Indigenous communities across the country. He asked if I would be interested to go to White Bear Saskatchewan to attend the First Consultation on Native Ministry. I heard and followed.
I had never done anything like this before. That was in 1980. It changed my life. I met many native people from all different nations. I had never met another Onkwehonwe (Indigenous) person from different nations. I learned so much when I listened to their stories, their language, their legends, cultures. I saw their love of our Creator. I heard how important the Creator was in everything we did. God was a part of every part of our lives. Church was central. I was amazed with the teaching of the Elders and how important they were in the daily lives of the community. My life was transformed I heard the spirit. But I also heard of the struggles they all had — of racism, of residential schools and of the abuse they suffered, which lead to alcoholism, and poverty.
One of my friends said “Bob, I remember you when you were so angry”. I too experienced the racism and discrimination. That was the beginning of learning about our Onkwehonwe United Church. Since, that time, throughout all these years, this was my university course. I’ve now spent 40 years working and learning about our people and their struggles for justice and acceptance. I have worked on so many committees over the years and this became my other life.
Through my work, my engagement, and my relations, I got to love the Church and my Onkwehonwe community of faith. I loved being a part of Native Ministry. I was on the Training for Ministry Committee of the United Church for quite a few years. Seeing people begin their training and finishing and on to their ordination inspired me. Along the way my dream of becoming a Minster also remained with me. In 1992 many of my friends in the Indigenous Church, those people who were close to me urged me to begin seriously on this path.
At the time, I said “OK!” I began to speak a more resounding yes. I was so excited. This was the biggest decision of my life. And then everything stopped. I thought my family was with me. But I failed to fill them in what was ahead for them. I only had my eye on what I wanted to do. My life’s bubble burst and it took me a while to straighten it out. I still had my dream. Sometimes as I watched my friends being ordained, it brought tears to my eyes because of my own lost dream.
Years past. I still had my dream. I retired from the elevator trade after thirty years and started a business here at home so I could be in my community. Like I said I ‘ve got a story. My business has been going for nearly thirty years. My body and mind told me to retire. I have been active here in Kahnawake in my church for all these years. A little over a year ago I was invited to a learning Circle at the Sandy-Saulteaux Spiritual Center in Beausejour, Manitoba . They invited me as an Elder to sit in on the learning circle. I loved it and I was asked If would like to be a potential student. I’ve be there for over a year. I feel young again and I’m learning so much. My journey continues. I was asked a couple of weeks ago if I would like continue on this journey by becoming a CDM (Congregational Designated Minister) here in Kahnawake. I was asked to make a decision. I said yes and I am so excited to continue on my journey again. Talking with some of my friends, they all support me and are happy for me. My church family is happy to hear, they are calling this good news and fully support me. In 1992, my mother was so happy to hear my calling to go into Ministry. Today, I know her spirit smiles and she knows I have heard God’s call.
Like I said many times, My Creator, “Sonkwaiatieson” is with me and gently pushing me along. I know He will be with me for as long as I am need and as long as I am able, be it 1 day, 1 month or 10 years. This has been my dream. Where will God lead me next? This I know….no matter he walks alongside with me.
Nia wen Kowa (A great big thank you in my language – Mohawk). Robert Patton