November 13th to 17th 2013       

Last week I attended my first meeting on a new national coordinating committee of the Council of General Synod. We gathered at the Queen of the Apostles, Mississauga Ontario. The agenda was full, but rich in content and there was a tangible sense of the Spirit of God moving among us.

I will reflect on the co-ordinating committee another time. For this blog, I want to share my experience of the Saturday afternoon of this 5 day gathering. Archbishop Michael Peers and his wife Dorothy were present to mark the 20th Anniversary of the former Primate’s apology on behalf of the Anglican Church of Canada; an apology to our indigenous sisters and brothers for what happened in the many residential schools across this country. It was an emotional occasion as video was shown of that apology and emotional when many spoke of that historic occasion. One thing Michael stated in the apology was that it had to be sincere and not just words, the Church must act.  

There has been costly litigation since but nothing like the cost to generation after generation of our brothers and sisters abused in so many ways through the years. No one can count that cost. This story of the residential schools must be remembered to ensure it’s never repeated.   One person present, both at the apology and at this 20th celebration, shared how she had come to faith at the residential school – for there she met with God but sadly she along with others suffered abuse there too.  

It was right that we marked this landmark occasion and at the same time give thanks for the leadership of a former bishop of Qu’Appelle, a man of God who was clearly the man for the moment.

To mark this gratitude the former primate was given a gift and I quote from the Anglican Journal ‘A hush fell in the room as aboriginal bishops, clergy and elders wrapped a sunset red Pendleton blanket over Archbishop Michael Peers and prayed over him. Each iconic woolen blanket traditionally made by the native people of Oregon has a story, and that given to Peers was about “The Evening Star,” who helps his tribe.’ Thank you Michael! Our gathering also encouraged us, to not only remember the apology and to extend our gratitude to Michael Peers but also, to take note of the journey from that apology to today: Since then we have witnessed outstanding leadership from the Advisory Council for Indigenous Peoples, including our own diocesan elders. There have been incredible happenings at sacred circles. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission are travelling the country, on the journey seeking truth and reconciliation. Recently we have witnessed the elections of Adam Halkett as indigenous bishop for Saskatchewan; Lydia Mamakwa bishop of Northern Ontario and Mark Macdonald appointed national indigenous bishop for the Anglican Church of Canada. Bishop Mark has also been elected national president for the North American World Council of Churches and more recently vice president of the WCC, an amazing achievement. We have also witnessed this past year the whole Bible translated into the language of the Inuit and the creation of a new indigenous diocese in Canada.  

You know, often we get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives that we restrict ourselves to the News sound-bites on our TV’s, that we fail to take note of what God is doing in our midst. In this particular case, failing to recognize the amazing changes in the Church right in front of our eyes. Emerging in our midst is a growing spiritual movement arising from the indigenous community; a movement that has the right of self-determination; a movement very much anchored in the Anglican Church of Canada. I am humbled as I witness the Spirit filled leadership that is emerging. Men and women of God called not only as leaders of individual indigenous churches but indigenous leaders of dioceses, national churches and now the world church. God is doing an incredible work through his beloved people on Turtle Island (an indigenous name for the Americas). All Anglicans would do well to note, to pray and to be open to this work of God

The tears of so many have watered Mother Earth and from the parched and scarred lands of suffering and abuse new growth is emerging.

I acknowledge that there is so much more to do and many more steps to take if we are to make this journey together especially in diocese of Qu’Appelle. As we walk the talk of the apology 20 years ago, I pray for that day when all of God’s children would experience the reconciling love of Christ and, though scars may remain, be truly be healed of the abuses of the past and, that whether our skin be red, white, black or yellow we will all see ourselves as siblings in God’s family, participants together on this mission path of the Lord’s choosing.

God bless

+ Rob

Video of the apology can be seen in the Indigenous Ministry section of the Anglican Church of Canada’s web site.

PLEASE NOTE: Bishop Mark Macdonald is leading a mission weekend for St Mary’s Regina marking their Jubilee celebrations 13th to 15th of December . Information on this weekend will be released soon. Please try to attend and not only listen to this world leader but also to the Spirit filled words that Mark will share with us.

STOP PRESS + Mark has also agreed to lead the shared clergy retreat with the diocese of Saskatoon, 10th – 14th February, 2014.