Northeast of Peterborough, Ont., deep within a forest of pine, hemlock and yellow birch, is a large slab of rock, a bit bigger than a tennis court. For 500 years starting around 900 CE, Algonquian people carved over 1,000 images into the gently sloping marble, known as Kinomagewapkong, or “the rocks that teach.”
Visitors to Canada’s largest known concentration of petroglyphs are reminded that they are visiting an active, sacred space: no photos allowed. The warning is almost unnecessary. When you enter the glass building that protects the site and witness the multitude of turtles, snakes, birds, human forms and symbols, you are filled with reverence for the storytellers who etched their spiritual and intellectual knowledge into the rock. Respect is a given.
As I mulled these pre-contact Indigenous people and the long record of how they saw the world, I wondered whether this publication’s nearly 200 years of storytelling will leave any trace a millennium from now. Assuming the human species survives, will people in 3023 parse Broadview for clues to how we understood progressive Christianity in 21st-century Canada?
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I hope they do, because I worry that the legacy of Christians in this era will be one of hate couched in religious rhetoric. I want future societies to know that within this massive monotheistic religion, there were many whose faith compelled them to stand up for 2SLGBTQ+ rights, for women’s rights, for racial equality, for climate justice. That people saw refugees living on the streets of Toronto, or folks fleeing forest fires in British Columbia and the Northwest Territories, and quickly organized food, beds and shelter.
In fact, if my imagined future historians find this issue of Broadview, they’ll gain insights into how we viewed the climate crisis and multiculturalism and how we dabbled with artificial intelligence to produce a tongue-in-cheek interview with AI Jesus. They’ll also learn about how Indigenous United Church members are carving their own path to self-determination, just as the Algonquian teachers engraved their presence and world view into the marble.
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Most of all, I’d like the 3023 crew to read our piece on Mary, the mother of Jesus. Given that the Nativity story has endured for over 2,000 years, I’m pretty sure that our descendants will still be telling the story of a young woman tasked with the enormous responsibility of bearing and raising God in human form. Our story in this issue reinterprets Mary as not just a portal but a prophet in her own right.
Some stories have the power to speak to us for millennia. I believe that those that last the longest are the ones that stir our emotions, give us new knowledge, make us feel connected and inspire us to build a kinder, gentler world.
Merry Christmas to all, and thank you for being a part of Broadview’s community in 2023.
Jocelyn Bell is the editor and publisher of Broadview Magazine.
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