Hannah is a friend of mine who lives in Fort McPherson in the Northwest Territories. As a deacon, she ministers in the Parish of St. Matthew. I first met her at the Sacred Circle in Port Elgin in 2009. I was moved by hearing something of her experience in an Indian residential school, including how on one occasion when the teacher threw a chalkboard eraser at her, she promptly picked it up and threw it back at him!
A Gwich’in by birth, Hannah is a member of the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples, and I am always happy to see her and to hear her speak and pray.
This month, she and many others will welcome all who gather in Inuvik for the second national event of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Recently the chair, Mr. Justice Murray Sinclair, posed the following questions for everyone. What is your understanding of reconciliation? What are the signs that it is beginning to happen? What does it ultimately look like?
These powerful questions draw us into reflection and conversation that must be marked by a posture of respectful listening and learning. The responses cannot be rushed. Indeed, they will come only with time. They will be revealed in the mutual transformations of attitude, thought and action, one toward another.
Reconciliation begins with a willingness to hear how we have hurt another person, how we have violated their dignity and worth. Only after we have heard their story can we consider making appropriate amends, saying we are truly sorry and that we intend with God’s help to change our ways. Only then can we ask for forgiveness. And in waiting for that word we must be patient. When it comes, we are called to consider together meaningful gestures that signify our reconciliation and deep desire to walk together in “a new agape,” a new love.
As to what reconciliation ultimately looks like, take a look at my friend Hannah. Look at that smile! How can you not return one, rejoicing in God’s amazing grace! Ω
Archbishop Fred Hiltz is primate of the Anglican Church of Canada.