Tag Archives: Indigenous

Working Among Ourselves

Kerry Saner-Harvey is coordinator for MCC Manitoba’s Indigenous Neighbours program and attends the Aberdeen EMC in Winnipeg, Man.

We are talking today about how we, those of us who are white Canadians, work among ourselves to process what we have been hearing over the years about residential schools, and particularly since the unmarked graves were identified near so many of these former schools.

GT:         Thank you for joining me today, Kerry.

K S-H:    I’m happy to be here.

GT:         To start with, can you tell us a little about what your work with the Indigenous Neighbours Program is about?

K S-H:    Often the way I’ll refer to the work, even though we’re called Indigenous Neighbours is I’ll say Indigenous/settler relations or Indigenous/non-Indigenous relations because I think that’s really what it’s about. We’re part of this equation.

One of the areas where MCC’s been involved for a long time and I continue to work with is in hydro-impacted communities in the North. In Manitoba there has been a long history of hydro affecting Northern communities as many of us know.

You mentioned working among ourselves and I think that that’s a really important question and important part of what I try to do. It’s important to look at things like residential schools and especially now that that’s in the news and taking a step back and seeing how it was part of a bigger trajectory and how we as churches are part of that history whether we would like to believe that or not and how do we unpack that.            Continue reading Working Among Ourselves

These are Not Statistics—These are My Friends

by Anna Penner

When the discovery of unmarked graves near the Kamloops residential school hit the news, I did not know what to feel, or think, or whether I wanted to process this at all. Why do we need to be reminded of this terrible segment of our history? And yet an overwhelming sadness came over me; a sense of sorrow, grief and a dark cloud of depression. I could not block it from my consciousness.

Over the years I have heard many personal stories. These are not simply statistics; these are my friends (from different communities and from different generations) who were personally affected. Continue reading These are Not Statistics—These are My Friends

Terry Smith: Silence Does Not Fit Francis I

by Terry M. Smith

It is disappointing that Francis I, whom we respect, will not yet apologize to Indigenous peoples in Canada for the residential school legacy. This does not sound like the worldwide pastor that he is. Perhaps legal reasons posed by the Curia, the Vatican’s administration, are behind this unfortunate abundance of caution.

It’s a tremendous expression of grace by many Indigenous people across Canada that they remain Catholics, Anglicans, Presbyterians, United Church, and members of many other parts of Christ’s Church—despite the residential school history of isolation, indoctrination, and abuse. It’s a work of the Spirit that’s seen ultimately not because of the residential school system, but despite its inner decay and collapse.

Francis I could have said that children should not have been taken from their parents and communities or abused physically, mentally, sexually, culturally, and spiritually. That the Church and government erred in their process of assimilation. That the Church erred in its missionary strategy. That God was present and working among Indigenous peoples before missionaries arrived.

He could have said that Jesus gets angry when his disciples interfere with young children coming to him (Mark 10:13-16). That leaders deserve rebuke when they shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces or ignore “justice, mercy, and faithfulness” (Matt. 23:13, 23).

What Francis I need not apologize for is the Gospel itself. It remains Good News needed by all peoples of the world (John 3:16, 14:6; Acts 4:12; 1 Tim. 2:3-6). The relationship between Christianity and other religions in the world, though, isn’t a simple one. That’s an error of the past. If we are to give Christ his proper due, the relationship is to be recognized as complex. It’s reflected in natural and special revelation, in common and special grace (see, for instance, Acts 14:11-18, 17:22-31; Rom. 1:20). A few words here are not enough.

terry-smith
Terry M. Smith

Francis I’s silence, and its communication by Catholic bishops, will be hurtful to Indigenous Catholics across Canada, and it will affect how the Christian Church as a whole is perceived in our country. His silence is ironic given that his recent Easter message included concerns for justice and that people live in dignity.

It need not surprise us if we hear from him yet.

Andrew Reimer: Journeying in a Good Way

by Andrew Reimer

WINNIPEGCan a person be both fully Indigenous and fully Christian? What does that look like? Are there legitimate boundaries to contextualization? If so, who sets those boundaries? How can Christian ministries present Jesus in a good or better way?

The Ma’wa’chi’hi’to’tan: Journeying in a Good Way conference in Winnipeg this February was an opportunity to journey together with Indigenous leaders who have faced these and other questions. The event was geared for First Nations Christians and for non-Indigenous ministry practitioners among First Nations people.

Ma’wa’chi’hi’to’tan is Plains Cree for “let us gather together.” About 230 people, representing over 60 different organizations and including Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, spent two days together learning, sharing, crying and laughing. Several EMCers attended the conference and others volunteered in the kitchen.

Leaders from Indigenous Pathways were invited to present at this conference. It is an Indigenous-led community of ministries (NAIITS, iEmergence, My People, and Wiconi) supporting Indigenous people and raising awareness among non-Indigenous people (indigenouspathways.com). The presenters were Terry Leblanc (Mi’kmaq/Acadian), Ray Aldred (Cree), Cheryl Bear (Nadleh Whut’en), Wendy Beauchemin Peterson (Red River Métis), and Howard Jolly (James Bay Cree).

Plenary and workshop topics included Indigenous Values and Teachings, Contextualization: How Christianity Translates into Cultures, and Mentoring and Role Modelling Leadership while Respecting Indigenous Peoples. The weekend included a Blanket Exercise (an experiential learning activity about the history of colonization in Canada), times of storytelling, music, culturally contextual worship, and a feast.

The event was sponsored by Inner City Youth Alive and hosted at Winnipeg Centre Vineyard Church in Winnipeg’s North End. I had the honour of leading the planning and organizing of this gathering together with our executive director Kent Dueck, another teammate, and a partnership of leaders from First Nations Commnity Church, North End Family Centre, Winnipeg Centre Vineyard, and Indigenous Pathways.

As a planning committee we saw the need for Christian ministries to become more intentional about how we minister among Indigenous people and as we walk with friends who are wrestling with what it means to follow Jesus as an Indigenous person. Given Christian mission’s harmful legacy with Indigenous people, how can we engage in evangelism, pastoral care, worship, faith community, discipleship and nurturing leadership among Indigenous people in ways that are reconciling and liberating? How can Indigenous people find healing freedom to follow Jesus in culturally meaningful ways?

In the months leading up to the event the response was overwhelming. Clearly, these questions and issues have struck a chord among evangelical Christians serving among First Nations people as well as First Nations Christians themselves.

The presenters tackled difficult issues with both heart and skill, drawing from their extensive ministry and theological experience. They incorporated their personal stories as well as key missiological principles and deep theological engagement. The teaching was stretching for many attendees and uncomfortable for some. Attendees came away from the conference encouraged and equipped with new insights as well as with some unanswered questions that require further reflection and dialogue.

Many attendees felt that this was a conversation long overdue. There was a strong desire to continue the conversation and spread these insights to others in the Church. An Indigenous woman who attended the conference said, “For the first time, I see a stream in the church where First Nations people can walk.”

Andrew Reimer (Steinbach EMC) is a community minister with Inner City Youth Alive.