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Remembering and Healing

Thursday, June 24, 2021 – the Day of John the Baptist By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. There on the poplars we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land? If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill. May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy. Psalm 137 Oh my beloveds in the Pacific Mountain Region. I look around at all that’s familiar and it feels like quicksand. I’m in a foreign land, one that I do not recognize in the spit and polish of empire. Kamloops. Brandon. Cowessess First Nation.To date we know of 1323 unmarked graves; 1323 choices made, times when names were removed or unrecorded. The foreign land is this now-eyes-wide-open Canada, this Canada that can no longer be rendered unseen, unheard, hidden. There are 1323 stories telling us a truth that has been whispered for generations; and we know the number will rise. How long Oh God? Indigenous people of the region and settlers alike are crying. Indigenous people are crying out the anguish of blood spilled, spirits broken, stories ended. Settler people see that this is on our hands, not in direct experience, but in the stories we’ve not wanted to hear. All of this is happening. Indigenous and Settlers wearing the evidence. If there is any common ground, it’s that we are all in this mess together. We experience it differently, but we are in it.

Our humanity weeps for another’s. In prayer today, then, I invite you to light a candle and sit in silence, the silence you’d experience in the quiet of a cemetery. There are no words. There are only sighs too deep for words. The only assurance I can offer is that we have each other. We have the hope of a Mystery that tells us over and over again that we are one and that we are not alone. May that hope, and that promise get us through this day. With a broken heart, I send my love and peace. Rev. S. Blair Odney

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June 25, 2021 Dear Colleagues in Ministry: I am writing you as the truth about unmarked graves on the sites of former residential schools continues to emerge, confirming what many people in Indigenous communities have said and known for years. I know that you and members of your congregations have questions about what the church is doing or will be doing in response. The General Secretary and I are working with the Indigenous Ministries and Justice staff to reach out to the communities affected by the 15 schools we operated. We want to ensure that our denomination’s response is firmly grounded in the principles of right relationship that we seek to live. This is ongoing work that requires our support and participation. As the conversations continue, I will keep you updated. This is a time for The United Church of Canada to listen rather than prescribe. The pain in Indigenous communities and churches is immense. I ask you to continue to hold Indigenous members of the United Church and their families and communities in prayer and ask members of your community of faith to do the same. Blessings,

The Right Reverend Richard Bott

Moderator / Modérateur

The United Church of Canada / L’Église Unie du Canada

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