Magazines 2018 Jan - Feb Reconciliation: We need a new story

Reconciliation: We need a new story

19 February 2018 , 2018 Jan - Feb

Reconciliation is an important part of the Jan/Feb Faith Today. One of our writers, author and professor Mark Buchanan, mentions a ministry called New Story — one day seminars that help churches understand our relationship with First Nations people. Mark shares more with us in this mini-interview.

Reconciliation is an important part of the Jan/Feb Faith Today. One of our writers, author and professor Mark Buchanan, mentions a ministry called New Story — one day seminars that help churches understand our relationship with  First Nations people. Mark shares more with us in this mini-interview.

Why did you use the name New Story?

The name New Story captures what we believe needs to happen with our relationship with Indigenous peoples. Most Canadians have been part of a story that is largely about hurt, suspicion, and avoidance. That story keeps perpetuating itself.  We need a new story that recognizes the past, no matter how awful or ugly, or how implicated in it we are, but which refuses to get stuck there. We need a story that moves us – all of us – toward a better future.

Read our cover story to find out more about this important take on reconciliation.

Can you tell us what a typical New Story day looks like?

We’ve so far held two New Story events, both shaped a little differently but with many of the same elements. Each has begun with First Nations protocols acknowledging our presence on traditional lands – for us in southern Alberta, that’s Treaty 7 Territory. An Indigenous Elder or Chief has then welcomed us and led in an opening prayer.

Both events have included several Indigenous and a few non-Indigenous plenary speakers and workshop presenters. These sessions have explored various topics – First Nations history, culture, worldview, dance, and themes of reconciliation or “where do we go from here?” In the second event, we used the Kairos “Blanket Exercise,” an imaginative journey, from an Indigenous perspective, through Canada’s history, from pre-colonialism to the present day.

Each event has also featured a First Nations talking circle in which participants are given an opportunity to share their experiences, good or bad, with others.

Is there a typical response you see from people who attend? Are they surprised to learn new facts and the real history?

Often people who attend a New Story event have had some exposure to the legacy of residential schools, or they know something of the history of colonialism, and they’ve come to learn more. But many are shocked, sometimes overwhelmingly, when they learn the fuller story: the harm, both systemic and personal, that churches, schools, governments, settler communities, individuals have brought upon indigenous peoples. There are a lot of tears. Often anger. Many participants repent – of stereotypes, of prejudices, of their actions or inaction in the past. Probably the most surprising part of a New Story event is watching Christians discover the depth and beauty of Indigenous cultures, and how these cultures in many ways are, not just compatible with the gospel, but a rich expression of it.

What are the most important things you want people to take away from a New Story day?

We want people to see Indigenous peoples and their cultures through a new lens, one that corrects previous stereotypes and prejudices, but that doesn’t simplify or minimize differences and complexities – that actually magnifies these things.

We emphasize our shared humanity, but we also highlight real and meaningful differences between peoples and cultures. This counteracts the tendency many of us have to try to reconcile with others by finding a lowest common denominator.

Frankly, that approach is part of the old story. What we are trying to do is find grounds for reconciliation in which no one is required to relinquish or distort their identity. That’s a new and better story.

We hope people come away with a commitment to lifelong and humble learning. We especially hope that many new friendships are born.

 

Thank you!

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