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Relational Learning Project Grows

October 20, 2021

Hearts Exchanged, a reconciliation effort and learning opportunity, is reaching communities across Canada.

The project, now in its second phase, has over 250 participants from every classis and region in Canada gathering regularly to learn and converse on matters of reconciliation. The goal of Hearts Exchanged is to equip Reformed Christians to engage with Indigenous people as neighbors and fellow people loved and created by God and bearing his image.

The first phase of the project, which took place from autumn 2020 through spring 2021, saw two pilot cohorts from eastern and western Canada complete the program and give feedback to help shape and refine the journey for future participants.

In its current iteration, Hearts Exchanged invites participants to commit to an eight-month learning and action journey, which involves gathering online with other people in their cohort once a month and using the time in between sessions to read, watch documentaries, and journal about the experience. By the end of the eight months, participants will have created an action plan to continue the reconciliation process and to share their learning with people in their churches and communities.

Priya Andrade, the justice and reconciliation mobilizer with Canadian Ministries, is excited about the growth of Hearts Exchanged and what it means for the Christian Reformed Church, noting, “This is what we’re invited as a country to be doing, and we’re responding as a church.” She added, “Are we doing it perfectly? More than likely not, but are we doing it? Yeah. We’re not indifferent. And I think that’s what Hearts Exchanged is showing.”

The experience is designed to foster learning about the harms caused to Indigenous peoples by colonization, to share stories of people whose lives have been impacted by its ongoing effects, and to provide a safe place for honest dialogue and relationship building around these topics.

Shannon Perez, a member of the Dene First Nation, was part of the team that created and curated the materials included in Hearts Exchanged. “There are a lot of Indigenous people that . . . have their own tension about being Indigenous and being Christian. It’s been the narrative we have to choose: ‘You’re either Indigenous or you’re Christian, but you can’t be both.’ But how did we even come to the place where Indigenous people have to choose? That is why we need to go through Hearts Exchanged.”

Feedback from past participants has been encouraging. One person shared, “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. If you have done the first steps of a Blanket Exercise and are asking what’s next, this journey is the perfect thing for you!”

Another participant praised the project as a way to answer the call to care for the oppressed, to do justice and love mercy. Another shared, “Hearts Exchanged gave me the opportunity to finally learn about Indigenous justice issues and context in Canada and what role I can play in moving forward.”

To ensure that the learning continues and spreads, phase three will invite participants from previous cohorts to take steps to implement their action plans, engaging their communities in reconciliation activities. Phase four will bring the learning and action planning to the next CRC Canadian National Gathering, providing resources to bring the work to local church contexts.

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