Indigenous ministry welcomed to new home

A large group of people all facing an altar in the centre of a church.
the welcoming service at Holy Trinity, Trinity Square.
 on April 1, 2020
Michael Hudson

Church leaders participate

On the feast of the Transfiguration, Feb. 23, more than 115 people gathered at Holy Trinity, Trinity Square to formally welcome Toronto Urban Native Ministry (TUNM) to its new home. TUNM was established by Elders of the Indigenous and Christian communities in Toronto in 1996. It was created by the United Church of Canada to serve as a chaplaincy for Indigenous community members.

The welcome service was created to spiritually support Indigenous peoples, many of whom in Toronto were displaced through the Indian Residential Schools system and forced apprehensions that took children away from their families and home communities. TUNM was established as an ecumenical initiative between the United Church of Canada and the Diocese of Toronto in 2001, which was reflected in the shared liturgy of the welcome service.

Bishop Andrew Asbil presided over the service, along with co-celebrants the Rt. Rev. Richard Bott (Moderator of the United Church of Canada), the Rev. Evan Smith (Anishnawbe, TUNM and the United Church of Canada), the Rev. Maggie Dieter (Cree, the United Church of Canada) and Bishop Riscylla Shaw (Métis, area bishop of Trent-Durham). Four celebrants celebrated on four sides of the altar, speaking from the four directions as they prayed the Peacemaker Eucharistic Prayer, a liturgical resource created by the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples.

National Indigenous Archbishop Mark MacDonald preached, highlighting how the work of TUNM through the generations has called Indigenous, newcomers and settler peoples to lift the veil of colonial vision that feeds the “culture of money” and return to the vision of the Creator. The vision of our God is one where humans, the land and all created beings are seen with the eyes of God, valued inherently with dignity instead of how they relate to profit as a resource. As Archbishop MacDonald preached, community members offered hollers and shouts, accenting his points and filling the church with cries of affirmation.

Holy Trinity churchwarden Vivian Harrower receives a dish and spoon plaque, symbolizing the original items of a covenant between natives and settlers to peacefully share the area around the Great Lakes.

During the offertory, members of TUNM and Holy Trinity exchanged gifts, memorializing their new relationship. William Whitla and the Rev. Sherman Hesselgrave of Holy Trinity created and presented a hymn written specially for the occasion, “God of the Blazing Sun and the Moon.” The Rev. Evan Smith presented them in turn with a carved wooden bowl and spoon, mounted on a plaque to honour the Dish with One Spoon Covenant between the Haudenoshone and the Anishnawbe Nations, to peacefully share and sustain the life of the Great Lakes. The plaque will hang in Holy Trinity to remind all of the ancient and recent treaties of this territory, and how we are all called to live on this land in partnership with Indigenous leaders.

Following the celebration of Holy Communion, Sandra Campbell (Mohawk, Wolf Clan, TUNM Social and Pastoral Care Worker) beat her drum and sang the Travelling Song as the congregation recessed to four stations in Trinity Square park, next to the church. We began in the west, praying over the location of Taddle Creek, a buried river in Toronto. We prayed for TUNM’s Water Festival, ministry to people who give birth, to those who cry, and for our advocacy for those without access to clean water. In the north side of the park, we prayed over the site where a community member, Byron, recently died. We prayed for all we have lost in our ministry. We honoured the ancestors of the territory, and we prayed for TUNM and Holy Trinity’s shared ministry of the Homeless Memorial. In the east, we prayed over the new home of TUNM, building #6 in Trinity Square.

Bishop Asbil, Moderator Richard Bott and Archbishop MacDonald all led prayers of blessing over the historic rectory that now houses office space for the Rev. Evan Smith, Sandra Campbell and myself. In the south, we turned to face the courthouses of Toronto, praying over TUNM’s prison chaplaincy and community reintegration support programs. The celebration and establishment of a new home for this vital ministry concluded with the Mi’kmaq Welcome Song, sung by members of TUNM and the Neechee Sharing Circle.

TUNM extends its gratitude to the members of Holy Trinity, all TUNM board members, the Diocese of Toronto, the Shining Waters Regional Council, our national Indigenous ministries and the national office of the United Church of Canada for their support in establishing a new home for TUNM.


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