(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing|Reconciling Time

This blog was originally published
October 07, 2016 by Winnipeg Presbytery

Reconciling Time

Reconciling Time

There are many hopeful and amazing things about being part of a faith community. They range from the gifts that arise when exploring spiritual reflection and practices to entering places that endeavour to safely nurture diversity and dignity. Pretty great stuff, if you ask me!

A recent experience afforded me just one of those moments, when cynicism or apathy might otherwise whisper, which shone light into those shadow places we often ignore. I had the pleasure to be invited to attend a gathering of a recently formed group here in Winnipeg, which is intentionally engaging in what reconciliation might look like with our Indigenous friends, Sisters and Brothers. It was heartening to hear such a broad conversation cover topics that ranged from trauma to White Privilege, and solidarity to time.

Passion is a funny thing – it cuts through our agendas and distractions. It’s like Lego pieces, when they click and keep clicking! Pretty soon what looked like chaos takes on form and shape. And – if you stick with it – form takes on identity becoming a thing which a community has fashioned, if given enough time, by listening and reflecting.

So here’s my take away from what felt like the beginning of putting pieces together, which included blocks such as Time and (White) Privilege:

    1. For those who benefit from colonialism and capitalism, which my faith community called The United Church of Canada recognises is us, this stuff is hard work. It’s not – though it may include – academic or book learned. It requires looking deeply into a mirror, in order to spy the situation of our own souls, before we even imagine talking to others about the state of their own.One of the ways we can ‘ignore’ peering into this reflective portal, therefore, is utilising time to deflect the work before us. There’s a simple adage, if you will, that suggests where the focus of one’s attention goes so too is the world created that you see;
    2. Reconciliation is a lens that challenges the focus of those who have inherited the benefits that arise from Settler privilege. Reconciliation, however, neither just happens, nor is it simply an exercise grounded in acquiring just enough information to ‘get it.’ After all, how can we understand the trauma others have experienced, when we cannot acknowledge our own suffering that arises when we awaken to our role in the hurt others experience? And,
    3. Privilege – as expressed in time – allows us to control Reconciliation, as an intellectual act: in other words, we get to set the agenda. This act, however, may end up simply perpetuating another way to maintain the status quo. When time, when understood as a challenge to privilege, becomes unmoored and Reconciliation becomes scary.
  • It’s scary because it means less talking (on our part) and more listening (to others);
  • It’s anxious making, because in listening to others we may hear difficult and hard things;
  • It’s disconcerting because these places of pain and tears may lead us to reflect on both our involvement and awaken us to our own vulnerability.; and,
  • It’s uncomfortable because if we listen and hear that which the Spirit might be sharing through our Indigenous companions, we may need to change once we awaken to (right) relations.
Soul's Reflection

Soul’s Reflection

Change is a historic constant. In this Christian community in which I journey, Creator is always with us in exile. For those who have confused faith with culture, however, change becomes the enemy. This confusion, I believe, must be resisted.

Power and change never play well together. That binary – and I admit I do not like binaries in general – leaves those who seek Reconciliation in a tight bind. Do we hold on to what we have or do we let go and let God?

As this recent experience ended, I’m certain those with whom I sat at table were inviting us to wrestle with the latter. It may be worrying to finally be unburdened of a load that we know limits embracing diversity and dignity. Letting go, ultimately, reveals a world wonder-filled, which dwarfs the time constraints we too often impose on ourselves …

(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing|Holy Saturday #2

This blog was originally published
July 21, 2016 by Winnipeg Presbytery

Part #1: Holy Saturday

Since last week’s initial exploration of Holy Saturday, I have been trying to figure out where to go next. It is not so much that I do not know what I want to offer for reflection, as much as it is that the general length of a blog often requires focus and attentive intention. In other words, there’s way more that I can talk about than the space this medium might allow. So I thought I might try to do two things:

  1. Briefly review the history of Holy Saturday; and,
  2. Connect Holy Saturday with privilege and trauma.

Let’s see if that’s possible …

Witness: Lament's Tears

Witness: Lament’s Tears

In the Christian calendar, the most important time of year is the Lenten season, which ends with the celebration of Easter. The weekend that culminates in this 40-day journey (in late winter-early spring) begins with Good Friday. Good Friday is the day we remember that Jesus was tortured and executed by the Roman Empire. The Sunday that follows – Easter – is the story of resurrection and hope in the midst of odds that are too long to count. What many – especially mainstream Protestant – often gloss over(look) is the day in between: Holy Saturday.

