The annual Red Shirt Project, which takes young people from Los Angeles and other dioceses on a pilgrimage to work and learn with the Oglala-Lakota people of Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, will get an international dimension this year as the Rt. Rev. Don Tamihere, newly ordained bishop of Tairawhiti, the Maori homeland churches in New Zealand, plans to join the group.

The Rev. Michael Cunningham, rector of St. Mary’s Church, Lompoc, and co-leader of the Red Shirt Project, attended Tamihere’s ordination in March in New Zealand. Cunningham, who described the five-hour service as “awesome” and “glorious,” was there both as a friend of the new bishop and as a representative of Bishop J. Jon Bruno of Los Angeles.
“The connection between St. Mary’s in Lompoc, the Red Shirt Project and the church among the Maori people is clearly something that is Spirit-led,” said Cunningham, “and an amazing opportunity for both dioceses to explore the traditions and customs of the American church, the Maori church, and the traditions and customs of the Oglala/Lakota people of South Dakota.”

With the Red Shirt pilgrimage, Cunningham and Tamihere are beginning a partnership in ministry between the Maori diocese and the Diocese of Los Angeles “for a long time to come,” says Cunningham.

Tamihere will join the pilgrimage group of high school students when they leave St. Mary’s Church on June 18. The Red Shirt Project, along with Christ Church in the town of Red Shirt Table in the Pine Ridge Reservation, will host the 145th Niobrara Convocation, to be attended by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry. Twilla Two Bulls will be ordained to the diaconate during that event. Her brother, the Rev. Canon Robert Two Bulls Jr., has co-led the Red Shirt Project trips with Cunningham since they began 18 years ago. Her father, the Rev. Robert Two Bulls Sr., is the priest at Christ Church in Red Shirt Table.

The convocation won’t be the end of the young pilgrims’ responsibilities, Cunningham says. “Following that, we will host the fourth annual Red Shirt Community Wacipi (pow-wow) the weekend of June 30 – July 1, returning to Los Angeles on the fourth of July,” said Cunningham. “Bishop Don will stay for … Bishop Coadjutor-elect John Taylor’s ordination and consecration service on July 8.”

Fundraising has begun to support this year’s Red Shirt pilgrimage. “We have never charged any young person to go on the trip and never will,” says Cunningham. “We believe that the Spirit is leading us to a big expansion of the ministry between our dioceses, with the inclusion of the dioceses of Minnesota, South Dakota, and Wyoming working with our own diocese and now Tairawhiti.

Contributions may be made payable to Red Shirt Project and sent care of St. Mary’s Church, 2800 Harris Grade Road, Lompoc, CA 93436.