An Evening of Storytelling
On Thursday, Nov. 10, a large crowd gathered in the sanctuary at Meadowlands Fellowship CRC in Ancaster, Ont. Having come for an evening of storytelling on “Place, Home, and Land,” people entered to the sounds of singing and guitar from local singer-songwriters including Elise Arsenault, Ella Brinkman, and Jesse Hill.
The event was a partnership effort of Act Five, Meadowlands Fellowship CRC, and Hearts Exchanged. Act Five is an eight-month gap-year program for young Christians based in Hamilton, Ont. It provides space for recent high school graduates to explore who they are and where God might be calling them as they experience adventure, travel, service, learning, and mentorship. Students in the program hear stories every Thursday evening as part of a course called “Stories of Faithfulness.”
Hearts Exchanged is an eight-month learning journey that has been taking place across Canada, helping Reformed Christians engage with Indigenous people as neighbors and fellow imagebearers of God.
The public storytelling event provided a way to combine some of the goals of Hearts Exchanged and the desire of Act Five to live out its mission as a discipleship community while inviting others into that continuing conversation.
During the evening, a variety of storytellers reflected on the topic of faithfulness, especially in connection with their impressions of place, home, and land. Adrian Jacobs, senior leader for Indigenous justice and reconciliation for the CRCNA, opened the evening by sharing about family and covenant.
“When you live out a covenant with your children, you find out who they are, and you honor their abilities. In the same way, reconciliation is about accepting one another the way we are. No one dominates; they respect each other,” he said.
Next, a Hearts Exchanged participant shared the story of his Indigenous brother-in-law. A fellow participant read from a memoir written by the brother-in-law’s mother. Other speakers included Ricardo Marroquin, a former refugee and professor at Redeemer University; poet John Terpstra; and author Daniel Coleman.
“The opportunity for Act Five to partner with Hearts Exchanged for an evening of public storytelling was the fulfillment of a common desire to hear stories as an act of reconciling broken relationships between Indigenous and settler peoples,” said Lena Scholman, one of the organizers of the event.
“It was amazing to look out at a sanctuary filled with many generations, all curious to learn how to live well with one another, all listening intently to stories of sorrow and hope—grief for what has become of the land, confusion because of displacement and a universal desire for home and healing.”
Both Act Five and the anti-racism coalition at Meadowlands Fellowship are pursuing further opportunities to become catalysts for dialogue and action in the future. For example, Act Five participants invited guests to join them for a followup event a week later as well—to take in a tour of the Woodland Cultural Centre in Brantford, Ont., and a viewing of the Mohawk Institute Residential School film as they continue their learning about Indigenous history and reconciliation.
The day after the storytelling event, Act Five director Jon Berends shared comments he had heard from some who had attended.
“One participant shared that last night was both ‘whole and holy,’” he said. “Another mentioned being inspired to return back to their own place with a redeemed perspective, ready to learn and participate in the story of their own place.”
“We are thankful for the fruitful partnerships that develop when disciples of Jesus work together,” Scholman concluded. “As Jesse Hill closed the evening with a beautiful benediction: Love Justice, Have Mercy, so we travel forward.”