A couple of years ago, Bishop Logan and his Border Collie, Moraig, set out on a sacred journey on Vancouver Island, walking 480 kilometres from Alert Bay to Victoria.
More than two hundred years ago, the Anglican Church entered these lands and, as part of a colonial process, asserted its right to ownership of the land with little or no regard to the Indigenous Peoples.
Bishop Logan recognizes that our generation needs to ‘re-enter this land in a new way’ and, in this spirit, set about on a walk which both served as a personal act of repentance on behalf of the Anglican Church and also as an expression of bridge-building through seeking permission from First Nations representatives to enter and stay on the traditional lands.
It will come as no surprise that Reverend Holland joined the Bishop as a companion for part of the journey.
Knowing the Rev’s love of walking and as a thank you for taking such kind and thoughtful care of me in my first few weeks, I gave him a copy of the Cambridge-based professor and writer Robert Macfarlane’s The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot.
In the opening page, it draws on a quotation from Nan Shepherd’s The Living Mountain: "My eyes were in my feet."
The bishop and the Rev’s walk together was in many ways an exploration of people and place, a path back to the past and a history of trespass, an exorcism of ghosts of sorts, a route to the present, a reflection on landscape and the human heart.
Indeed your eyes were in your feet in this sacred journey as you sought to understand the way forward.
In many ways, we too at Shawnigan need to consider our engagement with our local indigenous communities. For me, the reality struck home before Christmas. I met someone from our local education community who instinctively met me with tears, anger and some hostility when she realized that I was Headmaster of Shawnigan – a combination of what Shawnigan unintentionally represents to some indigenous members of our local community.
Shawnigan has a proud tradition of educating students from indigenous backgrounds but there is much still to do – with our current students who self-identity as having indigenous roots at the heart of discussions as to the way forward.
One essential step is to connect with our local communities of Coast Salish peoples – from the Cowichan Tribes to the Malahat First Nation.
Earlier this term, one of our friends in the local community organized for some representatives of Shawnigan to meet with the elders of the Cowichan Tribes in Duncan.
The Rev and I explained in the meeting our wish to adopt a First Nations word or term for our Thursday gatherings in Chapel – connecting the school’s values with the purpose for which we bring the community together. They gave us a gift of a name in their language which translates as:
Respected / Honoured House of the Community.
They also gave us this message on behalf of the Cowichan Tribes to our community:
"We have the same values. We have been waiting at our door. We have been waiting at the door for Shawnigan Lake School to knock - and our door is always open."
It was a very moving and powerful experience spending some time with them.
We too need to ‘re-enter the land in a new way’ and develop partnerships. Our door must always be open and we too shall come knocking at other doors asking how best students and staff can continue to support our local community – in order both to serve our local community meaningfully and also to teach our students about the importance of community-building.
The Rev has invited Bishop Logan to give us an introduction this morning to the Sacred Journey that he took and some insights as how best we can strike the right path forward.
I would also like to take this opportunity to welcome the Junior Choristers of Christchurch Cathedral, Victoria, who have kindly come to Shawnigan today to give us a gift of a performance. We are thrilled that you are here and are really looking forward to hearing you sing a little later in the service.
You will find that we are a very welcoming community and shall enjoy singing some hymns alongside you.
Members of our choir will take you for lunch afterwards – and I hear that our music staff team are going to have a session with you in the recording studio afterwards. Thanks to the Christ Church Music Director, Donald Hunt, and longstanding Shawnigan supporter Dr. Wooldridge and our team for coordinating this.
Richard D A Lamont
18th January 2019