With a song of gratitude in his native tongue, Elder Rick Lightning welcomed us to Treaty Six Cree territory. We were gathered in Wahkohtowin Lodge at Augustana University in Camrose, Alberta. This Cree word refers to creating kinship with the natural world. So it is fitting that Elder Rick deplored the accelerating destruction of Mother Earth and the consequent violation of Aboriginal rights. The Cree who signed Treaty Six in the late 1800s understood that the treaty would allow the settlers to use the top six inches of soil, in other words plow and farm the land, whereas mineral exploitation nowadays pollutes to a much deeper depth. Pointing to the children in our midst and referring to his own grandchildren, Elder Rick stressed that it was they who would bear the brunt of environmental destruction.
Elder Rick Lightning welcomes Friends to Treaty 6 Territory. Camrose, AB.
When the treaties were signed, cultural misunderstandings were rife, and there was a gulf between the expectations of the two parties to these legal documents. The new arrivals understood the Indians to have many gods as they appeared to be worshiping rocks, trees and the like, whereas they were actually giving thanks to one deity, the Creator.
Briefly, and without bitterness, Elder Rick reminded us of past injustices inflicted on the Cree and on Aboriginal peoples in general. Both his parents went through residential school. Under the Indian Act, native languages and ceremonies were suppressed, depriving the Indian peoples of their own culture. But what touched me most in his welcoming address was that he did not dwell on this painful past. “Let it go,” he said. “Don’t hang on to it.” In other words, his message was that relationship building in the here and now is what counts.
This theme of moving forward by relationship building was continued on Monday at a Special Interest Group showing of the movie Elder in the Making: Treaty Seven. This road trip documentary of reconciliation, set in stunningly beautiful Alberta landscapes, traces the history of the area from an Aboriginal perspective and centres on a Blackfoot whose ancestors lived there for thousands of years and who feels disconnected from the place he calls home. It is a profoundly moving film.
On the evening of August 7, 2016, Maggie Knight presented the annual Sunderland P Gardner lecture to Canadian Yearly Meeting, held this year at the University of Alberta’s Augustana Campus in Camrose, on Treaty 6 territory. The lecture was filmed and will be made available in coming weeks.
Entitled Continuing Revelation: Quaking with Grace and Joy in Modern Times, Maggie spoke about transforming ourselves, transforming the Religious Society of Friends, and transforming our world.
Speaking to assembled Friends, she said, “And so, what do we mean when we talk about ‘continuing revelation’? It is the commitment to ongoing discernment, to the belief that the divine will continue to unfold its wisdom to us if we listen, that our faith is an ongoing practice and journey. It is the belief that our faith continues to evolve, rather than stemming from a static religious text. It allows us to embrace and lead social change in our time, beyond what Fox and Penn and Fell could have imagined.This belief in continuing revelation is the reason I’m a Quaker.”
Here’s how the speedy fingers of Canadian Friends Service Committee’s Matt Legge and Publications and Communications Committee Clerk Chris Hitchcock livetweeted the evening.
In Part I: Transforming Ourselves, Maggie shared some of her experiences with workaholism, activist burnout, and ways to foster rest, space, and healthy boundaries in our lives. Speaking about the importance of acting through joy and abundance, she offered three queries:
What is enough?
When do I most love myself? When am I in best balance with myself?
How am I staying open to Spirit?
In Part II: Transforming our Religious Society of Friends, Maggie spoke about the ongoing nature of our evolution as a community, saying “the critical discernment is the wisdom to know the difference between the times we truly need more discernment, and when we are simply resisting the discomfort of change, resisting walking into the continuing revelation laid out before us.”
She identified three themes for Friends to work on:
Leaning into the discomfort: talking about money and embracing abundance
Journeying through conflict
Healthy boundaries and deeper discernment: above all, nurturing our blessed community
Emphasizing the importance of building a loving community through the creation of strong relationships between individual Friends, she said, “There are a million little kindnesses that add up to a beautiful community. We are all responsible for the inward health of our Meetings, just as we are all responsible for living our leadings outwardly.”
