A Statement Regarding Residential Schools

Dear friends,

In response to the devastating confirmation of unmarked graves on the grounds of former Residential Schools in Canada, a statement was published on June 15, 2021, written in consultation with the National Indigenous Ministry Council, a Committee of the General Assembly, and signed by both the Rev. Dr. Dan Scott, Moderator of the 2021 General Assembly, and by the Rev. Amanda Currie, Moderator for 2019–2020. It speaks, through repentance and lament and in humility, for the lives of all the children who were lost, those we know who died at the schools and those still to be found in unmarked graves. The statement makes many commitments for the church to act upon.

In various ways, the church has begun responding to the commitments outlined in the statement. However, any work regarding former Residential Schools and the land they are or were on must be done in conversation with and after listening carefully to the affected communities and in line with their wishes. Additionally, we work in consultation with the National Indigenous Ministry Council.

This work takes time and must be respectful of the impacted communities’ wishes. We know there are cemeteries associated with some of the schools that The Presbyterian Church in Canada ran but we do not know for sure whether there are unmarked graves on the grounds of these schools, though it is likely. We are working on opening conversations around searching the grounds of both Cecilia Jeffrey Residential School and Birtle Residential School. The church has also begun looking into how to approach those affected by the schools that The Presbyterian Church in Canada ran but that closed before 1925. We have also contacted the United Church of Canada about how we will work together with regard to the schools The Presbyterian Church in Canada ran before 1925 but then became associated with the United Church of Canada.

As a colleague in ministry, I am writing to ensure that you and those associated with the ministry you serve have seen, read and considered the statement, available here.

You can learn more about the ongoing work for reconciliation and Indigenous justice as well as any news regarding this issue at the Indigenous Justice page of our Social Action Hub. It is a living resource that we keep updated.

Get Involved

We all have a responsibility to deepen our understanding of the ongoing impacts of anti-Indigenous systemic racism, of which residential schools were part, and to act. Here are only some of the ways to respond after reading the statement issued on June 15, 2021

Read the Statement publicly. Additionally, read Calls to Action 71-76 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. 

Learn about the Ministries with Indigenous Peoples of The Presbyterian Church. Watch a worship service by Indigenous ministry leaders to mark National Indigenous Peoples’ Day. 

Seek to understand the harms of intergenerational trauma on Indigenous peoples and communities. 

Read the Final Report and Calls to Justice of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and use the PCC study guide on the final report: Why work to decolonize?

Read the resources and support the work of Indigenous organizations such as the Native Women’s Association of Canada.

Learn about the impacts of colonialism, why it was necessary for the church to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery, and PCC-run residential schools. Resources are online here

Learn about any schools operated near your community. As much as possible, seek information from Residential School Survivors, Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers.

Read about the work that has been done regarding the cemetery for the Regina Industrial School in “The Regina Indian Industrial School (1891-1910): Historical Overview and Chronological” by Douglas Stewart (available through Amazon).

Sincerely,  
The Rev. Ian Ross-McDonald, 
General Secretary, The Life and Mission Agency  

Information for Congregations Following the Adoption of Remits B & C: Marriage and Ordination of LGBTQI Persons in the PCC

logo of the 2021 General Assembly of the PCC

This past week, the 146th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Canada (PCC) took place. At least two things made this General Assembly significant. The first was that it was the first General Assembly to be held virtually. The second came with the adoption of Remits B & C concerning human sexuality; the PCC now affirms that LGBTQI couples may be married in a PCC Church, and that married or single LGBTQI persons may be ordained as ministers and elders in the PCC.

As we begin to consider the implications of these decisions, it is worth spending some time understanding how we came to this decision, particularly for those who have not been following the steps taken that have brought us to this place.

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Some One-Liners to Ponder

InterGenerate/Children’s Spirituality Summit CNOB Team

“As Christians, how we relate to each other should set us apart” (Douglas Powe)

Earlier this week a team of six people from our synod attended a virtual conference by InterGenerate and the Children’s Spirituality Summit. We spent Monday through Wednesday listening to thought provoking keynote presentations by world leaders of children’s and intergenerational ministries, attended a broad variety of workshops and/or research paper presentations led by leading practitioners and academics, and joined affinity breakout groups that applied to our areas of interest in faith formational ministry.

