By Angela Davis

NEWPORT, Minn. (WCCO) — Leaders of the United Methodist Church in Minnesota have agreed to return a sacred rock to a place that is sacred to the Dakota people.

The large “Red Rock” rests in front of Newport United Methodist Church. It was moved from its natural site along the banks of the Mississippi River in the late 1800s by a church missionary.

In 1964, it was placed at its current location.

Stephanie Hope Smith is a mediator who’s helping the two groups work together.

“Sacred sites are all around us for different traditions and different cultures,” she said. “For the Dakota, this is one of their sacred objects.”

The idea of having the rock returned to a local sacred site is something spiritual leaders of the Dakota people and leaders of the United Methodist Church have talked about for years.

One possibility is a site within the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary in St. Paul.

“So the idea of being able to go back to a sacred site locally, from the general area where it came from, that is one of the ideas being brought forward,” Smith said.

The Rev. Linda Gesling, the pastor of Newport United Methodist Church, says sometimes people come to visit the rock where it currently stands.

“They will stand quietly by the rock,” she said. “They will sometimes bring gifts.”

She says church members treat the rock with respect.

“The congregation, I think, views themselves as stewards of the rock, that it is on their property but not theirs forever and ever,” she said.

A timeline and location for the move have not been agreed on yet.

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