A hope that doesn’t disappoint: this was the title of the sermon offered by Reverend Kevin MacDonald of First Presbyterian Church on our first Sunday in Winnipeg. It is hard to believe it is only two weeks ago now, we have experienced so much since then and I continue to meditate on these words: A hope that doesn’t disappoint. There were certainly times on our journey when we found ourselves searching for it and other times when it came forward and greeted us. It was a journey that embraced us body, mind and soul and we learned a lot about hope and reconciliation that is for sure. The kind of learning that is not easily summed up in words but makes itself known in getting to know individuals and entering into relationship with them. The vulnerability of opening our hearts, receiving and sharing stories and handling that as the most precious of gifts.
The trip began in Winnipeg on June 15th , gathering together with 35 members of the Presbyterian Church in Canada, nine of us from St. Andrew’s. This is treaty 1 territory, the home of the Anishanebeg, Sioux and Metis nations and people.
Sunday was the first full day for us and after worship and lunch provided at First Presbyterian we were off to Place of Hope Presbyterian Church which is located within the premises of the Winnipeg Inner City Mission. Reverend Dr. Margaret Mullin is the minister there, she is also recently retired from being the executive director of the Mission as well. She welcomed us in and encouraged us to spread out as others arrived, to talk to people, ask about their stories and share our own.
Some of us got into the vans that were driving into the neighbourhood around the mission, picking up families for worship. This is one of the poorest neighbourhoods in our entire country, and those who live there are largely indigenous. Others among us volunteered to help teach the children in Sunday School and the rest of us stayed in the sanctuary, getting to know and talk with people as they arrived.
In contrast to our worship experience at First Presbyterian where people sat spread out in a large sanctuary, here the room was smaller and we were brought so much closer together, and not just physically. People shared stories, children laughed along side the adults. There was a sharing of stories and who people were. One of the women I was talking to couldn’t stop repeating how much this church and the mission meant to her and her family.
Worship was joyful. Hymns were sung in English and Cree and after the children went out to Sunday School Reverend Mullin welcomed those of us there to visit and in her sermon addressed the poverty of the neighbourhoods in which her people live, the outcome in many ways of the residential school and colonization experience. She spoke very eloquently of the difficulty in rebuilding trust between indigenous and non-indigenous people but also her great hope in Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit. As the church accepts responsibility for harm done in the past only then, she says, can we begin to rebuild trust and restore good relations. Guilt and shame, says Reverend Dr. Mullin, are not yours to carry for historical injustice. Carry a Godly Sorrow and get involved.
Dinner was served after worship and then we headed back to the University residences where were staying.
The next morning it was back to WICM where we helped out with some painting and cleaning, took tours of the neighbourhood including Flora House and the Bear Clan. Stay tuned for the next Blog to learn more about that!
Dr. Rev. Karen Dimock