Often, what happens, is that somewhere on a continuum people either focus on the torture and suffering (Good Friday) or the joyful celebration of new life (Easter). Not that these are bad or inappropriate responses to this very old and sacred story. There is an aspect to the tradition, however, that I would suggest helps us in this discussion that began with reflecting on #BlackLivesMatter & Steinbach Pride last week.

For those of us who benefit from a history of privilege, in my Christian context The United Church of Canada, Holy Saturday offers a place to pause and reflect. According to 1 Peter 3:19–20, this day is ripe with meaning as it falls between lament and jubilation. It is the day in which Jesus was not only dead, but in fact found himself on a fast track straight to Hell! And – in that place of myth and story, truth and metaphor – he saw and endured the pains of those lost and suffering. He saw truths and torment better left to the imagination and which often we would rather avoid …

What I think this Holy Saturday offers the church, as it wrestles with its own history, is an opportunity to witness, truly see and hear the suffering we have caused. For some, this has already begun with our denomination’s apology in 1986 and our ongoing support and journey with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This is indeed faithful work, but I think it is misses something because we still would rather not witness in respect to our complicity as settlers and colonisers.

Witness: Joy Dawns

Witness: Joy Dawns

One of the realities, I feel, we must confront from our position of privilege is whether we are looking for solutions and healing simply from our heads. Do we want to experience resolution through logic, where mind and body are divided? And though there are indeed those in our midst who have bravely and courageously witnessed the stories of survivors, I think as a denomination we stand in a place of critical reflection: have we rationalised that reconciliation is an intellectual journey in which words and position papers, apologies and sermons allow us to claim that we have lived into Right Relations? To what extent have the several thousand worshipping communities across Canada truly engaged in witnessing our past by walking with and engaging with First Nations survivors, Elders and communities, who are willing to actually trust that we long for reconciliation?

For those who work with people who have experienced trauma – and I would say that certainly applies to people who have endured oppression based on sexual orientation, gender identity, racial, religious and linguistic marginalisation – you can find some connexion with Christian theology, doctrine or world view. For those who experience trauma it is not logical or confined to space and time. It is embodied, deeply entrenched and there is no ‘fix,’ that can allow those who witness and journey with to acquiesce or rationalise that ‘enough has been done.’ In fact, that response – I would gently though directly offer – is simply one example of our privilege and reticence to recognise where we have been and what we have done … As such, engaging in a practice suggested by Holy Saturday, therefore, might open our hearts and eyes …

This two-part blog began in the paradox of joy and horror coexisting. There is not easy answer to systemic racism or marginalisation. There can indeed be trite explanations that allow us (the privileged) some sense of not looking into the mirror, that we have done all we can. This is hard work, journeying in the model that Jesus invites us to embrace as disciples will demand of us to see things horrible and glorious.

We will weep with joy and – yes most assuredly – with lament. If we do not take brave, though perhaps admittedly quivering steps into awful realities of human experience, then it is not solidarity that we endeavour toward. If we stay in what we know and entrench where we are, we perpetuate systems that will continue to exploit and leave us all less than we might be as One … certainly not simple, but it does beckon us toward what Christians call the Good News

Part #1: Holy Saturday

(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing|Holy Saturday #1

This blog was originally published
July 14, 2016 by Winnipeg Presbytery

Part #2: Holy Saturday

• The last week has been, once again, difficult – to say the least …
• The last week has been, once again, joyful – to say the least …

We have, on the one hand, celebrated (as church) such faithful solidarity work by participating at Steinbach Pride. During this first Pride event in Steinbach, MB, over 4000 people showed up. In this context, in which secular faith-based allies marched, the ideal that human rights must and should confront discrimination, whether ideological or theological, was highlighted!

