McDougall Memorial United Church

McDougall Memorial United Church
Image: Eric Lamoureux

In this TED|Episode of A Deacon’s Musing, I am excited to explore Althea Guiboche’s TEDxManitoba 2014 presentation entitled Got Bannock? In honour of the village we once had.

I do not think that the challenges and realities that Althea shares during her TED Talk would be ‘new’ (per se) for many people who identify themselves as having a connexion with The United Church of Canada. We are a people for whom social justice and Right Relations are part and parcel for what it means to be a person who wrestles with faith, confession and forgiveness.

During last June’s presentation, Althea’s candour, honesty, and vulnerability are all testament to a strength and tenacity of a particular person – the Bannock woman. It also reflects a larger resilience of those whom we – the dominant colonial culture – have previously tried to change, mould and shape into what we thought was the way a people – Canada’s First Nations – should be. And though we – in the UCC – continue to endeavour to live into our apologies, to right the mistakes we have made (whether they be waving the banner of Christendom, colonialism via treaties broken, the Residential Schools or the Sixties Scoop), I do not think that is how this musing shall unfold. In fact – though there will always be work that remains – I think we have confronted some of our choices with our own courage. By looking into that mirror, I am hopeful we have begun to embrace the power of humility, which leads to solidarity, as opposed to the oppression of others.

Truth & Reconciliation Commission

Truth & Reconciliation Commission
Image: Neeta Lind

What I am and have been musing about as I prepared for this Episode is whether or not we are actually able to listen this time? Althea clearly knows what is needed. From her own experience, she names where she and her Village have been and then issues a challenge about what is required to address homelessness, poverty and illiteracy.

In fact, she articulates it so well, I was sort of struck by the ease with which her own story indicates how we – Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people – might actually affect change in a timely way. In a way that would afford those currently experiencing exploitation the ability to claim their dignity now! This nimbleness obviously stands in stark contradiction to the pace that either the church or other public institutions sometimes move: the narrative here and there is slow, pondering and often frustrating.

And what is required of us is both simple, though not easy, and possible, though a challenge. As inheritors of privilege and a narrative of colonialism and Christendom, can the church let go of having believed we have the answers and realise that all people – in this case Althea and her Village – actually have wisdom to affect change and agency to do so? In some cases, we may simply have to get out of the way … and in others we might be invited into the conversation. Question is … can we enter into such dialogue without presuming and assuming what will work … ?

A tall order, perhaps, but after hearing Althea speak on that day, if we had to choose and realise our ego is not ready to shed control, the least we might do – as church – this time is simply get out of the way and wait to be invited in …

What do you think?