September 30, 2021 marks the first National Day of Truth and Reconciliation in Canada. The day has a longer history, also known as Orange Shirt day which was a commemoration for children forced to leave their families and attend residential schools. The “orange shirt” refers to the new shirt that Phyllis Webstad was given to her by her grandmother for her first day of school at St. Joseph’s Mission residential school in British Columbia. When Phyllis got to school, they took away her clothes, including her new shirt which was never returned.
Orange Shirt Day is now a federal holiday called the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. On this day Canadians are encouraged to wear an orange shirt and to participate in activities to promote learning and awareness of the residential school experience, to recognize its ongoing impact on Indigenous communities, to honour the healing journey of the survivors and their families, and to commit to the ongoing process of reconciliation.
As Christians who believe that God is reconciling all things in heaven and on earth (Col. 1:20), we are called to participate in the witness and work of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18). For Christians in Canada this National Day of Truth and Reconciliation is so very important for us to actively and meaningfully participate. Since it’s a brand new commemoration, you might be wondering how you can observe this day. Here are a few suggestions:
- The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation has scheduled online events open to the general public all week. These events will be covering the topics of land and treaties, language and culture, truth and reconciliation, the history of Orange Shirt Day and the legacy of the Residential School System, and the vital continuation of Indigenous knowledge. CLICK HERE for more information.
- Take time to reflect on and pray through the calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. You can watch a video prayer (from CRC Canadian Indigenous Ministry Committee) HERE and read a printed version HERE
- Listen to a podcast reflection that will guide you through three calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission with prayer and reflection prompts. You can find the podcast HERE (hosted by World Renew, the Office of Social Justice, and the Centre for Public Dialogue of the Christian Reformed Church of North America).
- Lea Wilkening from ClearView Church is hosting a gathering at her home at 2pm on Thursday afternoon, an opportunity sit around a fire, read the 94 Calls to Action and explore how to honour the beautiful people of this country going forward. If you’d like to join, please email Lea (email@example.com) to RSVP and then Lea can send you more information (address and directions).
Thanks to all of you for taking the time to read this and for prayerfully reflecting on how you can contribute to the work of truth and reconciliation.
Your pastor and friend,