October 18, 2020 – TwentieTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
A message from the Rev. Helen Smith
We are richly blessed this week to have Maggie Donnelly presenting her reflections on building the Heart Garden at the front of the church, this past summer. Heart Gardens are planted in memory of children lost to the residential school system, to honour residential school survivors and their families, and to support the legacy of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Thank you, Maggie, for this contribution to our worship.
Rev. Helen Smith
Book of Praise – 301 “Many and great, O God, are your works”
- video with on-screen words; minor differences with the words in the hymnbook.
- Words from Psalm 104:24–30 and Jeremiah 10:12, 13; paraphrased by French-Canadian/American Joseph R. Renville (1779–1846); English translation by Native American minister Philip Frazier (1892–1964).
Music (Tune: Lacquiparle, or Dakota Melody) by Joseph R. Renville. Words: English translation, © copyright Dakota Conference; music public domain.
- recorded on March 3, 2019 at First-Plymouth Congregational Church;
Prayer of Approach
Our opening prayer is based on the Medicine Wheel. The Medicine Wheel is a circle divided into four sections, yellow, red, black and white. It is a template for many indigenous teachings that give balance, healing, wholeness in life. The teachings vary slightly, depending on the nation. This prayer is adapted from one written by Rev. Margaret Mullin and Rev. Stewart Folster, both Presbyterian ministers with Ojibway heritage. The circle stands for God the Creator, with no beginning, no ending, and whose love never ends. The four sections represent the races on earth, all created by God and loved by God. Yellow in the east can represent the dawn, spring, infancy, mental health. Red in the south can symbolize noon, summer, adolescence, physical health. Black in the west can represent dusk, adulthood, fall, emotional health. And White in the north, can stand for night, winter, elders, spiritual health.
It is appropriate when Indigenous people begin any gathering or sacred ceremony to offer thanks to the one who has created us all, the Giver of Life. As we come together here today to worship God let us open our hearts and minds to a different way of prayer.
We begin by looking to the east where the sun rises each day.
Creator, we offer you thanks for the yellow race of people, and for that time in our life which we know as infancy, for the hope of resurrection and for new beginnings. We also offer thanks for the teachings of honesty and truth. We thank you for our minds, for the gift of discernment.
We next look to the south.
God, we offer you thanks for the red race of people especially for the indigenous people in Canada. We thank you for that time in our lives which we call adolescence, and for all those times of learning and growing that you bring to us throughout our lives. We also offer you thanks for the gifts of our physical bodies.
We next look to the west, the place of the setting sun.
Great Spirit, we offer you thanks for the black race of people, and for the time in our lives which we call adulthood, and for the ability to take all we know from you and live right. We offer thanks for the gift of the teaching of respect for all, for the ability to care and to love, to weep and to rejoice.
Next we look to the north, the cool refreshing breath of the Spirit of God.
We thank you Holy Spirit for the white race of people and we offer you thanks for our elders and the gift of wisdom. We thank you for the gift of faith, for clarity of vision and a sense of the strength that comes from you. We need that to live each day.
We focus our thoughts upwards beyond the ceiling of this sanctuary.
O Great Spirit, in the day sky’s infinite blue and the vast blackness of the night sky sprinkled with stars too numerous to count, remind us that you are beyond our ability to know you, or to tell others about you, but that you also are no further away from us than the air we breathe.
We look down to our feet.
O Great Spirit, help us to give thanks unceasingly for the bounty provided to us from our sacred earth. From that sacred earth we come. To that sacred earth we will return. Without our sacred earth we would not live.
And, as we finish we turn and face the centre.
We give thanks to you God, Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer of all life, and we look to Jesus who is the head of the Church to lead us as we forge ahead, working together, Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples, toward healing and reconciliation with each other and with You.
Prayer of Confession
This prayer is adapted from The Confession of The Presbyterian Church in Canada, June 9, 1994, particularly sections 5 and 2.
[bold text = speaking in union (the whole prayer]
“Creator we confess that, with the encouragement and assistance of the Government of Canada, The Presbyterian Church in Canada agreed to take Aboriginal children out of their homes and place them in our Residential Schools. In these schools the children were deprived of their traditional languages and ways of life. The effect of this for Aboriginal people was the loss of cultural identity and the loss of a secure sense of themselves. For the Church’s insensitivity we ask forgiveness.”
“As a part of the policy of the Government of Canada to assimilate Aboriginal peoples into the Euro-Canadian culture we, with other churches, encouraged the government to ban important spiritual practices through which Aboriginal people experienced the presence of Creator God. For the Church’s complicity in this policy we ask your forgiveness.”
