Hearts Exchanged is being piloted as a process of equipping Reformed Christians to engage with Indigenous peoples as neighbours in a way that grows trust and transformation.
Hearts Exchanged came to germination after being planted at a Cross-Cultural Ministry Forum of the Christian Reformed Church in North America way back in 2000. The report from that event recommended ongoing, church-wide conversation around cross-cultural ministry, but that has not robustly been put into practice over the past 20 years.
The report noted that, “progress will require honest dialogue, and that cannot occur outside of trusting relationships. To facilitate relationships strong enough to survive the inevitable shock as icebergs collide, the church would be wise to provide more opportunities for cross-cultural listening, perhaps patterned after the forum itself.”
Beginning in 2019, Christian Reformed Church staff collaborated with the Canadian Indigenous Ministry Committee and the Committee for Contact with the Government, composed of church members from across the country, to design the initial three-year proposal for a new pilot of Hearts Exchanged. The proposal was brought forward and approved at the Canada Corporation of the CRCNA in May 2020.
There are currently two cohorts participating in the Hearts Exchanged pilot. One is based in Eastern Canada and the other in Alberta. The cohorts connect via monthly zoom conversations that lean-in to issues around respect, reciprocity, and relationship using Indigenous teachings on belonging and generosity as the basis for learning. They also review resources and complete learning activities between sessions that are designed to deepen their understanding of biblical reconciliation and Indigenous-settler relationships.
“So far this has been time well spent,” said Justice and Reconciliation Mobilizer Shannon Perez. “Participants are having real, sincere reflections and this is a good place to be open to these kinds of reflections.”
“When it comes to cross-cultural ministry, I could give you techniques, but what has made the greatest impact is when we exchanged hearts” said participant Ray Aldred in the initial 2000 forum.
Denominational staff took this guidance seriously and intentionally designed the cohorts to be places where it is safe to “exchange hearts” with honesty, humility, and a desire to be changed. It is hoped that this process will have a multiplying effect, equipping participants with insights, personal experiences, and relationships that will inspire further conversations within the church and beyond.
These ideas are captured in the logo created to represent this process. This organic free flowing logo represents the way conversations will flow and intertwine in the cohorts happening across Canada. The intersecting lines are meant to represent the reciprocity and exchange of ideas central to this process and are reminiscent of braided sweetgrass. The four colours in the logo are found in medicine wheels of many different Indigenous groups and also point towards the cross-cultural nature of this process.
Future plans for Hearts Exchanged envision a second year, beginning in late 2021, that will establish cohorts across the country, seeking the participation of all Canadian classes. In the third year, the forthcoming Canadian National Gathering will focus on reconciliation, with built-in learning and action planning resources for all congregations to bring home to their local contexts.
“It’s been 20 years in coming, and we know that it’ll take more than the three years we have planned to support congregations in developing authentic relationships with Indigenous communities that are truly interdependent and God-honouring,” said Cindy Stover, another Justice Mobilizer.
“Hearts Exchanged is more than a three-year, or 20-year journey. It’s a life-long commitment to seeing the image of Creator God in Indigenous peoples, and actively working to transform our churches from being places where they have historically experienced harm into places where they are welcomed and experience belonging in their full identities.”
Visit Hearts Exchanged | The Network (crcna.org) for more information.