2 Corinthians 5:17–21; John 8:31–32
Speaking truth is an important spiritual practice for us as Christian people. Many of us grew up with a narrative about our country that did not tell the whole story – that either forgot or misrepresented the history of First Peoples and their pivotal role in the formation of this nation. Early European immigrants would not have survived without the wisdom, experience and generosity of those who were here when settlers first came to these shores. And yet over time we returned that hospitality with violence, racism, discrimination, and most terribly, genocide. Our tendency on a significant occasion such as a 150th anniversary is to want to focus on what is good and happy, but, as faithful people, we cannot stop there. We must acknowledge and lament the painful parts of our history, for many people in our nation have suffered and continue to suffer because of these actions and decisions. Jesus said, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” In letting our hearts break as we hear the truth, we can then move into the ministry of reconciliation to which we are called as followers of the Way of Jesus. Only through lament can we find the path to celebration and a better future. As Canadians, there are many values we hold dear: generosity, hospitality, inclusiveness, peacemaking, and sharing our resources. We must not rest until all Canadians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, receive the benefit of the abundance of this nation.
So today I wanted to share with you some words gathered by our former Moderator, David Guiliano, when he asked respected First Nations folk of the United Church of Canada what they want to say to their fellow Canadians on this Canada 150:
“One of our Gitxsan metaphors on life is ‘Dim amma gaadinqu mel.’ When your canoe runs aground or flips over, you have to right your canoe and continue the journey. The Canadian society has to right its societal canoe as a big step in reconciliation! Canada 150 is a good place to begin the journey together with us, the Aboriginals. Our churches have to blow the horn on reconciliation, just like Gabriel. This will go a long way in bringing down the walls of racism.”
Hereditary Chief Niis Noolth of the Fireweed/Grouse clan in Gitsegukla, BC
“I would just like to include the words of the Ontario Regional Chief. It is a true sentiment of how I feel as a First Nations person on Canada’s 150 celebration:
AFN Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day, chair of the national Chiefs Committee on Health, stated: ‘Canada is celebrating the 150th year of Confederation but far too many of our children and youth cannot even celebrate their own lives. This National Circle of Ceremony and Healing for Our Spirits [held on March 17, 2017] is a reminder that much work needs to be done to end poverty and despair. When our youth are able to see hope for the future then all Canadians will be able to celebrate. This will be true reconciliation.’”
Chippewas of Nawash Band Councillor; member of United Church Committee on Indigenous Justice and Residential Schools
Maggie McLeod, Executive Minister, Aboriginal Ministries and Indigenous Justice, The United Church of Canada, offers some suggestions to the church
“Reconciliation begins with recognizing the need to act in new and life-giving ways. Here are three ways in which your community of faith can recognize Canada’s 150th anniversary with the lens of reconciliation:
- Recognize and give thanks for the abundance that come from this land and all of its peoples.
- Recognize that Indigenous Peoples are the original peoples, and were the founding peoples of Canada; and that many cultures make up the fabric of the Canadian identity.
- Recognize the need to reflect and make plans for how we will, over the course of the next 150 years, act to make this country a place of that honours the dignity and well-being of all.”
This fall, I’m hoping we can make a first step towards this journey by hosting the Kairos Blanket Exercise here at Gordon United. In an hour and a half, this exercise gives us an experiential view of the treaty process and what it has meant for Indigenous peoples in Canada. I plan to attend the Yellow Wolf Intertribal Powwow in August in Brentwood Bay, and hope others will as well. I also am going to be making contact with folk in the Esquimalt First Nation through mutual friends. I’m hoping each of you will find a way to connect with and honour local First Nations, and to take a step of your own on the path to reconciliation. I leave you with a prayer from Lawrence Sankey, a lovely man who was recognized as a Lay Pastoral Minister at this year’s BC Conference meeting:
- “Heavenly Father, I thank you for the 150 years you have given Canada… I pray that you continue to watch over and protect our land and to continue to unite the people of the lands so that they can flourish and grow as one nation in body and spirit throughout the land…”
- —Pastor Lawrence V. Sankey
Co-chair, Aboriginal Ministries Council, The United Church of Canada