[by Cameron Gutjahr]
The Sunday of this General Synod was dedicated to the Indigenous ministries of the Anglican Church of Canada. This was a long, intense, but in the end, absolutely wonderful day. So many things happened, that I fear that trying to do them all justice would end up doing them all a disservice. So instead, for this blog post, I will avail you with my four highlights of the day:
Eucharist From the very first smell of the sweetgrass and sage in the opening smudging ceremony, the worship lead by the Indigenous members of our church was a completely transcendent experience. Hymns, Scripture and prayers were sung and read in various indigenous languages. We unpacked the story of the Good Samaritan together in our diocesan groups with “Gospel based discipleship” which is the style in many Indigenous communities. In her sermon, Bishop Lydia Mamakwa of the Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh shared the encouraging and challenging assertion that our church will not be kept together by its institutions, but by the kind of love shown by the Samaritan from the Gospel reading. Most beautiful of all was the singing. We sang acapella as is the case in many Indigenous parishes, and the lack of instruments somehow added to the music that we made together as we had to listen to each other as we praised God in harmonies.
New Friends One of the pieces of work Sunday was the commissioning of the Primate’s Elders and Youth Council, a group that will make sure that the Anglican Church of Canada follows the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 48th Call to Action. One of the youth appointed to the council was a new friend of mine, Danni Black of the Blackfoot Nation, who it turns out I will be working with in a few weeks at Salal & Cedar’s Sacred Earth Camp in our diocese (what a small world!) In the past few days we have become good friends, and it was a privilege being present at her commissioning to this important piece of work. As part of the ceremony, Danni with her “relation” and “sister” sand and drummed for the entire General Synod, but not only that, performed an action of solidarity for two other marginalized groups of people - the LGBTQ+,Two-Spirit, and Black Lives Matter communities by making signs that she attached to her back and showed to the entire General Synod. This is someone that I am excited to have met, excited that she is in our church, and excited to work with in only a few weeks!
Walking Together Through all the presentations, whether it was the Primate’s Commission on the Doctrine of Discovery, Reconciliation and Justice, or the Confederacy of Indigenous Spiritual Ministry in the ACC, I tried to above all else listen. Through this listening, I heard several common themes emerge. I heard that Indigenous people have been hurt, and continue to be hurt and suffer because of their treatment by the church and the rest of society. I heard that Indigenous peoples are proud of their identities, resilient, and forgiving and patient beyond measure, so much so that there is a desire to continue walking with the rest of the Anglican Church of Canada. I heard, however, that there is still a long, long way to go in this journey of reconciliation and also that self-determination in this process and just in general is of the utmost importance. I pray that I heard well, and that through all of us here at General Synod, we have heard well and will continue to listen well. I pray that we now hear and are able to respond in our love, relationships and actions.
Gospel Jamboree At the end of the day, we experienced something that most of the non-Indigenous delegates had never experienced before: a Gospel Jamboree. At a time when language and cultural practices were banned for Indigenous peoples, in many parts of Canada, these hymn sings became subversive actions of resistance and hope. It was the perfect way to end the very long day - dancing, and singing in a variety of languages praising God in fellowship. It gave me hope and continued to deepen my respect, knowledge and love for the Indigenous parts of our Anglican family.
If you are wanting to know more information about any of the things that took place on Sunday, I commend to you www.anglicanjournal.com as they have been writing many articles about the various events of the day. I also recommend you talk to one of us, your General Synod delegates, to allow us to share with you more fully what took place in particular on Sunday, but also, every day of this Synod. As well, to keep us accountable to our charge to share what we have heard and learned here at this General Synod with the wider church. Peace be with you. :)
Photos: Melanie Delva