Hearts Exchanged Breaks down Barriers
The Hearts Exchanged journey has deepened Jesse Edgington’s understanding and empathy for what has happened to Indigenous/Settler relationships in the past and is providing him with curiosity and conviction for what can be possible in the future.
Hearts Exchanged is a learning and action discovery process designed to equip Reformed Christians to engage with Indigenous people as neighbors and fellow imagebearers. Two cohorts, one in Alberta and one in Eastern Canada, began in fall 2020. Thirty participants, including Edgington, have engaged in these cohorts, meeting monthly and working on readings and activities in between sessions.
“I love how the circle discussions allow for a diversity of perspectives that frees each person to listen and not feel like they have to talk about everything; everyone can share what is most meaningfully on their heart and mind,” said Edgington. “If you have done the Blanket Exercise and are asking, ‘What next?’ this journey is the perfect thing for you!”
The Blanket Exercise is a participatory 90-minute workshop that literally walks participants through the history of relationships between Indigenous peoples and other peoples in North America. It helps participants understand why reconciliation is needed and how to take steps toward reconciliation and new relationships. Both Canadian and American versions are available.
Julia, another Hearts Exchanged participant, shared, “The Hearts Exchanged program has certainly opened my eyes and heart to see Indigenous peoples and the history of Canada with a new perspective.”
Hearts Exchanged is inspired by a report written about a CRCNA cross-cultural ministry forum that took place in 2000. The report noted repeated encouragement for regular church dialogue on racial reconciliation and the need to continue an exchanging of hearts that was experienced at the event. However, that regular dialogue did not formally continue, and the self-determination of Indigenous Christians within the CRCNA and in neighboring communities remains unresolved.
The significant work happening through the Hearts Exchanged process, however, is encouraging the CRCNA as it aspires to be the diverse and unified body of Christ. Participants have experienced the richness of engaging deeply in challenging colearning conversations and hearing stories from Indigenous Christians, resulting in a renewed exchanging of hearts.
Dr. Christina Patterson, a physician, reflected, “Hearts Exchanged gave me the opportunity to finally learn about Indigenous justice issues and the context in Canada and what role I can play in moving forward. From the significance of Land Acknowledgments to the impact of Residential Schools and cultural genocide, I now have a much better grasp of how we got to the current challenges in our race relations, community dysfunction, and the role of the church.”
Cohort member Helen said she appreciated the reminder that at the heart of reconciliation is belonging. “How do we dismantle the systems that prevent [Indigenous peoples] from being embraced and celebrated?” she asked.
“From the readings and activities to the group reflections,” she said, “Hearts Exchanged has really pushed me to ask how we can lead with love, compassion, understanding, and repentance. Isn't that what the gospel is all about?”
Jeremiah Basuric added, “Hearts Exchanged has been such a blessing to me spiritually. It has been so encouraging to be in fellowship with disciples of Jesus who take his kingdom and his call to love our neighbor seriously.”.
Hearts Exchanged is now seeking participants from every Classis in Canada to start a new set of cohorts in September 2021. Anyone connected to the CRC who is wrestling with the challenges and opportunities of reconciliation and is open to transformation is welcome to participate in regional cohorts. For more information about taking part in this experience, contact crcna.org/hearts-exchanged.