A Journey to Healing & Understanding
By Michelle Casavant
I raise my hands in honour of Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc, Cowessess First Nation, and the many more Nations that will continue to uncover the remains of innocent children in unmarked and mass graves.
The determination to find the children that Canada left lost and unaccounted for. The strength to share this tragic news with our country, and the world.
The grace to witness an international response of surprise and shock to the realities that Indigenous communities have been recounting and living with the devastation of for too many years.
In 2016, Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report acknowledged the tragic experiences suffered by children who were forced to attend our country’s Indian Residential Schools between 1831 and 1996, speaking to the likelihood of mass, unmarked graves at the sites. On May 27, 2021, the small bodies of 215 of those missing children were found, buried at Kamloops Indian Residential School. Every week, more have been found, and with the astonishing numbers, like at Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan. More will be found… with determination, strength, and grace.
These horrific discoveries, in their indisputable physicality, have finally triggered long overdue action to commence the work it will take to address the myriad of intangible forces that have suffocated so many Indigenous people. In a morbid, yet necessary, offering of reconciliation, some engineering firms across Canada are providing their ground-penetrating technology, pro bono, to help First Nations locate and recover the ones who are still missing.
It has reignited outrage and cries for justice.
We knew these little ones were missing.
They were never forgotten.
For me, right now, the intersectionalities of the identities that I was born into—and have walked into—are breaking. My heart, soul, mind and body ache in ways I haven’t known before.
I am a Cree Métis woman. I was raised in rural Saskatchewan; however, my Métis grandmother completely denied our Indigeneity. Withdrawing from ceremonies to evade racism, my ancestors may have feared their children would also be taken. They felt it necessary to deny their history in an attempt to protect their future—and succumbed to the colonizer. When discoveries are made near my home, it hurts even more deeply.
I am a mother. It shatters me to imagine what it was like for the mothers, grandmothers, and communities to witness Indian Agents and RCMP destroy families. Children stolen. It overwhelms me to think of small, rural towns without children laughing and playing. It devastates me to consider the mothers of the missing and murdered being lied to, dismissively informed that their children had simply ran away from school. As if that could be enough for any mother. Subsequently, countless families have been searching for these lost souls for decades. The heartache I have for these generations that were lost…for the knowledge keepers, mothers, fathers, siblings, that were callously denied their life’s purpose.
I am a lawyer with the Government of Canada. For six years, on behalf of Canada, I witnessed the confidential, individual hearings with the Survivors of Canada’s Indian Residential School system. The Survivors bravely attended, forced to describe frightening experiences in exchange for a financial ‘compensation’, calculated via an objective spreadsheet that will never make anything equal. The trajectories of so many lives diverted and devastated and perpetuated through generational trauma. Almost ten years later, the memories of those hearings continue to occupy my thoughts.
I am a Christian. I cannot reconcile the actions that were committed in the name of Jesus. I want to scream from the rooftops that this is not Christianity. Jesus is calling those little ones to Him now, “Come to Me. You belong in the kingdom of heaven, all ye who are hurting, and I will give you rest.” Christ is the one that is bringing me peace during this time of deep sorrow and grief. Yet some of those who suffered these great injustices do not know His peace because they were violated by those who held positions of power in the church.
I am a Christian Indigenous person. I know Creator is the one true God. My current struggle is that despite requests, precedents and reasoning, the leaders of my home church will not incorporate an acknowledgement of the traditional, ancestral and unceded territory that the church is located on into our practices. Simultaneously, there are Indigenous communities in Canada that don’t have access to clean drinking water, and yet, our churches are sending enormous amounts of money to remote countries. I’m hurt and confused by the perceived hypocrisy of my church’s resistance to engagement with acts of reconciliation.
I am human. I am heartbroken by the reality of adults, in a faith-based position of trust, systematically harming vulnerable children. I am confused by the reality that virtually no one has been held accountable for these crimes. Trusting children—instruments of pure love—led into physical, sexual, emotional, spiritual, and cultural abuse. These are crimes against humanity that have gone unpunished. If these found remains were of Caucasian descent, the culprits would have been held to account.
These days, my sorrow changes as it unfolds. I am working to be present to the feelings, so that I can heal. I do not want to be resilient anymore; I am fatigued, I am weary and I am weak. Yet, I know that I need to heal so my children can have a better life. As communities, we need to heal so our offspring will have better lives. As each of these discoveries is unearthed, the open, gaping wound in my soul is covered with salt again.
I know that Jesus can and will restore all things…with determination, strength, and grace.
All my relations.
