There are lots of words and phrases that I cross paths with that seem to be the most at home in Christian conversations. I recently attended a Lunch and Learn presentation in the hospital where I work, and during the talk, the doctor who was presenting used the word “discern.” From then on, I’ve found myself assuming he’s a Christian without knowing much else about him. Sometimes it feels easy to pick out those classic pieces of Christian terminology when I’m in situations where I don’t expect them.
Just about 2 years ago, I remember starting to notice the words “truth” and “reconciliation” bubbling up a lot in Canadian news and on social media. Those were a couple of words that fit nicely into my Christian schema and I felt a little thrown off seeing them all over mainstream communications. I branded Truth and Reconciliation as expressions near and dear to the teachings of Jesus, and to me as a follower of Jesus, seeing them in the forefront of conversations in our country caught my attention. It was around then that The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada, constituted and created by the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, was starting to wrap up its six year endeavour to bring to light the history of Indian Residential Schools to contribute to truth, healing and reconciliation amongst the indigenous people in Canada. I really hadn’t heard a lot about the TRC and honestly, I didn’t know much about what it was talking about. I managed to get through high school, an undergrad and Master’s degree at the University of Saskatchewan, and over 30 years of living in Canada without knowing much about residential schools at all. Or treaties, or the Indian Act, or reserves, or the pass system, or any of the other injustices experienced by indigenous people in Canada for that matter.
Injustice is something I’ve become convinced that Jesus cares deeply about. His heart is with those who have no power or privilege and have been given a raw deal. And, I think He expects the same from me. Two years ago, as I continued to sift through the teachings of Jesus’ life and what they are supposed to mean for me right now in the spheres I’m living in, I found myself caught up thinking about how wrong it is that kids were taken from their families.
I was googling “Treaty 6 Territory” and reading about the unfair history associated with the land I “own.”
I was to getting drawn into the narrative of injustice that is in the DNA of our country, and it was like looking into a microscope for the first time.
I started to quickly realize that it’s hard to know what you don’t know.
All this time, I didn’t know.
I felt an obligation to start filling in the gaps.
I signed up for a Learning Tour at Lakeview Church, where I’m a member. On the tour we did the KAIROS blanket exercise to understand colonization, and listened to a speaker from the Office of the Treaty Commissioner.
I started reading books like The Reason You Walk by Wab Kinew and The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King.
I initiated conversations with my friends who I knew were farther down the path of understanding this stuff than me.
I asked a lot of questions (and regularly felt embarrassed by having to ask them).
I started having conversations with other people from my church about how we as a local church fit into all of this.
A friend sent me a link for a conference that was focused on the Calls to Action directed at churches from the final report put out by the TRC.
I registered right away, before I could talk myself out of it based on how in over my head I’d be.
Knowing that the content would be TRC heavy, I decided it would get a lot more out of it if I actually read the TRC.
So I put a hold on the Final Summary at the Library, picked it up, and spent my evenings plowing through the 450-something pages.
I went to the conference and heard a ton of really valuable things, but what was most imprinted on me from the speakers and elders there was in essence enough talk, time to start doing something.
I’m a doer by nature so I resonated with this sentiment. Actually, every step of the way as I dug deeper, I was so inclined to do something. There would be times where I would be up in the middle of the night because my thoughts would be swirling about what that something should be. For me, Jesus is the architect of Truth and Reconciliation in all things so I kept coming back to the local church, the embodiment of Jesus. But as much as I felt that to be true, I also felt a paralysis, a deep rooted fear, because of how badly the church has messed it up in the past. It is tempting to leave the church out of all of this because of the immense damage that has already been done. And, I think we often want to tap out of situations where the church has made mistakes before, because it’s too complex to navigate. It’s definitely easier to just take a pass, but we also have to recognize that those are the places that the church is needed the most. No one is going to reconcile for us.
So, I think the local church has to be part of this story and that means we’re going to have to put in the effort to figure out how we should do this. There have been lots of times where I’ve wanted to just put this down and walk away, because it feels overwhelming, but I’ve felt the Holy Spirit calling me deeper, so I can’t. As the Holy Spirit moves, there are others in my church community who are walking the same path, wrestling with the same questions, fears, and hopes. We’ve recently started a little posse and we meet once a month or so to talk about how we as a church want to approach reconciliation. We’re just getting started and it’s already been so clear to me that processing all of this in community, with other likeminded Christ-followers, is much better than the gears in my mind constantly spinning on my own.
Someone asked me what the goal of our Indigenous working group is. I think we’re still sorting that out exactly, but God is with us. I hope and trust that together as His body we will be a means to bringing about truth and reconciliation.