Children in the Fenelon Falls area got a hands-on experience of reconciliation this summer at the Good Neighbour Bible Camp, organized by St. James, Fenelon Falls and Christ Church, Coboconk.
In past years, the Parish of Fenelon Falls has bought pre-made programs for its camps. This year, with the help of a diocesan Reach Grant, its members decided to do something different. “Cindy Baldwin, our camp coordinator, came up with the idea of doing a curriculum that we would create ourselves based on First Nations’ traditions,” said the Rev. Susan Spicer, incumbent, during the planning process. “I immediately thought it’s a wonderful idea, because it’s in keeping with the vestry motion we passed on Truth and Reconciliation.”
Fenelon Falls is one of more than 70 parishes that passed vestry motions this year committing themselves to working toward reconciliation with Canada’s Indigenous peoples. Every year, Archbishop Colin Johnson encourages parishes to discuss and pass a motion on a particular social justice issue.
“We have a commitment to try to be responsible to the motion that we passed as a vestry,” said Ms. Spicer. “This is a way for us to encourage the community to listen and to learn about our First Peoples, and to think about how to act in reconciling ways.”
In addition to conducting their own research, members of the steering committee turned to three local Indigenous people for advice. James Whetung and Patty Shaughnessy, both from Curve Lake First Nation, and Kim Muskrat of Hiawatha First Nation helped the parish develop the curriculum and taught the children during the camp.
“We will be learning from these teachers as a community,” said Ms. Spicer. “We have people in the parish who have done work in Native studies, and they will be looking at the points of intersection between our Christian story and the teachings and traditions of the First Peoples. We will also be looking at the story of first contact and what has happened in that relationship.”
Despite the serious issues motivating the camp, Ms. Spicer emphasized that it would be a fun experience for kids. “This is camp, so the idea is to have a whole lot of fun and to learn at the same time,” she said. “There will be drama, there will be storytelling, there will be crafts and games.” Past camps have also included time for outdoor adventures.
“I’m hoping the kids will take away a deep appreciation of the richness of the First Peoples of this region, that they will have had an opportunity to be in relationship with people from the First Nations communities, that they will have learned a little bit about the traditions,” said Ms. Spicer. “We will be doing this on Anishinabek land, the people who were the first people here.”
Alongside the camp, the parish plans to uphold its commitment to reconciliation in other ways, such as holding a Blanket Exercise and educational events with the wider community. “It is important for us to engage in reconciling action so that there can be healing and right relationship,” said Ms. Spicer. “I am hopeful that that can happen over time, because our faith has reconciliation at its very heart. But it takes work, and this is just a small piece of what I hope will be a continuing journey for us as a parish.”