On October 27, 1998, the United Church apologized for its role in the Indian Residential Schools system. The Apology to Indigenous Peoples in 1986 had focused on the church’s role in colonization; that apology was not accepted but acknowledged, with the expectation that the church would try to walk a more faithful path. “We pray that the Apology is not symbolic but that these are the words of action and sincerity,” Mrs. Edith Memnook, a representative of the All Native Circle Conference, told General Council in 1988.
In 1998, in the Apology to Former Students of United Church Indian Residential Schools, and to Their Families and Communities, Moderator Bill Phipps said, in part:
I wish to speak the words that many people have wanted to hear for a very long time. On behalf of The United Church of Canada, I apologize for the pain and suffering that our church’s involvement in the Indian Residential School system has caused. We are aware of some of the damage that this cruel and ill-conceived system of assimilation has perpetrated on Canada’s First Nations peoples. For this we are truly and most humbly sorry.
Youth Forum at General Council in Oshawa this summer learned about the history of the United Church’s Apologies. They were given a teaching from one of the Indigenous Elders present, who said that the lives of colonists, newcomers, and Indigenous peoples of this land are braided together—and that the braiding makes us stronger. In a moving worship service, the youth then asked General Council to help them create a braid to symbolize this relationship.
To honour the 20th anniversary of the Residential Schools Apology, you are invited to do the same—on Sunday, October 28, 2018, or at another time that works for you. Download the Braiding Reconciliation prayer ritual below, which includes more background on the church’s apologies. You’ll also need some strips of cloth or streamer rolls in the colours of the Medicine Wheel (red, white, black, and yellow), and the text of the 1998 Apology to Former Students of United Church Indian Residential Schools, and to Their Families and Communities.