|Sherry Small, Diocesan Coordinator for First Nations Ministry|
Hi! My Nisga'a name is Anhluut'ukwhl Gaak. My name in English is Sherry Small. Originally from Laxgalts'ap - Greenville, BC, north of Terrace, I am currently the Coordinator of First Nations Ministry for the Diocese of New Westminster.
My role at the Diocesan office is to assist in building relationships between First Nations people and others in the Anglican Church within the New Westminster diocese.
My hope is that both groups can heal, reconcile and build new partnerships between themselves.
The job is very rewarding to my spirit; perhaps it is that I draw on Kamliigihahlhaat's, the Creator. I try to do God's work and not the so-called system's.
I have met many individuals, parishes and deaneries. The response to my work has been very diverse - and often, full of love, respect and compassion. Personally, I am very proud to be apart of this diocese. We are the only diocese that employees a First Nations person to assist in doing this work.
On November of 2003 this diocese held a special synod to respond to the residential school issue. There was a standing ovation and a unanimous vote for what has resulted in the Honoring Our Commitment campaign.
Unanimously, we agreed to come up with our financial obligation to the national church's settlement fund. We also promised to become more aware and educate ourselves on the issue, so that we can respond as God calls us to respond.
Since then some parishes have had First Nations people as guest speakers to educate their congregations on the issue. Others have hosted dinners, often with First Nations drummers, singers, and dancers, as well as speakers.
Some parishes have had educational series to bring light to the issue. Some have included their dinners with Primate's World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF) events, or stewardship committee work, or their family church functions.
I have spoken at many meetings and church services in regards to God's justice, God's compassion and God's reconciliation. I have also spoken about how First Nations act to bring about unity versus conformity.
After each presentation I've made, I have always talked afterwards with individual Anglicans about how we all can see ourselves within the same story.
Many people have read the book Beyond Traplines. It was first published in 1969 and republished in 1998. It's very helpful for anyone who wants to understand this history of residential schools and the Anglican Church in Canada. I recommend it.
I strongly believe if we educate ourselves about each other we can overcome any conflict and act on God's reconciliation, compassion and justice.
What I am learning is that both First Nations people and the Anglican Church have total sincerity on their side. Anglicans give serious thought to the issues before they speak, as do First Nations people.
These honest and open relationships have often helped me clear my head. Our conversations have pointed out to me things I sometimes have taken for granted, or have not even been conscious about.
In my heritage, Nisga'a elders encourage us to
• Take heart! (Be of good courage)
• Don't be discouraged! (Think positively!)
• Be diligent! (Apply yourself)
• Watch what you are doing and saying!
• Try to be charitable and be alert to the needs of others.
These are only five points - easy to say, hard to act on. The Gospels call us to do the same.
For those of you in parishes that may need help in acting on our commitment, please call me at the Synod Office and I will help you in any way I can.