Monday, February 9, 2015

Prayer for Peace — Native American and First Nations Religions

William Commanda (1913–2011), an Algonquin elder from Quebec,
performing a smudging ceremony.

In our weekly prayer for peace this year, Toronto Congregation is learning and thinking about the diversity of religious experience in our city and throughout the world.  Today we consider an entire category of religious experience: the beliefs, traditions, and practices of the indigenous peoples of North America, including the Native Americans of the United States and the First Nations of Canada.  At the time of contact between the world’s eastern and western hemispheres, the native population of North America numbered in the millions, and was divided into diverse nations with their own languages, traditions, and identities. Exposure to diseases from the Eastern Hemisphere, along with displacement by colonists and outright warfare caused devastating collapses in the native population.

Recovery has been a long and difficult path as native peoples have struggled to preserve their own traditions in the face of overwhelming pressure to assimilate into Eurocentric society.  This is also true for the recovery of traditional beliefs and sacred ceremonies.  Although these practices are as diverse as native languages are diverse, well-known ceremonies include the sweat-lodge ceremony, the pipe ceremony, and “smudging” — which involves the burning of sweetgrass, sage, or cedar to purify the body and spirit of everyone within a sacred space.  Natives who practice traditional religions often do so holistically — thinking that their traditions are meant to encompass more than just the religious sphere, but should include all of life.

As we learn about different conceptions of spirituality, let us be open to developing our own understanding and capacities as disciples.

Prayer for Peace — Donna M. Pratt, Des Moines, Iowa

Heavenly Parent, out of the silence we come to you. To you who gives voice to the thunder and to the laughter of children. To you who allows us to see the beauty of your earth which was created for us to use wisely, who allows us to smell the new-mown hay as well as the bread freshly baked for the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, or to share with a neighbor, who allows us to touch hands in friendship and to soothe the brow of those who are at times troubled and weary.

We ask that you create in us a new being, a being that is hungering for peace. One that would go the second mile, and the third, and the fourth. Help us to have hearts that respond positively when we think that we are wronged. Help us to see "the other side" of every situation in which we are involved. For we know, dear God, that it is through our faith in you that we are blessed and this blessing can, when used correctly, bring about that peace for which we have yearned so long.

As we observe the lighted peace candle, let us center our thoughts on peace. Peace...what a beautiful sound. Let it start with me.   Amen.

No comments:

Post a Comment