This is the name of an indigenous village in southern Alaska, where in the 17th Century, Russian Orthodox monks served as missionaries. The village lies on an inlet of the Pacific near glaciers. I have included a picture of the older church, (partially obscured, on the left), the newer building, and a series of small structures, the size of doghouses, in the cemetery in the foreground. These were a carry-over from pagan, pre-Christian times, when such small homes were built for deceased ancestors in their burial grounds. As a missionary, I heard of similar mini-homes for ancestors in the front yards of the homes on Wahaya in east Africa.
No subject finds more interest than the question how to put mission at the center of theology. And what exactly is meant by mission? One important part of the answer is found in the Eklutna graveyard. There the monks followed the advice of Pope Gregory, as recorded in the Venerable Bede: tear down their temples and build your churches on the same sites. Therein is comprised the complex and intimate relation of Christ and culture. What if every relation ought to involve some simultaneous tearing down and building up? Those native people were asked to leave their own faith, but at the same time to find homes for their dead in the confines of the communion of the saints. What would it mean for us rightly to tear down and build up? Answering this is an unavoidable part of deciphering the missional' in our own time and space.