Indigenous Ceremony, Edge of the Woods, Opens Worship at GC43

Elder Grafton Antone will begin Sunday worship at GC43 leading the Indigenous Edge of the Woods ceremony, which starts at 9:45 am.

“All Native Circle Conference (ANCC) is co-host of GC43, and the Moderator and General Secretary both expressed that the Edge of the Woods Ceremony (which they have experienced) would be a helpful way to begin worship together,” says Barb Janes, GC43 Worship Coordinator.

Edge of the Woods will take place close to the GC43 plenary. It will be livestreamed so everyone can experience the ceremony, watching from the plenary space, or from home.

Indigenous Commissioners, youth pilgrims, local First Nations people and chiefs, and representatives from all Conferences will attend and participate. Antone’s family will be among the individuals singing at the ceremony.

“At Edge of the Woods, the United Church will be asking permission to come on First Nations’ territory. It is a step in the church’s truth and reconciliation efforts,” says Antone, who is a retired minister with the church, past member of the ANCC, one of the founding members of the Toronto Urban Native Ministry, and an Elder to universities in the greater Toronto Area.

“Local First Nations chiefs will come to the ceremony and invite people to participate on traditional territory,” says Antone. In addition, there will be singing, smudging, and a traditional offering of tobacco. “When people accept the tobacco they are [agreeing] to be good citizens on traditional territory,” adds Antone.

The ceremony will end with a procession from the “woods” into the GC43 “village,” or plenary space, where worship will continue with Rev. Miriam Spies.