Orange Shirt Day and the affiliated ‘Every Child Matters’ campaign has its roots in the experiences of six-year-old Phyllis Webstad. In 1973, Phyllis’ grandmother gifted the small child with an orange shirt to wear to start school. Excited to be wearing her special new shirt, Phyllis was devastated when upon her arrival at the residential school, school officials confiscated the shiny orange shirt and the little girl never saw it again. This loss greatly impacted the mental and emotional well-being of this child and always symbolized for her that “her feelings never mattered”. That little girl shared her story at a reunion of residential school survivors in 2013 and the annual “Every Child Matters’ campaign began. https://www.orangeshirtday.org/about-us.html
September 30 was chosen as the date to commemorate all the children that were forced to leave their homes and communities to attend school, as that was the time of year when the buses and officials rolled in to take the children away. The Orange Shirt Day campaign provides all Canadians with an opportunity to participate in a collective act of Reconciliation, and to reinforce that every child does indeed matter.
The commitment of Kamloops United Church to Reconciliation is driven by the same unconditional love in action that led us to becoming an Affirming congregation. Being Affirming means we believe that God loves and celebrates all people. Although the national church’s Affirming Ministry Program focuses on issues of sexual orientation and gender identity, it encourages its member ministries to broaden their understanding, awareness, and action to include: justice, healing reconciliation for Indigenous peoples, and work to end racism. When we talk about being Affirming, it goes far beyond tolerance, far beyond acceptance, far beyond welcoming. It is love for, and affirmation of, every person in their diversity.
How do we keep ourselves mindful that KUC is committed to that kind of unconditional love and affirmation, and to reconciliation and being in good relations with all of God’s people?
Well, every Sunday in the welcoming moments of worship, we hear words to remind us that we acknowledge that we are on unceded Tk’emlups te Secwepemc lands, and that we are grateful for that privilege. Our welcome also always includes a statement that KUC is an 2SLGBTQ+ Affirming congregation, where people of all sexual orientations and gender identities are embraced as members and leaders participating in all aspects of church life. Those acknowledgements, repeated each week, are as essential a ritual as any prayer or other repeated part of our worship. Those statements are about us remembering and acting out the radical hospitality called for by Jesus. It is part of being Public, Intentional and Explicit about two of the central elements of the KUC identity; our faith demands that our words and actions reflect that commitment to Reconciliation and to being Affirming of all people.
Wearing our orange shirts as we gather to worship this Sunday, and throughout the week of September 30 can alsoserve to remind us of the need to walk in community on the road to Reconciliation.
With hearts and minds open, we can seek to better understand what Truth and Reconciliation means for us as individuals, as a community of faith, and as nations.
As the first National Day of Truth and Reconciliation approaches, there are many offerings available for learning:
*”Indigenous Children Then, Now and Tomorrow”
Panelists will explore how Indigenous children and families were and continue to be impacted by colonialism. They will answer a series of questions posed by our moderator Springwater Hester-Meawassige, which will touch on a range of topics including Indigenous Children in Residential Schools, Sixties Scoop, Millennial Scoop, and bringing our children home. September 29, 2021 from 2:30 – 4:00pm PT
*The National Center for Truth and Reconciliation has a (FREE) week long program Sept.27- Oct.1. https://nctr.ca/education/trw/
*The link below is just one of many that are relevant to Truth and Reconciliation from https://united-church.ca/ the national website for the United Church of Canada.
*The website for the Pacific Mountain Region of the United Church has some useful resources including the page for Indigenous Ministries. https://pacificmountain.ca/ministry/indigenous-ministry/
*There is also a comprehensive Indigenous Foundational Reading list. https://pacificmountain.ca/ministry/indigenous-ministry/pmrc-and-indigenous-foundational-reading-list/
*Lastly and locally, the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc have invited the broader community to join with them in tribute with an Honour song at 2:15 pm on September 30. “Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc wishes to involve the world in recognizing the very first Canadian National Day of Truth and Reconciliation. After a global outpouring of interest and support for the missing children from the Kamloops Indian Residential School, Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc is offering a way for people to connect, support and ground into the importance of September 30, 2021.” https://tkemlups.ca/drum/