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Those who walk (Part Two)

Re-entering the land is a Sacred Journey

By Carolyn Pogue

It was like opening a door, she said. "We've had doors closed in the past and often locked. But the key has been turned. The symbolism of the journey is that someone has come along, turned the knob and opened the door." Jillian Harris, Penelekut Elder, was speaking about Bishop Logan McMenamie's Lenten Sacred Journey. Her words acknowledge another step toward reconciliation between First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples and other Canadians.

Our friend, Norma Farquharson, had invited my husband, Bill, and I to attend Calgary’s St. Laurence Anglican Church to hear Wayne Stewart, a member of that congregation, tell his story of walking the length of Vancouver Island. This Sacred Journey of reconciliation between the church and First Nations was a powerful experience to hear about and, for Wayne, to recount. 

Wayne spends the winter in Victoria, B.C. There, he became friends with Logan McMenamie, the Anglican bishop for the diocese of British Columbia. Early in January, the bishop wondered aloud about his idea to "re-enter the land," and so met with Wayne to explore the idea. Wayne says that when he heard the idea, he simply said, "Here I am Lord. Send me."

"The church came here generations ago, and we got it wrong," Bishop McMenamie explained. "What if we made an effort to "re-enter" properly? One hundred and fifty years ago, we came here and stayed without asking permission. I want to re-enter with respect and humility."

Carolyn Pogue
Carolyn Pogue

Within weeks, Wayne and Logan, who are two grandfathers, made a plan to walk the length of the island, stopping along the way to meet with the chief of each area in order to ask permission to enter. The foundation of the journey was twofold, Wayne explained. "We wanted to do it simply, and we wanted to do it with humility."

They began in Alert Bay, B.C. where the Anglican church had run an Indian Residential School. They ended at the Victoria Cathedral on Easter Sunday. Along the way, they were welcomed with ceremonies, dances, prayers and speeches. There were adventures along the route, too. One day, a woman made a u-turn when she realized who she had seen on the road. "I don't belong to an organized religion," she began. And Wayne replied: "That's OK. We're Anglicans. We're not all that organized ourselves!" She then gave them a cash donation to mark her respect for their mission.

Another man approached and told them about his experience in a residential school. It had been a terrible time for him, and he had never spoken of it. Something moved him, though, when he saw Wayne and Logan walking. It was a holy moment for all of them. At the end of the encounter, the survivor's wife said, "Thank you for giving the child back."

Part of their 480-km trek — through a lot of rain — was with company, including two days with Mark MacDonald, the national Indigenous bishop for the Anglican Church. Many days, they walked in silence, praying and communicating with the Creator through Nature.

At the end of Wayne's presentation that Sunday, he asked, "Could this be a model for other church people who wish to re-enter the land where they live?" It's a good question. As the Elder said, "We've had doors closed in the past, and often locked." A pair of hiking boots and a humble heart may be two more keys.

Author's photo
Carolyn Pogue is a Calgary author and longtime Observer contributor. For more information on Carolyn Pogue, visit www.carolynpogue.ca..
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