The Diaconal story begins with the radical image of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples, and includes the examples of courageous risk-taking of Jesus overturning the tables of the money changers, dining with the marginalized, and healing the outcasts. Jesus pushes us to think outside the box. His message is always to find another way, a better way.
What does it mean to actively engage in courageous risking? Most of us don’t recognize when we are doing it. What one person calls risky is not necessarily what another person would call risk taking.
The partially finished painting shown here was on my easel when I returned from our DUCC Gathering. The image of the idle fishing boat at the wharf in Apalachicola, Florida, points to the story of Jesus teaching the disciples about fishing on the other side of the boat (John 21:6). The disciples had fished all night and caught nothing. Jesus directed them to ‘cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.’ They did and their nets were so full they could not haul them up. The message is clear; if we keep doing the same thing, we will keep getting the same result.
Our theme speakers provided much food for thought as they described new and innovative ways of looking at old issues.
Wilma Derksen spoke movingly about the murder of her daughter and what she learned about the power of forgiveness. She offered us a way of looking at forgiveness from the other side — turning grief into joy, and hopelessness into new life.
Melody McKellar, Aboriginal Elder, described her healing ministry at Selkirk Mental Health Centre. She shared a story of calming a restless dementia patient by using the aboriginal drum beat to soothe the distressed patient allowing him to slip into a peaceful sleep. She is looking at spiritual distress as a physical issue — turning unease and apprehension into calmness and serenity.
Shaun Loney, a Social Entrepreneur, introduced the concept of decolonizing through Social Enterprise. He creates local environmentally-friendly solutions to bring employment and prosperity to Aboriginal peoples in Canada. His book, “An Army of Problem Solvers,” demonstrates ways of looking at social structures from the other side — turning problems into solutions; turning poverty into abundance.
Niigaan Sinclair, Professor of Native Studies at the University of Manitoba, described Steps toward Reconciliation. He is looking at relationships from the other side — discouraging old attitudes of rejection and suspicion through acts of kindness, friendship, generosity and peace.
Sonya Ballantyne introduced the topic of Art and Social Justice. An Indigenous writer and film maker, Sonya is looking at marginalization from the other side — turning painful life experiences into engaging stories.
These thoughtful and engaging speakers are illustrating that there is another way to ‘cast your nets on the other side!’ This is not easy work. It is challenging and risky, and absolutely necessary for their survival.
The DUCC Gathering defined five lenses through which we view our world and our work. They include building community, respect for diversity, awareness of marginalization, honouring our diaconal history, and a vision of peace and justice. Through courageous risking and our openness to hear the other, the diakonia is working in and through these five lenses to support and enhance the lives of our aboriginal brothers and sisters. May it be so!
Terrie Chedore graduated from CCS in 2010. She describes herself as a diaconal artist. “I bring my artwork into the worship experience. I find satisfaction working with individuals and groups as they explore and express their own understanding of ‘God in the world.’ “
More reflections on Courageous Risking at the DUCC conference.