This past week, news of the discovery of a burial site containing the remains of 215 children who attended the residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia, offered up yet another tragic story from the legacy of residential schools in Canada. There is no doubt that this discovery has deeply affected many, both within First Nations communities in Canada as well as others throughout the country.
While this revelation lays bare the sad history of generations past, it is also a reminder of the challenges we face in the continuing journey of reconciliation with the First Peoples of Canada. The ongoing tragedy of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, systemic and institutional racism along with the social and economic disparities faced by First Nations, indicate that we must strive to keep these matters front and centre, never slackening in our resolve to walk together.
Archbishop Michael Peers, in offering his apology on behalf of the Anglican Church at the National Native Convocation in Minaki, Ontario on August 6, 1993, noted that words are often uttered which ring empty because of the lack of unaccompanied action. Archbishop Fred Hiltz, in offering his apology of behalf of the Anglican Church at the General Synod in 2019 for the spiritual harm inflicted upon indigenous people, reminded the church that we must continue to honour the calls to action contained in the National Truth and Reconciliation report as well as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples endorsed by the General Synod in 2010.
June 21st is National Indigenous People’s Day in Canada. Leading up to the observance of that day, I would encourage the parishes of our diocese to incorporate prayers within the liturgy of the day that bring the challenges we face before God, asking for the leading of the Spirit as we seek healing and renewal through the journey of reconciliation. In light of the sad news of this past week, I would also direct that the parishes of our diocese incorporate 215 seconds of silence in their worship services this week and would invite the silence to conclude with the “Remembering the Children Prayer” which you can find along with many other resources for use in the “reconciliation toolkit” on the Anglican Church of Canada website at www.anglican.ca.
God of our Ancestors,
who holds the spirits of our grandmothers and grandfathers and the spirits of our grandchildren,
Remembering the Children,
we now pledge ourselves to speak the Truth,
and with our hearts and our souls
to act upon the Truth we have heard
of the injustices lived,
of the sufferings inflicted,
of the tears cried,
of the misguided intentions imposed, and of the power of prejudice and racism
which were allowed to smother the sounds and laughter of the forgotten children.
Hear our cries of lament
for what was allowed to happen, and for what will never be.
In speaking and hearing and acting upon the Truth may we as individuals and as a nation
meet the hope of a new beginning. Great Creator God
who desires that all creation live in harmony and peace, Remembering the Children
we dare to dream of a Path of Reconciliation
where apology from the heart leads to healing of the heart and the chance of restoring the circle,
where justice walks with all,
where respect leads to true partnership,
where the power to change comes from each heart.
Hear our prayer of hope,
and guide this country of Canada
on a new and different path.
The “All My Relations” Circle of the Diocese of Ottawa has prepared resources for liturgies in the Diocese of Ottawa for use on Sunday June 20th, including readings, music and prayers. The various components of their liturgy are available after June 9th at www.ottawa.anglican/amr.ca. Bishop Shane Parker has extended permission for those resources to be used within our diocese for which I am grateful. I will record a greeting that can be utilized in the various online worship offerings within our diocese. We will also put links to the Ottawa resources and my greeting on our diocesan website.
I would encourage the wearing of orange shirts throughout the days leading up to and including June 21st as a sign of solidarity with those who grieve and our common commitment to healing and renewal, particularly in light of the Kamloops residential school discovery. You can read more about the significance of the orange shirt and orange shirt day (Sept. 30th) at www.orangeshirtday.org.
I will be present at St. George’s Cathedral on Friday, June 18th to offer the Coventry Litany of Reconciliation. I hope to be joined by representatives of the Interfaith community to whom I have extended an invitation. We can have a maximum of ten persons gathered under the current COVID-19 protocols. Following the litany, the cathedral bells will toll 215 times which will provide us with the opportunity for a 20-25 minute vigil after which the Remembering the Children Prayer will be offered to conclude. I would encourage the use of the Coventry Litany of Reconciliation in public and private devotions on June 18th. The litany can be accessed at http://www.coventrycathedral.org.uk/ccn/the-coventry-litany-of-reconciliation/
We are in the season of Pentecost where life and growth are central, both in our faith journey and in the life of the earth. The Great Commandment of Christ to love seems so simple to utter and often is so challenging to live, yet we continue in the Great Commission with love as our rudder, guide and watchword. May the love of Christ attend you through these days. I conclude this pastoral letter to you with the prayer that we often offer at the end of worship as we leave to carry the Good News we have heard back out into the world in both word and action.
Go before us, O Lord, in all our doings with your most gracious favour, and further us with your continual help; that in all our works, begun, continued and ended in you, we may glorify your holy name, and finally by your mercy obtain everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
May the Peace of Christ be with you this day and always,
Bishop Michael Oulton