Sermon – June 20, 2021
Indigenous Day of Prayer
As most of you may know by now, the memorial to children who died at Residential Schools was moved from St. Michael’s church to Grace United on Friday evening.
We were contacted on Thursday night to ask if we would be okay with that and told organizers that yes, we would welcome the memorial. At the official board meeting the day before there was a discussion about how to respond if an impromptu memorial was placed on the church steps and the consensus was to respond with compassion and respect.
I have already offered a great many words on the subject of the Residential School system. You should know my position on that matter. What happened Friday night and what we do going forward is about how we live into the apologies offered by the United Church of Canada and how we as a community of faith choose to live in relationship with our neighbours.
Friday night was moving. It was an emotional occasion for many. People shared stories of family members who suffered in Residential schools.
For those of us who are part of Grace Untied, it was a chance to listen; to witness the pain and the anger.
The history of the relationship between settlers and indigenous people in Canada is not one that follows Jesus’ call to love one another. And here I am looking at the choices and actions of the colonial powers and settlers to this land.
The colonial forces, and then the Canadian government and its representatives consistently attacked, silenced, and shamed the original inhabitants of this land. They saw people who needed to be converted or pushed aside to make room for settlers. Essentially the attitude was the indigenous population needed to disappear or become like us.
Thank God we failed despite our best efforts. However, the consequences of those efforts are generations of trauma, distrust and suspicion; to name a few.
This morning we reflect on Jesus’ call to love God with all we have and to love our neighbour as we are loved. More so, we should remember that anything else we read in scripture should be filtered through that lens. To love one another.
Considering the hundreds of years of history and experience, it should come as no surprise that our indigenous neighbours approach new overtures of friendship and care with suspicion. It is important that we enter conversation or dialogue with indigenous communities. And that we do so prepared to truly listen. To make room for new voices. That as loving neighbours we are willing and able to hear their stories and their experiences, to hear those fears and hopes for the future.
In 2012 The United Church of Canada made a few significant changes to its official crest. These included incorporating the colours associated with the Medicine Wheel, which reflects respect for diversity and interdependence. The change also includes the addition of the Mohawk phrase Akwe Nia’Tetewaneren (aw gway == nyah day day waw – nay renh) which translates as “All My Relations”.
These are values we as a church hold up as integral to who we are. We are all related, we depend upon one another and love one another.
It is my hope and my desire that receiving and welcoming this memorial on Friday night was not a conclusion of a journey but the start of new relationships. The beginning of a conversation and a journey to a new way of being in relationship.
Through the darkness and pain of our history. Despite a relationship fraught with betrayal, anger, and fear. Despite the violence and the ignorance and the haunting silence that all too often characterized our old relationship; we have been offered an opportunity to create something new.
May we move forward, embracing Jesus’ call to love on another.
To truly love All Our Relations.
Thanks be to God. Amen
Music provided with permission through licensing with CCLI License number
2701258 and One License # A-731789