Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Tree Planting Ceremony at St. Philip's Church Commemorating Canada's Indigenous People

On International Peace Day, Monday, September 21, 2015, St. Philip's Anglican Church will be hosting a tree planting ceremony commemorating the reconciliation between the Anglican Church and Canada's indigenous people.

The event comes slightly less than four months after the conclusion of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) which addressed the sad legacy of the Indian Residential Schools. Here is an excerpt of a statement by the Anglican Church of Canada and other Canadian Christian denominations:

"Beginning in the 19th century and continuing until the late 1960’s, our churches were partners with the Government of Canada in running Indian Residential Schools. Notwithstanding the good intent and care of many who worked in the Schools, it is clear that Indian Residential Schools, in policy and in practice, were an assault on Indigenous families, culture, language and spiritual traditions, and that great harm was done. We continue to acknowledge and regret our part in that legacy."

As explained by Fred. J. Hiltz, Archbishop and Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, we are called to listen, pray and work towards reconciliation. Mr. Justice Murray Sinclair, the Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, cautioned that it may take generations to restore and nurture relations with indigenous people, however he also reminds us that churches have a special responsibility in this work.

As a church, St. Philip's stands in solidarity with Indigenous peoples in their cry for justice. The symbolic act of planting a tree is part of our efforts to promote awareness, healing and reconciliation.

We chose to hold this event on International Peace Day (September 21) because this is a day that celebrates those who work to end conflict and promote good relations. In 2015, the theme is "Partnerships for Peace - Dignity for All," which recognizes the efforts of faith groups and others. Tree planting ceremonies are but one of many activities that will be taking place around the world in honor of the day.

Our tree planting ceremony incorporates two powerful symbols, a flying dove to commemorate Peace Day and the Birch Tree which signifies renewal. A flying white dove with an olive branch in its beak is a sign of peace in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The dove can also represent “hope for peace” or a peace offering from one person to another, hence the phrase “to extend an olive branch”.

We chose to plant a birch tree because of its symbolism and because it is highly adaptive and resilient. Ancient Europeans saw the Birch as having protective properties, it was viewed as signifying hearth & home. In the Celtic tradition, birch wood is believed to ward off evil, banish fears, cultivate tolerance and build courage. While the birch is a symbol of renewal, it is also emblematic of stability and structure. The druids held the birch as the keepers of long-honored traditions and they equated it with the sun as birch bark was commonly used for kindling. Birch is the traditional Yule Log and birch twigs were used to light the Beltane fires. Later, they began to be used to make Maypoles, and cradles were once made from birch wood to protect children.

Native American people used birch as the center pole in their yurts & tee pees and it was symbolic of home and new beginnings. The birch tree was of great importance to Native Americans due to its tough, flexible and highly waterproof sheets of bark. Birch bark has been used by indigenous people in North America for everything from papering the exteriors of canoes and houses to making baskets, artwork, and maps.

Please join us for this tree planing celebration on the grounds of St.Philip's church, adjacent to the Memorial Hall located at 7505 Sherbrooke St. West at 5 PM on the evening of September 21. A wine and cheese will follow.

#22 Days Highlights of the Final Week
#22 Days: For Whom the Bells Toll
Primate of Canada's Statement on the #22days Campaign
Update on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission

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