Last month, I mentioned that June has many recognitions and commemorations on the calendar. Today I’d like to draw your attention in particular to National Indigenous History Month.
June is a dedicated time for all Canadians to learn about and celebrate the First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples of our country: their rich and diverse histories, languages and cultures and the many ways they contribute to our common life.
In our Church, Anglicans keep National Indigenous Day of Prayer on June 21 – the day of the summer solstice and the longest day of the year. It is an appropriate day to uphold Indigenous Peoples in prayer, something that all people of faith can do.
Over the last several months, we have been reminded afresh of the many ways that Indigenous Peoples have been sinfully wronged throughout history, up to the present day. The Church has been complicit in that abuse, and there is so much for which we must repent. Yet the resilience and fortitude of Indigenous Peoples is something to be celebrated. Despite centuries of injustice and deliberate harm, despite ongoing challenges and inequitable sharing of resources, despite racism and intolerance from the wider society around them, Indigenous communities today are strong and vibrant. Survivors of abuse, not limited to but including the heinous Residential School system, speak out with courage. Languages are reclaimed. Spiritual practices are revived.
We rejoice that the self-determining Church is coming into the fullness of its being, through the work and ministry of the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples. Sacred Circles gather hundreds of Anglicans every two or three years for worship, conversation, and decision-making. Our own suffragan bishop, Riscylla Shaw, proud of her Metis heritage, participates in these dialogues, representing the Diocese of Toronto. The Rev. Leigh Kern, our Right Relations Coordinator, is available to advise and encourage parishes and groups in learning and doing more to foster reconciliation.
Why not think about how you can keep the Indigenous community top-of-mind this month? Commit to learning and praying, both privately and in your parish. Resources are available on our website. Consider offering a Territorial Acknowledgement that is meaningful and respectful, either in your services or in your written materials. Review the Truth & Reconciliation Commission’s work, particularly the Calls to Action that pertain to the churches, and consider how your parish might address those calls. Consider donating to the Spirit Garden initiative, or make a contribution to the Toronto Urban Native Ministry, one of our FaithWorks partners.
First Nations, Inuit and Metis Anglicans are an important part of the Church of God and our family of faith, and I am delighted to highlight their lives and witness in our Diocese and across the country.
Yours in Christ,
The Rt. Rev. Andrew Asbil
Bishop of Toronto