On the other hand, we have seen the horrible and tragic deaths of two African-American men a day apart by law enforcement. Then the shooting of seven officers and shocking death of five others in Dallas followed. All of this occurring in the swirl of #BlackLivesMatter and the challenge of systemic racism as a lived reality in the United States and Canada.

Peace on High

Peace on High

In these poles of blessing and horror, it is easy to feel somewhat removed in our Canadian context. As I was weeping and praying – joyfully and with lament – I felt the stirring of a blog that will likely need to be explored in more than one stage. I am hoping that this initial discussion, if you will, might set the stage for a conversation that the church, mainstream Protestantism in general and The United Church of Canada specifically, can explore as result of these recent events.

I thought, therefore, that the rest of this blog might name some of my assumptions as to the context of these events. Furthermore, I hope they might illustrate how these events connect with the church, as it finds itself today. The subsequent exploration, which will continue next week, will hopefully attempt to engage in some reflection that arises from both the following assumptions, as well as any subsequent conversations that might develop as a result.

Holy Saturday Assumptions:

      1. Though all lives matter, #BlackLivesMatter highlights and resists systemic racism;
      2. It is a false binary to pit #BlackLivesMatter against law enforcement;
      3. All racialized systems create tension for those who suffer oppression in respect to the agents who enforce cultural norms. In systems of inequality, First Responders are placed in a paradox in which stereotyping stands in contrast to the call to serve and protect;
      4. In most situations in which First Responders confront those who suffer oppression, the training often employed is grounded in force and coercion, when social service would be more generative to create a shared sense of commonality;
      5. Though #BlackLivesMatter is primarily a US movement, it does resonate with an African-Canadian racialized experience;
      6. #BlackLivesMatter serves to parallel and complement the Canadian endeavour to live into Right Relations as explored through the Truth & Reconciliation Commission & the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples;
      7. Oppression and marginalisation, according to Liberation Theology, can place those who experience repression in opposition/competition with one another. As a result, this serves to detract from civil discourse about systems of inequality (i.e. Toronto Pride vs. #BlackLivesMatter);
      8. In our North American context, one of the central frames in which to explore oppression is White Privilege;
Hope Abides

Hope Abides

    1. The church – in particular mainstream Protestantism – in North America is grounded in a context of colonialism. Some refer to this as a settler position and is grounded in White Privilege. The church has/is wrestling with its complicity in this reality;
    2. Previously, the church was one of the primary actors that moulded the Other to be ‘normal’ (i.e. White). As an institution, the church is now confronting a loss of authority and power;
    3. The church now finds itself wrestling with its complicity in creating doctrine(s) that have led to trauma (i.e. racialized and sexual identity theologies). This complicity has revealed a confusion of the Good News with cultural practice;
    4. These theologies – often used to validate settler White Privilege – have exposed a tension between a church of Empire and an earlier church separate from the state and living in a radically different and egalitarian way;
    5. As the church (perhaps reluctantly) lives into this tension, it finds itself waking up on Holy Saturday;
    6. In the Christian calendar, Holy Saturday is an in-between time, where death has occurred (Good Friday) and there is no guarantee of resurrection (Easter) to come;
    7. It is in this uncomfortable place in which the institutional church now finds itself. One that is lonely and desolate. In what some call the Harrowing of Hell, hope flounders and doubt arises; and,
    8. Here we are presented with the choice to witness, to truly experience the implications of choices we have made, to listen to the traumas and pain in which we have colluded, and – perhaps – something new might be resurrected with Spirit’s guidance …

Source: CNN

Part #2: Holy Saturday

(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing: Lent|Generations

This blog was originally published
February 26, 2016 by Winnipeg Presbytery

A Lenten Collection

A Lenten Collection

Lent: We walk into the gathering danger & doubt surrounding Jesus as he made choices that led to the Cross.
This is a time of preparation & reflection.
Where have you been this year & where might you be going?
What are the things that have kept your journey on pause?
What are the choices you have made that you would like to revisit?
A Lenten Collection

Appreciative Inquiry

Appreciative Inquiry
Image: Appreciative Inquiry Commons

There I was, surrounded by 60+ people who were sending one another off into the world. We were holding hands and had named ourselves as a family. The synergy and energy that connected us was palpable and the gratitude for that was clearly evident.