Gracious God, we know that we are called to respect all of your creation and all nations of your people. We know we are called by you to love as we journey through this life. Forgive us where we have failed in our relations with others and with your entire creation. Have mercy on us, and with your forgiveness, free us from any guilt. Help us to learn from our mistakes and to have the courage to move forward. We pray in Jesus’ name and continue to pray as he taught us, saying:
Our Father, in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those
who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours
now and forever. Amen.
Declaration of Pardon
Through confession to God the mistakes of the past have been forgiven. We are free now to seek new ways to answer the call of God to walk together in faith one with the other. With profound assurance in God’s ability to forgive, we are free to try, and to try again. Thanks be to God!
The Peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
Introduction to scripture reading
Rachel was Jacob’s (also known as Israel) favourite wife. While she had only two children literally, Joseph and Benjamin, because of her preferred status with Jacob, she was representatively mother of all the children of Israel, i.e, the descendants of Jacob/Israel. She is buried just outside Bethlehem. It is close to this place, at Ramah, that many years later, 587 BC, Babylon set up a detainment camp for the Jews taken from their homes and being led into exile in Babylon. And it is about this exile that Jeremiah laments in our scripture lesson for today.
Jeremiah 31: 15 <– this links to on-line text of the NRSV bible
Though the wonderful Laura Alary has now resigned from the post of Christian Education Coordinator, after eight dedicated years, we are grateful to be able to feature a few resources she has recommended. This week, it’s the “Godly Play” YouTube channel. She notes that “Godly Play” has a similar philosophy and style to the “Children and Worship” program we use at GCPC.
I’m sure that many of you know the name Chanie Wenjack. He was an indigenous boy who lived in Ontario. When he was twelve, he ran away from the residential school that all of the indigenous children in the area had to attend. A week after his escape, he died of hunger and exposure to the weather. Of all Canadian residential school victims, Chanie’s is probably the most widely known story. But even his story is not remembered fully. On the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation website, his name is not written as Chanie. It is written as Charles, because the school that he attended changed his name on their official records.
A name can be a powerful thing. Often, it is a part of a person’s identity, and it is one of the first ways that other people recognize us. But there are many children who are not remembered by their name or their story. It was for the purpose of honouring those children, and all of the children who attended residential schools, that the first Heart Garden was created.
In June of 2015, the first Honouring Memories, Planting Dreams event took place at Rideau Hall. Thousands of people participated in this event by designing paper hearts, each heart representing one child who was lost to the residential school system. When the organizers of that event started it, they hoped that the seeds they had planted would spread all across the country. And now, one of them has taken root right here in our community.
This summer was an unusual one. Because of the safety protocols put in place to prevent the spread of Covid-19, it was difficult (particularly for students) to find meaningful projects to work on and ways to get volunteer hours. I was having many of these difficulties, so I asked our Interim Moderator, Helen Smith, if there were any projects that I could work on here at Guildwood Church. In her reply, Helen sent me a link to a website about the Honouring Memories Planting Dreams event, and suggested that I could start a Heart Garden. I thought the idea was wonderful, but didn’t know anything about gardening, so we asked a few members of the community if they wanted to be a part of this project. Since then, many people have found ways to support and help the garden thrive. Sandra Robertson and Kay Galbraith helped choose a spot, and clear out the weeds so the garden would have room to grow. Cindy Similas and I prepared the soil and selected the plants that would grow together. Cindy also gave the project some of the plants from her garden; Bee balm, a plant with beautiful red flowers that are helpful to pollinators, and Bleeding Hearts. Cathy Mines from Reach Yoga helped us acquire white sage and tobacco, which are both sacred to indigenous people across Canada. Steve Lynette made two signs so the people passing by the garden will understand why the garden is there and what it represents. Grace Wuthridge donated money to cover the cost of resources and supplies we needed. Iain Donnelly and Laura Alary helped me find the names and some of the stories of the children this garden is honouring and remembering. And together, Miriam Donnelly and I painted the stones that took place of the paper hearts in the original event. Each background is unique, just like each child was unique. Our hope is that in time, every person who died in a residential school will have a memory stone in the garden to honour them. But that may still be a long way off. We have managed to find the names of almost 180 children who died in schools run by the Presbyterian Church in Canada. But that number does not come close to representing all of the lives that were lost. There is still a lot of work to be done.
