REFLECTION – May 7, 2017 Fourth Sunday of Easter
Acts 2 – TRC & Community Response
If only I could turn back the clock. I wish I hadn’t said that. The Church would be a whole lot better off if we were more like the New Testament Church. Yes, we do look back longingly, usually through rose tinted glasses, at the past; or we long to go back and do things differently. We can’t do any of that. And yet, history is important. We’ve heard, I’m sure, the adage, Whoever forgets history is doomed to repeat history. And, that is why we need to pay attention to our past, whether it is specific to a local congregation or to the wider community.
The events of Canada’s history may seem disconnected from us. Colonisation, the establishment of reserves, residential schools, all happened without and beyond our involvement, and there are times when we may feel as if we are being made to feel for guilty for events with which we had nothing to do. That may be true to some degree but sadly, events of history, positive and negative, continue to have an impact on us. World Wars 1 and 2 changed the world. The threat of nuclear annihilation and the Cuban Missile Crisis, the civil rights movement in the US and the subsequent murders of leading African Americans, the British North American Act and the Repatriation of the Constitution in 1982, all shaped the world, and this country, into what we know today. At no point can we escape from that history.
The Book of Acts, from which we read every year on the Sundays after Easter Day, describes the early Church and her struggles to be faithful to the message of Christ. I have heard many lament that the Church of today would do better if she could be more like the Church of the New Testament. Of course, the situation is different and we can never recreate those conditions. If that is the case, why should we read the New Testament? If our world is so very different from the world of 2,000 years ago, why should we bother to learn the stories? Hold that thought.
This year is the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation. For many, this is a cause for celebration. For others, it is a cause of lamentation. A mature country should give thanks for all she has achieved, while at the same time casting a critical eye over those things which have not been so positive. For far too long, the relationship between settlers from Europe and Indigenous people has been fraught. As settlers forged the country we know today, so Indigenous people became more and more marginalised; and so much worse too. Successive Governments, with the support of too many Churches, sought to suppress Indigenous culture, as they attempted to make Indigenous people more like the European majority.
This is some of the background to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The report itself is daunting and I am sure most Canadians are not going to read it. Even the recommendations are numerous and most will be well beyond our scope and ability. At its most basic level, however, the TRC findings are about connecting, or reconnecting, people; enabling us to live in community, supporting and loving one another; accepting one another as we are. The recommendations of the TRC are just that, building communities which celebrate our diversity and our humanity. These recommendations need to be known and embraced by all Canadians so that we don’t ever again try and make all people like “us.”
At Youth Group on Friday, the scavenger hunt was used as means to teach us that the world would be pretty boring if it were all blue or green or grey or red. We learned that God made the world, and us, all different. We are different colours, we have different interests, we have different skills. Our differences make our community stronger, richer and a far more interesting place. That is where I hope we can start. It is common to proclaim that we are colour blind. I am not colour blind. I see the differences between myself and others. I see those differences, and at times emphasise those differences, not to belittle anyone, but because it is our differences that enrich who we are and make our community so much stronger and more interesting. As I said to the Youth on Friday, the world would be a boring place if it were all blue or red or grey. We would be boring people if we thought alike and enjoyed and did the same things. It is in our diversity that we become stronger.
So, what role does the Church play in all this? The Churches in the past, including the United Church, supported fully the Government initiated residential schools. We can’t pretend that these schools were benign. Yes, I am aware of stories that some Indigenous people tell, of schools where they learned English and were not abused, and where their experience was largely positive. But, these stories are very, very few and should not be used to distort this part of Canadian history. We begin to heal the damage by listening to the stories shared. Elder Betty Ross brought some of that story to Lunch and Learning after on Sunday. This is the Christianity to which I want to be connected. I believe our faith should work hard to build and support strong communities. We read in Acts 2 that members of the early Church gathered in small groups to pray together, break bread together and to help those in need. That is the work of the Church that we are called to do 2,000 years later. The way we do it may change, but the work is the same. Building community begins by listening to one another’s stories and pledging to work and walk with one another, celebrating together those differences that make us unique, while giving thanks for the chance to share those things we hold in common. The findings of the TRC may be daunting on the surface, but they begin with each one of us making friends with others in the community that God has given to us.