If you would like to contact Michelle, she would be happy to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org
Honouring Our Responsibilities
By Jodi Spargur
Memorials have popped up all over the country. Flags fly at half mast, our attention captured we don an orange t-shirt or an Every Child Matters frame on our profile photo, we try to find the words to pray for the 215 children now 751 now… What now?
Let your heart feel this hurt in the hopes that we might find the strength for change. “Listen hard to the stories you are told (by Indigenous Peoples) so that your heart can begin to be changed. Without a changed heart you have no capacity for changed action.” Dr. Ray Aldred
Dr. Cheryl Bear and Brian Doerksen have written a new song called 215.
215 Indigenous children
who can’t come home.
215, how many more missing?
who can’t come home.
Why did it take so long?
Revealing this ancient wrong
When mothers cried
through countless nights alone.
The church and the government
Complicit in violence
How could such savagery
How do we allow those questions to move us to action rather than indifference and silence?
Let the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples help us recover the image of God in our neighbour.
ii. Indigenous peoples have the collective right to live in freedom,
peace and security as distinct peoples and shall not be subjected to
any act of genocide or any other act of violence, including forcibly
removing children of the group to another group.
In May 2017, the CBWC voted to adopt the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a framework for reconciliation. What does that mean for us? A number of things:
- That when the atrocities of genocide as articulated in Article 7 above are revealed, as people of faith committed to these principles we cannot turn away and say, “That wasn’t us.” That, in essence, is an “Am I my brother’s keeper?” question, and the answer is, Yes.
- Like Zacchaeus—who, when convicted that he had been benefitting from harm done to others, set about to repay his debts and more—we too must commit to setting wrongs right. This is a long process and not one we fix overnight, but we must commit ourselves to this path.
- We need now, more than ever, to commit ourselves to prayer. We need all kinds of prayer, repentance, lament, prayers for healing, prayers for conviction and for courage to act. But I would encourage us to pray with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples at this time to help us see what perhaps we have been unable or unwilling to see before now.
Let justice be our part in setting the stage for healing and conciliation.
Aubrey Bosak, in speaking about reconciliation as a black South African says, “If one expects forgiveness from the victim, why can we not expect justice from the perpetrators and beneficiaries? If the name of Jesus is invoked regarding forgiveness, His name must also be invoked to call for justice.” (Radical Reconciliation: Beyond Political Pietism and Christian Quietism). For Settler Christians, our place in the journey of healing and reconciliation is one of seeking justice as those who have benefitted from the perpetuation of injustice whether it happened by our hand or not. This is a spiritual call and spiritual work that can only be sustained by faith as we walk with our neighbours in self-giving love.
Three next steps:
1. Pray with this resource https://cbwc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Praying-the-United-Nations-Declaration-on-the-Rights-of-Indigenous-Peoples.pdf
2. Learn. There are many places to start. Check out this resource for a next step that is appropriate to where you and your community are.
3. Act. Contact Jodi Spargur to explore how your church community might begin engaging locally in your context.
CBM Spotlight | Get Moving for Education: Active in Mission
Most of us, in the past year, have had the chance to recognize what a privilege it is to physically go to school, that even the struggles of online learning are worth persevering through—rather than to go without education. Perhaps our perspective has shifted as we have witnessed our own children’s formal learning threatened, and we can understand how important it is to try to help our global neighbours resolve the issues that keep kids out of school. In many places, families face school fees they can’t afford, or need their children to help support the family by working.
At the height of the pandemic, schools were closed for over 90% of learners. While schools shifted to remote learning such as radio, television, and online, an estimated 500 million students are being left behind due to lack of equipment needed for at-home learning, remote learning policies, and access to the internet. Add to that, the 258 million students who were already out of school before the COVID-19 crisis. There has been much loss because of the pandemic; we cannot let the virus take the futures of millions of children as well.
Thankfully, through CBM’s partners and local churches, many of those students will not be left behind. It’s in the margins—the places that are overlooked—where the church is present and caring for those often pushed to the sidelines.
In 2021, Active in Mission is back! From July 18-25, 2021, we will be walking, biking, and running to raise funds to support education for kids. Education is a powerful tool to fight generational poverty, and you can get active this year to bring children around the world the education they deserve.
Just as we help our kids get out the door to walk or bus, or out of bed and onto their online class, we can partner together with communities to help solve their barriers to education.
Will you help these children along a path to a brighter future today?
Let’s say YES and get Active in Mission together!
How to Take Action:
1. Go to activeinmission.ca and register your fundraising campaign page, either as a group or as an individual.
2. Get social! Follow us and tag us on Instagram @readytobesent #ActiveinMission
3. Between July 18-25, 2021, get moving! Whether you’re kayaking, rollerblading, walking, or biking, anything goes–as long as you’re active.
