Learning from the Sacred Circle

 — July 4, 20234 juil. 2023

Editor's note:

Paulo Ueti, from Brazil, serves as Advisor for Theological Education and Interpretation in the Anglican Communion Office in London, UK. He attended the Sacred Circle from May 29th to June 2 at the Fern Resort in Ramara, Ontario. His complete text is available here

The Sacred Circle is a gathering of Indigenous Anglicans in Canada. This year, it took place between May 29th and June 2nd at the Fern Resort in Ramara, Ontario, and its journey of understanding and reconciliation has much to teach the Church’s understanding of God, spirituality, and the relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities. The gathering took place around a fire. Rev. Arthur Anderson introduced the fire in the following way:

Isn’t it interesting that the Jews had pillars of fire and smoke to guide them through the desert? Isn’t it interesting that the Holy Spirit came as ‘tongues of fire’? Isn’t it interesting that our works are tested by fire? A charcoal fire welcomed the disciples as they came back in from fishing, which was familiar. From this fire, the church started, and the disciples were never the same. As we gather at this Sacred Fire, may you enjoy its warmth and friendships.

The Anglican Church of Canada and many other churches, such as the Anglican Diocese of Amazonia invited to the Circle to share and listen, have been engaged in a process of learning and embracing Indigenous theologies, recognising the wisdom and spiritual richness of Indigenous peoples. During the assembly, Archbishop Linda Nicholls said that, “the rest of the church needs you.” The same message was conveyed by Archbishop Marinez from Amazonia, confirming this statement and sharing how much Indigenous peoples must teach the whole church to manage and take care of the land (cf Gen 2:15). Indigenous Maori from Aotearoa New Zealand were also invited to the Circle and shared their perspectives and experience as peoples and Christians. Archbishop Don Tamihere spoke of their appreciation:

It was an honour to join with those who gathered at the Sacred Circle this year. Our attendance in person was in recognition of long-held relationships shared between the Māori Anglican Church and the Anglican Indigenous peoples of Canada. We wanted to acknowledge the former Archbishop, Mark Macdonald, who worked so closely with us in the past, and we wanted to express our continuing support for the new Archbishop, Chris Harper, and for ACIP in the journey ahead. As Anglican Indigenous peoples in colonised lands, we have much in common, face many of the same challenges, and contain the same incredible Gospel potential. Our visit was purposed to renew all those connections, to remind each other that we are not alone but remain part of the same global Anglican Indigenous family. We encourage Archbishop Chris and ACIP to keep up the good work, fight the good fight, pursue love, joy, and peace, and seek new ways to flourish. We commit to being there in support every step of the way.

There were different areas of theological learning:

1. A spirituality rooted in water and land: One of the fundamental learnings from Indigenous theologies is the recognition of the sacredness of the water and land and its integral connection to spirituality. Profound understanding of this changes our way of life and the way we make an impact in the societies we live in. Indigenous communities have a deep understanding of the interconnectedness between people, the land, and all creation. The land is viewed as a living entity, worthy of respect and stewardship. The water is what gives life and helps to shape all things. This understanding challenges non-Indigenous Christians to re-examine their relationship with the land and to cultivate a spirituality that acknowledges the sacredness of creation.

2. The sense of Community and Relational Theology: Indigenous theologies emphasise the importance of community and relationships. The concept of “All My Relations” reflects the interconnectedness of all beings and the understanding that humans are part of a larger web of life.

It must be understood that we initially experienced God through our own languages, cultures, and worldviews. For example, in Cree, God the Creator means ‘The One Who Made Everything‘; there is no word for ‘reconciliation’ in Inuktitut as behaviours/relationships dwelt only in the realms of partnership, friendship and inclusion; important ceremony included traditional regalia; kinship meant all of Our Relatives including animals, birds, creatures of the waters and spirits; in Cree the concept of ‘authority’ does not imply hierarchy but rather means only that it is conferred by others, often just for a period of time” (The Covenant and Way of Life, Anglican Church of Canada, p.5).

This sense of community and relational theology challenges the individualistic tendencies often found in Western Christianity and encourages a sense of responsibility towards one another and the wider community (the whole creation). The creation is not a resource but source of abundant life. The emphasis on community and relationships calls for a revaluation of hierarchical structures and a shift towards a more inclusive and egalitarian understanding of the Church.

3. Oral tradition and storytelling: Indigenous cultures have a rich tradition of oral storytelling (this challenges our Western thinking of use of time, for instance), which serves as a means of transmitting knowledge, history, and spirituality from one generation to another. Indigenous theologies highlight the power of storytelling as a way to connect with the Divine and to convey complex theological concepts. The Church can learn from this emphasis on oral tradition by incorporating storytelling into liturgical practices and theological education, recognising its transformative potential in shaping faith and fostering community.

4. Respect for diversity and inclusivity: Indigenous theologies emphasise the importance of honouring and respecting diversity. Indigenous communities encompass a range of languages, cultures, and spiritual practices. The Church’s engagement with Indigenous theologies invites a broader understanding of diversity and inclusivity, challenging the tendency towards uniformity and assimilation. This learning encourages the Church to celebrate and embrace different expressions of faith and to create spaces where diverse voices are heard, valued, and integrated into the life of the community.

5. Healing and reconciliation: Indigenous theologies offer profound insights into the processes of healing and reconciliation. These theologies recognize the impact of colonization, forced assimilation, and the legacy of residential schools on Indigenous communities. They call for a holistic approach to healing that encompasses spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical well-being. The Church learns from Indigenous theologies the importance of engaging in acts of repentance, seeking forgiveness, and working towards reconciliation. This learning challenges the Church to address the systemic injustices faced by Indigenous peoples and to actively participate in the healing process.

6. Holistic spirituality and holistic mission: Indigenous theologies emphasize the interconnectedness of spirituality, justice, and care for the earth. They challenge the separation between the sacred and the secular and call for a holistic approach to spirituality and mission. This learning invites the Church to recognize the inseparability of worship and action, spirituality and justice, and faith and care for creation. It compels the Church to engage in transformative action that addresses the socio-economic, political, and environmental challenges faced by Indigenous communities and the wider society.

The exposure and the exploration of Indigenous theologies have yielded profound learnings that have reshaped the Church’s understanding of God, spirituality, and relationships. The recognition of the sacredness of the land and waters, the profound sense of community and the relational nature of theology, the power of storytelling, the celebration of diversity, the call to healing and reconciliation, and the emphasis on holistic spirituality and mission have all contributed to a more inclusive, respectful and just expression of Christianity. These learnings invite the Church to engage in ongoing dialogue, listening, and action as it continues its journey towards reconciliation, understanding, and the building of a more just and inclusive society.

Posted: July 4, 2023 • Permanent link: ecumenism.net/?p=13925
Categories: News, OpinionIn this article: Anglican Church of Canada, Anglican Communion, Indigenous church, Sacred Circle
Transmis : 4 juil. 2023 • Lien permanente : ecumenism.net/?p=13925
Catégorie : News, OpinionDans cet article : Anglican Church of Canada, Anglican Communion, Indigenous church, Sacred Circle

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