As we checked out with affirmations, we recognised the innovation that had been created, imagined the creativity yet to bloom and honoured the wisdom of the elders in our midst. I thought to myself how amazing and humbling it was to be surrounded by a room of “teenagers” – though dressed in different ages and stages of life – who not only passionately held on to the ideal of changing the world, but who were making conscious choices everyday to do that very thing! It was a rather remarkable gathering!

Now it might make sense if you assumed I was talking about a gathering of United Church peeps, perhaps a spirituality exploration or study, or even a missional dreaming opportunity. And – though that could make sense – the reality is that I was being embraced by fellow practitioners, from across North America, Europe and Nepal, of Appreciative Inquiry (AI)!

Each of us, who came from different contexts and places, gathered to explore, reflect and embolden one another with this philosophical outlook that takes very seriously the idea that the groups, families and systems in which we walk everyday possess the wisdom to embrace change with vibrancy and generativity. In particular, it emphasizes that the wisdom in our stories contains rich resources, which will allow us to transform what was good in the past into what is great in the future.


Image: Seven Generations Education Institute

As one Sister in the Christian faith who is also an Indigenous Elder describes, AI is like standing in between the generations. Looking to your left, you see those from whom you have travelled and those to your right those toward whom we are journeying. The gift, with such a breadth of view, is being able to make choices now, grounded in what was, so that they will positively impact children whom we will never meet!

As I returned from this time of learning and community, which is part of my own ongoing PhD journey, I began to reflect on the changes that lie before us. As we who call ourselves The United Church of Canada confront structural changes that can seem daunting, it is sometimes easy to feel like we are unmoored from identity. As the structures that once moored us become loosened, perhaps even obliterated, it is easy to lose sight of how we might ensure that the generations before us are nurtured and stewarded well.

I do not think there is any right or cookie-cutter answer for us, no matter how tempting it might be to desire a quick fix. I think that what this experience reminds me of is that in each of our lives and stories, the passionate past can embolden a life-giving future, if we recognise that it is in God’s abundance that we are sharing. And – as those called to bear bushels of wheat – we are called to share that abundance extravagantly, even with abandon!

For me, AI is a constant teacher, reminding me that our passion takes us into places unknown, sometimes even that are dangerous. In Christian language, this sometimes is referred to as bearing the Cross. In this Lenten time, when shadows gather, remembering the core of our passion promises to enable us embrace the choices that will ensure that the children whom will never know will awaken to the Blessing they are. Sometimes, even if sacrifice, loss or sorrow are the places into which we walk, it is that passionate core that continues to remind us we not only can, but that we are called to be co-creators of the Kingdom, which is constantly coming and which we will never fully see in this mortal journey called life …

Blog links:

 Image: Appreciative Inquiry
 Image: Anishinabe
 Wikipedia: Appreciative Inquiry

 Wikipedia: Lent
 Wikipedia: Seven Generation Sustainability
 Vimeo: On Leadership … with Christien Oudshoorn

(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing: TED|Ep. 4

This blog was originally published
February 6, 2016 by Winnipeg Presbytery

Guns & Ammo 2

Guns & Ammo 2
Image: Ken

“What will you do after the bullets miss you?” Brian Bowman asked during TEDxManitoba (now TEDxWinnipeg) in 2014. Watching the video again reminded me how striking his sharing and vulnerability were two years ago. As he described his experience of violence during an internship in Mexico, I felt a clear connexion with my position writing from a faith-based context. What was further challenging and hopeful was what he did with his experience: he framed it as an opportunity for each of us present. He explicitly asked how we might find ways to collaboratively respond to the changes that we see that are needed in Winnipeg.

