People from the neighbourhood gathered on the front lawn at Mount Zion, New Westminster, to create a Heart Garden on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, June 4.
Stacey Ferguson of Qayqayt First Nation welcomed us all to the territory and told some of the story of how Qayqayt First Nation almost disappeared after being moved off its lands to make room for the settlement of New Westminster. Despite this difficult history, with the gracious support and endorsement of Qayqayt First Nation, the Community Connections Team at Mount Zion was able to proceed with the Heart Garden.
After a brief welcoming ceremony, we gathered for two minutes of silence before planting the hearts.
We are grateful for the Church Extension and Capital Fund grant administered by the BC Synod Missions Committee that enabled us to begin this project, including providing refreshments.
We also want to acknowledge the generosity of Iron Dog Books in providing copies of 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act and Spirit Bear: Honouring Memories, Planting Dreams at a discount; books which have been circulating through our book nook and congregation.
The Spirit Bear book was also used in three educational sessions at Coffee Time prior to June 4. The books may seem small, but they are packed full of truth and the reality of life for First Nations people and the planned genocide that has been part of Canadian history.
We are especially appreciative of all the resources made available to us from First Nations Child & Family Caring Society of Canada. In addition to letting us use their logo for Honouring Memories, Planting Dreams, they also provided a lovely gift: packets of seeds.
The image of seeds is hopeful, not only for the beautiful flowers, but also as a sign of the seeds of reconciliation being planted in our hearts. May these seeds grow and blossom as we journey together towards healing and wholeness, to a shared vision where every child matters and is cared for.
As stated on their website: “Heart gardens honour residential school survivors and their families, as well as the legacy of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Each heart represents the memory of a child lost to the residential school system, and the act of planting represents that individual’scommitment to finding their place in reconciliation.” (https://fncaringsociety.com/honouring-memories-planting-dreams)
Throughout this whole process our goal was not to just create a “pretty heart” but to engage in learning and taking meaningful steps in building relationships with the local First Nation as well as taking responsibility for learning about the residential school system and finding a meaningful place in reconciliation.
So, we provided paper hearts and bamboo sticks, as well as learning resources, at the neighbourhood garage sale in May, the three learning sessions at the church coffee time, as well as that Saturday afternoon when we created a Heart Garden.
We recognized that people were at various stages in this journey towards reconciliation. Some were ready to choose a goal from one of the 94 Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
After decorating a heart, people were encouraged to write their goal on the heart and/or say it aloud as they planted it in the ground. If they weren’t ready to articulate a goal, then they were invited to consider including what touched their heart to respond to honouring and remembering children who attended or were lost to the residential school system.
One woman who attended the Saturday event commented that she was too angry and too ashamed to even make a heart. A very open and honest conversation ensued.
Another young woman mentioned that she was just passing by and stopped out of curiosity. Afterwards she said she was glad she had stayed and had found it to be very healing.
Over refreshments people shared with one another what they were learning or hoped to learn. It was a heart-warming event, one which we anticipate will be repeated in years to come. Honouring Memories, Planting Dreams because,
as Jesus taught us in words and actions, Every Child Matters.
—Rev. Marlys Moen with assistance of the Community Connections Team