Three eagles caught my attention within moments of arriving on Haida Gwaii last Thursday, signalling the strong spirit of things to come over the next four days. I was able to catch only a few images. Capturing an eagle’s elegant flight proved impossible.
Capturing the movement of Spirit proves impossible as well. The best we can do is watch and wait for it, gasp at its power when seen, and attest to its reality undaunted by inadequate words and images.
Just as I cannot capture the beauty and power of an eagle’s flight, I cannot adequately describe the powerful ways in which Spirit moved on Haida Gwaii last weekend. I’d like, though, to offer a few words and images from those times when I gasped at Spirit’s power during this extraordinary gathering of the BC Native Ministries Council with Prince Rupert Presbytery and BC Conference youth.
- A traditional Haida dinner at the home of Roberta Olson “Keenawii,” with stories and descriptions of varied seafood dishes, accompanied by traditional teaching, drumming, and singing.
- Youth and young adult leaders, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, from across BC Conference enjoying their time together and offering wisdom to BC Conference President Dan Chambers and me during and following a visit with them to the stunning Kaay Llnagaay Haida Heritage Centre.
- An open-to-the-public conversation with the Moderator about the ocean and environment on Haida Gwaii, which made for an extraordinary gathering of stories about how the ocean is changing on the west coast, along with story-weaving about how we hope our children will tell stories about what we did to stem destruction and contribute to environmental healing and health. Hereditary chief Nang Jingwas (The One Standing Tall), also known as Russ Jones, was among those who spoke eloquently, knowledgeably, and with hope.
- Blair Galston’s “Heroes of Our Church” presentation on the history of First Nations leadership in BC Conference. Truly inspiring.
- Listening to many, many dreams for our church!
- A stunning Sunday worship service at Skidegate United Church, followed by a spectacular feast that evening organized and hosted by the Native Ministries Council, to which hereditary chiefs and others of the local First Nations community were invited. It was a humble privilege to offer The United Church of Canada’s Apology to First Nations Peoples (1986) and Apology to Former Students of United Church Indian Residential Schools, and to Their Families and Communities (1998) with BC Conference President Dan Chambers. Responses to the apologies were as expansively generous and gracious as everything else about the feast.
- Feasts hold surprises, and a lovely one on Sunday was that I was blessed with a new Gitxsan name. It means “Sister of the East” and sounds like this: Sta kaqu em Gii Gain Nic.
- The beauty of sky, sea, land, and this community of communities will keep me gasping at Spirit’s power—with inadequate words—for a long time to come.
- And on the subject of soul, community, and creation, I learned that the Haida don’t have a word for “nature.” It seems that they cannot conceive of nature as separate from anything else of life. Sometimes the very absence of a word holds a powerful teaching. Again, I gasp at Spirit’s power to catch us with new insights into God’s world and Christ’s ways.
When have you gasped at Spirit’s power lately?