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The Drum: A Heartbeat of Worship

The Drum: A Heartbeat of Worship
An Indigenous drum at the Indigenous Family Center in Winnipeg, Man.
Photo by Joseph Visser

The Christian Reformed Church in Canada dedicates one Sunday every year to honor National Indigenous Peoples Day and to celebrate the denomination’s Indigenous Ministry. Called “Indigenous Ministry Sunday,” this date provides an opportunity for all CRC people in Canada to celebrate the gifts and richness that Indigenous people bring to life in Canada.

In 2022, this Indigenous Ministry Sunday (June 19) is specifically focusing on the contribution of Indigenous people in worship. 

“Many Indigenous people and communities have long been told that their culture and language needs to remain outside the doors of the church,” said Terry Veldboom, acting Canadian Ministries director. “The materials for Indigenous Ministry Sunday hope to reform this sentiment.”  

Participants in the CRCNA’s Hearts Exchanged program have been learning this lesson as part of their yearlong learning journey. They have been blessed to listen to the music and testimony of Jonathan Maracle, a Mohawk man from Tyendinaga, Ont., who shared how he has experienced the Holy Spirit break down walls in people’s hearts through the use of music and the drum.

Learning from Maracle’s testimony, participant Naomi B. said she has been compelled to ask deep questions about what the church might have missed by excluding these elements in the past. 

"I listened to Jonathan Maracle share about his experience with the drum and call it the symbol of the restoration of Indigenous people,” she reflected. She wondered, “What has been lost by our forebears’ reluctance to embrace this traditional music? What understandings of our Creator God have settlers been unable to grasp as a result? And how could the restoration of right relationships expand our ability to see Christ at work in each other?" 

For Indigenous members of the CRCNA, the incorporation of a drum at collective worship events also has been a sign of acceptance. One Indigenous participant at a previous Canadian National Gathering noted, “(Before arriving) I started to hope that the CRC was looking to truly move beyond being a ‘Dutch’ church and be a Christ-centered, justice-seeking organization, and that maybe I could help things move forward to a point where I and others like me would feel fully welcomed in the church and thus in God’s world. From the opening drumbeat my heart was freed. I belonged.”

In a similar way, Canadian Indigenous Ministries hopes that by focusing on Indigenous worship for Indigenous Ministry Sunday, the use of Indigenous elements of worship and welcome will be for many a breath of fresh air.  

Leaning into this vision of everyone belonging, the Canadian Indigenous Ministry Committee collaborated with Cree musician Don Amero to provide the song “The Lord Is Love” for churches to use as a call to worship in their services marking National Indigenous Peoples Day. 

Chord charts and an acoustic version of the song are available to download at Pray that these types of questions and songs will lead to more people experiencing freedom and belonging within the church.

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