Much has changed since that presentation. Brian Bowman is now the Mayor of Winnipeg; the city has been labelled the most racist city in Canada. There has been a refugee crisis resulting from the ongoing conflict in Syria and we are now entering a time intended to be a Year of Reconciliation in Winnipeg.

Two years, and the world has changed.
Two years, and the questions and challenges remain.

  • In the moments that awaken you to the hurting in the world, how might you respond to heal it and be healed?
  • What choices arise when your eyes are opened to the harm of stereotyping?
  • What possibilities emerge when we hear and listen to those crying out from the shadows?

In Bowman’s presentation, what Brian refers to as the ‘bullet moment’ might best be paralleled – from a faith-based Christian perspective – as the moment in which one is born again or a time of epiphany or revelation. And, true to the experience in which the bullet moment inspired Brian, unfortunately it is often in crisis or violence when such awakening occurs.

the Peg

the Peg
Image: Carolynn Primeau

It is not (often) in places of comfort or privilege, which are afforded by many church contexts, that one recognises ways to be the change. Rather, it is often in places of vulnerability and/or solidarity when new choices are revealed, when unexpected doors are opened. It is frequently in those places and spaces where those of us who are accustomed to control are shaken to our core that we realise the fragility of the narrative we tell of ourselves about what is safety.

As we confront these illusions, the moorings become loosened and, in the face of the unknown, we often stand trembling. Our bodies are hard-wired to respond to threats with adrenaline, which leads to the instinctive responses of flight or fight. But there is a gift in such moments, often arising with reflection and discernment, but that luxury is not always possible. So – if in moments in which death is present – we but take a breath, the gift of centring ourselves in such instability, it is possible that people of faith and the church might hear a very old invitation. This invitation is perhaps is easy to forget in the lulling temptation of comfort, asking us: “what will you do if you are saved?”

TEDxManitoba 2014

TEDxManitoba 2014
Image: TEDxManitoba

I made a promise to TEDxManitoba (now known as TEDxWinnipeg) in 2014. I committed to sharing their important (secular) work in my faith-based context. I have lived into that pledge by creating another recurring feature for A Deacon’s Musing : TED|Episodes (Two others are: 1: Feather’s Fall serial story; &, 2: Vignettes). The intent is to highlight one TED Talk in each episode and muse about connexions (both secularly and internally) to the church.



Ep. 1: Pilot
Ep. 2: Farming Our Future: The Urban Agriculture Revolution
Ep. 3: Got Bannock? In honour of the village we once had
Ep. 4: What do you do after the bullets miss you?
Ep. 5: What is an inspiring encounter with human rights?


Blog links:

 CBC: Year of Reconciliation
 Image: Guns & Ammo
 Image: peg

 Wikipedia: Syrian Refugees
Wikipedia: TED
 YouTube: What do you do after the bullets miss you? (TEDxWinnipeg: Brian Bowman)

(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing|The Goal

This blog was originally published
November 6, 2015 by Winnipeg Presbytery

Stay focused

Stay focused
Image: Ed Schipul

“Keep your eyes on the goal,” he concluded with encouragement.

That’s sort of how President Joey Dearborn of the Conference of Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario completed his verbal report to those of us who were gathered for the Executive face-face, which just ended this week. Before I continue with Joey’s intent, let me not assume you know what I’m talking about!

For those who don’t know, this adventure called The United Church of Canada is structured within 4 concentric circles that help us be church in the world: 1) Congregations; 2) Presbytery (think city or rural municipality); Conference (imagine provinces); and General Council (kind of like the federal government). Of course once you get that, you have to know there’s lots of variation, but in general it’s a helpful parallel – well I hope so!

This structure allows us – or has allowed us – to shape how we imagine we want and are called to be the church. In church speak this is called ecclesiology. How process and structures connect with vision and mission is where – when we’re rockin’ it – the proverbial rubber meets the road and we get on with getting on! Problem is that, for sometime, we have known that we’ve not been playing our ‘A’ game.

