My grandson turns two on June 21. He was born on the summer solstice. He has undergone many surgeries over the last 22 months and is now running, singing, and adding words to his vocabulary daily. My daughter, a former local Community Development Co-ordinator, is currently working on her Master of Music degree with a focus on the Decolonization of Music Education. She told me her Indigenous friends believe that babies born on the solstice are special. I don’t know the traditional beliefs behind this, though I’d love to learn them. But speaking as a grandmother, I agree! And it’s no coincidence that we also celebrate the Sunday closest to the solstice as Indigenous Day of Prayer.
I have never been able to reconcile my deep respect for Indigenous people with the racism and condemnation that endures toward them. Blame ends relationships; communication begins relationships. If we are to heal broken relationships with our kin, we must stop blaming, set aside fears of saying or doing something wrong, and begin to talk with one another.
So I struggled to write worship materials that non-Indigenous congregations could use to celebrate this special Sunday. Ideas emerged but when the words hit the page, they didn’t feel right anymore. In my head, Indigenous and non-Indigenous people are already worshipping together. There is so much overlap in areas of our spiritualties, such as connections to the Great One, the Creator, the sacredness of symbols such as the Eagle, living with respect in creation, trusting in an ongoing circle of life, and so on. But when I wanted to suggest words to be spoken by Indigenous voices, I had to admit that I know of no Indigenous church goers in our congregation. My hope is that efforts to celebrate Indigenous Day of Prayer in predominantly non-Indigenous congregations will lead to opportunities where our two communities can learn more about each other, relationships can be built, so trust and love will flourish.
There is no shortage of inspirational stories to draw upon. I got to know Indigenous politician and activist Mary Richard when we both served on the Manitoba Round Table for Sustainable Development. I appreciated her determination and commitment, and her role as the first executive director of Thunderbird House in Winnipeg. Mary started a knitting circle, which over time became a place where people found mentoring, counselling, hope, health advice, friendship, and acceptance.
Not knowing what to do is no excuse for doing nothing. As God’s children and disciples of Christ, we are called to courageously love and care for all creation and all God’s children. Let us begin today and never stop. May we non-Indigenous Canadians begin a tradition. May we pass down to our children, generation after generation, the stories and examples of how we live in relationship with God and the First Peoples of this great land that we, also, now call home.
—Bev Leadbeater is a wife, mother, and grandmother who actively lives and works on a family farm in southern Manitoba. She is in her third year serving as a Congregational Designated Minister for Rock Lake Pastoral Charge in Crystal City, MB.