Approximately 120 friends and supporters of the Edmonton Native Healing Centre gathered on October 27 to celebrate its 25th anniversary. Established in 1991, the center ministers to Edmonton’s urban Aboriginal community, helping individuals heal, reconnect to their spirituality and culture, and develop a network of life-giving relationships. It is one of three Canadian Aboriginal Ministries of the Christian Reformed Church.
Provincial and local dignitaries were among the guests who attended. David Shepherd, Member of the Legislative Assembly for Edmonton Centre, conveyed appreciation and continued support from the Government of Alberta. Edmonton city councillors Scott McKeen and Bev Esslinger brought congratulations from the city and presented a commemorative plaque. “The mayor and council see the Edmonton Native Healing Centre as a key partner with the city to recognize, strengthen, and celebrate Indigenous culture,” McKeen said.
John Stellingwerff was the center’s first director. He gave an overview of the center’s history, including how, in the fall of 1993, a young man named Harold Roscher dropped in to check it out. Cree by birth, Roscher had been adopted as an infant by a CRC family that had immigrated from the Netherlands. Although not clear at the time, God was answering Stellingwerff’s prayers for future leadership for the ministry. The Creator, explained Roscher, challenged him to go back to school and prepare his heart to work with Aboriginal people. “I was 35 years old when I became a registered Indian with the government. In recognizing myself as a Cree man, God launched me on this fantastic journey of discovery about self, culture, and the gospel.” In 2002, Roscher started working part-time at the center, and in 2005, he became its director and chaplain.
“A highlight of the 25th anniversary celebration for me,” said Roscher afterward, “was the wide range of folks who attended, from a table of clients to those who came as guests and experienced ENHC for the first time. We are growing into an important community resource, and it was good to see the progression of the ministry from John’s foundational work to a place that is embedded into the community fabric and is well-received by both the Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities.”
The center offers resources, referrals, counseling, clothing, and fitness programs. Resume assistance and a computer lab are available. People come to pray and smudge [an Aboriginal practice of purification] in its ceremonial room and to attend its healing/talking circles. There is a food bank twice a week. Inglewood CRC provides lunch on Mondays. Soup and bannock is offered every Wednesday at noon, and St. Albert CRC prepares a pancake breakfast every third Saturday. The building now houses a medical clinic.
There are many reasons to celebrate.