By the Rev. Sandra Franklin-Law, minister of St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church in Eckville, Alberta
The Synod of Alberta and the Northwest met on October 20 for its annual educational event. This year’s theme centred around reconciliation and what we can do in our congregations to honour the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action.
We had two guest speakers for the day. Our first speaker was Sykes Powderface from the Stoney Nakoda Nation. What a great experience! Sykes is a very well-respected speaker and teacher who has spent his life working in politics, dealing with the laws concerning Indigenous child welfare and teaching on Indigenous ways of life. He also worked as a stunt man in movies made in Alberta from the 1940s until 2009.
He explained colonization in a relatable way. To paraphrase, he said: Imagine that Canada is a house. When the settlers first arrived, we invited them to have a meal around our fire. They did and then they went home. The next time the settlers came they asked if they could spend the night and we offered them our guest room. They spent the night and then they left. The next time the settlers came, they asked if they could see our whole house, and which bedroom was ours. We showed them and then they told us that we could stay in our bedroom and they would take the house.
It was a thought-provoking way to look at the movements of the settlers. He also spoke about the importance of living equally, with respect. His words generated lots of comments and questions.
Carragh Erhardt (Justice Ministries) then talked about support that is available through the national church as she led us through a presentation about allyship and reconciliation. Many people don’t know how to begin to be allies with Indigenous people. Carragh shared advice and resources for getting started including worship resources, the KAIROS Blanket Exercise, books and films by Indigenous people and questions for studying the TRC’s Calls to Action.
We then broke into working groups to brainstorm plans that we could put into action in our congregations. If you are on the worship committee, what would you do? If you were on the Christian Education committee, or the mission committee, what kinds of things could you do? This was a worthwhile brainstorming time as it mixed city with rural representatives and it was interesting to hear the different approaches we all came up with. At the end of the time it was agreed that talking about the Calls to Action needs lots of forethought in order to honour the meaning behind them. We want to be sincere in our actions, and not appropriate symbols or culture. We need to invite Elders to work with us.
We ended the day with a time of worship that included reflections about what a future of reconciliation could be and returned home with that dream in mind.