Ecumenism display focuses on native ties with Church

The City Hall exhibit shows the interplay between aboriginal and Christian tradition.

WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER

The City Hall exhibit shows the interplay between aboriginal and Christian tradition.

February 3, 2014
CHRIS MILLER
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

Despite the troubled history between First Nations people and Canada's Christians, many First Nations people have embraced the Christian faith and bear witness through their lives to the love of Christ.

This message was shared at Edmonton's City Hall during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which recognizes the division among Christians, and is aimed at helping to restore unity in the global Christian family.

"We know that the Christian churches have not always been ready to rejoice in the gifts of God present in our aboriginal communities," said Julien Hammond, president of the Edmonton & District Council of Churches.

"We know that the Christian churches have contributed to moments of great sadness and tragedy and loss among First Nations in this country.

"We are embarrassed and saddened by this history, and several churches in Canada have issued public apologies."

Held in the third week of January, in collaboration with the Edmonton Interfaith Centre for Education and Action, the local Week of Prayer is part of the City of Edmonton's Celebrating our Faiths program.

"The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is a time when Christians from around the world take the time to reflect on our historic and present divisions, and the tragedy of that, and to work on reconciling with one another in our communities," said Hammond.

Taken from 1 Corinthians 1.1-17, this year's theme is Has Christ been Divided?

Rueben Quinn sings a Cree song during the Jan. 17 opening of a display at Edmonton City Hall marking the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER

Rueben Quinn sings a Cree song during the Jan. 17 opening of a display at Edmonton City Hall marking the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

Each year, the Week of Prayer focuses on a different culture in a different part of the world.

"This is only the second time in the 100-year history of the Week of Prayer that we are reflecting on Canada," said Hammond.

The Edmonton & District Council of Churches launched a public display about the Week of Prayer at City Hall. Launched Jan. 17, the display emphasized Christianity relating to First Nations, Inuit and M├ętis peoples.

"We celebrate and honour this expression of Christianity among First Nations, and we hope that this year's display may contribute to building up the whole body of Christ," said Hammond.

The program included drumming, Cree songs and prayers. Ernie Gambler played two songs: Abba Father and Keep the Circle Strong.

The Celebrating Our Faiths program, including the City Hall display, is designed to promote awareness of the city's diverse faith groups and enhance appreciation of Edmonton's cultural diversity. Since 2006, more than 18 different faiths have been featured.

HEALING, RECONCILIATION

The display explained Christian self-understanding in the context of indigenous traditions and customs: "For Christians from indigenous cultures, a particularly important understanding of mission is its relationship to healing and reconciliation based on justice and to facilitating the wholeness of individuals within their communities.

Rev. Travis Enright

"The Christian message of Good News to the poor, the outsider, the widow, and the orphan resonates with traditional indigenous teachings."

Edmonton city councillor Bev Esslinger said participation in launching the Christian display helps the City of Edmonton achieve its vision of being an inclusive city that respects the diversity of all faith traditions.

The Edmonton Interfaith Centre for Education and Action has developed many programs aimed at creating a more harmonious community. A total of 31 faith traditions are represented in the group. It holds a multi-faith prayer service, provides education programs to enlighten people about the many religions found in Edmonton, and helps city residents appreciate this rich diversity.

FOUR DIRECTIONS PRAYER

The Rev. Travis Enright, an Anglican pastor, led a Four Directions Prayer during the display opening ceremony.

Guests turned to the east where the sun rises. The sun symbolizes warmth, light, a place of beginnings, and the power of knowledge. South is the sun at its highest point, representing the power of life, peace and renewal. West is the spirit of water, and signifies purity and strength. North is the spirit of wind, and was a time to reflect on what began in the east, in the morning, in youth.

"One of the things that was taken away from the First Nations people, the Cree in particular, is that of voice, the voice of how to worship in a very particular way, with a very particular instrument," said Enright.