In the northern hemisphere we have just shifted into autumn. Here is a First Nations prayer from Canada to begin the season. The photograph below is from Matthew.
Note from R. Matthew Stevens
As a person of Aboriginal heritage I was privileged to serve for many years as a minister within First Nations communities. Being also regarded as an elder I was anxious to promote a blending of our traditional Native spiritual heritage, with the Christian practices the United Church of Canada follows amongst the dominant society. In this regard I find total harmony between the quintessential spirituality of both traditions, and re-introduced many of our symbols and approaches to the church service. As many within my congregations had suffered through Residential Schools, where missionary-types literally beat into them a residual fear of any Native ways , the re-introduction had to be done very gradually and carefully. At that time there were very little or no resources available that I could turn to, and so, although I am by no means a liturgist, I wrote some of my own.
A Gathering Prayer On A First Autumn Morning
Oh yes, I felt it this morning! It actually caused me to turn back into my home for a sweater, and a secret tingle of delight when I had slipped it on. Autumn is most definitely here again with morning air that is sharp, clearing idle thoughts from my head. For that I am thankful.
It’s time to check the wood pile, and split more for the coming cold weather. I’ve been meaning to do that, but those hot summer days called me to less strenuous activities. Time to also find the spade again, and dig up the mounds of badakaan (potatoes) tucked under the soil. We should have a good supply, and for that too I’m thankful, Generous Creator.
This is the season, G’zhem-mnidoo (Creator God), for which you save your best colours and hues. The sugar maples are already subjects of your artistry, and on a nearby hill one has burst overnight into a fiery red. By the creek the rose hip have grown fat, and once touched with gentle frost they’ll be ready to pluck. It’s a busy time, for the bright red apples also call to be picked. It feels good to gather in the autumn bounty, and for that I am thankful.
Our four-legged brothers and sisters sensed the coming of autumn long before us, and they have been busy filling their hidden cachés for some time. Just the other day I stopped to watch brother amik (beaver) rebuilding part of his lodge. He and I seem to compete for the most suitable poles – and he generally wins. That I accept, but I’m not really thankful.
Many of our winged relations will soon venture to their southern homes. They bulk-up with all the nourishment they’ll need to sustain their long journey. A wedge of nikag (literally “goose”, locally “Canada Goose”) noisily practice formation flying, and the young learn they still need to strengthen if they are to pace their elder’s flight. For the bagwajanoomin (wild rice) in the marshlands, both they and I will be thankful.
This is also the season for thoughts of transition, for one day it will be our time to cross-over to be with our ancestors and you, G’zhem-mnidoo. Do you ever wonder why your sentient creatures are so reluctant to consider their crossing-over? Do you sometimes ponder the acceptance of the nikag to their journey, and hesitancy of humans to affirm your presence throughout the cycle of life?
We come together in the circle of our church, a little more pensive then on other Sabbath mornings. We have been taught that part of Sabbath derives from “peace”, and so perhaps today would be a good time for all of us to make our peace with all others. In our worship may you hear in our words and songs our commitment to be in harmony with your plan for our mortal existence.
Chii-miigwech, (literally: “great/many thanks”, but also stands in place of “Amen”), G’zhem-mnidoo.