Bishop Mark MacDonald will participate in a
reconciliation symposium in St. Andrews this week
By Gisele McKnight
Bishop Mark MacDonald, the Anglican Church’s first national Indigenous bishop, will be the guest preacher at an ecumenical service Oct. 1 in St. Andrews.
All Saints Anglican Church will host the service at 3 p.m. Bishop David Edwards will also be in attendance.
“There will be participation from various ministers in town and some lay people,” said Archdeacon John Matheson, priest and rector of All Saints.
The service is the final, public event of a symposium in St. Andrews called Sacred Encounter: A Symposium Towards Reconciliation.
“I plan to speak on reconciliation and what that means to Indigenous people and to scripture,” said Bishop MacDonald. “I’m hoping this will speak to many people and be an encouragement, that it will be challenging and encouraging at the same time.”
The night before, there will be a public screening of Reserve 107: Reconciliation on the Prairies. The film is described this way: “An old injustice provides an opportunity for friendship and renews a fierce determination to repair the wrongs of the past.”
The film will be shown Saturday, Sept. 30, 7 p.m. at the Huntsman Fundy Discovery Aquarium, 1 Lower Campus Road, St. Andrews.
Bishop MacDonald will play a pivotal role in the three-day reconciliation symposium.
“I will be leading a break-out session and participating in other events,” he said, adding he will attend the screening as well.
St. Stephen’s University (SSU) is hosting the symposium with help from a grant from Stronger Together. It will feature workshops and storytelling, all of which will be presented by indigenous people from the Peskotomuhkati (Passamaquoddy), Wolastoqitik (Maliseet), and Mi’kmaw nations, which occupy the territory referred to as New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island.
Former lieutenant-governor the Honorable Graydon Nicholas will address the participants, most of whom are from the region and represent various denominations and are interested in reconciliation work. Archdeacon Matheson will act as chaplain for the event.
“The idea is to look at what’s going on with those three indigenous nations and our churches and how we can go forward together,” said Emma Seamone, SSU’s education for reconciliation coordinator.
SSU, founded by Anglican deacons in the 1970s, sits on the traditional and unceded territory of the Peskotomuhkati (Passamaquoddy). As such, the university in the town of St. Stephen has sought out and nurtured a relationship with the nation.
When the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada released its Calls to Action to help address the wrongs of the residential school system, the university took seriously the need to act.
The symposium is a result of the Calls to Action, in particular, numbers 59 and 60 which call upon churches, schools of theology, seminaries, and other religious training centres to “learn about their church’s role in colonization, the history and legacy of residential schools, and why apologies to former residential school students, their families, and communities were necessary…. [And] to develop and teach curriculum for all student clergy, and all clergy and staff who work in Aboriginal communities, on the need to respect Indigenous spirituality in its own right, the history and legacy of residential schools and the roles of the church parties in that system, the history and legacy of religious conflict in Aboriginal families and communities, and the responsibility that churches have to mitigate such conflicts and prevent spiritual violence.”
“This university has tried to live up to that,” said Emma. “Coming out of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, we felt St. Stephen’s University could host a symposium. That would be a role the university could take forward.”
In a recent survey, 100 per cent of SSU students said they’d like to learn more about indigenous studies, which further solidified the focus on indigenous studies and relationships, and the Calls to Action.
The symposium is, in fact, part of a larger project at SSU called the Education for Reconciliation Program. It has established an indigenous scholarship and gives priority placement to indigenous students.
Bishop David Edwards and the Rev. Lidvald Haugen-Strand, interim priest in the Parish of Westmorland, will represent the diocese at the symposium.
“I have been interested in the question of reconciliation for a number of years,” said Lidvald.
“In 2010 I was asked to be a chaplain for General Synod in Halifax. They were doing a lot of work on indigenous ministries in the Anglican Church,” which was highlighted at General Synod.
“So there I was, watching this really powerful thing happening. All the various gatherings and ceremonies — it was very powerful.”
That experience stayed with him and made him want to learn more, so he’s looking forward to the symposium, having a dialogue and discovering what that means for him, the church and his own ministry.
Emma is a candidate in the United Church and will take a role in the ecumenical service. All are welcome to attend on Sunday, and the film screening on Saturday evening.
Later on Sunday, at 6:30 p.m. the ordination of James Crighton will take place at All Saints. The former United Church of Canada minister worships in the Parish of St. Andrews. All are welcome to the ordination service which will be presided by Bishop David Edwards.