Jesus compares the kingdom of God to a mustard seed noting that even the smallest things can take root and flourish, sowing hope among his followers (Mark 4:30-32). Justice Ministries works with congregations to sow seeds of hope and respond to the justice imperatives of the gospel.
Congregations Making a Difference
Faithful witness. Education. Advocacy. Justice ministries are carried out in Presbyterian congregations across Canada. These are some of their stories.
Reflection from KAIROS’ Elements of Justice Gathering
On October 24-27, 2013, 130 people from different denominations gathered in Squamish, British Columbia for KAIROS’ Elements of Justice gathering. Participants were from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Northern Ontario. Ten Presbyterians participated. Grounded in biblical teachings, participants learned about ecological justice and Indigenous rights.
Arriving at the cabin, we assumed there was a problem with the septic system. The smell was pungent and rotten. We would later realize that the smell was a part of a lifecycle ending, and another beginning, in the Cheakamus river. The salmon were returning from the ocean to lay their eggs in the same place that their ancestors had been conceived. In response to difficulties faced by wild salmon populations, the Vancouver Outdoor School (now the Cheakamus Centre) has worked to create safe spawning areas for the returning fish—something we were able to see. As the adult fish die in the river, they become food for eagles, seagulls, bears, and a new chapter begins.
The Cheakamus Centre is in Squamish BC, about 90 minutes north of Vancouver. It is surrounded by mountains, rivers and forests. It was an ideal setting for Elements of Justice. This was a place to re-imagine our relationship with the land. It was a place where stewardship was about more than what the land could give us through the oil sands or clear-cut logging. It was about a reciprocal and interconnected relationship with creation. This was a place to re-imagine our relationship with our Indigenous sisters and brothers. It was a place to move beyond misunderstanding and guilt. This was an opportunity to understand how privilege, history and politics shape our social landscape, our relationships with people and the environment, and how through acknowledgment of our past and present, we might find a better future. This gathering was a place where the Holy Spirit hovered over the water; where our songs and psalms mingled with the beat of the drums played by our Squamish neighbours. Our prayers rose to the heavens carried by the ashen smoke of a cedar fire and the cool mist of morning. The heady scent of life and death (and life) in the river filled our noses, and for a moment, it felt as if the land, and our presence in it, were in balance. I felt a hint of the hope that comes in this, the season of Advent.
Ms. Whitney Hanna, Trinity PC, Victoria BC. Ms. Hanna is the administrator for St. Andrew’s PC, Victoria BC.
Building Bridges of Understanding – new energy for peace and friendship
On Sunday, October 6, 2013 several Presbyterians, gathered at Grace United Church in Barrie. The event title was “Building Bridges of Understanding.” The event was organized by the KAIROS Simcoe group. Participants gathered to hear Dr. Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux speak about Indigenous rights and some of the current issues Indigenous people face. Dr. Wesley-Esquimaux is a member of the Georgina Island First Nation on Lake Simcoe and is the Vice-Provost (Aboriginal Initiatives) at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, ON. She finds merit in bringing together people from diverse cultures, ages, and backgrounds to engage in practical dialogue—70 participants gathered into two semi-circles thus proceeded.
The discussion covered several points including: civil society must have a greater understanding of how many of the natural resources have been stripped from Indigenous land, and the dilemmas that confront Indigenous people regarding the protection (or development) of the resources on their land; Indigenous people are developing community leadership grounded in traditional knowledge and spiritual practices; the legacy of policies of assimilation are still felt today; respect for different world views is needed; too many Indigenous girls are captive to the sex trade; treaties must be respected; and land claims must be settled.
Discrimination and racism is present in many communities. She spoke about experiences in Thunder Bay. Derogatory names are a common example of racism, and she recommended the simple and expedient step of putting up posters in public places that depict and encourage inclusion. This is a first step. She highlighted the traditional practices of listening and caring circles as an Indigenous practice that resonates with overcoming racism. She spoke about secondary schools and university programs that organize gatherings between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. This initiative contributes to building up a generation of young people who know and respect one another.
