On Saturday morning, September 11, Pastor Kyla was awakened by an early phone call. A staff member had arrived at the church building to find it had been significantly vandalized with spray paint tags overnight.
These tags were not the scrawls or silly pictures we sometimes associate with juvenile experimentation. The words, images, and hashtags were a call for our community to pay attention to the LandBack movement, and to examine and expose the lies perpetuated by the mainline church to erase an appalling legacy left by the residential school system. The messages were also a condemnation of the systems, both political and societal, that leave marginalized populations at risk for encountering harm at the hands of policing at far greater rates than other sectors of our community.
Our first reaction? The presence of the tags is upsetting. It is difficult to have our place of worship, a place for communion and healing, be defaced and re-characterized by someone wielding a can of spray paint. Still, while we would hope our wider community members would engage with us in dialogue and learning opportunities through face-to-face interactions, we are cautious not to quickly condemn this act. Instead, we are left to wonder how the person responsible may have come to conclude that this would be their mode of protest, expression of pain, or cry for justice.
Friends, we are living in a time where, across the country, the Spirit is actively bringing truth to the surface. The expressions of grief and anger flowing from the Indigenous community are legitimate. As a church, we desire to adopt a posture that reflects the humility of Jesus. Please hear us on this: there is no easy way forward from here. We will not all agree as we move. Reconciliation will often be painful and messy. There is no pathway around it, either. It has literally come knocking on our doorstep.
We serve our community with the desire that people would throw their burdens, hurts, and pain upon Jesus and His church. This week they have done so. We want to be sure to respond with the compassion and grace of our Saviour.
As our staff team prayed about this, we heard the Spirit invite us to linger in this moment for a while. To let the words on the building bring about a holy conviction. For, as Christ's ambassadors, we would be wise to add the words "We confess" to the front of many of the slogans emblazoned on our church walls.
We confess that there is no pride in genocide.
We confess that the Church has lied by omission and erasure.
We confess that the losses of missing and murdered indigenous women have not broken our hearts as they ought to.
We confess that the "system" is broken and biased to favour white supremacy.
We confess that we have failed to love others as Christ loves them.
We confess that we too often look away, cover over, and ignore the cries of protest, cries of pain, and cries for justice.
Lord, have mercy.
So, while we are grateful for the many volunteers who jumped in quickly to help clean up the spray-painted walls, we have chosen to leave a few of the words over our doorway. It will not be for long, but for now. We trust as a congregation we will be able to agree that we don't need to pray for clean walls as much as we need to pray for clean hearts. We believe and trust that Jesus will most assuredly meet us in our mess.
“So here’s what I’ve learned through it all Leave all your cares and anxieties at the feet of the Lord, and measureless grace will strengthen you.” - Psalm 55:22
“Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you.” - 1Peter 5:7