Tag Archives: reconciliation

Reconciliation: We need a new story

Reconciliation is an important part of the Jan/Feb Faith Today. One of our writers, author and professor Mark Buchanan, mentions a ministry called New Story — one day seminars that help churches understand our relationship with  First Nations people. Mark shares more with us in this mini-interview.

Why did you use the name New Story?

The name New Story captures what we believe needs to happen with our relationship with Indigenous peoples. Most Canadians have been part of a story that is largely about hurt, suspicion, and avoidance. That story keeps perpetuating itself.  We need a new story that recognizes the past, no matter how awful or ugly, or how implicated in it we are, but which refuses to get stuck there. We need a story that moves us – all of us – toward a better future.

Read our cover story to find out more about this important take on reconciliation.

Can you tell us what a typical New Story day looks like?

We’ve so far held two New Story events, both shaped a little differently but with many of the same elements. Each has begun with First Nations protocols acknowledging our presence on traditional lands – for us in southern Alberta, that’s Treaty 7 Territory. An Indigenous Elder or Chief has then welcomed us and led in an opening prayer.

Both events have included several Indigenous and a few non-Indigenous plenary speakers and workshop presenters. These sessions have explored various topics – First Nations history, culture, worldview, dance, and themes of reconciliation or “where do we go from here?” In the second event, we used the Kairos “Blanket Exercise,” an imaginative journey, from an Indigenous perspective, through Canada’s history, from pre-colonialism to the present day.

Each event has also featured a First Nations talking circle in which participants are given an opportunity to share their experiences, good or bad, with others.

Is there a typical response you see from people who attend? Are they surprised to learn new facts and the real history?

Often people who attend a New Story event have had some exposure to the legacy of residential schools, or they know something of the history of colonialism, and they’ve come to learn more. But many are shocked, sometimes overwhelmingly, when they learn the fuller story: the harm, both systemic and personal, that churches, schools, governments, settler communities, individuals have brought upon indigenous peoples. There are a lot of tears. Often anger. Many participants repent – of stereotypes, of prejudices, of their actions or inaction in the past. Probably the most surprising part of a New Story event is watching Christians discover the depth and beauty of Indigenous cultures, and how these cultures in many ways are, not just compatible with the gospel, but a rich expression of it.

What are the most important things you want people to take away from a New Story day?

We want people to see Indigenous peoples and their cultures through a new lens, one that corrects previous stereotypes and prejudices, but that doesn’t simplify or minimize differences and complexities – that actually magnifies these things.

We emphasize our shared humanity, but we also highlight real and meaningful differences between peoples and cultures. This counteracts the tendency many of us have to try to reconcile with others by finding a lowest common denominator.

Frankly, that approach is part of the old story. What we are trying to do is find grounds for reconciliation in which no one is required to relinquish or distort their identity. That’s a new and better story.

We hope people come away with a commitment to lifelong and humble learning. We especially hope that many new friendships are born.


Thank you!

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Reconciliation resources

Our Jan/Feb 2018 issue includes major articles on reconciliation by Cheryl Bear, Mark Buchanan and Wendy Peterson. Subscribe today so you don’t miss it (www.FaithToday.ca/Subscriptions)

Are you looking for ways to work towards reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians? Here’s the start of a Faith Today list of resources, compiled in conjunction with our special package of reconciliation articles in our Jan/Feb 2018 issue. Not all are Christian in orientation, but all are certainly thought-provoking. To suggest additional resources or corrections for this list, email us at editor@faithtoday.ca.

150 Acts of Reconciliation, a list of suggestions for everyday reconciliation put together by two University of Alberta researchers

Anglican Journal Archives include many tagged “residential schools” as well as a section of webpages called “Residential Schools Histories”

Canada’s Residential Schools uses Google Earth Voyager and materials from Canadian Geographic to explain why the schools were built, what attending was like for Indigenous children, the aftereffects and how residential school survivors are working to move forward

Church Responses to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report, a Faith Today blog post from 2016.

Circles for Reconciliation, led by Raymond Currie of Winnipeg, offers a good list of practical resources

CommonWord Bookstore and Resource Centre, a collaboration of Mennonite Church Canada and Canadian Mennonite University, has published excellent curriculum materials on Indigenous-Settler Relations

Indigenous Reconciliation Group, led by Rose LeMay of Ottawa, offers a good list of practical resources

Reconciliation Canada has produced a variety of resources including a 2017 survey report on The Canadian Reconciliation Landscape and a series of Community Action Tool-kits

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada links to nine major Educational Resources and 11 on Reconciliation, including many church apologies


Our Whole Society conference brings old and new friends together

I knew that I knew her from somewhere. The woman at the end of my row in a workshop at the “Our Whole Society: Religion and Citizenship at Canada’s 150th” in Ottawa was eerily familiar, but I couldn’t quite place her.

I caught a glimpse at her name tag and did a quick google. I discovered we shared one Facebook friend, and that was an old elementary school friend of mine, who was later my university roommate.

I realized with a jolt of surprise that this woman was the mother of my old friend. It had been at least 28 years since I had seen her, and now here we were at a conference dedicated to thinking about the role of religion in our country.

After I introduced myself, we exclaimed and embraced, and I thought how interesting it was to be at a faith-based-and-centered conference with my friend’s mother, who I had always known as the “Mormon Mother.” They were the family who didn’t drink tea and were very mysterious and somewhat exotic, with a host of other rules and practices that back then I did not understand, or even try to, quite honestly.  Back then,  I just knew that my friend came from a very religious family, and that we were different. I never, ever would have thought I would someday find myself at the same conference with her family.

But all of the faiths present at this conference, and there are several, share concerns about the topics being addressed at the conference, which include religious freedom, solidarity in diversity, reconciliation, and immigration and refugees. We are here together.
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