In Part III: Transforming our World, Maggie offered six ideas on what Quakers have to offer an increasingly secular world:
The cultivation of a practice of collective silence and contemplation in an age of distraction.
A faith grounded in strong and compelling testimonies that offer up ways to heal the world.
A beloved community in a time of growing social isolation and a fraying social safety net.
A spiritual practice based in discernment, in questions, rather than dogma – critical for many experiencing great existential angst and fear for the future.
Inter-faith work that transcends the Clash of Civilizations narrative.
A long tradition of speaking truth to power, and engaging in faith-based advocacy. The integrity to show up for our own work and a spiritual practice to keep at it.
She spoke about the importance of sharing our Light in the world through compelling personal stories.
Halifax 2013. Picture by Tori Ball.
Finally, Maggie closed with three asks for all Friends:
Practice explaining your faith and inviting others into it. What is the Light that you delight in letting shine? What are you quietly, humbly proud of?
Find your way to contribute to community-building in your Meeting, to help your community transcend and Quaker crankiness, get better at conflict and money, and turn towards each other’s bids for connection.
And finally, discern what your life would be like if you decided to spaciously, joyously, abundantly gift some of your time to Friends. What Quaker service would you let go? What else in your life would you like to let go? What new service would be led to undertake?
Maggie grew up on unceded Coast Salish territory in Victoria, BC. She’s a member of Vancouver Island Monthly Meeting and has sojourned with Meetings in Montreal, Halifax, and Vancouver. A third generation Quaker of British extraction, she became involved with Friends after attending Camp NeeKauNis in her early teens. She has worked on restorative justice and Indigenous rights with Canadian Friends Service Committee and recently served as Clerk of Canadian Young Friends Yearly Meeting and the CYM Determining Priorities and Envisioning Change Working Group.
A social and climate justice activist since her teens, Maggie studied Environment and Economics at McGill University and served as President of McGill’s undergraduate student union during the 2011-2012 Quebec student strike. She was progressive political non-profit Leadnow.ca‘s first Managing Director, building a distributed national campaigning organization while navigating the joys of 4 time zones and 17-staff-person calls via Google Hangouts. Now 27, she works as the BC Civil Liberties Association‘s new Operations Manager.
In 2015, she married her long-time partner Nat Egan-Pimblett (now Nat Knight) under the care of Vancouver Island Monthly Meeting. They live in Vancouver with their very talkative cat.
Friends, we will gather in Camrose at the Augustana Campus of the University of Alberta, starting this Friday, Aug 4, with a Pre-YM Retreat led by Beverly Shepard. Yearly Meeting session will follow with a community celebration on Saturday; the Sunderland P. Gardner Lecture given by Maggie Knight on Sunday evening and a week filled with activity, sharing, time for quiet reflection and spiritual growth and learning. Every year we come together as a family, it’s an event that nourishes body and soul.
Should you need to reach anyone during this time – you can either call the YM office (888-296-3222) and leave a voicemail – messages will be retrieved daily; or you can call the CYM on-site contact number 780-781-0507 .
Visit www.quaker.ca/business/cym2016 to download reports and information from our Session.
If you are not able to be among us in person, we ask you to hold our Session in the Light.
Click here to see if your Committee is scheduled to report this year at Yearly Meeting session in August.
Every year, we devote some time at CYM to look more closely at the work of a few committees or representatives. Our rota ensures that each CYM Standing Committee or representative has a Reporting and Clearness session every five years.
Opportunities for Reporting and Clearness are particularly important! What have been your key achievements since your last reporting and clearness? What are your challenges? What is your committee vision for the next five years? This is your opportunity to reflect on how your work fits into the CYM picture, to answer questions and to hear from Friends about your work. Please provide two or three questions for Friends to help us to prepare for and season this work. After a brief précis on the floor, time will be provided for discernment, allowing Friends to respond and to reflect on our collaborative vision of this work over the next five years.