At the end of November women priests from across Canada gathered in Stratford to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the ordination of women to the priesthood. We heard the stories of women pioneers in ministry and society and honoured those in our midst who had endured – and sometimes still endure – discrimination, even and especially within the body of Christ.
We also took time to widen our own experience of others in our midst, our Indigenous brothers and sisters, through participating in the Blanket Exercise developed by KAIROS, an ecumenical social justice organization.
I have read many articles and books about our history with Indigenous peoples. I have listened in national committees and General Synods to the tragedies associated with residential schools. I have listened to my Indigenous colleagues in episcopal ministry. But the Blanket Exercise was different.
In this exercise, through physical participation in representing the life of Indigenous peoples across Canada over many centuries and through the spoken text of that history from the narrator and the voices of Indigenous youth, elders and leaders, I experienced our shared history in a new way. I saw and heard both the pain and hopes of Indigenous peoples in a deeper and wider perspective. I experienced the rich history of Indigenous peoples in Canada, the hopes in our initial relationships, the pain of subsequent damage, and the emerging new life. It is an experience that all Canadians need to share.
We are in the early days of seeking to live into the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. One of those recommendations is education about our history. It is my desire and expectation that every parish and deanery will offer an opportunity for Anglicans – and invite our neighbours of other faith traditions or no faith – to participate in the Blanket Exercise. I will be seeking opportunities for every deacon, priest, lay reader and warden to participate.
It is one thing to read about our history. It is another to see and hear it visibly represented and experience it in person. Our history does define us – for good and for ill. To know our history is to then ask how it has shaped us and ask what we will do with it to work for the kind of communities and life to which we are called by our baptism. Let an experience of the Blanket Exercise help you to know that history! Watch for an opportunity near you.
Please read: An open letter to all Anglicans from the Primate’s Commission on Discovery, Reconciliation, and Justice, dated December 9, 2016
Blanket Exercise – Stratford, Ontario, November 2016
Photo: Jesse Dymond