Pausing to Listen and Pray
Racism. Recent events in the United States have once again raised our awareness of its existence in such a way that virtually everyone in North America (and around the world) has seen it. We grieve with the families of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and so many others who have been killed.
We are grateful to the denominational leaders of the Christian Reformed Church for the words they have written and we add our voices and our call to action to theirs. (See the CRCNA Statement About The Deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor).
We at Diaconal Ministries Canada grieve and have paused to listen to, and pray for, our sisters and brothers south of our border. We wanted, and even needed, to make room to hear their voices first.
And we have heard. Many voices. Filled with pain. Filled with confusion. Filled with anger. Filled with lament. Powerful voices sharing hurt and pain from the deepest core of their beings. Voices rising from those who can’t breathe. Voices calling for justice and reconciliation. Voices reminding us that we are all created in the image of God.
Listening to Canadian Voices
Racism. While recent events in the United States have once again raised our awareness of its existence there, make no mistake about it: racism exists in Canada as well. Many of us don’t see it as obviously—or perhaps choose not to see it. But Canadian voices are also rising and we must pay attention to the many stark reminders that we are not immune to this sin.
Remember Tina Fontaine (15 year old girl from the Sagkeeng First Nation whose body was found in the Red River) and Brian Sinclair (forgotten in an emergency room)? And more recently, Trixie Ling (spat on in Vancouver)? Their names represent chronic systemic issues of racism that impact all minority groups in Canada. (See also: Canada’s race problem, Africville, and the Racism in Canada timeline.)
As an organization, Diaconal Ministries Canada assists Deacons as they lead and equip the church…
to minister to its members and the world in a rich diversity of ministries, awakening compassion, demonstrating mercy, seeking justice, and collaborating with God’s Spirit for the transformation of persons and communities… offer[ing] holistic responses that respect the dignity of all people, working to change exploitative structures and systems, equipping the church for ministries of reconciliation and peacemaking, and seeking opportunities for advocacy (Form for the Ordination of Elders and Deacons, 2016).
So while we certainly don’t have everything figured out when it comes to racism, we pledge to walk alongside you (deacons) and work together towards reconciliation and healing. And we pledge to provide (and develop) the best resources that we can to help you/us in that journey.
Here are a few suggested places to start.
First Steps to Addressing Racism
(Note: Not all of the resources listed were created in the CRCNA. For those that were not, we do not necessarily endorse every link or every statement on their websites. We hope these will aid in your conversations as deacons and churches. Also note that as an organization based in Canada, we have done our best to include resources focused on and produced in Canada.)
Start With a Prayer
> FOR RECONCILIATION
Holy One, Creator of all that is, seen and unseen,
of story and of song, of heartbeat and of tears
of bodies, souls, voices and all relations:
you are the God of all truth and the way of all reconciliation.
Uphold with your love and compassion all who open their lives
in the sacred sharing of their stories
breathe in us the grace to trust in your loving forgiveness,
that we may face our histories with courage;
touch us through the holy gift of story
that those who speak and those who listen may
behold your own redeeming presence;
guide us with holy wisdom to enter through the gates of remorse
that our feet may walk gently and firmly on the way of justice and healing.
Amen. From the Anglican Church of Canada
> OF LAMENT
Learning to Lament: Relevant Magazine
- Check out the resources found on the Diaconal Ministries’ website.
- CRC Canadian Indigenous Ministry Committee: This lay committee, made up of both Indigenous and settler people, provides leadership to the CRC on Indigenous issues.
- Use resources such as those on the Network and the Office of Race Relations (ORR) website to learn about racism and whiteness.
- Host a socially-distanced watch party of Just Mercy, based upon Bryan Stevenson’s book.
- Colour of Poverty, Colour of Change: This network provides information about the intersections between poverty and race in Canada.
- Check out the resources found on the Government of Canada website. Host a socially-distant discussion on these resources. Call and/or send letters to your municipal, provincial and federal representatives.
- The Secret Life of Canada: A podcast run by a Caribbean-Canadian woman and a Mohawk/Tuscarora Indigenous woman, uncovering the stories of Canada that we weren’t usually taught in school. (Check out especially their episodes on Birchtown, NS, and the history of Black nurses in Canada.)
- Read: White Fragility: Why it’s so hard for White People to talk about Racism, by Robin DiAngelo
Book and/or Attend a Workshop
Let’s make it our goal to move beyond “thoughts and prayers” to holistic responses that respect the dignity of all people.
Ron Vandenbrink, National Director of Diaconal Ministries Canada