Today, Sunday, 9 September, at 10 a.m. the Anglican Cathedral Church of St. John the Evangelist hosts an ecumenical Service of Thanksgiving, as we gather together, Anglicans, Presbyterians, United, and others, to give thanks for two hundred years of God’s faithfulness since the first Selkirk Settlers arrived in Red River, put down roots next door, and buried their dead in the churchyard around us, beginning 200 years ago this year. It is wonderfully fitting that we have this opportunity; for many years before it became an Anglican Cathedral this parish was called the Red River Protestant Church, and was home to Anglican and Presbyterian alike, and anyone else who wanted to worship, an ecumenical shared ministry in the first part of the 19th Century!
We are grateful also that Lord Selkirk, The Right Honourable James Alexander Douglas-Hamilton, Baron Selkirk of Douglas, P.C., Q.C., is with us for this worship service, as he has been with us in Winnipeg the entire week past, to remember, celebrate, and give thanks for the vision, courage, and commitment to justice of his ancestor, the Fifth Lord Selkirk, Thomas Douglas. We regret that his wife Susie, the Hon. Priscilla Susan Buchan Douglas-Hamilton, was unable to accompany him. We uphold her in our prayers.
We give thanks also for the hospitality, indeed, the lifesaving welcome, of Chief Peguis and his Ojibwe (Saulteaux) people so long ago. “[Peguis] welcomed the first settlers brought to the Red River area by Lord Selkirk in 1812 and is given credit for aiding and defending them during their difficult years. When the main group of settlers arrived in 1814 to find none of the promised gardens planted or houses built, Peguis guided them to Fort Daer (Pembina, N.D.) to hunt buffalo. The children, weak from the journey, were carried on ponies provided by the Indians. The Saulteaux showed the settlers how to hunt and brought them along on their annual trek to buffalo country.” See the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.
Most especially, we give thanks to God, and so it is more than fitting that we worship together at the end, the culmination, the climax of the week of festivities called Red River 200. “When you have eaten your fill and have built fine houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks have multiplied, and your silver and gold is multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied, then do not exalt yourself, forgetting the LORD your God…” (Dt. 8:12-14a)
All the Hebrew prophets would almost certainly add, do not exalt yourself, forgetting your Aboriginal sisters and brothers, who were here first, the First Nations of this great land we now call Canada. “Do not say to yourself, ‘My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.’ But remember the LORD your God…” (Dt. 8:17-18a)
Remember, give thanks, and celebrate. It’s been that kind of week in Winnipeg, in Manitoba, and giving thanks to God we continue today in this joyous procession of thanksgiving, raising our voices in hymns of praise, hearing the Word proclaimed, sharing in the meal of Holy Thanksgiving, the Eucharist, rejoicing in God’s faithfulness and in the gift of human community at its best, whether the lifesaving hospitality of Chief Peguis and the Saulteaux people, or the best of Winnipeg and Manitoba in celebrations hale and hearty, of human community, happy and healthy in shared thanksgiving. Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Rm. 7:25a)