4. Let your donors see the progress your fundraiser is making in real-time on your campaign page.
BCY Regional Newsletter
Starting What Can’t Be Finished
Newest Board Members 2021-2023
The CBWC wants to extend a warm welcome and thanks to the newest Board Members for 2021-2023, with a special acknowledgement of our new President, Loralyn Lind. For a complete list of Board Members, click here.
Loralyn Lind pastors in Dauphin, MB. She is married to Cordell, and together they own a Bed & Breakfast and train Cordell’s hunting dog, George. Loralyn and Cordell have served in all three regions of the CBWC and attended the Banff Conference with determined consistency for 30 years. Loralyn loves to read and discover new insights into how God is bringing us all closer to Himself as we daily experience His presence.
Tim Kerber pastors at Leduc Community Baptist Church in Leduc, AB and has done so for the past 26 years. He is married to Rachelle, and they have two teenage children. Tim loves God, his family, his work and his community. He loves to preach and plan and create and dream. It is his desire that people find freedom and hope in Christ which invades their daily lives and changes the world. Tim enjoys being active and challenged. He enjoys road biking, triathlon and adventure races. He loves to garden, work with wood, and read. He also loves burgers, pigeons, hockey and hot tubs.
Richard Currie lives in Duncan British Columbia, is a member of New Life Church, and does some volunteer work in his community.
Before retiring in 2018, Richard was Vice President of Finance and Operations at Concordia University of Edmonton for nine years. Most of his career has been with operation management of non-profit organizations, having held senior administrative positions in health care administration as well as with advanced education institutions. In addition, he has worked cross-culturally for three years as administrator of a busy rural mission hospital in far-west Nepal, and later as administrator at the office of TEAM of Canada. He also has done volunteer work assisting with settlement of Bhutanese and Syrian refugees in Canada. He currently volunteers as vice-chair of Cowichan Valley Basket Society (Food Bank), treasurer of the Greater Victoria Performing Arts Festival Association, and treasurer of Stonewood Village Strata Association. He holds a CPA (Alberta) designation and a Master of Health Services Administration degree from University of Alberta.
Grant Hill, with his wife Becky and their two daughters, has been a part of the Elk Lake Baptist Church community in Victoria, BC since 2016. Born in Kelowna, Grant completed his Bachelor of Music at UVic in 2003 and his Master of Divinity at Regent College in 2007. He served as an Associate Pastor at Mississauga Chinese Baptist and Olivet Baptist (New Westminster) before his call to serve at ELB. He enjoys people, good conversation, playing guitar and being outdoors.
Gladys Tsang came to Canada and studied in Ontario when she was a youth. Gladys returned to Hong Kong upon graduation from U of Toronto but returned again to Canada to study at Regent College in the 80’s. Gladys was called by our denomination to plant an ethnic church in Vancouver in the 90’s which resulted in founding the church called Westside Baptist Church in Richmond, BC. She has been serving as the senior pastor at Westside since its beginnings. Gladys is married to Anders Tsang who is also an ordained minister with CBWC.
Laurel Auch “I’m a farmer’s wife, a mother of three, and a gramma of 2. My husband and I became Christians in 2002 and were baptized together at Faith Community Baptist Church in Claresholm. I was a Chartered Accountant until I decided to stay home with my children (one of whom has autism), and help with the management of the farm. I’ve used my training to serve as the church bookkeeper for many years and have also taught Sunday school and helped in other ministry areas. I don’t consider myself to be a leader, but I enjoy working collaboratively with other people to enact a common goal or vision, so I’m very much looking forward to being part of the CBWC Board.”
David Vandergucht lives in Regina with his wife Katherine and four young children. He and Katherine are members at Argyle Road Baptist Church, and David has previously served on the church board there. He works as a lake ecologist for the provincial government.
By Kevin Vincent, Director of the Centre for New Congregations Canadian Baptists of Atlantic Canada
Recently, I heard Simon Sinek explain his philosophy of “existential flexibility.” He said, “Existential flexibility is the capacity of a leader or an organization to shift 180 degrees and begin to plan and behave in an entirely new way, given an entirely new reality and environment. It’s the capacity to make a 180-degree shift to advance your cause.”
In addressing that specifically for churches, he said that as the church moves past the COVID-19 chapter, many faith leaders are simply moving back to the way it was, to what they know and to what they have always done. He said, “They know they can’t do what they used to do, but they don’t know what to do!”
Perhaps you can relate. As it relates to your church, you would say, “I know we can’t go back now! But I don’t know where to go now!” Let’s be “flexible existentialists” for the next few minutes. Let me prompt your thinking by heading down what would be a 180-degree shift for most churches moving forward, and let’s begin with a radical question. Here it is.
