(Fort Washakie, WY) – On Saturday, June 3, from 11:00 am – 2:00 pm, the Episcopal Church in Wyoming will be holding the 2nd John Roberts Festival, in celebration of the life and ministry of the Rev. John Roberts, the Welsh-born Episcopal priest who served among the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes for 66 years (1883-1949).
It will be held at the Shoshone Episcopal Mission in Ft. Washakie, Wyoming on the Wind River Reservation.
As the tragedies of US Federal Indian boarding schools are coming to light, the life and work of the Rev. John Roberts stands out as an exemplary model of doing the opposite. As a missionary-priest, the Rev. Roberts was well ahead of his time, as he encouraged Native American expressions of spirituality and faith, embracing and honoring tribal culture and language, and traditional indigenous rituals and customs. He was a close friend to both Chief Washakie of the Eastern Shoshone and Chief Black Coal of the Northern Arapaho, performing both of their funerals.
In addition to his ministry on the Wind River Reservation, the Rev. Roberts founded all the Episcopal churches in Fremont County, within a 150-mile radius of where he served on the Wind River Reservation. The Rev. John Roberts lived a remarkable life and left a legacy that continues to have great influence today, both in Wyoming and internationally. Wyoming’s state flag is flown today at the Washington National Cathedral in his honor.
This 2nd John Roberts Festival will feature two special guests:
-John Washakie, the great grandson of Chief Washakie, a tribal elder and historian, will give a special address.
-The festival will also premier a magnificent new contemporary art exhibition commissioned by ArtSpirit, the arts initiative of the Episcopal Church in Wyoming, with the celebrated Irish artist Brian Whelan titled WHITE ROBE, that brings the Rev. John Robert’s ministry to life on canvas through 13 imaginative paintings. The artist Brian Whelan will be in attendance to share about his experience in painting the life story of the Rev. John Roberts. Following the exhibition’s premiere in Ft. Washakie, Wyoming, WHITE ROBE will embark on an international exhibition tour beginning at the Pioneer Museum in Lander, Wyoming. Following the multi-year tour, which will include Wales and England, the paintings will be on permanent display in Wyoming.
Beyond commemorating the extraordinary life, work and example of the Rev. John Roberts, the exhibition also draws attention to the importance of learning from the spirituality, culture and traditions of our Native American sisters and brothers.
The festival will also include a short prayer service of commemoration, with Native sacred drumming, Native flute, and cedaring of the paintings, before the exhibition begins a global tour.
The festival will end with a special “lunch feast” of native fare, followed by a dedication of the newly restored Mission House Chapel at Sacajawea’s Cemetery in Ft. Washakie, the oldest Episcopal Church in Wyoming. The Episcopal Church in Wyoming is a diverse community consisting of 50 churches and faith communities, as well as four Wisdom Centers, that are together committed to being an all-embracing spiritual home for everyone.
ArtSpirit is the arts initiative of the Episcopal Church in Wyoming, which explores and nurtures the relationship between spirituality and the arts, by developing, curating, coordinating and hosting artistic initiatives to stimulate discussion, dialogue and education, as well as spiritual exploration, toward enhancing our experience and understanding of both the Transcendent and of each other.