The first thing that struck me when I opened the zoom event was the patchwork of orange shirts across the entire screen. While I know the day was about much more than wearing an orange t-shirt, there is something powerful about an entire community showing an outward symbol of solidarity. It’s the same feeling I had seeing the March for Truth and Reconciliation the next day, on September 30. Thousands of Winnipeggers creating a sea of orange throughout our downtown streets. The energy of it almost took my breath away.
To honour the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, Booth UC held a virtual time of prayer and reflection on September 29 with Captain Crystal Porter, Associate Territorial Indigenous Ministries Consultant, THQ Corps Mission Department. Captain Porter led us through “The Prayer God Could Not Answer”, a story about a girl taken to residential school. The full story is available to download below, but I want to reflect for a moment on the title. At first, it sounds hopeless. Is the legacy of residential schools too devastating even for God? But that is not the case. In the story the girl prays that God will make her white so she will get into heaven. But the story goes on, “God could not answer this prayer, for how could the Holy One deny the beauty of the diversity of his creation?”
On a day when collective voices chat “Every Child Matters”, it is perhaps easier to remember how beautiful and essential the diversity of God’s creation is. But my hope and prayer is that I can live this belief every day. After the orange shirts are put away, after the marches are done, after the hashtags change to the next cause of the moment.
Captain Porter also led us through a prayer and activity focusing on the difficult and painful truths of residential schools, of the broken promises and injustices that Indigenous communities continue to face, but also of the strength and resilience of Indigenous peoples, and the hope God provides. In a glass vase were placed stones, water, sticks and a flower to symbolize that in the midst of sticks and stones, of pain and brokenness, something beautiful can emerge: hope.
“The journey to reconciliation is not easy. There will be moments of hope and their will be moments of grief. There is no checklist, there are no shortcuts. Be authentic and sincere in the moves you make next. It cannot be about one day wearing orange shirts, but about a journey along a path. A path that has been walked by residential school survivors.” – Orange Shirt Day Prayer Resource, Captain Crystal Porter