Monday, June 18, 2018

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Responding to the “Calls to Action” of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission

First United Church has a unique perspective as its property is part of the original summer fishing grounds of the people who lived in this part of Ontario for at least 6000 years before the arrival of Europeans. The plaques on the boundaries of the property describe the Newash Village and the Wesleyan Methodist Mission that were situated here and in the surrounding neighbourhoods of what we now know as “Brooke” or “Brooke-holme” or the northwest corner of Owen Sound. A small group of people have been gathering together over the last year to further explore our own history on this land and how we understand the truth arising out of the commission. We have had conversation on our own as well as with others who are indigenous and non-indigenous. Out of those conversations have come a variety of activities and commitments.

  • The council meetings and special services of worship begin with an acknowledgement of the land: We acknowledge with respect the history, spirituality and culture of the Anishinabe peoples on whose traditional territories we gather and whose ancestors signed Treaty 45 ½ with our ancestors. We acknowledge also the Great Lakes Métis people whose ancestors shared the local lands and waterways. May we as Treaty People live with respect on this land, and live in peace and friendship with all of its diverse peoples.

  • We are publishing all 94 of the TRC Calls to Action in our weekly worship bulletin and E-News.

  • We have collected resources about local indigenous history for all ages that we will soon be making available to the congregation on a loan-basis;

  • We are looking for appropriate places in our building to place indigenous art as a way of telling the indigenous story and acknowledging their significant artistic tradition while making our building more welcoming to those who have indigenous roots;

  • With Virginia (Ginger) Smith’s vision and passion leading us, we have developed a funding proposal and received funding to implement a “Walking Tour Toward Truth and Reconciliation” in the neighbourhood around First United Church as part of the City of Owen Sound’s celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary and the city’s 160th anniversary. First United contributed $500 from the Memorial Fund and we successfully obtained $4,000 from the Community Fund for Canada's 150th and $1,000 from the Toronto Conference Right Relations Fund. We are currently awaiting approval of an application for a further $13,000 from the United Church of Canada Justice and Reconciliation Fund for that same project. Each of the five locations will have a sculptural marker and audio stories introducing the significance of the land and culture as well as residential school stories. Significant time is being donated by members of the committee. Guiding partners include Susan Schank of the Great Lakes Métis Council and Trish Meekins, Nikaanaganaa Counselling and Learning Centre.

  • Most of all, we have learned a lot. We are learning about the importance of language and how to avoid telling a story that is not really ours to tell. We have yet to access the many resources that are available to us through the Toronto conference “Living into Right Relations” Circle and to make connections with other United Churches that are taking the TRC Calls to Action seriously. This may lie ahead.

And, we trust that we will be led by the Spirit in our continued efforts to “live into right relations” with all peoples of this land. If you are interested in hearing more about our little group, please contact any of us at your convenience.

Respectfully submitted,
Virginia (Ginger) Smith, Laurel Dinsmore, Gwen Barry, Anne Tettenborn, Bettilyn Berglund, Pat McDonough, (Rev.) Kathy Underwood, (Rev.) Kristal McGee.
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