“I guess it’s a homecoming, you might call it,” said the Ven. Larry Beardy of the World Christian Gathering of Indigenous People, held Sept. 9 to 18 in Israel. Mr. Beardy and his wife Elizabeth, Cree Anglicans from Tataskweyak, Man., joined over 400 other participants in touring the Holy Land and celebrating Christianity amongst Indigenous peoples.
The gathering kicked off with a colourful celebration in Jaffa, the port city where according to scriptures, God told the apostle Peter to evangelize people other than Jews. Indigenous peoples from Hawaii, Papua New Guinea, Finland, and other places attended in traditional dress. They welcomed the arrival of an Aboriginal canoe, which had been flown in from British Columbia so participants could paddle it to shore.
“It’s prophetic that after 2000 years, the gospel has reached us and we came back to that place,” said Mr. Beardy, an archdeacon in the Diocese of Keewatin.
The gathering, the seventh of its kind, was designed to encourage Indigenous peoples in their Christian faith, and affirm that “there is no inherent contradiction between faithfully following Jesus and also upholding one’s own indigenous heritage,” said a website statement.
Worship, tours, and cultural presentations were the primary components of the gathering, which was mainly held outdoors. One day included a “floating meeting,” where three boats moored together on the Sea of Galilee. While floating on this lake, many groups presented, including the Beardys, who told Cree stories and sang several Anglican hymns in Cree.
During informal conversations, Mr. Beardy said he heard much about the common struggles of Indigenous peoples, including marginalization, and bans on expressing their culture. He was also interested in communities’ resource challenges, and he noted the contrast between Israel, which has little water, and his area of Manitoba, where it is abundant.
Other highlights for the couple were visiting a tomb like the one Jesus was buried in, and taking a bus trip to Bethlehem to see the Church of the Nativity.
These locations stirred up deep emotions for the participants. “Everywhere I go I would break down,” said Mrs. Beardy. “Just to know that my Lord and Saviour walked the same ground where I walked.”
Mrs. Beardy also had two visions while in Israel: during the floating meeting, she saw a glimpse of Jesus in the crowd, and while at Jerusalem’s Wailing Wall, she saw a dove flutter down above those who were praying. She also noted that the trip was part of her healing journey, and she used her residential schools refund to pay for the cost.
Both Larry and Elizabeth Beardy are involved in Anglican ministry in the Diocese of Keewatin, and particularly with a new area mission being developed for the mainly Aboriginal population of northern Manitoba. Mr. Beardy also serves on the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples and the Council of General Synod, while Mrs. Beardy serves on the national Partners in Mission and Ecojustice Committee.
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