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Lent: Forgiveness is not words; it is action

The reflection this week is offered by Sarah Eagle Heart, Missioner - Indigenous Ministries (Twitter: @IndigEpiscopal, Facebook: @Native-AmericanIndigenous-Ministries-of-the-Episcopal-Church)


We have not loved you with our whole heart, and mind, and
strength. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We
have not forgiven others, as we have been forgiven.
Have mercy on us, Lord.
(The Litany of Penitence, BCP)

When we reflect upon the history of the United States, few are aware the actions of our ancestors included a colonizing and assimilating mentality that ultimately ended in the massacres of hundreds of indigenous tribes...families, men, women and children. Centuries of promises made and broken form part of the heavy links between the history of our nation and the present a painful reality for many Native people.

Those left behind were forcibly removed to reservations where a previous "way of life" was altered entirely and forever...leaving a legacy of intergenerational trauma whose effects are still being felt today. One example is the forced separation of children from their families to boarding schools, beginning in the 1880's with enrollment reaching an all-time high in the 1973 at 60,000 annually. These government schools were run by various church denominations to assimilate Native American children. The slogan for the more than 65 U.S. boarding schools was: "Kill the Indian. Save the man." Shocking stories now being shared include rape, mutilation and death. Today we forget these actions had and still have an impact on these now grown children and the generation of today. Native American communities experience poverty with epidemic suicide rates, extreme levels of unemployment, alcoholism, drug addiction, gang violence, rape, and domestic violence.

Forgiveness is not words; it is action. To acknowledge its regret for this history of domination and violence, in 2009 the Episcopal Church adopted resolution D035 for the explicit purpose of repudiating and renouncing the Doctrine of Discovery. The healing journey for both the oppressed and the oppressor lead beyond the mere alleviation of poverty into the abundant provision of a generous creator that seeks only that all creation would grow to its fullness of possibility and hope.

While we can say that no one living today generated these destructive abuses in the name of Christ, never the less, the structural world we have been adopted into has been undeniably shaped and determined by the historic forces of empire.

Will you decide to reinforce those worldly structures or will you reshape those structures to better serve Christ and all your brothers and sisters?

O Great Spirit, God of every people and every tribe,

we come to you as your many children, to ask for your forgiveness and guidance.

Forgive us for the colonialism that stains our past,

the ignorance that allowed us to think that we could claim another's home for our own.

Heal us of this history. Remind us that none of us were discovered since none of us were lost,

but that we are all gathered within the sacred circle of your community.

Guide us through your wisdom to restore the truth of our heritage.

Help us to confront the racism that divides us as we confess the pain it has caused to the human family.

Call us to kinship. Mend the hoop of our hearts and let us live in justice and peace, through Jesus Christ, the One who came that all people might live in dignity. Amen.

Additional Resources: Doctrine of Discovery Video and Study Guides


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