It was a great week!

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Are You Losing Sleep Over Your Congregation’s Future?

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Covid-19 has been a very uncertain and challenging time for congregations, and it appears that for some their congregation’s health might be getting significantly more precarious.

First a little bit of history.

A year ago, when we were all trying to make sense of the pandemic, a sister denomination predicted that they would lose about 20% of their congregations as a consequence of Covid. I agreed at the time; it made sense to me given what I knew about the synod and its congregations. However, as the weeks turned into months, our congregations continued to survive. In fact they seemed to be doing okay. CERB and CEWS helped, as did special grants and gifts. For some congregations, reduced expenses also made a big difference along with a mild winter keeping utilities to a minimum.

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An Attitude of Gratitude

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Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” (Luke 17:17, 18)

A few weeks ago I was standing in line at a convenience store. There were two registers open, one of which was the lottery terminal. By the number of tickets in his hand, the fellow behind me clearly had a significant lottery transaction to complete, so when that register opened, I invited him to go first. He thanked me and said; ‘that’s the first nice thing someone has done for me since Covid began.’ I hope he was exaggerating because it sure didn’t feel like much, but my greater fear was that he might have been right.

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What Will ‘Our New Normal’ Look Like?

What does the future hold for the church as we contemplate moving out of pandemic lockdowns and shuttered church buildings?

What is God saying to us, and how are we called to act as participants in this ‘New Normal’?

God declares, “LOOK! I am making a new thing, now it springs up, do you not realize it?”

This past Saturday the Synodical of Central, Northeastern Ontario and Bermuda hosted a Bible Study led by Rev. Dr. Pat Dutcher-Walls, Professor of Hebrew Scripture at the Vancouver School of Theology. If you missed it, there is still an opportunity to hear and reflect on the prophetic word Pat offered to us all.

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It’s Time to Breathe

Happy Eastertide!

Have you been able to find a minute or two to be still, to close your eyes, and after pausing for a moment fill your lungs with the new life God is offering us in these days? I truly hope so. If you haven’t been able to do this yet, there is lots of opportunity ahead as we move through the upcoming celebrations of Ascension, Pentecost, and on to the longest season of all – Ordinary Time.

Laura Alary, author of numerous wonder-filled children’s books, invites us to experience these extraordinary days by breathing deeply and getting ready to grow again. Her new children’s book Breathe: A Child’s Guide to Ascension, Pentecost, and the Growing Time, illustrated by Cathrin Peterslund, is set to be released on April 13, 2021. While it’s not out yet, I’m happy to say I’ve had the opportunity to read and delight in an advance copy of her work and want to share with you what I discovered.

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Easter Greetings from the Synod of CNOB

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Great is Thy faithfulness; great is Thy faithfulness;
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me. 

                  Thomas Chisholm 1923, 1996 BoP 324

This is one of my very favourite hymns, one that I regularly find myself humming or singing under my breath. In many ways it sums up, not just my experience of God, but the fullness of that experience. The key line, “All I have needed thy hand hath provided,” reminds me of the nature of God’s providence. 

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What Will We Tell the Children?

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It was a Good Friday service I will never forget. 

I was perhaps eight or nine years old and since children in my church rarely joined the adults in the sanctuary for any part of worship, going to worship on Good Friday was a very big deal for me. I wanted to see everything that went on in this place so I shuffled my stacking chair out into the aisle as much as my Mom would allow and then I craned my neck the remaining few inches around the man in front of me to watch all that was going on. 

Our minister stood high up on the stage at the front of the auditorium describing in vivid detail the specifics of crucifixion to all of the worshippers in attendance. In his hand he held a rusty railroad spike, pumping it in the air to give emphasis to his words. As he finished declaring that we, like the scribes and the Pharisees, were responsible for Jesus’ death he cast the iron spike with great gusto down the cement centre aisle of our sacred space where it ultimately landed under my chair with a resounding clatter and then heavy silence. For a minute or so I sat frozen in my seat, and then with a cry I ran out of the sanctuary and into the hallway where I collapsed in tears. I felt responsible. If I had not been so bad, Jesus would never have had to die. It was all my fault and until that moment I hadn’t even known I had done such a horrid thing.

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