Joey offered this concluding encouragement after sharing and reflecting that some of the ways we have been trying to imagine newness has consumed more time and energy than might be helpful. In particular, rather than sticking with the goal as the marker to help imagine these new ways of being, it sometimes seems like we are getting stuck in the design phase. And that – he acknowledged – is both frustrating and tiring. How then, can we understand what the goal is and what do we do to keep the passion alive, I was wondering?

The great gift of the church is that we have a lot of really great wise and challenging voices. If Joey’s wisdom opened this door for discernment of the goal, our newly-minted Moderator Jordan Cantwell was present on the second day of our gathering to move the ball forward. During this time, she shared her priorities – more on that shortly – and she also seemed (unknowingly) to expand further upon what Joey had begun the previous day.

So, what’s the goal? To borrow from Jordan, we’re called to follow Jesus. Following: the very image of movement implies two things to me as I started to muse about these connexions.

  1. Motion implies we are not called to be stationary or monolithic, something that happens when we put down roots; and,
  2. There’s no real sense of arrival, which implies a need to be constantly responsive and reflective. In other words, what would a reflexive church look like?

The goal: follow Jesus. Simple enough? So what?

Follow the Yellow Mint Road

Follow the Yellow Mint Road
Image: Neal Fowler

The church often stands accused of looking after its own. Sometimes, we’re even appropriately challenged for causing unspoken hurt and having an agenda of judgement and conversion. How then might we reorient ourselves to this goal, while also realising that the goal may very well help us imagine the structures and processes we need in this reflexive journey? In other words, how can we be both (goal)/and (structures)?

And – this is not definitive remember, just a musing – I think that Jordan’s priorities help as possible lenses to apply to Joey’s initial encouragement and challenge:

  1. Living into right relations with our Indigenous Sisters and Brothers, as recommended through the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission;
  2. Embracing and exploring ecumenical and interfaith relationships that mirror we are a stronger voice for justice and change when our common values align and we speak with integrity mutually; and,
  3. Youth and Young Adult Ministry. We have known – the church that is – that our values align well with those who are not in the church. The challenge is how do we become a relevant voice when no one knows who we are? And for those who have some inkling, how do we begin a new conversation that addresses everyone’s assumptions, when we may seem but a vestige of a past that no one really wants to revisit?

I don’t think I have a conclusion, but I think as Joey’s words began this musing, perhaps Jordan’s might continue the conversation:

“We are called to follow Jesus, the structures and process should help that happen …”

Blog links:

(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing: Reconciliation|Redux

Mix It Up

Mix It Up
Image: darkdayr

It has been quite a week since last week’s blog Reconciliation. In that time, Canada has experienced a birthday, there was gang violence in the streets of our Winnipeg on the nation’s 148th, and I received a ‘cease and desist’ email that was clearly not relational. The email was in respect to my use of an image that was initially used in the Reconciliation blog. The image was of a young Aboriginal youth vibrantly arrayed in dance finery from the National Aboriginal Day celebration at the Forks in 2014. I cannot show it to you – as I suspect I would receive another email. Should you be interested – however – this is the link.

So, how do these things connect? I am not sure that I can fully paint that canvas in this blog, but it has been about what I have been musing. I hope – therefore – at the very least this continues the conversation of what reconciliation means for those of us who are non-Aboriginal. We may look into that mirror and uncomfortably recognise ourselves as those who have inherited a coloniser’s or settler’s culture, which has diminished the lives of Canada’s First Nation’s peoples for several centuries.

First of all, it is important to identify that we are in a time when social media and traditional media clash in a larger culture shift. This shift is framed as occurring between modernity and post-modernity. When images and music, art and video can be shared fluidly, there are rightful concerns about appropriation of creative material and fair compensation. There is also the tension of ownership and how do we find that balance. For some, the solution is enforcing laws, regulations and policing creative material for any infraction, regardless of content or intent. For me, the line is less than clear. I try, therefore, to make use of Creative Commons art and always reference and link to the artist.

