By: Diana Small
Mac is a healer and fighter for justice with a beautiful laugh. Mac hosted me in her apartment on the campus of Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary to share with me a little about herself and her participation in Church Lab. As a newcomer to Church Lab myself, I asked Mac to tell it to me straight, giving me and readers the opportunity to learn about the Who and What behind this unusual interfaith group.
“What I see in Church Lab is a lot of people who have a closer understanding of the beauty in the others around them who may see the world in different ways. They’re not only taking away something that they’re learning from that person, but they’re also somebody who’s going to be standing alongside them when they need a friend.”
When Mac moved to Texas from New Mexico, she was shocked and distressed over the lack of attention contemporary Native American culture and history received in the state. Now a graduate student at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Mac works to raise awareness about Native American culture, history and current events. (Right now that means supporting the Dakota Access Pipeline protests happening in North Dakota, and getting other folks on board to help.)
Mac is a pastoral counselor, social activist, storyteller, theologian, filmmaker, and the list goes on and on.
“I try to speak the language of the people I’m working with. I can speak fundamentalist Christian, I can speak Islam, I can speak Judaism…Not as well as a native speaker, but I do have an appreciation for a lot of different kinds of traditions.”
Mac was raised in two emphatically pagan traditions herself. Her father is Northern Cheyenne and Lakota and Mac’s mother is a Scottish immigrant who practiced ancient pagan religion. When Mac decided to attend the College of Santa Fe, a Jesuit school, to study religion and pastoral counseling, her parents’ could not wrap their minds around their daughter’s decision.
“They told their friends I was studying to be a teacher, they were so embarrassed!”
With her degrees in religion and counseling, Mac’s worked as a counselor for intergenerational trauma before it had a clinical name. Her father grew-up in an abusive Presbyterian-run Native American boarding school and this influenced Mac’s desire to help others heal from their abusive histories. The intersection Mac has found in Church Lab has been meeting members from other faith groups that are also navigating intergenerational trauma including refugees, multi-generational homeless families, and multi-generational marginalized families of color.
“The members of Church Lab are very gracious and open-hearted. People are able to talk about what they believe and, my impression is, it goes-off something that native people believe very strongly in: You cannot hate someone you know. The more you develop friendships with people, the harder it is to see them as ‘the other.’”
Investing in intergenerational trauma has even nurtured within Mac a greater sense of empathy and compassion for her father, having a better understanding of how his trauma shaped him.
Now back in school, Mac’s a part of creating the first ever Native American Student Group at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary to educate her classmates and future pastors in Native American culture, with the hopes of creating more allies for Native Americans.
“In order to be an ally, you really have to love someone enough that you don’t want anything bad to happen to them. That means you have to get to know them. Make a friend!”
To get to know some of Mac’s better, here’s some films and books she recommends:
The Wind is My Mother by Bear Heart with Molly Larkin
Thirty Days on an Indian Reservation by Morgan Spurlock
Dakota 38 by Smooth Feather Productions