On Friday, December 9, the weather outside was frightful, but the gathering inside was delightful. In the midst of December’s snowstorm, the Urban Aboriginal Ministry welcomed all to share in a rich feast of food, prayer, crafts and song from Indigenous cultures and from those who have settled in this land, called ‘Turtle Island’ by the first peoples.
In the cosy, inviting space of St. Mary Magdalene church in Vancouver the guests gathered in the circle to share a feast. The menu featured: venison soup, moose stew, macaroni with hunter’s ragu, bannock (both baked and fried), elk chorizo, and buffalo jerky, all accompanied by salad and vegetable sides, and finally, for dessert, ambrosia fruit salad. “Whenever we gather we eat together,” says Vivian Seegers, director of the Urban Aboriginal Ministry. Many people contributed game and shared in the preparation of the meal, coordinated and served by Vivian, Steven Seegerts and Abraham Ayaila.
The evening continued as Vivian blessed the circle with a sacred rattle made from a turtle shell, a new addition to the medicine bundle. Calling on the four directions, prayers, songs, poems and stories from both the Anglican and First Nations spiritual traditions were offered. The ancient words of the Magnificat, sung from the Holden Evening Prayer, found contemporary expression in a powerful poem of protest, lament and hope written and read by poet and Indigenous activist Muriel Marjorie. Participants shared poems and stories of the healing, learning and empowerment that the Urban Aboriginal Ministry had offered them and drummed and sang “The Deer Song” which has become a theme song for the U.A.M.
As a fundraising project, participants in the U.A.M. had gathered over several weeks in the fall to share lunch and create items to sell at this event. The offerings ranged from scented bath salts to what one delighted customer called a “one-stop drum shop” – Aboriginal drums, drum sticks and drum bags. As well, the evening included a silent auction with 17 items up for bids.
The final song of the evening expressed the spirit of the gathering as we sang together, “How could anyone ever tell you you were anything less than beautiful? How could anyone ever tell you you were less than whole?” Our shared voices sang of healing, of respect, of reconciliation and of our deep connections.
PHOTOS: Pam Martin