The Circle for Reconciliation and Justice was established at Synod Assembly in June 2018, extending the mission of the Biennium Reconciliation Task Force begun in 2014. Its mandate is to advise and assist ministry areas and congregations who have taken up the challenge of learning about our First Nations, Métis and Inuit neighbours and our collective history, and of walking with them in their ongoing efforts to undo the devastating effects of colonization.
Orange Shirt Day – National Day for Truth and Reconciliation 2021
Phyllis Jack Webstad was six years old when she left her community of Stswedcem’c Xgat’tem First Nation to attend St. Joseph Residential School. Like most six year olds, she was excited to attend school for the first time. Her grandmother bought her a new, bright orange shirt for her to wear on her first day. When she arrived at school, far from home, her new orange shirt was taken away from her and never returned. This marked the start of Phyllis’s separation from her community, culture, family and friends; a separation mandated by the federal government and supported by the church.
On September 30th, we wear orange to remember that Every Child Matters and as people of faith, we need to listen to stories like Phyllis’s and learn from the wisdom, reflection, trauma, as well as the strength and resiliency of those who were taken from their families and communities and forced to attend residential schools, some of whom never returned home again. As Christians, it is also our responsibility to make reparations for the ways in which we continue to uphold colonialism and benefit from the systemic racism in our institutions and societal structures. For the first time in 2021, September 30th is now a federal statutory holiday – the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, where people are encouraged to engage in learning, as well as listening and reflecting on the ongoing impact of the residential school system.
As September 30th approaches, here are some opportunities to consider:
- mark Orange Shirt Day in worship in your congregation on Sunday, September 26th by wearing orange and encouraging others to wear orange as well. Consider using the following litany written by Ron Flaming of the Truth and Reconciliation Action Group, Waterloo North Mennonite Church. We are grateful to Ron for allowing us to share this litany with our Synod. (see attached).
- The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation has an entire weeklong series of online events being offered for youth and adults alike. These events run from September 27-October 1st.
- to listen to a CBC interview of Phyllis Jack Webstad, follow this link.
- to learn more about Phyllis Jack Webstad’s work and advocacy, click here.
- to purchase a copy of the book, Phyllis’s Orange Shirt, click here.
- to purchase an orange shirt from an approved retailer, click here
- on Wednesdays, the Woodland Cultural Centre offers a virtual tour of the Mohawk Institute Residential School. See their calendar of events for more information.
- Medicine Wheel Education offers authentic Indigenous educational tools and resources.
- document how you will mark the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation by taking pictures (with permission) and posting to social media using the hashtags, #OrangeShirtDay; #EveryChildMatters; #IWearOrangeBecause, #EasternSynod, #MyELCIC
May God’s wisdom and understanding surround us as we continue to learn to walk in the ways of reconciliation, reparation and peace.
Abundant fall blessings to you,
The Eastern Synod Circle for Reconciliation and Justice
National Indigenous People’s Day 2021
Dear Friends in Christ,
As we approach the 2021 National Indigenous People’s Day, we offer gratitude to the Creator for the gift of Mother Earth, and to the First Peoples of this land for the wisdom they offer us as we walk together in solidarity with creation and with those who suffer the effects of colonization, racism, ableism, ageism, and sexism in its various guises.
Since the 2020 National Indigenous People’s Day, Turtle Island has witnessed a sobering sequence of injustices, injuries and inequities directly bearing upon First Nations, Métis, and Inuit people. News reels have documented the outrageous treatment of Joyce Echaquan, the ongoing effects of land grabs in Caledonia and beyond, the unconscionable continuance of boil-water advisories across this land, the rampant racism levelled against the Mi’kmaq of Sipekne’katik First Nation for exercising their fishing rights, the ongoing inordinate incarceration of Indigenous people, and the repeated disappearance and death of Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people. Unfortunately, what has been reported is but the tip of the iceberg of what is experienced.
In response to this, people of good faith are quick to respond: “What then should we do?” (Luke 3:10) John the Baptist gives us a good list to those who asked him the same question by commending charity, justice, and peace. But the First Peoples of this land also remind us that too often in our haste to act we fail to attend to our colonial attitudes and its disastrous effects in even our “good works.” We do well to begin with the words of the Opaskwayak Cree scholar Shawn Wilson:
It is your job to listen, to internalize and to be aware. The conclusions that are right for you will come to you when they are ready. It would not be polite to force them into coming too soon or to hang around after they are ready to move on.
