Our Stories Shape Us
: history, faith &
practice of the indigenous church in Canada
by Marion Van Driel
Anyone who has experienced a broken relationship knows that the mending requires long- term commitment to restore trust and wholeness. A half-hearted effort or quick “I’m sorry” won’t bring back long-term health. The journey towards reconciliation is long and often arduous – but in the end, infinitely rewarding. We see this modeled in the gospel message. We know this to be true of the relationship between Canada’s indigenous and non-indigenous peoples. As the walk towards healing continues, our excitement builds as we see hope and light, as we build momentum through our own involvement.
A one-day conference at Regent College on September 30 will present the reality of our First Nations brothers and sisters in Christ, and those who continue to work for healing throughout their communities. It will highlight the gospel’s powerful presence among the indigenous people, and how Christianity finds expression there. Even though the church and government’s treatment of First Nations Canadians has produced wounds and troubling consequences for generations of our indigenous population, many have still embraced the Christian faith as their own.
Four notable Christian indigenous leaders will share their knowledge and experience to help us face past discrimination and its effects, better understand and embrace our commonalities and differences, and move forward in the journey of acceptance and healing.
Ray Aldred is Director of Indigenous Studies at Vancouver School of Theology. Aldred has a passion for theological truth to become widespread among First Nations. A status Cree born in Northern Alberta, he presently lives in Richmond with his wife, Elaine. Aldred will address the subject of indigenous theology and its contextualization.
Cheryl Bear is a singer/songwriter and speaker who travels throughout indigenous communities. She also visits non-indigenous groups to raise awareness. Bear is a Nadleh Whut’en First Nation band councillor in her northern BC community. She holds a Doctorate, and is an associate professor at Regent College. A founding member of NAIITS (North American Indigenous Institute of Theological Studies), Bear will speak about the indigenous church today.
Terry Leblanc, Mi’kmaq/Acadian, works as an educator in theology, cultural anthropology and community development. He holds an interdisciplinary PhD, serves as adjunct professor for three Universities/Seminaries and is Executive Director of Indigenous Pathways and Director of NAIITS. Leblanc will address the topic of Canada’s history with indigenous peoples.
Shari Russell – a Salvation Army Major, is from the Saulteaux First Nation in Saskatchewan and is a faculty member of NAIITS. Russel holds an MA in Christian education. She will lead the blanket exercise and co-present with Bear.Her deep desire is for the message to be presented in a way that does not sacrifice the cultural and social identity of the indigenous people.
The knowledge, experience and heart of these leaders provide valuable lessons for the church as a whole.
Stories of horrific treatment of indigenous Canadians in the past has brought shame and disdain to God’s people. By His redemptive grace, future generations will hear stories of love and healing brought about by the Holy Spirit through a church open to change and renewal.
For further information and registration, visit: