4th After Pentecost
July 2nd – Canada Day weekend – Rev’d Heather Westbrook …
Happy Birthday Canada! From my perspective, it’s been a blink since the 67 celebrations. Yet the way we as Canadians understand our history has vastly changed. We have learned a lot, however we’ve experienced a loss of innocence in our awakening to the reality of our past. At Trinity as of late, we have had the Archdeacon’s visit addressing indigenous issues and had Aboriginal Sunday. It is my intention this morning to touch upon one of your suggestions from the First Nations survey.
*You responded that you would like the following question addressed: How do we move forward from here to become allies and equals with our indigenous neighbors?
Since the day I first stepped foot on a reserve to live, since I became more and more aware of our past, I’ve struggle with how our beloved Anglican church could have had a hand in such systemic evil and I am still struggling with that question. As a theological student some 30 years ago, I found there were gifted minds of the day, such as Matthew Fox, who asked the question not only how did Christianity contribute to such devastation but what treasure do we have within Christianity that can assist us in moving forward from here together.
History tells us that we were handed a recipe for disaster really. Primarily because of the kind of Christian religion that arrived on the shores of the new world. Although there would have been exceptions to the rule, the kind that our indigenous peoples encountered was predominantly immature. Immature religion actually fools us into thinking we are more moral, more holy, or more evolved than we really are. Hence the zeal of the colonizers to evangelize the new world at whatever cost was reflected in their government policy designed to ‘take the Indian out of the Indian’. The celebration of confederation brings with it much pain and sadness because it was around that time when some of the most restrictive laws were put into place.
The colonizers practiced a Christianity in which -quote-“…salvation became a private evacuation plan into the next world for some very few humans… who qualified. It was for the most part a moralistic religion. Further, for them creation as such, did not have much inherent value or purpose but was merely the backdrop … for human-soul-saving…”. (Richard Rohr) Creation was something to be conquered.
Tragically the settlers wrapped themselves up in a single strand of biblical tradition and used it to be exclusive producing devastating results. Immature religion is always about exclusion rather than inclusion. While the example that Jesus set was always about being inclusive. Needless to say our history would have been very different had the kind of Christianity that arrived in the new world been more mature, more inclusive and balanced, that it had recognized and honored persons from a culture other than our own and had it been in touch with its creation centered spiritual tradition.
Years ago when I returned from living on the reserve and was asked on occasion to speak, I would hold up a piece of wool to make a point. A piece of wool is actually made up of various strands. Such is biblical tradition; it is made up of strands. One of which is the creationist. The Christianity brought to the new world had lost touch with this strand. It’s there, that we could have found common ground to share with our indigenous brothers and sisters. It is from that perspective that we can worship together today.
No question Canada would have been a better place, if ideally, the Christians that had stepped off the boat had had a more mature understanding of the faith, had had a grasp of their entire tradition. Our creationist strand is a treasure. It’s a treasure that we could have shared with our indigenous brothers and sisters and they could have shared their creationist tradition with us.
Thankfully many denominations have since recognized and recovered that strand, our own included. We can hear its influence reflected in the liturgy of the BAS, our Eucharistic prayer: ‘At your command all things came to be; the vast expanse of interstellar space, galaxies, suns, the planets in their courses, and this fragile earth, our island home; by your will they were created and have their being.
*In answer to the second part of the question: How do we move forward from here to become allies?
While the Archdeacon was here, he touched upon that expressing how it will be a long process, several generations of Canadians. We began this by taking a step back, examining the past so we could move forward. The official apology was made for the devastation that colonialism brought, we have taken responsibility and we are left with the 94 calls to action as a place to start. (For an introduction to them I recommend watching Cynthia Westley’s video on Youtube.)
Most importantly, we need to forge relationships, spiritual relationships of peace friendship and respect, relationships in which we can learn from one another. These are the mustard seeds we need to plant. I would maintain that the water project Trinity helps to fund is an opportunity to build relationship with those we support. In moving forward Trinity needs to discern what that partnership might look like. Healing is a necessary part of moving forward. We may not be doing that together just now, but we are moving in the right direction.
Canada is a very different place from that of the original colonizers who were given ‘divine right’ by the doctrine of Discovery, believing their prosperity was assured through Gods favor. Today our government and our society as a whole is no longer predominantly Christian however I like to think that there is a more mature, a more inclusive Christian influence at work within both. I like to think that we have learned something from our mistakes, that we can now shed our colonial attitude of arrogance and offer our indigenous neighbors hospitality and respect.
Most of us know very little about indigenous spirituality. There is much to learn. (Perhaps that’s Lunch & Learn topic for next year?). One thing most of us do know however is that it involves a clear connection with the land-mother earth, and sustainable living; the kind of connection that we need to draw on if we are to learn to value creation again and care for the planet. Indigenous prophecy has always spoken about two forks in the road a technological one and another one leading back to the land.
Creation can no longer be seen as just a back drop for our activity because ‘Spirit is forever captured in matter and matter is the place where spirit shows itself. It is one sacred world.’ Our indigenous brothers and sisters whispered this to us –to the settlers of the new world- but sadly we chose to stand outside of relationship with them and we missed it. Our indigenous brothers and sisters continue to whisper their wisdom to us today. As allies, may our children and our children’s children have ears to hear.