by Moses Falco
For 7 years, our church, Sterling Mennonite Fellowship, has been engaged in a partnership with Living Word Church in Cross Lake, northern Manitoba. Over those years, we have visited that community at least once a year to spend time there, build relationships and learn from one another. Going to Cross Lake is one of the highlights of my year because I encounter God in so many unexpected ways.
[All of us] need to have eyes to see and ears to hear. Not everything will make sense to us. Cultural and spiritual traditions are not always comfortable when they seem foreign. But if we create space to listen and learn, we will begin to see things in a new way. Traditionally, there has not been a lot of room to listen. We are quick to defend our history, or to say, “it wasn’t me.” Settlers don’t like to think of themselves as the problem. We need to rethink some of our stereotypes of Indigenous peoples and begin to see them as brothers and sisters. When we start to do that, our structures and processes will reflect that.
The vision of the Future Directions Task Force puts an emphasis on Indigenous-Settler relations. This is good. It calls congregations of all levels to be engaged in this work and to work together for collective initiatives. When it comes down to it, most of the work happens at the local level, where congregations discern the ways in which they can build relationships with Indigenous communities. However, there is a large part of resourcing, connecting, and awareness building that happens on the national level through the offices of Mennonite Church Canada. I think it is vitally important for that work to continue, where the churches are reminded of the responsibilities and opportunities that are available to them. I think that the proposal of FDTF still makes room for that, but I think we need to be deliberate about making that happen. To simply forget about it in this restructuring would be a great loss.
Moses Falco is pastor at Sterling Mennonite Fellowship in Winnipeg, MB. These reflections are summarized from a longer email exchange between Moses and EVI. Click here to read the full version.
Update (June 25, 2016): For more on FDTF and Settler-Indigenous relations, see Sara Anderson’s reflections.