By Bishop Todd Townshend
Sometimes we need to be reminded to remember. On September 30, a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation (Orange Shirt Day), I was reminded to remember.
First it happened when I was a given the gift of an orange wrist band with black lettering, “every child matters”. Then it happened as I put on my orange T-shirt as my uniform for the day. Then I saw again the black wooden ring on my hand, a gift from Bishop Marinez of Amazonia, which daily reminds me that to be in solidarity with Jesus is to be in solidarity with the poor and those who suffer.
These are heavy reminders. Heavy because there is a lot of suffering in the world and some of it is caused by me—directly and indirectly.
Some of it is caused by the church—and it was caused by the church in the past. Yet, while heavy, these reminders are a joy because we are trying to take responsibility for the truth, even as we pray for healing, we seek the truth because only the truth can set us free.
Memory is a powerful thing. Cultural memory shapes us, and it reminds us of who we are. It arises in all the ways we are socialized and instructed leading to a sense of belonging and identity. This is one of the reasons why humans often find themselves in conflict—there are so many different cultures!
During the Lambeth Conference this summer, I carried with me gifts of Orange Shirt pins from Walpole Island, and I found myself telling the painful story of Truth and Reconciliation to people from many different countries. This story was honoured by so many of them and each one of them seemed to genuinely cherish the gift. That whole event reminded me of how different our lives are in many ways.
Yet, there is one language and culture that unites us. The language and culture of Christ, as learned through the language and culture of Anglican Christianity. The language and culture of our baptism, of eucharist, of the scriptures. I am reminded that God continues to unite us in the reality of Christ, and this is the reality into which we can continually immerse ourselves.
We learn from 2 Corinthians 5, that everything good is from God who reconciled us to Godself in Christ and gave to us the ministry of reconciliation. Truth, Healing, and Reconciliation are all “capital letter” words for us because they point to something that is so close to the heart of God that it is obviously the primary gift to be discovered by faith. It is also the primary work we have to do.
As we remember, we undergo an “anamnesis”, we are re-membered. We are put together, put right, by God. And we are sent to do this remembering and reconciling work in Jesus’ name.
Our church participated in a colonial expansion project that caused great harm, and a racist residential school system tried to eliminate the divinely-given cultures and languages of the Indigenous people of this land.
Every day, we remember, we lament, we confess, we seek the truth, and we anticipate healing and liberation for all. As a member of as settler family in this land, and as a leader in the church, I want to be reminded constantly of the opportunity that is found in the attempt to be a trustworthy partner with Indigenous Anglicans and all other First Nations, Inuit, and Metis people with whom we live.