Sunday school children wearing t-shirts in beautiful shades of orange formed a circle around Christ Church Associate Priest the Rev. Nick Trussell and special guest Denise Boucher for a Smudging Ceremony - a tradition of the Indigenous peoples of Treaty 6 land: the Cree, Saulteaux, Blackfoot, Métis and Nakota Sioux - on September 22.
Nick welcomed his friend Denise, a neighbour to Christ Church, and invited her to lead a prayer.
“I’m very honoured to be asked to be here today,” she said. “I shall come back. I’m happy to see all these children smudging with us. I’d never seen white children smudge and it’s nice to see.”
As he lit the smudge, Nick who is urban reconciliation facilitator for the Edmonton diocese, explained that the smoke of the medicines “helps our prayers be lifted to the Creator.”
He showed the children how to bring the smoke to the top of their heads and then use it to cleanse their hearts, eyes, ears and mouth so that they might think, feel, see, hear and speak as children of God.
“Lord, we give you thanks that we are Treaty people,” Nick prayed. “That we made a covenant in peace, friendship and in prayer. We acknowledge today the harm in that relationship and we pray today for healing of present wounds and walking together in a future of hope. We welcome one another here today in this circle, here together in this worship; we welcome all people, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, as Wahkohtowin (Cree word for kinship) – as all our relations. Help us to lift each other up by your spirit, grace and mercy. All this we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.”
“Thank you all for being here in part of our hope for the future and our hope for the relationships we’ve always prayed for and that God has always called us to; for showing how much you care that every child does matter,” he said.
In his sermon Nick shared the story behind Orange Shirt Day, which many churches are observing early this year as September 30 falls on a Monday. In 1973 an excited 6-year-old girl named Phyllis (Jack) Webstad, from the Dog Creek Reserve in B.C., asked her grandmother to buy her a shiny, orange shirt to wear on her first day of Mission school. But when Phyllis arrived at school, all her clothes, including her beloved orange shirt, were taken away from her. She recounts what happened on the Orange Shirt Day website:
“I never wore it again. I didn’t understand why they wouldn’t give it back to me, it was mine! The colour orange has always reminded me of that and how my feelings didn’t matter, how no one cared and how I felt like I was worth nothing. All of us little children were crying and no one cared.”
Boldly proclaiming "Every Child Matters," Phyllis started the Orange Shirt Society to help heal intergenerational wounds caused by the Residential School system.