Steady and Deep

Steady and Deep

“You too must follow the path of your own race. It is steady and deep, reliable and lasting. It is you. — If you let it happen.” (Chief Dan George)

Although I heard these words spoken months ago, they continue to resonate and did so again this past Sunday, Eternity Sunday.

I first heard them when approximately 30 of us from Foothills Mennonite went to a performance of New Blood on June 15. Although this play has been performed over 150 times, this was the first time with a live orchestra in a concert hall, the Jack Singer Concert Hall, in downtown Calgary. Born out of the Strathmore High School drama program, New Blood is a production that weaves Blackfoot history, including the history of residential schools, together with the music of Peter Gabriel. Pastor Bill Christieson reviewed the performance for the MCA Communiqué copied here.

New Blood is based on two poems, Words to a Grandchild (Chief Dan George) read by two elders, alternating with with a second poem The Indian in the Child (Sandra Sutter and Jim Peace), the story of Chief Vincent Yellow Old Woman of the Siksika Nation.

Obviously, the entire performance had an Indigenous theme. But those words, “You too must follow the path of your own race, It is steady and deep, reliable and lasting. It is you” vibrated in sync with my heartbeat like the drumming at a powwow. I cannot seem to forget them. Of course, Chief Dan George was writing these words of encouragement to his own people, to Indigenous people, but I was hearing those words applying to me, a woman of Russian Mennonite origin — not a race but certainly a people.

The path of my own people? A steady, deep, reliable, and lasting path. Yes.Yes. Mennonites whose families immigrated from Russia have a heritage that can be described in those words. I need to resist much of what distracts me and follow the path of my own people. People whose faith in God sustained them during hardship, many during a forced immigration. People who were practical and frugal. I need not be embarrassed of the word “Mennonite” or tongue-tied when explaining Anabaptism. I come from solid stock. A valuable heritage. And what these people brought to the world was of value. Steady. Deep. Reliable. Lasting. It is me too. If I let it happen. The word “if” is key here. And if is my responsibility.

And so, as I think about the varied heritages that make up Mennonite Church Alberta, I believe Chief Dan George’s admonition applies.

If you are from Myanmar, from South Sudan, from Liberia, from China. If your family roots are in Germany, Holland, Switzerland or South America. If your family has been Canadian for generations. If your faith journey is long or relatively short. You have a path to follow. You have a testament, a testimony. Reach into what is steady and deep, reliable and lasting and take strength for the journey. If you let it happen.

Now Thank We All our God. ALL our God.