Knox College, Sarah Travis

Toronto, Ontario

To create and field-test a preaching and liturgical resource addressing reconciliation among Settler Canadians and Indigenous peoples for the Presbyterian Church in Canada, based on two Calls to Action from the Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Researcher(s): Sarah Travis 
Academic Discipline:  Preaching and Worship

Project Summary 

This project aims to create and field-test a preaching and liturgical resource for the context of the Presbyterian Church in Canada, addressing reconciliation among Settler Canadians and Indigenous peoples. Canadian churches require materials for teaching preaching in seminaries, and ongoing education of clergy, so that the preaching and liturgy of the church may become an integral part the ongoing movement toward reconciliation. The development of this resource will be facilitated by a group of consultants which will support me, challenge me, and serve as a 'thinktank' throughout the process. 

What questions have you asked about worship in the past year?  

I have been wondering about the need to reform our worship practices in the presence of colonialism and broken relationships with Indigenous Peoples. How might our worship be restructured to create more space to build relationships? How does our worship need to be decolonized? 

In what ways has or will your project strengthen the worship life of congregations? 

The final product of this project will be a book intended for 'settler' worship leaders. It will offer a guide for thinking through reformed worship from a decolonizing perspective, with the goal of creating worship space that is fertile for the healing of relationship among settlers and Indigenous Peoples. The book will help worship leaders to reflect on their worship practices and theologies of worship, and hopefully inspire them to integrate some changes that will facilitate relationship-building. 

What have been your greatest challenges (or challenging opportunities)? 

My topic is a difficult one, as it deals with generations of abuse, genocide and discriminatory governmental practices against Indigenous Peoples in Canada. Reading and learning has introduced me to new ideas, but also the horrors of what generations of Indigenous Peoples have endured. I feel that I would have benefitted from more interaction directly with Indigenous communities, but that has been challenging to facilitate, especially in the midst of COVID. 

What advice would you like to share with other Teacher-Scholars? 

My project has evolved since its beginnings, and I have enjoyed the process of reconfiguring as I needed to. My advice is to listen to yourself and the project. Let it take you where it wants to go. The Grants team is so flexible and accommodating, open to new ideas and changes in the plan. 

What products will emerge from your project? 

The product will be a book entitled "Unsettling Liturgy: Reforming Worship for Right Relations with Indigenous Communities." It will be published by Cascade Books (Wipf and Stock) in 2022. The book is structured on the four-fold order of Reformed worship -the gathering, the Word, the response to the word and the sending. I move through each portion of the worship service, seeking ways to decolonize the space and make it more conducive to the development of relationships with Indigenous Peoples.