Mrs. June Campbell, Essa Road PC, Barrie ON. She is a member of the KAIROS Simcoe Country group.
St. Andrew’s Kingston welcomes the KAIROS-Nation to Nation bike tour
The Nation to Nation Bike Tour is an intercultural youth experience for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to interact face to face, and get to know each other. This tour was in partnership with KAIROS. From July 27 to August 14, a group of more than a dozen young volunteers rode their bikes 300 km along the St. Lawrence River from Akwesasne (near Cornwall, ON) to Tyendinaga (west of Desoronto, ON) in order to learn and teach about Indigenous rights, from the communities they visited and from each other.
In Kingston, they had an opportunity to visit the prison museum and afterward during a picnic lunch at Sir John A. MacDonald outdoor park discussed how the prison system has impacted Indigenous people in Canada. They were joined by an Indigenous elder and a member of the Idle No More movement.
In the evening, at St. Andrew’s PC, the group presented the Blanket Exercise. There was a great response from the church and the wider community. One woman shared her first-hand knowledge of some of the difficulties faced by Indigenous people in Canada, having lived through these experiences herself. Another participant said: “This is a very powerful exercise, I cannot believe it was done with something as basic as a blanket.” Thank you for spending this time with us at St. Andrew’s!
Rev. Tony Boonstra, former interim minister, St. Andrew’s PC, Kingston ON.
The healing & reconciliation ministry of The Presbyterian Church in Canada works ecumenically, with local leaders, congregations and courts of the church to build and strengthen bridges of understanding and friendship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.
Streams of Justice
Streams of Justice is a twice-annual newsletter that connects Presbyterians across Canada involved in social justice ministry.
Subscribe to the Streams of Justice newsletter today:
The Presbyterian Church in Canada believes in peace and justice for every person in Palestine and Israel.
The mandate of the International Affairs Committee (IAC) is to help Presbyterians to be informed and aware of important international issues for study, prayer and action and to bring forward recommendations to the General Assembly on international issues. The International Affairs Committee is a standing committee of the General Assembly.
Social Action Handbook
The Social Action Handbook is a summary of the reports and recommendations adopted by the annual General Assemblies of The Presbyterian Church in Canada from 1954 to the present.
Crossing Cultures Together explores the rich ethnic and racial diversity of the church and is a collaboration between Knox College, its Centre for Asian-Canadian Theology and Ministry, and Justice Ministries (Life and Mission Agency) of The Presbyterian Church in Canada.
Join us as we celebrate the 10th anniversary of Crossing Cultures Together on May 5, 2014!
Proceedings from Crossing Cultures Together 2013 may be downloaded here.
For more information, email Stephen Allen or call 1-800-619-7301 ext. 256.
The Canadian Council of Churches (CCC), founded in 1944, is the largest ecumenical body in Canada, representing 24 churches of Anglican, Eastern and Oriental Orthodox, Protestant and Roman Catholic traditions.
The Church Council on Justice and Corrections (CCJC) was established in 1972. The CCJC promotes a restorative approach to justice with an emphasis on addressing the needs of victims and offenders, mutual respect, healing, individual accountability, community involvement and crime prevention.
Read the e-bulletin “Sage”
KAIROS unites 11 Canadian churches and religious organizations in a faithful ecumenical response to the call to “do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). KAIROS advocates for social change, amplifying and strengthening the public witness of its members.
Read the quarterly newsletter “KAIROS Times”
Project Ploughshares is an ecumenical agency of the Canadian Council of Churches established in 1976 to implement the churches’ call to be peacemakers and to work for a world in which justice will flourish and peace abound. Project Ploughshares works to identify, develop, and advance approaches that build peace and prevent war, and promote the peaceful resolution of political conflict.
Read the monthly “Monitor”