I am on Canadian Christian singer-songwriter Steve Bell’s e-newsletter list. In a section simply entitled, “215”, he says,

“I really don’t know how to adequately acknowledge the recent revelation of the unmarked/unnamed remains of 215 Indigenous children at a Kamloops residential school site. On one hand, I feel I should say something. On the other, I feel that it’s not the time for someone like me to speak. June is Indigenous History Month. Perhaps it’s best if I/we commit to deep listening and learning before attempting to say anything at all.”

I think that this reflects the wisdom of the Teacher in Ecclesiastes when he reminds us that there is a time to be quiet and a time to speak (Ecclesiastes 3:7b).

As a person of some influence and power, I am mindful of this tension, but I don’t always “get it right”. I am guilty of being quick to speak and using my words to do harm. I do not always heed James’ exhortation to be “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19). But I am equally aware of my sluggish empathy response. It takes a while, sometimes, for this emotion to percolate in me – which is sobering, considering that “compassionate and gracious” is the characteristic that Yahweh uses in describing the name by which He is to be known (Exodus 34:6)!

This past week, I’ve been working through a list of resources (see below) that have been recommended by others, and doing my best to listen deeply and say little. I’ve done my best to reply to staff and parents who have asked about our school response to the Kamloops news and Truth & Reconciliation calls to action. We have done some things; we have plans for other things; we continue to reflect on what more we feel led to do.

However, it was news about the death of a 20 year old boy in McBride this past weekend that activated my heart around the Kamloops discovery. My son played basketball with this boy. I recognized his face. He was full of life…and now he is gone from this earth. Parents like me lost a son. Children like my own lost a sibling.

And this got me thinking differently about the 215 children buried in Kamloops. Children whose faces were known – buried in an unnamed grave. Children full of life – gone from this earth with unanswered questions. Parents like me lost sons and daughters. Children like my own lost siblings. And I start to feel something…

This is how I am processing my own emotions and navigating relationships with others around these things. We all process in our own way. We are continuously learning about how to navigate conversations with others on a variety of cultural events and topics. My ongoing prayer is that we can do so with deep listening, compassion and grace – the foundation of truth and reconciliation.

In our Strategic Plan refresh (read article here), we are planning to include a section on Core Teaching Practices. Under the core practice of “promoting relational flourishing”, we will be discussing current work and future goals in “pathways to reconciliation” with aboriginal peoples in our educational program. We invite you to stay tuned and learn with us!

*Resources:

  • Anglican Church of Canada’s “Doctrine of Discovery: Stolen Lands, Strong Hearts” (video)
  • Christian Reformed Church of Canada’s “Response to Discovery of Remains of 215 Children” (blog post)
  • Ministry of Education Resource List for Educators (pdf with links)
  • “A National Crime: The Candian Government and the Residential School System” by John S. Millory (book)

*Note: These resources are by no means an exhaustive list and do not necessarily represent the perspective of Cedars Christian School on this topic. They are shared as a starting point for deep listening and reflection.