Flying east, as the sunsets behind us in Manitoba, we seem to be rushing into the shadow of night. I know what this place looks like from outer space: a line between darkness and light, a dividing line between two worlds. But this close to the planet the horizon is a beautiful rainbow, a promise, hope.
Cathy Gradante and I are returning from three days in Pinawa, Manitoba, the site of the 20th Grand Council of the All Native Circle Conference. It is also the last Grand Council, just as the Bay of Quinte meeting in 2018 will be our last.
We don’t yet know what our church will look like in the wake of the remits, but in the meantime there is work to be done… a General Council to be planned.
Cathy and I went to Pinawa to build relations between our two conferences as we plan to co-host general council next summer in Oshawa. We went to listen, to learn about their people, to hear their stories, and to dream how these two very different conferences could possibly plan a massive national event together.
I personally wondered what I was doing there, feeling like I was getting away with something from the moment Our bus pulled into the wilderness edge resort.
For instance, we had witnessed the importance of the sacred fire. Lit with ceremony on Sunday night, four young men kept the fire burning day and night, finding deep purpose and honour in their responsibility. Through torrential downpours at 3:00 a.m. and blazing sunlight, they drummed, sang and kept the fire alive as long as council was meeting. The fire received our prayers, witnessed deep conversations and joyous sing-alongs. We have come home with a small bottle of the ashes of that fire.
We had witnessed the importance of the bundle that formed the centre of our meeting circle. A cross, a bible, a feather… a rock, swaths of cloth representing the four colours of the medicine wheel. We witnessed the importance of story, or making time and space for each person who wanted to speak. We witnessed the importance of the youth, the healing of sweetgrass and sage.
We heard the stories and teachings of elders, both in ANCC but also from the local communities. Some were Christian, some were not. But Each spoke of the importance of love and belief in who we were created to be.
We heard testimony of the Australian exchange delegation, a group of aboriginal Christians from the uniting church of Australia as they discovered a common story with our First Nations people and shared ideas about a way forward. (Learn more about the Australia visit HERE.
We witnessed and heard enough to fill our hearts to overflowing. Songs shared around the sacred fire, words from our moderator Jordan Cantrell. A call for prayers for the first people from past leading elder Lorna Standingready.
Over the next year as I visit presbyteries and pastoral charges, I want to learn from all of you. I want to learn your stories, what makes your churches so wonderful, what makes you unique in all creation. But this week in Pinawa has helped me to understand that we are not alone. We live in God’s world, which is diverse, beautiful.
As we gather as executive, we will keep the wild rice and sweetgrass that Cathy and I received at the centre of our sacred space. We will pray for these communities. We will learn to gather and share our stories in a circle, where each person is given time and respect as we make decisions.
Throughout the year I will do my best to remind us all that: we are in partnership, and ask each of us to pray for wisdom for the GC planning committees as we make space for a people with rich teachings and love to offer us; to seek out the wisdom of a people with profound spiritual traditions; to dare to be humble and risk doing things in a new way, with unfamiliar partners whose experience is rooted In time immemorial.
This airplane may be racing toward shadow side of our planet, but if we stay the course I know we will emerge in the dazzling light of a new day. The rainbow between day and night gives me hope that our church will also find that new day.
Let us pray. Creator God, who calls us to the threshold of all we know and see, we thank you. In a time of change in our church, help us to remember your call to love. Help us to remember what we know. Amen.