Dixie Bird grew up and has worked with youth on the Montreal Lake reserve in northern Saskatchewan. She now lives in Prince Albert, Sask., and will be a delegate to General Synod 2016 as one of the representatives of the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples. She is also a member of the Primate’s Commission on the Doctrine of Discovery, Reconciliation and Healing. From those vantage points, she says she sees reconciliation happening in the opportunities for Indigenous Anglican voices to be heard in the church.
But what those voices say isn’t always easy to hear. She described an emotional moment when Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, told the commission members that a young Aboriginal person had asked him, “What more do we have to risk?” in order to feel accepted in the church. Bird wasn’t surprised by the question, because it resonated with her own feelings of not being accepted and of continuing oppression.
Listening is key if the church wants to change that, she said. “I think it will open not only [their] eyes and ears, but it should open their hearts.” She suggested setting up panels for people to express pain that has been passed down from generation to generation.
Youth suffer the consequences of previous generations’ residential school experience, Bird said. “Today’s youth are vulnerable,” she added. Lacking a sense of belonging and spiritual grounding, youth can be drawn to anything that promises that security, from other churches to gangs, she said.
Bird said trying new approaches to church like outdoor gospel jamborees might help reach youth.