Building relationships, building community and building a better world for all of our children.

That is the quiet, unspoken truth discussed in St. Andrew’s lifelong learning series that focused on healing and reconciliation with our Indigenous neighbours.

In the first session in April, we looked back at the relationship and interactions with our Indigenous neighbours that began with the “discovery” of North America, known as Turtle Island. Turtle Island was home to many nations who lived on the land, cared for the land and cared for their people. There was a rich culture and a way of life that embraced sharing resources and restorative justice.

As we continued our learning, Thundering Eagle Woman – known in Presbyterian circles as Rev. Dr. Margaret Mullin – shared some of her wisdom with Rev. Linda Patton-Cowie, whose work has included being the Healing and Reconciliation Journey chaplain and past convenor of the Healing and Reconciliation Advisory Committee.

Mullin is like a bridge: She brings an Indigenous eagle staff into the church – something she says isn’t popular with the Indigenous community or with the church. She noted that some in the church look on it with suspicion, because she brings in an element of spirituality that isn’t Christian.

“It’s a learning process for me but I’m confident in this stage of my life that this is what God is calling me to do,” said Mullin, who is of Irish/Scottish and Ojibway descent. Now ministering at Place of Hope Presbyterian Church in Winnipeg, Rev. Mullin helped create and build the ministry of what is now the Winnipeg Inner City Mission.

“Indigenous and non-Indigenous, all nations of the world, live in a common river of life. We live in different areas of the earth because that where the Creator planted us,” she said.

And that is the starting place of building a relationship: recognizing we are inter-dependent and very connected.

Each one of us is a steward of our world and our community. Rev. Mullin noted that’s an Indigenous world view.

But perhaps it is also a Judeo-Christian one, as God gave man the authority to care for the world.

Yet in Canada, we have the legacy of residential schools. How do we move forward?

“You have a broken relationship with creation or with the community. How do you right the relationship?” Mullin said in her presentation. “Justice circles include the victim and the perpetrator and everybody is intent in restoring the relationship.”

Healing includes learning the other’s perspective and working with others interested in building a better relationship.

“From being on both sides, we have common desires and values. Everybody is looking for what is good and what is right and looking to God for those answers.

“We need to look for consensus,” she said, but unanimity may never be. “Everybody hears what everyone’s thinking and praying and working on something everyone can live with.”

Let’s continue learning. June is Indigenous People’s History Month and the Barrie Native Friendship Centre and the Barrie Area Native Advisory Circle are hosting celebratory events this month, and there are also ongoing, regular events like a nature walk at Springwater Park and a medicine bag workshop.

They have Facebook pages that celebrate who they are and how they help and can be helped.

For example, the friendship centre’s Hunger to Hope Pantry needs donations of soups, canned fruit and vegetables, macaroni and cheese and cereal. Drop them off at the centre on Bayfield Street, just north of Wellington Street.

Another option is to drop in and take the centre up on the offer for orange flowering seeds – a gentle way to remember the children who never returned home from residential school. While you’re there, say hello and begin a journey of learning.

Rev. Linda noted she learned a lot while canoeing on the Grand River with Indigenous teachers with Two Row on the Grand, a reconciliation and learning journey. More info is available at http://tworowonthegrandriver.com/

What are you curious about? Use that as a stream that connects to the river and join others on the journey.