I was privy to a conversation today in which the Mission at Hogback came up for discussion briefly. Not that you would know anything about Hogback, but it’s funny how I have been thinking about it recently. Here’s my experience with Hogback:
When I was a teenager, my home church was the Cortez Church of Christ in Cortez, Colorado. I quickly became disenchanted with church in general in those years and pretty much quit attending. My dad, though, was a devoted member and former minister trained in preaching for the Churches of Christ. But that Cortez church – well, I don’t want to run the place down unnecessarily… and besides, there are enough fingers to point at both myself and my family as well as that church.
But here’s the thing: Even though Cortez sits right on the knife’s edge of Native American “Indian” country, the church I grew up in was about 99.9% Anglo. Visitors from all over the country would vacation in Colorado and often visit our church. They would sometimes ask, “Where are the Indians?” And invariably a good brother would inform the visitor, “We have a mission for them down at Hogback.” That generally was enough to satisfy the meager inquiry.
But it fueled my criticism.
Don’t hold me to the dates on this, but Cortez Church of Christ had effectively started that church down at Hogback probably before I was born. Sometime in the 70’s we donated the old rickety pews from the Cortez auditorium to the mission church at Hogback. We donated old wore out songbooks and Bibles too. Spent decades patting ourselves on the back for those things. As I recall sometime in the late 80’s our bunch participated in a joint mission with other churches to build a baptistery for the “Indians” at Hogback. As I recall, that effort did get a lot of self-pat-on-the-back.
But then my dad got kicked out of the church in Cortez amid some other completely unrelated controversy. Something he said there was not agreeable, it seemed. One night at church right in front of the congregants, one of the church leaders ordered my dad to get out. It was stunning.
I am sure there was a lot of stuff under the surface packed up in that event that I do not know. But this I do know: Dad looked around for a church to attend and found the bunch down at Hogback. He began attending there. And the funny thing is that no one at the Cortez church seemed to notice or care really. Dad began making the forty-some-odd mile trip every Sunday to worship with the Navajo church.
And I went with him.
And this is the part of the story that is important to my blog: I see that as a prophetic moment in my life. It was like a training day for where I have been since. My dad took me on his own little mission to Hogback, a place you probably never heard of – a place that when I googled it did not seem to have its own website. And there is the group of people that the larger Anglo (more legit) church managed to take credit for without getting too close.
We sat on those rickety pews. We sang from those ratty songbooks. We warmed ourselves by the wood stove in the middle of the sanctuary. We worshipped with the humble “Indians” who functionally did not experience authentic welcome at the Anglo church 40 miles up the road.
That story has helped shape me and set me on the prophetic path I take today.