Something New

Something New
Image: ♫ joyousjoym~ Blessings♥

Second, this time of shift creates an opportunity for those who have power and privilege to ask what does ownership mean? This question of ownership – I believe – connects directly to any attempt to move toward reconciliation. Whether that be of an image, of land, of the water, and of the very air we breathe: if everything is a commodity, a trademark or copyright, can we actually live into the healing for which many of us long? This journey of Right Relations and Reconciliation is not easy – the mirror that reflects non-Aboriginal affluence is difficult. I truly believe – however – that if we do not do this, then we simply perpetuate a colonial culture dressed in new clothes …

Finally, gang violence in Winnipeg is often associated with a First Nation’s experience, which is a direct inheritor of colonialism. A colonial mindset – framed in culture that used faith to rationalise exploitation – remains more than vibrant to this day. And Canada’s larger cultural identity – regardless of non-Aboriginal or Aboriginal identification – continues to be framed in ownership. Should we not be able to collectively move toward healing, then those who have will continue to oppress and protect what they have from those who want and experience oppression. This binary – which is false I believe from a Christian lens – will continue to be perpetuated until those-of-us-who-have are truly intentional of letting go, finally sitting down, honestly listening and willingly – though not necessarily easily – share, in order to that we all might begin to make something new …

Blog links:

 ADM: Reconciliation
 Image: Mix It Up
 Image: Something New

 Wikipedia: Creative Commons
 Wikipedia: Modernity
 Wikipedia: Post-modernity
 YouTube: What Happened? (TRC)

(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing|Reconciliation

  • After worship this last Sunday, I find I have been navigating between sadness and hope, reflection and action, challenge and potential.
  • After worship this last Sunday, I find myself sitting carefully and gently with the import of what we might think reconciliation means and what it could mean.
  • After worship this last Sunday, I am humbled by the human spirit that has endured the horrors in which I, we, and the church are complicit in our treatment of the First Peoples.
National Aboriginal Day Celebration Flag (2014)

National Aboriginal Day
Celebration Flag (2014)
Image: Rushawna Keeper

For many in the church, in particular my context of The United Church of Canada, we have been engaged with looking into that mirror for approximately three decades. In this pursuit we have had to acknowledge a reflection as the bringers of culture dressed in the guise of faith and sometimes it is and has been uncomfortable. In fact, as the narrative has changed, how we understand our role in the story has changed. That shift – from explorers or divinely directed to Settler or Coloniser can lead to the temptations of Apathy and Guilt.

I think we have journeyed uncomfortably well, though perhaps not gracefully or without mistake, into the 21st century. A time in which we now open ourselves to honest – at times awkward – discussions about healing, right relations and reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples. Though these are indeed noble and faithful pursuits – it also feels important to note that they are not … at times … necessarily embraced much beyond the church walls.

During worship this last Sunday, I was inspired by the courage of Ovide Mercredi when he offered the Reflection at Augustine United Church. As he discussed his own experience, as a reluctant leader in the Aboriginal Community, as he named and referenced his own fatigue and experience of the soul-devouring residential school experiment, he reminded us all of the generations who are waiting upon our decisions now. Decisions that plant the hoped for seeds of reconciliation and mutual healing.

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As Ovide rested from his courageous vulnerability, embraced by one dear to him, another voice was heard in that sanctuary. At the time in which the community at Augustine shares collectively individual prayer, a man offered his own hurt as an Indigenous person. And as dancer’s counter-balance to make fluid movement seem graceful, he named fatigue about the very word ‘reconciliation.’ As prayer is not a debate or even necessarily a conversation with one another but Holy Mystery, his words followed, mingled and hovered amidst Ovide’s … for him the word reminded him of the harm he had experienced and when would that end, he challenged?

