This year’s PCS staff retreat was held at the Capernwray Harbour Bible Centre on Thetis Island. Elementary and Secondary staff were treated to beautiful weather, a stunning setting, and inspired sessions with musician/storyteller Steve Bell.
Having mentally shackled myself to my “last week” of preparation, I was nervous about journeying far from my stacks of half-assembled unit plans and new curriculum documents. But, my fears of unproductivity were assuaged as God spoke to my heart through creation, Steve Bell, and the encouraging presence of the PCS community.
Watching the sun set from Capernwray Harbor is like feasting at a sensory buffet. You may scan the horizon a dozen times and still delight in the changing shades, drifting clouds, swelling tide, and calming breeze. During Monday’s evening session, Steve shared life experiences that have stirred his heart towards the First Peoples of Canada. He shared his hope that the Church would actively engage the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (see book Wrongs to Rights). I know our teachers are reaching for ways to express the complex desire to engage in authentic reconciliation through our work; yet, everyone I speak to struggles with one aspect or another. The Lord has been shaping my own heart on this since my involvement in an Indigenous Education Institute at UVIC (June ’15). After hearing Steve play a cover of Red Brother Red Sister (Bruce Cockburn) I was struck by a deep sense of sadness, compassion, and desire to move forward in the pursuit of fellowship with our indigenous neighbours. I spent the rest of the retreat with this weighing on my mind. Sitting with other staff, I observed the heart of Christ, which we extend to one another by a listening ear or good-humoured laugh. This gift of fellowship is what I have begun to pray for, asking God for boldness to lead us in taking the risk of initiative to share reconciliation and community with our indigenous brothers and sisters.
Steve’s stories and music touched us all in different ways. I know that the lyrics of The Lorica (Gayle Salmond) have made their way onto the walls of classroom 224. Riding home in the bus, driven by the capable hands of John Slofstra, I had time to consider the blessings of the retreat and, while eager isn’t the emotion with which I returned to my half assembled unit plans and documents (more like frantic), I nevertheless returned with a richly refreshing experience of creation, Spirit, and community.
This year I am praying that God would bless our PCS community with the boldness to love first, because that is how God has always loved us.