Edmonton, Alta., has the second-largest Indigenous population in Canada. It also has a high concentration of Christian Reformed churches and individuals. Yet there aren’t many Indigenous Christians who are part of those congregations. In fact, few Indigenous believers are part of CRC churches in North America.
Agnes Mastin, founder and director of IndigenousChristian.org, and Jeremiah Basuric, a pastor of mosaicHouse Church in Edmonton, say that Indigenous believers don’t often attend CRCs because they don’t feel welcomed. Mastin and Basuric want to change that.
With the support of a Resonate Global Mission Innovation Experiment Grant, they’re working to help Canadian churches be more welcoming for First Nations individuals by creating short videos for churches to use in worship.
“A growing challenge for faith communities in our gospel witness is how to engage well in the practice of barrier-crossing friendships,” said Claudia Williams, program manager of Resonate’s Innovation Experiment Grant Program. “We felt this experiment could really help congregations raise their level of awareness and engagement with Indigenous neighbors.”
The 24 videos teach Christians about First Nations culture and how Indigenous traditions and practices relate to the gospel. Using Indigenous narrators such as Harold Roscher, director and chaplain of the Edmonton Native Healing Center, the videos cover topics such as “Mother Earth,” playing a drum in worship, and more.
“Because of colonization,” Basuric said, “Western Christianity has often associated its own cultural preferences, values, and ways of being in and seeing the world with the gospel. They’ve also associated other cultures with paganism or things that are anti-gospel.”
But cultures are diverse, Mastin said. There are diverse ways to worship and walk with God. One way the CRC can be more welcoming to First Nations people is to avoid associating only Western traditional values and beliefs with the gospel.
“We have to make sure that we are worshiping God, living in ceremony with the Creator, within the context of our culture, but also within the context of the teachings of Jesus,” said Mastin, who is Indigenous and a member of Tse’khene Nation. “I want to make this world a better place for First Nations people to live. I want to make Christianity a better religion, a better way of following Jesus. I want it to be more open. I want to see more of my people turn their face toward Jesus.”
Any CRC church can participate in creating a more welcoming space for Indigenous neighbors by using these free video resources. The videos have been tested at mosaicHouse Church, a multicultural church in Edmonton, as well as churches in the Edmonton area that have participated in the CRC ministry Hearts Exchanged.
“Although mosaicHouse has many cultures,” Mastin and Basuric wrote in their grant application, “Indigenous peoples who attend comment on how they still feel excluded.” They found the videos have helped.
“In increasing awareness we have heard people say things (like) ‘I never knew that. I was not well aware of that, and it makes it less scary,’” Basuric and Mastin wrote.
“We were blown away by the result of this experiment and are excited to see how God will continue to use the resources being created,” Williams said.
About the Author
Cassie Westrate, Resonate Global Mission