Page 7 - Presbyterian Connection
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FALL 2021
 Responding to Red Paint on Church Doors
 By Rev. Jake Van Pernis, Grace Presbyterian Church in Calgary, Alta.
“Are those the front doors of Grace?” I was asked this question as a phone was handed to me with a post from Twitter. The post showed a picture of the front of Grace Presby- terian Church in Calgary, Alta., with red paint splattered on the doors and
A few phone calls later, and I
learned the red paint was splattered on Grace’s doors early on the morn- ing of July 1. The Twitter photo of Grace Church was from that day’s news story: 10 churches in Calgary had red or orange paint splattered on their church doors and buildings as acts of protest. It was hard to see the picture and then see the paint in per- son because the act was an expres- sion of the grief, anger, lament and hurt felt in response to the discover- ies of over 1,000 unmarked graves at the sites of former Residential Schools in Canada.
The thought of cleaning up the red paint on Grace’s building that day was very present, yet something didn’t feel right in rushing to clean it up. Instead, it felt like there was a need to sit with the red paint for a while and hold space for the grief,
anger and hurt this paint represented. On July 2, the ministers of Grace, Grace’s Interim Moderator and two members of Grace’s staff met to share insights regarding how Grace would respond to the red paint with the congregation and community. The plan we discussed was to allow it to remain on the doors of the church until Session met on July 8 to provide direction. We also decided sandwich boards would be placed by Grace’s front steps sharing a QR code and information linking people to Grace’s response and to the work of The Presbyterian Church in Canada. This work has included ways to foster jus- tice, healing and reconciliation for its role in operating Residential Schools and recognizing how our involvement has inflicted deep and lasting trauma
that is still being felt today.
In the middle of this conversation
about Grace’s immediate response, one of the local news channels came by to get some video footage of the red paint on Grace’s doors. The Rev. Maren McLean Persaud and I greet- ed the person working the camera, and soon after our greeting, ques- tions were being asked about our response. We shared that we would be leaving the red paint, for now, to allow people to reflect on it and be
The doors of Grace Presbyterian Church in Calgary, Alta., on July 1.
 in conversation about this part of our collective history.
That Friday afternoon, after the interview, we shared the response plan with Grace’s elders, members of the congregation and the com- munity. The visits to Grace’s website, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter ac- counts steadily increased. By the end of the weekend, Grace’s website traf- fic had increased by 1,000%, and our post on Facebook was trending with over 40,000 views. The majority of responses to leave the paint on the doors have been incredibly positive and affirmed that leaving the paint up is an invitation for reflection and conversation.
The growing story of Grace’s re- sponse has also meant next steps need to be discerned, shared and lived into. The Session of Grace met
on July 8 and agreed that the red paint would remain on the doors for the foreseeable future, and also es- tablished a working group from Grace to dig into the work of truth, healing and reconcili-action. The group has launched community conversations on the front steps of Grace and will be extending invitations to the con- gregation and community. Plans are being put together to share history, stories and understandings, and a public Service of Lament is being planned for the end of September.
Together, we’ll be in conversation about the traditions and beliefs of First Nations people in and around Calgary, Treaty Seven, as well as the work of The Presbyterian Church in Canada. And finally, we hope to look for ways to collaborate in works of truth, healing and reconcili-action.
The Rev. Jake Van Pernis.
There is red paint on Grace’s doors—a necessary reminder that there is good, communal and col- laborative work ahead.
  A Display of Orange Ribbons in St. Marys
  Orange ribbons were tied around St. Marys Presbyterian Church as a tangible way to remember the lives lost at Residential Schools.
By the Rev. Gwen Ament, St. Marys Presbyterian Church in St. Marys, Ont.
One Saturday evening in June, we learned that ground-penetrating radar had discovered the remains of 215 children near the site of the Kamloops Indian Residential School, which operated from 1890 until the late 1970s. While we did know that there are between 4,000 to 6,000 unresolved missing persons from the days of Residential Schools, this dis- covery reflected a horrific reality that has long been ignored.
Struggling with grief, shame and despair, a tangible way to honour these lost children seemed to be the tying of an orange ribbon for each child. Two hundred and fifteen rib- bons were tied the next morning. Since then, we have added another
1,300 to reflect further discoveries. It is a very visible and tangible pres- entation at this point, which people have responded to in a variety of ways. Some have contacted me in thanksgiving for this humble act and have gone on to share their personal story of Residential School. Many drive or walk by, slowing down as they pass and commenting that the display is important, for we need to be talking about this and working towards right relationship with our Indigenous neighbours.
The display seems to have become a venue to open conversation—with teachers and their classes, within families and within our wider com- munity. When the ribbons do come down, they will be woven into black mesh, which will be hung in our building with accompanying words
The painting of small orange stones was completed on Canada Day as the congre- gation reflected in a different way on what it means to be Canadian.
about Residential Schools and our church’s involvement, as well as the ongoing efforts to move forward in developing positive, healthy relations with Indigenous people.

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