(Author's note: This is a long one, friends, but I think it is important. So go make yourself a cup of tea and settle in...)
As Karen alluded to in her sermon this morning, St. Andrew's hosted a dialogue on reconciliation last Wednesday. The evening's event followed a press conference by church leaders earlier in the day where they responded to one of the calls to action issued by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission last year.
It was a wonderful evening with some amazing moments. As someone who spends a lot of time making music in the sanctuary, I was particularly moved by the Indigenous singing and drumming. To hear that music fill our sanctuary, to feel it wash over me... I'm not sure, but I imagine that the experiences of Indigenous music and prayer in the St. Andrew's sanctuary have been few and far between.
For me, finding reconciliation between the churches and Indigenous peoples - particularly residential school survivors - fits Karen's description of something that sometimes makes me want to throw up my hands. I am quickly overwhelmed when I think of the harmful legacy of our church's relationship with Indigenous people. We have apologized, but where do we go from here? That is the difficult question, and one that could easily make us want to turn around and walk away - just as the disciples did when they headed for Emmaus. Forget this business... I'm out.
The statement that the churches made committed us to use the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a framework for reconciliation. And on Wednesday night, we considered what that actually means. Some talked about including the declaration as part of preparing people for baptism, confirmation and ordination. Others said they acknowledge, at the beginning of worship, the traditional Indigenous land on which they find themselves.
This question of land led me to think about how St. Andrew's could move further toward reconciliation. We are proud of the land on which our building sits, I think - we have been there for almost 200 years, the only bit of Wellington St. not owned by the federal government. And that is a powerful place to be. But I think this history that we tell is incomplete. What was the story of the land before Thomas MacKay? I think it is important that we explore this, that we hear the story of our land from the perspective of the Algonquin people. This could be a meaningful symbol of our commitment to reconciliation. It would likely change us, our story, and how we move forward toward right relationships with our Indigenous sisters and brothers.
We have already come a long way in this journey, and Jesus has always been beside us. A big step was taken last week, and Jesus was there then too. And he continues to walk with us, even when we don't know exactly what we're doing, even when we make mistakes, even when the road is long. Jesus is risen, and he is with us. Alleluia.
Come to us, beloved Stranger, as you came that Easter day.
Walk with us to our Emmaus, for we need you still today.
Come to us when we are broken, when our dearest hopes are lost,
Speak to us the prophets' message you fulfilled upon the cross.
Stay with us and give us blessing, that our hopes again may rise.
Offer us your broken body; open our unseeing eyes.
Come to us, God's love embodied; touch our hearts with burning flame.
Risen Christ, once dead, now living, come to us through joy, through pain.
We would never fail to see you as you walk with us each day.
As a friend and not a stranger you would join us on our way.
Help us trust that through your mercy we can doubt and fear transcend,
and to others be a blessing. Keep us faithful till life's end!
Edith Sinclair Downing