I am not sure in the breadth of a blog or even in a longer musing whether bringing these two worship experiences together is possible or even required. What I am left with is the recognition that – for some – even our current attempts, as those complicit in the hurt, may simply echo our past assumptions of knowing the answer, having the solution, of being right.

I am firm supporter and believer that our stories – when honestly shared and truly heard – change lives, create new possibilities and shift worlds. After National Aboriginal Day on Sunday and the end of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, I am left wondering how reconciliation might continue to unfold? It is one thing to witness another’s story, it is another to reciprocate with offering our very selves in return. As the church engages in apology and healing, I wonder to what extent our larger Canada is truly at a table where who we were, are now and might be is in fact lived as an intentional mutual exploration …

(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing: TED|Ep. 3

McDougall Memorial United Church

McDougall Memorial United Church
Image: Eric Lamoureux

In this TED|Episode of A Deacon’s Musing, I am excited to explore Althea Guiboche’s TEDxManitoba 2014 presentation entitled Got Bannock? In honour of the village we once had.

I do not think that the challenges and realities that Althea shares during her TED Talk would be ‘new’ (per se) for many people who identify themselves as having a connexion with The United Church of Canada. We are a people for whom social justice and Right Relations are part and parcel for what it means to be a person who wrestles with faith, confession and forgiveness.

During last June’s presentation, Althea’s candour, honesty, and vulnerability are all testament to a strength and tenacity of a particular person – the Bannock woman. It also reflects a larger resilience of those whom we – the dominant colonial culture – have previously tried to change, mould and shape into what we thought was the way a people – Canada’s First Nations – should be. And though we – in the UCC – continue to endeavour to live into our apologies, to right the mistakes we have made (whether they be waving the banner of Christendom, colonialism via treaties broken, the Residential Schools or the Sixties Scoop), I do not think that is how this musing shall unfold. In fact – though there will always be work that remains – I think we have confronted some of our choices with our own courage. By looking into that mirror, I am hopeful we have begun to embrace the power of humility, which leads to solidarity, as opposed to the oppression of others.

Truth & Reconciliation Commission

Truth & Reconciliation Commission
Image: Neeta Lind

What I am and have been musing about as I prepared for this Episode is whether or not we are actually able to listen this time? Althea clearly knows what is needed. From her own experience, she names where she and her Village have been and then issues a challenge about what is required to address homelessness, poverty and illiteracy.

In fact, she articulates it so well, I was sort of struck by the ease with which her own story indicates how we – Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people – might actually affect change in a timely way. In a way that would afford those currently experiencing exploitation the ability to claim their dignity now! This nimbleness obviously stands in stark contradiction to the pace that either the church or other public institutions sometimes move: the narrative here and there is slow, pondering and often frustrating.

And what is required of us is both simple, though not easy, and possible, though a challenge. As inheritors of privilege and a narrative of colonialism and Christendom, can the church let go of having believed we have the answers and realise that all people – in this case Althea and her Village – actually have wisdom to affect change and agency to do so? In some cases, we may simply have to get out of the way … and in others we might be invited into the conversation. Question is … can we enter into such dialogue without presuming and assuming what will work … ?

A tall order, perhaps, but after hearing Althea speak on that day, if we had to choose and realise our ego is not ready to shed control, the least we might do – as church – this time is simply get out of the way and wait to be invited in …

What do you think?

TEDxManitoba 2014

TEDxManitoba 2014
Image: TEDxManitoba

I made a promise to TEDxManitoba (now known as TEDxWinnipeg) in 2014. I committed to sharing their important (secular) work in my faith-based context. I have lived into that pledge by creating another recurring feature for A Deacon’s Musing : TED|Episodes (Two others are: 1: Feather’s Fall serial story; &, 2: Vignettes). The intent is to highlight one TED Talk in each episode and muse about connexions (both secularly and internally) to the church.


Ep. 1: Pilot
Ep. 2: Farming Our Future: The Urban Agriculture Revolution
Ep. 3: Got Bannock? In honour of the village we once had
Ep. 4: What do you do after the bullets miss you?
Ep. 5: What is an inspiring encounter with human rights?