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A Lament for Lives Lost
Pastor, Blaine Lake Gospel Chapel
This week we grieve with our First Nations brothers and sisters who found hundreds of unmarked graves of children who were sent to school and who never returned. I’d like to share with you a statement from MCC, our partner agency, that has been working with First Nations communities across the province, sharing the love of Jesus.
We grieve, again, at the news from Cowessess First Nation, with the identification of approximately 750 unmarked graves. We grieve with the families and communities affected by the losses. We grieve for the dark legacy of Indian Residential Schools. We grieve for the on-going harms and injustices against Indigenous people in this province and nation. We offer our prayers, and we reaffirm our commitment to work towards being respectful Treaty partners, allies, and neighbours in this difficult moment, and in the future as similar tragic stories unfold across this province and beyond (adapted from the MCC statement).
I want to encourage you to affirm that the love of Jesus is not found in confining people we see as ‘less than’ to institutions or reserves. Our treaties promised training in agriculture and support to become self-sustaining communities, but delivered a system of isolating First Nations and systematically weakening their communities. We are complicit in that agenda as citizens of this
Last week I listened to a group of pastors, young and old, from the First Nations churches in the Manitoba and Ontario MB Conferences. They shared how the residential school system impacted their families and the consequences they were living with today. I came away from listening to that pain heartbroken. We as a church must acknowledge the pain and grief our First Nations have suffered and are suffering in our communities. The Indian Residential School system in Canada was a destructive force not only in the lives of First Nations peoples but also in the relationship between our First Nations and the rest of the Canadian population.
Gracious Father, today we lift our First Nations neighbours and friends to you, asking for your comfort and peace to come among them. We ask you to help them in their grief. We ask that you provide the strength and support they need to process this pain, past and present. “Father, please let us and our indigenous neighbours know that you see us and hear our cries, even if other people ignore us and reject us. Open our eyes to see what you see.” “Please Father, give us together diligence to seek you, and wisdom to find you today. May our ears hear your voice; our eyes see your goodness; and our tongues proclaim your name as we commit our lives to pleasing you”.
(prayers in quotations are from Lectio 365, adapted from a prayer of Benedict of Nursia)
What is Next?
A Response to the finding of 751 unmarked graves on Cowessess First Nation
Pastor, Parliament Community Church
So what do we do? What is next?
We know there will be more news of more bodies. More hurt and grieving to happen. Decades of hurt and injustice are not undone in one news conference or one discovery. This is not something we just ‘move on from’ or ‘get over’. It shouldn’t be.
I spent time reflecting on ‘what is next’ for me and I’m committing to four things as we continue discovering evidence that echoes the true stories we have heard in Truth and Reconciliation of what residential schools were:
I will listen. I will use my time to listen to the stories. To the survivors. To the community. I will listen to the truth as others see it. I will listen to the hurt and pain. I will listen for my own biases and ignorance. I will also listen for the hope for healing.
I will lament. A lament is a passionate expression of grief or sorrow. I will not distance myself from the pain of our country and ignore it as it will be so easy to do. I will lament the genocide of our First Nations. I will lament the work done in the name of Christ that was in fact anti-Christ. I will lament the generations this has taken where the truth was buried and hidden. I will lament those who polarize this situation. I will lament a broken world.
I will learn. I will learn the truth of what happened. I will not turn the channel when the news is about residential schools, I will not skip over the news stories online, or avoid the stories. I will learn the truth but even more so… I want to learn from the truth. I want to learn how to be better. I want to learn in humility. I want to learn that my cultural perspective as White Man is both entitled and broken and there are other perspectives that come out of deep wounds and hurts and grief. I want to learn those perspectives so we can journey forward together.
I will love. I have faith the truth will come out. I have hope that there will be healing and reconciliation. But above all else… I choose to love. To love my neighbour as myself. To love sacrificially. To love in the midst of things I can never fully understand. To teach my children that love triumphs over all. That love can prevail. That love can heal. How does loving look? I’m not entirely sure… but I do know if I do not look to love, I will not. If I open my eyes for opportunities to love I will find them.
“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13
The latest Virtual Cafe post is up. Stephanie Christianston leads us in a conversation that wrestles with the reality that much of our worship has been through a screen during COVID and some of the challenges that presents. We invite you to read the article and then join in the conversation.