St. John’s United Church offered radical hospitality with protesters for environmental justice from Grassy Narrows.
Since 2010 the people of Grassy Narrows have continued to bring focus to their 50 years of frustration over mercury contaminated water in their community. Every second year they journey to Queen’s Park to lobby the provincial government through their River Run—demanding justice for their people and protection for the waters and forests that give life.
In 2016 the members of St. John’s United Church in Marathon, Ontario, followed their core ministry of “radical and intentional hospitality” by providing overnight stay and meals while the group of 34 travelled to Toronto and back again by bus.
On arrival Grassy Narrows youth leaped from the bus, scoped out the prime sleeping locations in the basement and were soon outside again involved in a game of volleyball on our outdoor court. Home billets were offered to those who would appreciate more comfort and privacy. Most were just happy to be off the bus and to have a place to sleep. In one case an Elder simply stated to her niece that she did not need to be billeted out. She would prefer to sleep in the church with her five grandchildren and share the experience in the same way. I didn’t see her playing volleyball but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.
My role included cooking oatmeal for 34 people in the morning to add to the fruit, muffins, coffees and teas. I arrived in the morning to the sounds of a room full of the most soothing and musical snoring I have ever experienced.
It was amazing how about 10 people from St. John’s and the community could quickly arrange the space, borrow mats, shop, bake, greet, host, and provide breakfast in time for the 8am departure. It was good practice for their return journey at the end of the week. As a community honouring reconciliation St. John’s were pleased to play a small part in the struggle of the people of Grassy Narrows.
By Joe McGill
Joe McGill worships at St. John’s United Church in Marathon where he has lived with his family since 1985. He is a Community Capacity Development Coordinator with the Aboriginal Ministries Circle and is enlivened by his daily work and by his pursuit of outdoor fitness challenges.