Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Methodist History & Canada Day

A week ago we drove to Huff's Island in Prince Edward County and put in our canoe along the aptly named Marsh Rd. We made our way out the channel toward open water with cattails on either side. We stopped briefly at a newly constructed dock and boardwalk, the only one along that stretch. Tucked behind the dock we were invisible to a pair of bitterns which flew in, only a couple of metres above us. I have never been that close to elusive bitterns before.

On our way out we scared up ducks, watched kingfishers dart by, and steered clear of touchy looking swans. My motto is, don't mess with the big birds. After nearly an hour we arrived at Grape Island, which was the site of a settlement of First Nations people established by the Bridge St. Methodists in the 1820's. These were Mississaugas rather than Mohawks who, from what I can tell, and were brought to the area by the well-meaning Methodists. Some were baptized in the Methodist church, and eventually two islands, Grape and Sawguin, were leased from the local Native band for settlement. Ninety adults and forty children established themselves on Grape Island in the fall of 1826 and into 1827.

As we approached the island, now privately owned, a felt a way of emotion. There is a swath of wild rice at the east end and some of the trees are huge. It was calm enough that we could circumnavigate the island and we stopped briefly, although it is private property.

Why did I feel that emotion? It was the mixture of feelings about those who shared the gospel of Christ out of deep conviction, and those who were the recipients of evangelization, often with the expectation that they would give up their traditional ways. Why did these 130 people need to be taken from elsewhere to establish a community. Were they treated with respect, or as "less than" those who shared the gospel with them?

The Grape Island experiment lasted less than a decade. A "native son" named John Sunday became the pastor and eventually Grape Island became part of a two-point charge with the band at Rice Lake, a day's journey away. Eventually the Grape Island folk moved to what is now Alderville, where the First Nation continues. http://www.aldervillefirstnation.ca/

On Canada Day I am grateful for the First Nations, the first peoples of this marvelous land. I only hope we do better in the days ahead when it comes to respect and reciprocity.


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