By Rev. Chris Brouillard-Coyle
At the end May, the story broke that 215 bodies had been located at the site of a residential school in Kamloops. The news was heart breaking and many responded with signs acknowledging the tragedy. Flags were lowered, collars were removed, posts were shared, prayers were offered, reconciliation was mentioned.
The fact is, we should have known these bodies were there. Indigenous peoples shared this as part of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. They shared their heart-breaking tales of abuse, starvation, illness, and deaths. The data clearly tells of the atrocities committed. Most, however, didn’t want to know, didn’t want to acknowledge this truth, and so we happily remained wilfully ignorant.
Since May, more bodies have been found at more residential school sites. The numbers have entered the thousands, and we can anticipate this number will continue to grow. These stories, however, have not received the same level of attention. Our focus has shifted. It is hard to sustain conversations about things that make us feel uncomfortable.
There has been a lot of that happening recently – conversations about things that make us feel uncomfortable: Videos and protests over the treatment of black people, and the deaths of black people, are shocking. Coverage of homeless encampments being dismantled and the little these people have being literally bulldozed so that others can enjoy the park. Low wage workers who are tired of working hard and being poorly valued. Women athletes who are saying no to the feeling of being sexualized by their sports by what they are required to wear. Floods, fires, and extreme weather reminding us that our relationship to Creation is broken. Voices are percolating, telling the world of the injustices being perpetrated.
Are we listening? Are we really, and truly listening? Listening in a way that not only acknowledges these truths, but also acknowledges the ways in which our willful ignorance has contributed to these issues? To what extent have we taken the time to reflect on our location within the scope of the realities of this world, and recognized that we live with power and privilege? These can be used to keep us comfortable, or to transform the unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind, and to pursue peace and reconciliation.
What does faith call us to do? How does our knowledge of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus challenge us to respond to the injustices of our world? To what extent has our ability to hear these stories and become aware of struggles empowered us to engage in new and transformative ways
“While he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head.” (Mark 14:3)
This story is the metaphor used by Stephanie Spellers in her book “The Church Cracked Open”. Through this story she invites us to contemplate how our growing awareness of the problems of this world have contributed to the Church being cracked open like an alabaster jar. In the process, she invites us to consider what we do next. Will we grab the super glue and try to put the jar back together so that we can continue to feel comfortable about who we are as people of faith? Or will we be open to the work of the Spirit in this moment challenging us to generously spread our costly ointment around the world?
Let’s talk about it. Watch for information from Social and Ecological Justice Huron coming this fall about a book study on “Church Cracked Open” and other opportunities to engage in reflection and conversation about what we, as people of faith, as Church, are doing, can do, and should do now.
Rev. Chris Brouillard-Coyle is a tri-chair of Social and Ecological Justice Huron.
(Photo: Mohawk Chapel near Brantford, August 4, 2021)