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Tawâw: There is room

A picture of belonging.

“You don’t belong” is a spoken and unspoken message most of us have heard at one time or another. We’re all familiar with that sinking gut feeling when we’re told that we don’t fit in. For many Indigenous people, this experience has been true even in the church, where they have received the message to discard cultural practices before they can enter a church community. Acknowledging this broken practice of exclusion can allow the church community to move forward in a new way.

In May 2023, the Christian Reformed churches in Canada will host the fourth Canadian National Gathering (CNG). This gathering is intended to draw representatives of the community together to discern what the Spirit is saying. A significant focus of the 2023 gathering will be creating space for relationships of belonging and inclusion.

The gathering will flow out of Hearts Exchanged, an 8-month learning journey centered on themes of Indigenous justice and reconciliation. Over 400 people from classes across Canada have already participated in Hearts Exchanged.

As Harold Roscher, a Plains Cree man participating in the design of the gathering, puts it, “A favourite Cree word of mine is Tawâw which means ‘there is room.’ What a beautiful picture of belonging.”

As participants gather at Algonquin College, there will be opportunity to see the gift of diversity in new ways. It will be, as Roscher goes on to say, “one of those moments where we can share and explore our spiritual, mental, physical and emotional connection with those within the CRC circle of churches.”

Marlene Wolters knows this from experience. She is an Indigenous woman who attended the last Canadian National Gathering. When she walked into the main space and saw an Indigenous drum there, it let her know that she belonged.

“It was profoundly impacting for me personally and I can guarantee that, should you attend this gathering, you also will be impacted,” she said.

The planning team for the 2023 CNG prays that as fellow image bearers gather together, hearts will truly be exchanged. May people return to their home churches with a fuller understanding of how to invite and experience belonging.

This page is made possible through a partnership with CRC Ministries within Canada.

Author

  • Victoria Veenstra

    Victoria Veenstra is the Justice Communications Team Coordinator for the CRC, working for the Centre for Public Dialogue, Office of Social Justice, and Canadian Indigenous Ministries Committee.

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