It is sometimes so very difficult for us to be patient and attentive, but the First Peoples of Turtle Island can school us in this task. There is a plethora of material available for us, ready at hand, to begin the work we need to do of listening and paying attention in the two links below. This does not give us license to do nothing, nor to eschew responsibilities. But until we have sat with both the discomfort of our privilege and the marvel of Indigenous resilience for a time, we are not capable of hearing what we need to hear in order to walk with integrity alongside of this community that has been marginalized, criminalized, and executed by systems that benefit the majority on the backs of Indigenous and other racialized people.
The Circle of Reconciliation and Justice invites you to make use of this, and other materials, as you prayerfully consider how you might do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8).
Eastern Synod of the ELCIC CRJ Resource Page: https://easternsynod.org/circle-for-reconciliation-and-justice/
Anglican Church of Canada – Indigenous Ministries: https://www.anglican.ca/im/
 Shawn Wilson, Research is Ceremony: Indigenous Research Methods (Winnipeg: Fernwood Publishing, 2008), 134.
A communication from Bishop Michael Pryse and The Eastern Synod Circle for Reconciliation and Justice. Read MORE
TRC & Bill C-15 Online Learning Event
A recording of the Canadian Council of Churches event from Tuesday, May 4, 2021 can be viewed HERE.
This event was livestreamed on Facebook, but you do not need a Facebook account to watch the recording. So far over two thousand people have participated in CCC’s Truth & Reconciliation Comission & Bill C-15 Online Learning Event.
This recording is also available in French.
Indigenous Health Determinants
We are pleased to share a recording of our webinar exploring the effects of COVID-19 on the health determinants of Indigenous, Metis and Inuit people. Keynote by Dr. Angela Mashford-Pringle, assistant professor and associate director at the Waakebiness-Bryce Institute for Indigenous Health, Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto.
Also featuring a conversation between Richelle Miller, of Six Nations of the Grand River, and Christine Ramseyer, parish nurse at Mount Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in Waterloo.
This event was co-sponsored by the Eastern Synod and Martin Luther University College.
CRJ Resource List
1492 Land Back Lane
Many of us are aware of the occupation by Haudenosaunee land defenders at 1492 Land Back Lane at Caledonia, Ontario. People living on or near the Haldimand Tract are encouraged to become informed about the history and the issues. These are complex, but researching this story with care can help us to understand the reasons for the protest and their implications for relationship.
There is a great deal of information online, but a useful beginning is a learning resource with links to some source documents and writings from a variety of views and perspectives, put together in the Fall of 2020 by Steve Heinrichs, Indigenous-Settler Relations director for Mennonite Church Canada. It can be found here.
Letter from the Bishops – Lobster Fishing Crisis in Nova Scotia
International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples
August 9, 2020 is the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, as declared by the United Nations. It also happens to fall on a Sunday this year. For those of you looking for resources to help augment your worship or your online presence in other ways, please see the links below.
Peace and blessings to you as we continue to learn and walk the journey of understanding and reconciliation.
(Further resources can be accessed through the Racial Justice Advisory Committee)
National Indigenous Peoples Day 2020
Dear People of God,
We are all created in the image of God.
When we can recognize our equal humanity and worth our attitudes and behaviours are motivated by compassion and the common good. The disheartening aspect of recent reports of police violence against Indigenous Peoples is that it is neither unusual nor uncommon. We are quick to respond with disgust and anger when we see instances of racial violence and injustices, and yet as the Toronto Star’s editorial board writes, “Let’s save some outrage for treatment of Indigenous people.”¹
In response to the racial violence in Minneapolis, Ontario Regional Chief RoseAnne Archibald writes,
“Indigenous Elders have said, this coronavirus has come for a reason, it has come to teach us something. One thing is obvious; this pandemic has reminded us of our shared humanity. As the world experienced lockdowns, the majority of us stayed home and expressed a collective concern for our fellow humans’ health and well-being. Perhaps for the first time in our modern human experience, we understood we are truly in this together. As such, it was especially shattering to watch a fellow human killed when we were all working toward preserving health and saving lives. George Floyd became ‘everyman,’ who was experiencing real anguish, and when he cried out for his mother, we all understood.”²Read more →