I was fortunate to attend the Anglican Indigenous Sacred Circle in Prince George this year and be with people from across Canada and Northern Canada. I represented our diocese, along with Reverend Vivian Seegers from St. Clement’s, North Vancouver, her son, Shilo, and Métis Elder, Rene Inkster from Mission.
I made many new friends and learned a lot about the differences in our churches. The diversity was incredible, and the knowledge and gifts each person brought were amazing. The majority of those gathered were Indigenous people from the host Lheidili T’enneh territory in Prince George. In total there were about 75 Indigenous people and friends of our people.
I was most impressed by the number of Indigenous people present who were either ordained priests or bishops, and that the gathering included twelve bishops and the Primate. That is such a show of endorsement by the Anglican Church of Canada.
There was a full schedule over the four days, beginning Tuesday morning at 7am with the lighting of the sacred fire, and continuing with the opening worship, workshops, and at 9:30 pm a late evening jamboree. I was too tired to stay around and sing! But despite the long days, the organizers made it a very comfortable event.
The youth delegates numbered 14 young people who spoke about the issues for them today. One young fellow talked about how we, the older generation, discussed these same issues 40 years ago. He did add however, that we are still here and slowly getting some support from parts of communities and churches.
I went into this gathering feeling unsure about what I was doing there, and I left feeling somewhat overwhelmed by all the information, and feeling ill-equipped to present it to our diocese. Having said that, I realize that the experience was more about entering a huge learning curve, realizing that this was an opportunity to learn and grow into what the Sacred Circle is meant to be, and how we can work together to achieve our goals of which one of the goals is the creation of a self-determining Anglican Indigenous Church in Canada.
The establishment of an Indigenous Anglican Church in Canada would be a historic moment, and a far cry from the way things were when I came to Vancouver and started going to St. James’ in 1977. In those days I didn’t know where to look, or how to begin to tackle the question of Indigenous involvement in the churches. Back then, if the church leadership found someone to look at the Indigenous people and perhaps investigate the lack of them in church, everybody was happy. But I don’t know if we accomplished anything.
Today we see a lot more documentation of work done locally and nationally by the Anglican Church, as well as internationally with the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In his address, the Primate expressed how the UN Declaration is a living document that needs to be constantly addressed and changed and updated when necessary.
The Primate urged Anglicans to be determined in their efforts to educate the church about the lingering impact of the Doctrine of Discovery; to honour the Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission; and to make good on our church’s public pledge to uphold the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. He gave thanks and prayed for continued support to the Anglican Healing Fund. He asked members of the church to turn their hearts and minds to the plight of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and to rid Canada of the crime of human trafficking.
Dr. Martin Brokenleg spoke at the end of the Sacred Circle and he delivered a wonderful presentation on how the creation of a self-determining Indigenous Anglican Church in Canada would help the whole church rediscover its spiritual voice. Click the link for coverage on Anglican Journal website.
Many questions are still arising for our community and the churches, and on the Sacred Circle website there is a lot of important information on what will happen at General Synod in July 2019 in Vancouver. Though opinions varied widely on some of the issues, it was also very encouraging to see so many Indigenous leaders, Inuit and Métis in one place to discuss their concerns.
The warmth and kindness everybody showed to each other was amazing. We had our differences, but in an Indigenous way we talked in a good way, and at the end we still felt like a united family.
That week left me with hope about what the Anglican Church of Canada and the Indigenous people can do together, and will do, to make Reconciliation happen in a spiritual way.
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