This Week at Trinity, Beamsville
Friday, June 18, 2021
This week I discovered that my habit (small problem?) with clipping and keeping articles can bring some unexpected, albeit necessary re-evaluation.
The article in question, and in view as I type, is from January 8, 2020. That seems almost a lifetime ago – in what my colleague Jane likes to call ‘the before time’. At any rate, it was on January 8, 2020 that I was moved, quite emotionally so, by the account of a fundraising campaign for restoration at the Woodland Cultural Centre in Brantford. Many of you will know well that the Woodland Cultural Centre is the site of the former Mohawk Institute Indian Residential School, and so the campaign’s goal was (presumably still is) to preserve bricks, quite literally. It is part of a larger campaign known as ‘Save the Evidence’. As the article’s photos make painfully clear, many of the bricks have etchings from former students, carving their names or messages into the building exterior. The etchings mark time and people. They mark some of the horrors that occurred there; and for survivor Geronimo Henry, they mark truths that must be named and kept visible, in the process of healing and teaching.
I don’t pretend to understand the courage that it took for Geronimo Henry to return to the place that he said, understatedly, “ruins your life”. I don’t pretend to have anything close to the depth of answers, or even all the necessary questions, to be part of the healing and teaching he leads. I do say, again and again, that I am open and willing to learn; that we must, collectively, be open and willing to listen and to hear, and then to act in faithful accompaniment. Following the wisdom of our UCC General Secretary, Michael Blair, I’m no longer certain that the language of ‘ally’ is sufficient for any process of justice-seeking, but as a white woman of astonishing, too-often unnamed privilege, I am absolutely certain there are places where I am just beginning to understand the depth to which I have been and continue to be complicit to the pain of the marginalized.
To be clear: my re-discovery of the article from last year did not prompt a re-evaluation of its power or necessity for sharing. Nothing has changed in that regard. I have, however, moved it from its unremembered place, tucked inside a book on forgiveness. I think perhaps that then I wanted to keep it for the questions it raises about how complicated that theological concept really is. I know now that I want to keep it as a marker in “Fire & Grace”, for a painful but real chapter of our denominational history, and our present, and our future. The chapter is called, “Unfinished Injustice”. Perhaps this time, this Indigenous Day of Prayer, and this Indigenous History Month, we will turn the right corner toward the time when chapters of justice can start to be recorded, too.
With love, and prayers of healing… to, for, and with you all,
“How to make a dream come true: Don’t focus on the dream, or it will always remain a dream. Instead, focus on the first action you can take to bring that dream a little closer. Then take it. Now focus on the next action, and take that.”
(Richard Wagamese, Embers, 132)