By Ryan Weston
About 45 people gathered in the chilly sanctuary of Holy Trinity, Trinity Square on Jan. 14 for the annual Keepers of the Water vigil to celebrate all that the Earth has given to us and to lament the ongoing exploitation of our waterways and other resources.
“From ancient times, this has been holy ground, sacred to the Mississaugas of New Credit First Nation,” said the Rev. Riscylla Walsh Shaw, incumbent of Christ Church, Bolton and an Ambassador of Reconciliation for the Diocese of Toronto, in her words of welcome. “The lands and streams which joined here before flowing into Lake Ontario marked a place of rest and refreshment for people on their journeys.”
The liturgy drew on practices of blessing the waters from both First Nations and Orthodox Christian traditions, in order to bear witness to “the Great Spirit at work in the world, healing and restoring this lovely, fragile blue planet.”
Throughout the ceremony, the Mii Qwan women’s hand drum group, from the Toronto Urban Native Ministry, filled the cavernous church with their powerful singing, reminding those gathered that we all have a role in protecting the waters of the Earth. Prayers of thanksgiving were offered for various elements of nature, from the waters and the fish to the birds and the stars. The Rev. Andrew Wesley, of the Toronto Urban Native Ministry, offered a prayer to the Four Directions.
In her reflection, Jennifer Henry, executive director of KAIROS, reminded those present that, through his incarnation, Jesus was “a child who, like other babies, was mostly water – 75 per cent water, so they say.” Like the rest of humanity, Jesus depended on water for his daily needs, she said.
Later in her address, Ms. Henry asked, “How can we tolerate boil water advisories in the communities of the First peoples of this land, while city dwellers – settlers and newcomers – drink safely and abundantly from the taps in our kitchens? Access to water is a potent sign and symbol of the drastic inequalities that exist between us in Canada, indigenous and non-indigenous, the huge separation that exists in this country when we should be one.”
The vigil culminated in a prayer of thanksgiving and blessing of the water. Those gathered were then invited to come forward and to drink from the water of thanksgiving. The evening ended with a time of refreshment and fellowship, where water continued to be consumed.
Ryan Weston is the diocese’s Social Justice and Advocacy consultant.