A proud Cree woman holds the bowl; the sweet smoke of burning cedar rises in the air. In her hand the eagle feather gently fans the smoke toward each person standing in the sacred circle. She tells us to take the smoke and lift it over our heads and onto our eyes, ears, and hearts.
For this predominantly White, suburban Winnipeg United Church congregation, this is not the typical opening to Sunday worship. Yet the cleansing and renewing experience resonates with other church ceremonies, and we feel empowered to love well and resist evil.
Tragically, not too many decades ago this Aboriginal ceremony was not recognized as a way that God’s presence among us is made known. In the zeal to Christianize the Indigenous peoples of Canada, our forebears confused culture with the gospel and labelled traditional Aboriginal spirituality “heathen and evil.” As a church we apologized for this sin and have committed ourselves to building a new relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.
Through the relationship-building opportunities created by Northend Stella Community Ministry, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people are getting to know one another. It is simple yet essential in the work to make change. The old power dynamics, in which the European version of Christianity dominated, are challenged as Aboriginal Elders teach from a deep well of faithful vision.
Thanks to our gifts for Mission and Service, together we can celebrate God’s presence. With the support of Mission and Service, the people of Northend Stella Community Ministry are seeking right relationship. Please continue to give generously.
Mighty and tender God, through our gifts for Mission and Service
we respond to your call to mend the world.