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Climbing the Mountain of Reconciliation

I recently went on a trip to the Yukon, I’m not a big hiker so when my friend led me along the side of a steep slope on a mountain sheep trail I was well out of my comfort zone.  But I was also exhilarated, it was a new experience for me, on a perfect fall day. I was enjoying good conversation with my friend, and we could see our goal far up the hill.  

When Nancy Jane Johnson got in touch with me as the communications person for the Canadian Indigenous Ministry Committee I began to picture her reconciliation journey like my experience on the mountainside.  A year ago Nancy Jane got connected with our Justice and Reconciliation Mobilizer Shannon Perez to receive the training to become a KAIROS blanket exercise facilitator.  Since then Nancy Jane’s reconciliation journey has spilled out into her church community. It’s not always comfortable but Nancy Jane says, “the church, … guides us to enter into confessional responses that make way for healing, justice and Shalom.”  

Instead of talking about First Peoples, we wanted to talk with a First Nations person. 

Nancy Jane and her husband Wayne have been on this journey for many years.  They began learning how a church can positively participate in reconciliation with Indigenous people at Meadowvale Community CRC.  They also serve with Youth With A Mission (YWAM) in Saskatchewan and have learned from Indigenous communities while working alongside them.  These experiences helped them to consider how their home church could join this journey.  

After her Blanket Exercise training with Shannon, and after their church, Reunion Oakville, decided this would be a priority for them, Nancy Jane reached out to Shannon.  “We wanted to hear from a First Nations person right from the start of this journey. Instead of talking about First Peoples, we wanted to talk with a First Nations person who is involved in justice and reconciliation.”

Next steps would be revealed as we listened to God, to First Peoples, and to each other.

Nancy Jane shared how Shannon helped their church to “set realistic goals, to concentrate on being humble, and to adopt the posture of learning and listening. Shannon helped us confirm that this was the best place to start and that ‘next steps’ would be revealed as we listened to God, to First Peoples, and to each other as we discerned how to respond.”    

Like walking on the side of a mountain is difficult, the journey of reconciliation also comes with careful balance and sore calf muscles.  Nancy Jane says, “The difficult part is experiencing the guilt and shame for what was done to Indigenous people in Canada, recognizing that the church was so involved and not knowing what to do with that guilt.”  But because Nancy Jane is entering into relationship with Indigenous people she doesn’t remain in that guilt. “We are learning that reconciliation is a process, not a set of prescribed steps. So we must be patient, but not passive!”  

Reconciliation is hard and may feel like being on the side of a mountain. 

So where have these next steps led them?  As a congregation they’ve shared information about reconciliation during a Sunday service, and invited discussion.  They’ve looked at Acts of Reconciliation Canada and listened to stories from the congregation who’ve been in relationship with First Peoples.  They’ve taught Sunday school lessons on reconciliation, attended a pow-wow, watched the film Indian Horse, and started a book club on Thomas King’s Inconvenient Indian. They’re now planning to do a Blanket Exercise together.   These steps are leading Nancy Jane and her community toward the goal of forging healed relationships with Indigenous people in Canada.  

Although the work of reconciliation is hard and may feel like being on the side of a mountain with a very faint trail, the journey is worth it.  When we come together as a community with the goal of bringing restoration and wholeness to our relationships we honour the image of God in our fellow believers.  It’s my prayer that restored relationships bring the same joy to you as my friend on the mountainside does me, and that we may be as excited about restoration as summiting a mountain.  

The work of supporting churches in reconciliation is funded by Ministry Shares and your donations.  Consider making a donation today.  

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