Exposing the Doctrine of Discovery: a Journey of Healing and Hope, Part II: Advent 2011, the "Four Directions and Magnificat"

Exposing the Doctrine of Discovery: a Journey of Healing and Hope, Part II: Advent 2011, the "Four Directions and Magnificat"

February 3, 2012
By: 
Kathryn A. Rickert

Since early this year a working group of clergy and lay people have been working on a four part series in direct response to resolution D035, passed by the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in 2009. The resolution repudiated and renounced the Doctrine of Discovery (DOD), a set of legal and ecclesiastical documents and policies providing full blessing and sanction by the Church to the colonizing dispossession (genocide) of the Indigenous peoples and lands of the Americas.

Part one was released this fall, entitled “Looking at Columbus Day through the Lens of our Baptismal Vows,” which included a bulletin insert, DVD, video on YouTube and the congregational resource, “Faithful Reflection for Small Groups, Adults, Youth and Children.” Second in the series is an Advent guide for “Personal Reflection in Light of the Repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery.”

Part three will be released for use during Lent 2012 and is a “Communal Reflection and Action in Response to the Repudiation of the DOD.” The fourth and final part of the series “International Lament over the Doctrine of Discovery” will be shared at General Convention at 7 p.m. on July 10, 2012 in Indianapolis, Ind.

“Four Directions and Magnificat,” part two of the series is designed to build upon a rediscovery of the history of the Church and this nation that began with “Looking at Columbus Day through the Lens of our Baptismal Covenant.” (See “The Episcopal Church Exposes the Doctrine of Discovery” at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=drLnI_k5b6s ).  

The purpose of part two is to invite people to use Advent as a time of personal spiritual preparation for broader communal work by congregations, dioceses, and regions later on in Lent and summer of 2012. While the long term goals of resolution D035, “Repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery,” call for concrete changes in Church, societal and political structures, policies, and behaviors, those changes will become substantive and more than cosmetic only when we who seek to carry out these changes are ourselves transformed and healed from the inside. The dots connecting efforts to change Church and public policy with the Gospel need to become very clear and to be represented and grasped again and again, “in every generation.”

The idea behind this series is to bring together the shape of the Advent wreath, along side of the Four Directions so as to invite a reflection about the Doctrine of Discovery (DOD), as implemented in the Conquest of the Americas, in light of that familiar Advent text and prayer, Magnificat. Part of the challenge of grasping the extent of damage brought about by the DOD is a lack of knowledge and insight into how the Gospel looks from an Indigenous perspective. The series invites us to hear some of the powerful language of Magnificat:

You have mercy on those who fear you
in every generation,
You have shown the strength of your arm,
and have scattered the proud in their conceit,
You have filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
You have cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly

and use it as an orientation of Christian faith for pondering the implications of the Doctrine of Discovery. As the Four Directions connects us to the web of relationships and gifts surrounding us – a web that helps us to know who we are and how we fit into this world – so might this approach to the DOD through the Magnificat help us to hear this strong critique of injustice, and see other more respectful and gracious ways of being in the world. This sharing of the Four Directions is offered in the hope that those who may not be familiar with that way of looking at the world, may come to appreciate the immense damage to communal identity when such perspectives are lost.

This resource is available, free of charge, on-line from the national office of Indigenous Ministries. It is suitable for four once-a-week adult faith formation sessions during Advent. If the group has not previously heard of and reflected on the Doctrine of Discovery, it is strongly recommended that they watch the DVD mentioned above, first.)The sessions include opening and closing prayers, readings about White Buffalo Calf Woman, the Virgin of Guadalupe, Hannah, Mother of Samuel, and Mary, Mother of Jesus. For each session there is a recommended activity, including: labeling the Advent wreath with the strong language of Magnificat, pondering the Four-Directions for one's community, naming our hungers before trying to feed others, and using Magnificat to respond to some of the injustices of the past.

The planners of this series welcome responses from those who use it. Please send your comments to Sarah Eagle Heart at seagleheart@episcopalchurch.org.

--Kathryn A. Rickert, Ph. D. is Chair of the First Nations Committee, Diocese of Olympia, and as a member served as project coordinator of the national planning group for “Exposing the Doctrine of Discovery.”