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Across Canada, 250 participants in 15 groups are engaging in the Hearts Exchanged process. Hearts Exchanged is a reconciliation program designed to equip Reformed Christians to engage with Indigenous people as neighbors and fellow image bearers. Justice and reconciliation mobilizer Priya Andrade reflects, “If this is not the Spirit moving, I don’t know what is.”

Hearts Exchanged was inspired by the Christian Reformed Church’s Cross-cultural Ministry Forum in 2000. The report coming out of that forum emphasized that the rich exchange of hearts across cultures that happened during this event needed to be regular and ongoing. This did not formally continue in the CRC, so it is significant to see this call taken up again.

Participants commit to an eight-month journey with regular meetings and readings. The groups are hosted on a unique online platform that integrates videos, resources, and opportunities for discussion between meetings. The activities and the ability for participants to connect with each other in a rich way despite the pandemic are an important part of creating relationships in which hearts can be exchanged. Participant Helen Y. from Alberta put it this way:

Hearts Exchanged has been a beacon of hope for me. I’ve spent many evenings weeping as I moved through the self-guided activities, learning about the injustices Indigenous communities have experienced. But in those moments, God affirms that his kingdom is expansive. The beauty of culture, of heritage, of belonging, and of relation were important themes that were emphasized over and over again.

The program is designed to support participants as they work through these emotions and to foster spaces of trust so that small groups can support each other as they tackle difficult subjects.

The program builds on the long and faithful work done by the Canadian Indigenous Ministry Committee and was designed in consultation with Indigenous people. “​​We uplift Indigenous theologians, learn about Indigenous practices such as sharing circles and territory acknowledgements, and highlight Indigenous teachings as well as Indigenous theology centered on scriptural principles of humility, peacemaking, repentance, and hospitality,” Hearts Exchanged team members Shannon Perez and Cindy Stover said.

There is a feeling of hopefulness surrounding the program.

“Are we responding as a church to reconciliation perfectly? More than likely not. But are we doing something? Yes. We’re not indifferent,” Andrade said. This is a robust program that goes beyond a one-time event or expression of regret and moves toward true justice and reconciliation as a shared spiritual journey.

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