By Heather Clarke
Earlier this year, Shaughnessy Heights United Church began “Reconciliation Matters”, an initiative that we hope may be of interest to other congregations. We are willing to share our resources and experiences and to learn from others.
“Reconciliation Matters” aims to continue the spirit of the Truth and Reconciliation event in Vancouver and the Reconciliation Canada Walks in September 2013.
As the United Church of Canada’s Comprehensive Review Task Force (2015) states: “The church place a high priority on building relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people based on mutuality, respect, and equity, and that the church continue to live out its apologies to Aboriginal people.”
Called by this social justice process, SHUC Outreach introduced Phase I of “Reconciliation Matters” in May 2015 with a sermon and “second hour” talk by Rev. Alf Dumont, currently elder in residence and advisor at BCIT. His topic was Aboriginal “Medicine Wheel” teachings and included a residential school film followed by discussion.
Next steps outlined opportunities for the congregation to gain a better understanding of past and recent histories, develop appreciation of what “reconciliation” means – to see, hear and feel and then reflect upon building right relationships. Our librarian put together a First Nations book display in a special area in our library and hall.
To assist the congregation in keeping notes of about their experiences, two journals were developed – one for adults and one for children. Suggestions for what to look for, think about and feel were included in the journals and children were encouraged to record this in drawings, words or photos.
Opportunities for learning included:
- Visiting “cesna?em, the city before the city” in all three participating museums
- Attending the SHUC picnic and tour of Musqueam in June
- Visiting the Bill Reid Gallery and attending public talks by Beau Dick who tells stories about the masks and First Nations peoples
- Attending the Firehall production “God and the Indian”
- Vancouver Public Library Aboriginal Story Teller in Residence, Sharon Shorty, public events
- Young people’s volunteer summer church camp activities in Hazelton and Gizegukla
- October 2015 – Rev. Ray Aldred, Director, Vancouver School of Theology Indigenous Studies Centre, was the guest preacher
Further plans include:
- October 29, 2015 – Bill Reid Gallery new exhibit opens – “Gwaii Haanas: Land Sea People
- November 2015 – Rev Alf Dumont and film on Residential Schools and Reconciliation
- November 2015 – view “Haida Gwaii: On the Edge of the World” – to be premiered on Knowledge Network – acclaimed at VIFF 2015
- January 2016 – “Stickboy”, a production of Vancouver Opera in the School
- February 2016 – continue working with Mary Pointe, Musqueam, to plan a feast for February 28 catered by Musqueam to share with each other and First Nations witnesses what we saw, heard, felt and reflected upon in the past months.
Phase II of “Reconciliation Matters” will be shaped by the witnessing ceremony at the February feast with the Musqueam, congregational input and follow-up by the Outreach Committee. Please consider joining with us in an all-encompassing United Church ministry intended to strengthen relationships among Aboriginal peoples everywhere.
For more information, please click here to contact Reconciliation Canada.
Heather Clarke is a long time member of Shaughnessy Heights United Church, an active member of its Outreach Committee and past Council Member. She has been involved in nursing and health care related to First Nations Peoples for many years and has volunteered for Reconciliation Canada, including the historical rainy “walk” in Vancouver. Heather is currently Chancellor of the Vancouver School of Theology and a member of VST’s Native Ministry Consortium.
The views and opinions expressed on this blog are those of the author and may not reflect the views and opinions of Reconciliation Canada.