A Small but Important Beginning
Next week, Sunday May 7, we will be hosting guests from the Saddle Lake Reservation. One of them, Alsena White, will share her story about surviving the residential school system. After her talk, we will converse with her a bit, share a dessert together, and be invited to view a display of First Nations Art.
Why are we doing this? It is our attempt to address the need for reconciliation that exists between Canada’s First Nations peoples and the country’s citizens of non-native descent. Admittedly it is a very small step, but I believe it will be a very real and healing step, nonetheless.
Our planning for this event started about 18 months ago. At the urging our regional body of churches (which was responding to our nation’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission) our church made a commitment to host a reconciliation evening. However, we did not want the event to be merely symbolic (an apology to no one in particular); rather, we wanted to engage real people in a real conversation.
We approached the people of Saddle Lake because we have already begun a relationship with them. We support Philip Lee who is a highly respected business person there and who runs programs for youth on the reservation. Also, the Bethel youth, and later a group of adults from Bethel, visited Saddle Lake to meet the people there and to pray for the reservation. Both the youth and adult visitors toured the residential school and heard Alsena White’s story.
My hope is that Alsena and the small group that will join her that evening will feel respected and heard, that they will sense how genuinely we are interested in them, and that they will want our friendship to continue and to grow. I hope that some of the impressions they hold of the Christian church, which was directly involved in the residential school system, will be softened, and that barriers to their hearing to the Gospel will be removed.
Those of us who heard Alsena’s story were deeply moved. I think you will be too. The evening starts at 6:30 pm and will be over between 8:30 and 9:00 pm. –Pastor Tom
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