Sweetgrass, Incense and Reconciliation

A few Sundays ago, in anticipation of the Reconciliation Walk my pastor, Ken Shigematsu spoke with humility, wisdom and compassion, asking for forgiveness from those affected by Residential Schooling and the repercussions of colonialism, on behalf of the Christian church. It is so embarrassing and baffling to know that so-called “Christian” people, with not an ounce of Christ’s vision of love, inflicted theft, suffering and brutality upon Indigenous peoples, especially the children, with on-going generational impact.Reconciliation Canada Thank You

Ken called us all to reconciliation, or perhaps “conciliation” for those who have never had a relationship with someone of First Nations descent, and also asked for accountability when we have made stereotypical judgments or racially profiled someone. The sermon made me proud to call Tenth Church my home for over ten years.

Ken encouraged us to reflect on 2 Corinthians 5: 14-19, to “regard no one from a worldly point of view” and honour the ministry of reconciliation that Christ modeled with each other and with God – the Creator of all people. It’s important to articulate the truth, and also listen closely to the truth of others and their experiences… so they know that we see them and hear them.

The sermon included our Children’s pastor, Milissa Ewing who is of mixed descent including lineage from a Kwakwaka’wakw Chief on Vancouver Island. She often felt like an impostor, neither fully Aboriginal or Caucasian and received rejection from both sides. Her calling now is to be a bridge, and she looked radiant while sharing her story with her family’s stunning button blanket on display behind her, right beside the wooden cross. The full sermon can be listened to via this link.

I especially liked the anecdote about Ken’s friend, a fellow pastor on Vancouver Island getting excited about sweetgrass ceremony, and how the smell is a reminder to speak the truth and to be cleansed. We can all use a little sweetgrass! It’s kind of interesting to think of how different faiths including Judaism, Orthodox Christian / Catholicism, Buddhism utilize incense and smoke in their religious practises. Incense can be a symbol of prayer rising to the heavens, the presence of the Spirit, and veneration of holy spaces.Incense

At the Carnegie Centre we are fortunate to have an Elder in Residence, Les Nelson who offers smudge every week on the street to those who need it, and a prayer. He is so gentle, giving and fun, and always willing to share songs and stories! I feel like there’s been talk for ages of an Indigenous-focused Healing Centre in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Tracey Morrison was advocating for this to be established before she passed. It seems like such an obvious thing the City should pursue.

Lately, I feel like I’ve been photocopying so many memorial posters for my patrons, and their loved ones. There’s one woman in particular who fills me with awe. She copes with a mind-numbing amount of grief and loss, and yet she perseveres and offers herself up for the community. Most of the time she just pops by and hangs out, telling me about all the meetings she’s going to, the artwork she’s making, or we might post something to her Facebook, or upload a video, then share some bannock. I’m honoured to know her, and if this is what reconciliation feels like it is an absolute privilege.




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