Canadian Baptists hosted participants in the Baptist World Alliance‘s Annual Gathering on July 5. The evening was billed as a celebration with Canadian Baptists, and it was that. The evening was chilly, but we began with an outdoor picnic featuring “Canadian barbecue,” which turned out to be largely indistinguishable from the sweet tomato-based sauce common to Texas and the American midwest. Participants were invited to participate in a hockey challenge, hitting slapshots off of asphalt into a net, and happy fellowship was the order of the day.
Worship music featured Fraser Campbell and his band, who brought their rollicking style (not unlike Mumford and Sons) over from Victoria Island.
The greater part of the service, however, was less celebration than apology. Canadians have worked hard over the past few years, through a peace and justice commission, to acknowledge that the indigenous or “First Nation” peoples who first welcomed the settlers and were later displaced did not willingly cede the land.
The service began with a ceremonial gift to Deborah Sparrow, who represented the Musqueam First Nation, which had inhabited the Vancouver area for thousands of years before European settlers arrived. Sparrow spoke of her people’s traditional worship of the Creator, and the belief that humans are stewards and caretakers of the land, which belongs to God.
Cheryl Bear, of the Nadleh Whut’en First Nation in British Columbia, spoke at some length of her experience in educating others and building ties among First Nations peoples through singing, storytelling, and dance.
Canadian Baptist leaders welcomed the 300-plus Baptists gathered from many nations. They spoke of how others had planted the good seed of the gospel in Canada, and how Canadians have spread the good seed to others. To commemorate the occasion, Canadian Baptists commissioned a ceramic wall hanging of a samara, the winged seed of a maple tree, as a handmade gift for each participant. In keeping with the theme of the evening, worshipers were encouraged to spread the seed of the gospel and be rooted in good soil, something all seemed eager to do.