By Rev. Canon Val Kenyon
According to the Oxford dictionary, the word “other” is used to refer to people or things that are additional or different to people or things that have been mentioned or are known about.
Given this, it would be fair to say that in one context or another, we are all “the other”. For most of us there is some environment where we are the newcomer, the beginner, the uninitiated. We have all had the experience of being new at a recreational venue, in a class or course of study, or in some social group we are hoping to join to learn, to fellowship, or to just have fun. These are modest changes. Some of us have had our environments change completely as we launch out to make our home in a new city, province, or even country.
As “the other” while we may have a general idea of what we might expect, we do not know in any precise kind of way what the norms and protocols of the group are (made even more complicated due to Covid). Our hope, no matter the context, is that the kindness of those more seasoned members of the group will be extended to us, ultimately drawing us in, until perhaps we cease to be the newcomer, and now are able to extend our support to those who are “the other” that follow us.
This is a very simplistic example of the experience of “the other” and we know that the reality for many in our midst is a great deal more complicated. For over the past number of months, we have all been reminded that often the deck is systematically stacked against certain ones. During the challenging months of Covid, amidst our health concerns, we are being called to examine our treatment of one another in many different ways and to more intentionally learn about one another.
To quote our own EfM coordinator Libi Clifford on this topic, “The ‘other’ is feared because of their colour, accent, culture or something else that is perceived as different or wrong (tattoos, piercings, language etc). In EfM, the Bible, other books and discussions continually lead us to the conclusion that if we are truly followers of Jesus and want to live like him, we must accept and embrace the “other” as part of our world by overcoming the fear of differences and looking for things in common. This year’s Interlude books are sure to further these conversations”
Over the past number of months these articles have shared different components of the Education for Ministry program. In addition to a program that studies the Old Testament, New Testament, and the history of Christianity, each year EfM groups take on two separate publications (known as Interlude books) with the deliberate intention of inviting us into learning more about those who are as yet largely unknown to us.
The two books chosen this year are: The Dream of God: A Call to Return by Verna J. Dozier and Unsettling the Word: Biblical Experiments in Decolonization. In The Dream of God, Dozier examines how the Church needs to return again to the vision of what it is called to be in Scripture.
The dream of God is for God’s people to be a new thing in the world. Just what does it mean in our treatment of one another to “follow Jesus and not merely to worship him”?
The second selection, chosen specifically for Canadian groups, addresses how the Bible has been used by settler colonial societies as a weapon to dispossess Indigenous and racialized peoples off their lands, cultures, and spiritualities. Written from a first-person perspective of over 60 Indigenous and Settler authors, Steve Heinrichs explores how these groups can reclaim the Bible for an instrument of justice moving into the future.
Both of these publications invite their readers into another, a different perspective, an expanded understanding of another with the hope that this new view will enrich, enhance and expand our understanding.
Education for Ministry continue as groups that are committed to making space for questions and discussion in a way that support exploration and the application of our faith and our understanding of our faith to both the decisions we make in our everyday lives and to the larger decisions that shape and reshape our world.
To learn more about Education for Ministry in the Diocese of Huron, please be in touch with Libi Clifford, the Diocese of Huron EfM Coordinator or myself Val Kenyon at email@example.com, to hear some of the details and the possibilities.
Rev. Dr. Canon Val Kenyon is EFM Animator in Huron.