A Menno MInute
Be It Resolved
by Ruth Bergen Braun (Foothills Mennonite) with Joani Neufeldt (Lethbridge Mennonite)
Be It Resolved: Anabaptists & Partner Coalitions Advocate for Indigenous Justice 1966-2020, edited by Steve Heinrichs and Esther Epp-Tiessen, was published by Mennonite Central Committee and Mennonite Church Canada in 2020. I first paged through the book, reading snippets. I was merely interested to see who I knew, who said what, and was curious about the mid 1970s as I did a short stint with Native Ministries in 1975.
Then this past summer, Steve Heinrichs issued the Be It Resolved Challenge and Joani Neufeldt (Lethbridge Mennonite) and I signed up — along with 130 others. I wanted a nudge to read the book more thoroughly and Joani, because she too felt she wanted to learn “the Mennonite piece” of being a settler in Canada. We wanted to be challenged, to learn to be active, not passive, allies.
When our (free) copies arrived, we started the recommended readings, beginning with the notes and resolutions from the 1966 Conference of Mennonites in Canada conference, working our way through the book.
Our first impressions
We have been talking about this way too long, reconciliation is not new, yet we are still talking about it. It was very interesting to read the litanies and thoughts of people who were fighting for reconciliation then. A sad connection to our history…
Similar to Joani, we’ve been talking about reconciliation for a long time. I discovered that my dad must have hired a man from Siksika to work on our farm after being encouraged to do so at the 1966 conference. Conference attendees prayed using a litany for forgiveness for cultural genocide in 1970 — 45 years before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission brought those very policies to light! This litany said “We have wanted you as converts but we weren’t sure that we wanted you as brothers.” Ouch.
The Be It Resolved Challenge includes committing to a number of Zoom calls
I missed the first zoom call but asked:
Joani, what was your take-away from the first ZOOM call?
People want to do better – we want to find tangible ways to be allies, we want to walk alongside our indigenous neighbours. There is a diverse group of people across Canada and across faith traditions that have intentionally gotten together for accountability.
I did join the second zoom call and came away with gratitude that I can count numerous Indigenous people as friends. In my breakout room I heard some lament that they want to be part of a reconciliation work but have found no way of doing so. Again I asked:
Joani, what stood out from the second ZOOM call?
Our diverse opinions and experiences guide us as we walk the path of reconciliation. There are so many different ideas on how to do the work of reconciliation, some want to write church worship resources, others want to explore reparation payments. Some want to offer free professional services. One thing is clear – we are tired of words being said into a void – it is time for us to not just mean what we say – we need to DO what we say.
We were all asked to make commitments, to say why this is important to us, and outline steps we will take to meet our commitments.
Joani’s include both finishing the readings in Be it Resolved plus “read 3 more books by Indigenous authors.” She would like to involve local elders in crafting a land acknowledgement for her congregation and learn about Blackfoot traditions asking her nearby Indigenous community what they want from us as part of the TRC. Mine include better tying my faith commitment to my friendship commitments and inviting others, settler friends and family, to meet my Indigenous friends. I committed to encouraging my congregation to continue using land acknowledgements and inviting Indigenous speakers. I’m happy to say that my congregation, Foothills Mennonite, had Tony Snow, an Indigenous speaker as out guest on October 31!
As the Be It Resolved Challenge continues throughout the winter we and others continue to ask:
Are we ready to hear what Indigenous peoples require of us? Are we, as individuals and as the Mennonite Church, fully ready to hear the Truth and take action (not just pass formal resolutions) on Reconciliation?
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