Recently I received an invitation from Bill Snow for an extraordinary opportunity to share in a Vancouver School of Theology program called “The Teaching House”.* This four-day event in Banff, Kananaskis and Morley is an initiative of the Indigenous Studies Program at Vancouver School of Theology. It includes cultural presentations on the history of the early missionaries with the Stoney people in the Bow Valley, as well as the importance of cultural places (i.e. Lake Minnewanka, and Upper Kananaskis Lake). Participants include several clergy, and students, youth and educators from VST, the Stoney Nakoda Nation, and the Sandy Saulteaux Spiritual Centre. The Director of the Teaching House was Bill Snow of the Stoney First Nations with able assistance from many others.
It was an amazing time of sharing, listening, learning, and developing friendships and learning about Stoney Nakota Christian theology and spiritual practice. The sharing was deep and powerful from John Snow, Tony Snow, and my old friend from college Ray Aldred. Certainly there were other powerful contributors including Bishop Sydney Black and Melva, and of course Henry Holloway’s recounting and the Moral ReArmament World Tour in the 1960’s. **
At the last minute Carol and I were asked if St Michael Church could host an evening meal and we were honoured to do that. The meal was prepared by Carol. I wish you could have been there. Those from the 2 Churches who were able to attend engaged in great conversations with the presenters and with those attending the Teaching House.
*Vancouver School of Theology is pleased to announce that the school is the recipient of a major grant of $400,000 from the Henry Luce Foundation. This grant will be dispersed to VST over two years from the Luce Fund for Theological Education in support of the implementation of the Teaching House that Moves Around. This will bring the best of Indigenous Christianity into the framework of traditional Indigenous practice, Indigenous understanding of knowledge, style and pace of learning.
Through sharing, celebrating, story-telling and biblical interpretation with pastoral awareness, a context of ceremonial space will be created to allow a community’s capacity to engage in supportive ministry with and for each other to flourish. Using a variety of tools, including Appreciative Inquiry methodology, and developing a consensus that focuses upon identifying and strengthening competencies, a team of four to six leaders/elders live and learn with fifteen to twenty-five persons in community over many days. This concept, in various parts, has been tested with Indigenous communities in Hawaii, North Dakota, Montana, Northern British Columbia, Alberta, and Manitoba.
The lasting benefit will be individuals in each community able to start and lead support groups for people seeking to rebuild relationships in their lives. The results of their achievements will become both model and motivation for other communities to enter into this process of education and healing.
This grant to establish The Teaching House that Moves Around will enhance the work and role of the Indigenous Studies Program at Vancouver School of Theology and be one more example of a practical implementation of the VST Promise to form and educate thoughtful, engaged and generous Christian leaders for the sake of the world God loves.
**[This movement had Christian roots, and grew into an informal, international network of people of all faiths and backgrounds. It advocated what it called the 'Four Absolutes' (absolute honesty, absolute purity, absolute unselfishness and absolute love) and it encouraged its members to be actively involved in political and social issues. One of the movement's core ideas was the belief that changing the world starts with seeking change in oneself. The photo is of 1934, at an international conference at the Banff Springs hotel, Dr. Rev. Frank Buchman was made a blood brother to the Stoneys. Buchman was the founder of the MRA which is now know as Initiatives of Change. ]