As I was painting the names of these children onto the rocks, I saw the names of two people that jumped out at me. They went to the same school. They had the same last name. And they died within five years of each other. I found myself wondering about them. Were they siblings? If so, did they get along with each other? Did they have other siblings? Brothers and sisters who cared about them? Who remembers them? It was only then that I fully realized we are not just remembering numbers of people on a list. We aren’t just remembering a name on a rock either. We are remembering real people. Actual individuals who had real families and real lives. Though many of those lives were ruined or cut short. And we have to remember that.
So as you pass by the Heart Garden, think about that. Remember the children who were more than just numbers. Remember their families who loved them. And also remember that there are indigenous children and families today who don’t have access to a clean water supply. Remember that it is not too late to make a difference for them.
We will be inserting a recording made live in the sanctuary during this week’s service shortly. In the meantime, you can enjoy all our previously recorded music on our Music playlist on YouTube (our videos with audio) or on SoundCloud (our audio-only pieces).
We remind everyone that we must continue to pay our bills; in the absence of Sunday worship, you may sign up for pre-authorized remittance (PAR), donate online, or drop off your offering envelope in the mailbox at the church. Do not leave a cash donation unattended in the mailbox; instead, please call the office (416.261.4037) to ensure someone will be there to receive it. The building will be checked daily for mail and phone messages. If you are not comfortable leaving an envelope, you are welcome to contact the office (once again, 416.261.4037) and someone will pick up your offering.
Dedication of our Offerings
Holy and Gracious God, we come to share the gifts you have blessed us with each day. We know that when we show your love to all the world, the world will be drawn to you, and through our gifts we can be part of that outreach. We pray that our gifts may be a blessing to others. So bless these gifts and help us to use them in the best way possible to help to increase your reign on earth. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Prayers of Thanksgiving and Hope
Creator God, we give you thanks for this day you have given us, and for the gift of life. We thank you for the wind and for the air we breathe. We thank you for the mountains and the rivers and lakes and oceans, for the clean water we have to use and to keep things growing and alive. We thank you for plants, for the harvest, for the abundance we enjoy. And we thank you for your Son Jesus who taught us how to share and how to love, how to put others before ourselves.
Lord we pray for this world, and especially for all the Indigenous people in every part of it. They are often victims of racism, marginalized and discriminated against by people in power whose actions or inaction perpetuate their suffering. Lord, we pray for all victims of racism and we ask for your support, guidance and healing presence to be in their midst. Help our church to be reconciled with the Indigenous people of Canada and help us all to find healing and wholeness. Help us to forgive one another for past hurts we have inflicted upon each other. Help us to acknowledge the good and the bad and the sadness of the era of residential schools. Lord we pray for those who taught in these schools who did much good work and who loved their students in a genuine way. And we pray for the students and generations of families who suffered because of the effect of the harms they endured and for the loss of their culture and language and identity, their names. Help us to walk this healing journey together and show us that even in our suffering your presence is revealed.
O God we pray for your church in every place and in all its branches, and for our own denomination and for our congregation, that you would keep it faithful and committed to the minister of reconciliation in the world which you have given us. We pray for those in our midst who are dealing with illness or loss, difficult decisions and disappointment in their lives. We pray for their healing and wholeness. We pray for those working in essential services, for their safety and health.
Great Spirit, inspire us with your ministry of reconciliation, and continue to lift us up so that we can show the world that the love of Christ is still alive. Help us to continue to be disciples of Jesus, joined to all peoples of this world as our brothers and sisters in Christ. Surround us with your loving arms so that we can be one people, one big circle, drawn ever and ever wider as we journey in your name, through Christ our Lord. AMEN
Book of Praise – 730 “O for a world where everyone”
- Video with on-screen words; the words are identical to those in the hymnbook.
- Words (1987) by American nun and educator Miriam Therese Winter (1938–). Music (tune: “AZMON”) adapted in 1839 by American church music composer Lowell Mason (1792–1872) from a tune originally composed in 1828 by German composer Carl Gotthilf Gläser (1874–1829). Words © copyright 1990 Medical Mission Sisters; music public domain, with the arrangement in the video © copyright James Biery.
- This recording made by the choir of Grosse Pointe Memorial Church (Presbyterian), Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan, under the direction of organist James Biery (1956–), on October 10, 2020.
May the love of Creator God, the giver of all life, fill you so full of love that it will spill over into the world around you. May the grace and mercy of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ fill you with the assurance that you are indeed forgiven and free to move on from your past mistakes. And may the Power of the Great Spirit fill you with the courage to live as agents of healing and reconciliation in this world.
© Copyright 2020 Guildwood Community Presbyterian Church