Is it time for your church to cancel your Sunday morning worship service? Is it time to say that the current model of how most of us “do church” has run its course? Is it time to embrace the reality that the culture has shifted, people have little interest in weekly, larger, group gatherings and post-COVID, it’s not coming back? Is it time to abandon a tired old model of church?
If I’ve already said enough to tick you off, stick with me because I’m much more hopeful than I’m sounding.
A recent survey in the United States by the UNSTUCK group reported that churches that have re-opened have seen about 36% of people return.
Now, I know those are American statistics. Hold your fire! But, at least anecdotally, even if we don’t have Canadian survey results that are as clear, a lot of pastors are experiencing the same and are wondering, “Who’s coming back? When will they come back? Who’s not coming back?”
Let’s just imagine that we’re twice as good as the Americans (Canadians like to think that!). Let’s imagine that we get 70% of people back! Are we OK with that? Is 70% good enough? Perhaps we should just conclude that those that don’t return are simply the hard soil, the rocky and thorny ground, of Jesus’ parable. They’re a good excuse to clean up our membership list.
Even more shocking is that the American survey discovered that only 40% of those under the age of 36 prefer larger in-person gatherings. That means that 6 in 10 church-goers under the age of 36 aren’t sure that they care about your Sunday morning worship service anymore and aren’t looking to return. So, should you cancel Sunday?
I believe the answer is No! But let me suggest an “existentially flexible” new way forward that was true pre-pandemic and has been dramatically accelerated as we move toward becoming a post-pandemic Church. Here it is.
The future of the church in Canada will not be grounded in a single-site expression but in a multiplicity of congregational gatherings, meeting at different times, in different places, with different people.
Single site. Single gathering. Single location. Single time. “See you Sunday at 10:30” is not the future.
What could that look like for your church, if you adopted that type of a posture? Is there still a place for a Sunday morning worship gathering? Of course! There are many who love that expression of church. In fact, 70% of the church-going Boomers surveyed want to go back to that traditional Sunday gathering. It’s still meaningful. It’s what they know and love. We can’t steal that. Moving forward, it needs to be a piece of the reimagined church.
But the great majority of younger generations don’t share that conviction. They’re finding connection in the digital church. They’re enjoying a house church that has emerged with 4 other families. They’re creating dinner church experiences with a dozen friends on a Thursday night. They’re a Sunday morning “huddle church.” Some are creating their own “worship gathering and liturgy.” Others are joining together for a “watch party” of their church’s online service.
What would it look like for your church to consider a multiplied model? What would it look like to embrace a true hybrid expression of church that still celebrates the traditional Sunday gathering but also cheerleads and celebrates multiple, smaller congregations meeting during the week, in various locations, at various times, with many groups of people?
I think I can already hear some push-back. “Yeah but we’re a little church! We’re only small! We can’t multiply anything! That’s a big church model!”
No, it’s not!! Don’t take your “existentially flexible” hat off yet! What if there were 31 people meeting on Sunday at 10:30am in your church facility? Perhaps there’s another group of 14 on Thursday night, over dinner? And another group of 23 on Tuesday night over coffee in a café? And what if fellowship happened? What if care happened? What if teaching happened? What if you started serving together? Could that, in fact, be a true congregation by New Testament standards? Could that simply be another expression of your church, another congregation, at a different time, in a different place, reaching different people, tethered together as multiple congregations and still ONE church?
Could THAT be a new way forward? Could that be the answer that your church needs to consider? As Simon Sinek asks, “Do you have the capacity to make that 180-degree shift to advance your cause?” We must! It’s a new day for the Church! Jesus is still building His Church, and His cause is too great not to try!
Kevin Vincent is the Director for the Centre of Congregational Development with CBAC. He is part of Canadian Baptist National Cohort along with Cid Latty from CBOQ and Shannon Youell from CBWC. Together we dream and vision and work towards sharing resources and imagination for our churches as they join God in extending the Good News into multiple communities in which the folk in our churches live, work, play and pray. And we laugh a lot.
Banff Registration is Open!
Those in pastoral leadership know that restful rhythms do not just happen – space must be created for rest and renewal. It has been a privilege to provide such space to our pastors and spouses for the past 44 years in one of the most picturesque locales in the world! November 2021 will be our 45th year to gather together in Banff for restoration of mind, body, soul and spirit. We hope you can join us this year at the Banff Pastors and Spouses Conference!
Registration for Banff 2021 opens on July 1, 2021.
Early bird registration: August 30, 2021.
Regular registration deadline: September 30, 2021.
Dates: November 1 – 4, 2021
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Making Connections is the monthly newsletter of the CBWC.