In London Conference, the GC43 Pilgrims visit sites where healing is overcoming the oppression which once took place.

The GC43 Pilgrims visit a former Residential School site in London Conference.
Credit: Courtesy of the GC43 Pilgrims

The GC43 youth pilgrims made their way across Canada this summer, with the goal of visiting every United Church conference, including a stop at the 43rd General Council meeting in Oshawa, ON. Read all the blog posts from their journey and see more pictures on their Facebook page and Instagram feed.

Despite being our shortest stop, for me London Conference left a large mark on all of us. It was a stop of both highs and lows, as many as could be shoved into the 23-hour period we were there.

We were met at the airport by Betsy Exley, the London Conference youth staff person and the leader of the greatest General Council home group ever, and all piled into her “Betsy Bus” (yes, you read that right) then taken to a memorial constructed in memory of the Mount Elgin residential school.

The memorial carried the Seven Teachings as well as the name of every single student to attend the school. However, the thing that struck me most was the path towards the site; the brick of the school was set into the path, and as the path goes on the brick diminishes until there is none left. To me this is the essence of the reclamation of history; monuments to oppression overcome by memorials and monuments to healing.

Our next stop was Pearce Williams United Church Camp, one of nine camps within London Conference. There we were shown the basics of their World Camp; a program that teaches participants about life in developing countries at the human level, something that I had never seen before. While there, each of us also gave a short presentation about why we were on this pilgrimage.

For me the camp showed what could be the future for camping ministry in my own Conference: a place where campers can find spiritual fulfillment for a summer, even if they do not regularly attend church. Having a chance to see the positive effects this camp had on all of the kids in attendance has left a mark on me that will stay with me for years.

Immediately after the joy of being at Pearce Williams we were taken to Southwold Earthworks, an ancient site of the Neutral people, by Kenji Marui and told the tragic story of Sonya Nadine Cywink an Indigenous woman whose body was found in the historical site after she had been missing for some time. We were given sage and asked to walk around the site, and when we were ready we released the medicine into the wind to cleanse the hurt in the place.

London was a lot and it was tiring, at least for me, but it will go down as one of the most memorable Conferences for me for how much of what I saw will stay with me long after this pilgrimage ends.

— by Navan Forsythe, the GC43 pilgrim from the Conference of Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario. For more, see www.navanthepilgrim.wordpress.com.

 

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