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Prayer Liturgy - 215 Indigenous Children

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On May 28, as part of my morning routine, I checked the news to get up to speed on what was happening around the world. At the very top of the website, I noticed the headline news about the discovery of the remains of 215 Indigenous children at the former residential school in Kamloops. As I started to read, I could not hold it together. I broke into tears. I could not finish it. Waves of emotions crashed over me. They swallowed me. One feeling after another: Sadness, sorrow, grief, indignation.

I could not stop thinking: What if my son, Antonio, was one of the children? What if they were Michelle Casavant’s children? What if it was one of our youth? More tears.

When we look at our New Generations ministries, our hearts are filled with hope for our children as we look upon them as the future of our church, our society, and our country. This hope was never available for those children, their parents, and their people.

I’m still struggling. And I’m listening to others in our church and community who are also struggling with the discovery of this horrendous past. As a way to walk alongside one another, I’ve prepared this liturgy for us. Before you open the attached liturgy, please take time to slowly and prayerfully read the introductory words below. 

Filipe Balieiro
Director of International Ministries

Few words before we enter the liturgy:
  • First of all, I would like to thank Cheryl Bear, who kindly provided her feedback for this liturgy.
  • This liturgy might feel a little long for some people. Please be sure to carve out time to slowly and prayerfully work through it. It is fine for you to go through this liturgy on your own, but you are also welcomed to do so with others (e.g., family, Connection Group). 
  • Several denominations were involved in the administration of Residential Schools in Canada. Therefore, as we are part of Universal Church of Jesus Christ, we have sinned against Indigenous Peoples. So, not only do we ask for justice, we also come before the Lord and the Indigenous Peoples in a posture of repentance. Asking for forgiveness.
  • There are many layers to this liturgy. We hope that this liturgy could be a place where we can express our emotions and feelings before the Lord about what transpired. While this can be a place where we can ask for justice and reconciliation, it is also an opportunity for the Church to ask for forgiveness, to grieve, to close our mouths, and to listen. We hope that this liturgy will teach us that, in this situation, we are not the benefactors. At this moment, we do not offer. Rather, we listen. We walk with them. And so, this liturgy might be unsettling. It might not bring closure or comfort to you. This liturgy is an invitation to mourn with those who are mourning. It is an invitation to cry with those who are crying. To listen to them. It is okay if you are feeling unsettled after going through this liturgy.
  • Some of you might feel that this liturgy lacks hopeful languages. When you get to the part that references the book of Revelation, you will find some words of hope. However, the majority of this liturgy does not revolve around hope. This liturgy was shaped to create spaces for us to cry and walk alongside those who are grieving. It mirrors our Good Friday liturgy. It is important to note that we are not in the place of power—leading the way. We are not in a position to provide the way forward. At this moment, we must take time to listen. What would it look like if our Indigenous sisters and brothers led the way? Additionally and sadly, in the coming weeks and months, we might hear of more heart-breaking discoveries. More bodies found in other residential schools. The heartache and pain of our Indigenous sisters and brothers will continue to intensify and augment. For this reason, we must listen to them, grieve with them, and walk with them. We must sit with them in that unsettling space. 
  • Social media posts and other outlets can only take us so far. Those are temporary outlets of our indignation, anger, and frustration. We must remember that repentance, reconciliation, and healing take time. They take years and decades. Keep in mind that this journey towards reconciliation is a marathon, rather than a 100m sprint. 
  • Please do not hold back your emotions. Bring not only your thoughts before the Lord, but all of your emotions. There are no right or wrong emotions when we are lamenting.

Click here to read the liturgy:

Prayer Liturgy