Come and See!
This was Reverend Linda Paton-Cowie’s invitation to us when we gathered together that first evening of
the Healing and Reconciliation tour. Come and See, as she reminded us, is also Jesus invitation (John
1:39) to those who would follow him. “Do you want to know who I am, where I live, come and see… “
What a good and holy invitation it was to the next 10 days as together we would travel to the sites of
Indian Residential Schools, meet survivors and visiting some of the Indigenous Partners and Ministries of
the Presbyterian Church in Canada. Come and See: in our time together on this tour it meant listening
more than talking, letting silence be when it was needed, and receiving the hospitality offered to us with
grace. As I reflect on the journey and begin to share it with others, I am also mindful that what I share be
my own story and that anything that belongs to someone else is only shared with their permission.
I have written already in the first post about our first day, Sunday and how we worshiped at both First
Presbyterian Church in Winnipeg as well as Place of Hope Presbyterian Church which is located at the
Winnipeg Inner City Mission or WICM as it is better known.
Monday we returned to WICM. We were greeted as we arrived by Reverend Margaret Mullin who was
seated by the sacred fire that was lit outside and tended through the day until it went out on its own.
Going inside Reverend Mullin began to teach us some of the things about being in a healing circle and
Indigenous Spirituality that we were glad to know as the week went by. Things like, when you walk
inside the circle go clockwise! We fashioned small tobacco pouches using red material, red being a
healing colour and Margaret talked about how important Cedar, Sage and other plants are. We
experienced and learned about smudging and Margaret also talked to us a bit about the Medicine
Wheel and some of the various teachings its red, black, white and yellow quarters hold.
After coffee and bannock, we split into two groups. One went to Flora House and had a walk about the
neighbourhood there. I was part of the group that began the work of painting the thrift store (Ashinabe
Fellowship Centre or Miracle Store, where everything costs 25cents!) at WICM. Over lunch three people
who are participating in the Next Steps to Employment program at WCIM spoke to us about their
personal journeys. You can learn more about that program here https://wicm.ca/programs-and-
After lunch the groups changed places and while others finished up the work on the thrift shop and
some other cleaning tasks around the mission, others of us went to both Flora House and a visit to the
Flora House is a PCC supported ministry that is part of the work of WICM. For those of you who
remember Christine Ball, this is where she served very early in her ministry. Flora House serves children
and youth ranging from ages 6-14 years through a variety of programs that run after school during the
School year and then continue through the summer, providing nutritious food, homework help and
positive adult mentors. Winnipeg’s North End where both Flora House and WICM are located is, as their
website describes, “fraught with violence and negative influences”. Flora House is a haven in all this and
those that greeted us there included the leader of the program and two moms whose children
participate in the programs.
Bear Clan is another organization that seeks to provide safety and refuge in North Winnipeg. James
Favel operates it and you can find his story simply by googling Bear Clan Winnipeg. It all began for him,
James told us, as he has told the press before, when Tina Fontaines 14 year old body was pulled out of
the river. Something had to be done. Today his organization describes itself as people working their
community to build relationships and provide safety to one another. We were welcomed by James at
their physical location which is functions as a drop in for water and food. During the evenings groups go
out on patrol during times when familiies and children are still out. One thing that really impressed on
us the crisis of the neighbhourhood that they serve is when he described how only several years ago
they were picking up tens to dozens of used needles in a year. So far in 2019 they have picked up over
Supper on Monday was back at WICM where the children from Flora house joined us for a barbeque and
we all had an opportunity back in a circle to share our own understanding of where we are being called
Come and See! I hope I have been able to share with you a bit of what that invitation meant to us on
one of the early days of our journey. I am still unpacking from it myself but this I know, that I have a lot
more questions now than before I left, much to learn and much to share.
The next day we were on to Kenora, the fellowship centre there and the sites of several of Residential
Schools. Will post about that in a few more days! Thanks so much for reading.
Dr. Rev. Karen Dimock