Historic partnership renewed at Christ Church

By Jan Murphy

 Local Journalism Initiative

TYENDINAGA MOHAWK TERRITORY- A partnership that predates Canada as we know it today was renewed inside the historic Christ Church in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory.

Rev. Canon Paul Wright, SubDean to His Majesty’s Chapels Royal and St. James Palace, visited at the request of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte to bring gifts, greetings from the new king and a message of continued friendship.

“It’s my great honour, as chief of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte, to welcome Rev. Canon Paul Wight,” Chief R. Donald Maracle said to open the nearly hour-long ceremony inside the Church, which was declared a Chapel Royal by Queen Elizabeth II in 2004.

Wright, who was accompanied by Chaplain General Guy Chapdelaine, was greeted by a procession that included members of the Deseronto Royal Legion, MBQ’s surviving veterans of the war in Afghanistan, residential school survivor Wilbert Maracle and a host of other religious figures, as well as dozens of community members.

“It is a great joy to be back with you again in this wonderful chapel,” Wright told the crowd. “Chief Don, I’m so grateful, sir, for your kind invitation to join you again here in Christ Church.”

The ceremony featured prayers and poems, as well as hymns and a gift exchanges.

“I’d like to begin by honouring you, sir, as a survivor of the residential schools and it would be a privilege to meet you later,”

Wright said addressing Wilbert Maracle, who was a student at the infamous Mush Hole residential school as a boy. Wright also paid tribute to the war veterans in attendance. “It is wonderful to see you here as well as we share in this service, this service of Thanksgiving, this service of Remembrance and this service in which we reaffirm our fellowship in the family now of His Majesty’s Chapel Royal.”

Wright also expressed his delight at the presence of the history between the Royal Family and the Mohawks.

“It is a great personal joy for me coming from St. James’s Palace in London to see the silver given by Queen Anne upon the altar, from the year 1710, and to hear the bell ring from the reign of King George III, which led of course to the rebellion in the American colonies, leading to the movement of this people to this part of the world,” he said. “There are so many things, so many stories of nations and peoples intertwined but coming together in this fellowship that we share in the word and the sacrament and the truth and the hope of our fellowship with our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Wright later addressed the crowd in Welsh, the native language of his mother’s family.

“It is taken from taken from the national hymn of Wales,” he said, before translating it to English: `Land, land, I am true to my home. Oh may the old language endure.’ ”

He spoke of the struggles people of Wales endured throughout history.

“The people of Wales experienced a conquest in the year 1277 and in the year 1284, when Wales was conquered by the Norman English and for many centuries many, many hundreds of years, Wales was a country that lost many of its national characteristics,” he said.

“Fortunately, there was a renaissance in the language of Wales, in the culture of Wales, in the folklore stories, the traditions, the legends ? and now today in Wales, where I have my home when I’m not on duty in London, Wales, I now feel with the Welsh language renaissance and a regional government in Cardiff, has grown into being a confident country within the United Kingdom.”

Wright wished the same for Canada and its Indigenous people.

“When I reflect upon and look upon and learn about the experiences that this nation, this nation of Canada, and this nation of the Mohawks, have lived through, I hope that there will be a renaissance in the language, culture and the community of all Indigenous and First Nation people,” he said. “I hope that these Chapels Royal are places in which language, culture and community can flourish.”

With King Charles III’s official Coronation Day just weeks away, Wright delivered a message from the king.

“His Majesty the King sends his greeting today to you,” he said. “He takes a great interest in Canada, has visited Canada a great many times, as indeed our late queen did. The King is talking of four themes for his new reign. The four things that he wishes to be his sacred calling, what he wishes to offer to all his people are, faith, community, commonwealth and environment. And I think those four things are something which First Nations and Indigenous peoples have so much experience to offer and so deeply involved in as this church and deeply involved in all of those things. This is a fellowship that I am so pleased to renew again today with you.”

Wright also paid tribute to the late queen, who died last fall after 70 years as leader of the monarchy.

“Her long and her wonderful life was characterized by faith, devoted service, an abiding belief in the Commonwealth and a profound desire for unity for peace and for healing,” he said.

“We’ve lost a very familiar presence in all our lives. The queen was like a hand rail in our lives, in an uncertain and upsetting and a troubling world sometimes,” he said, as he reached for a hand rail to his right. “But the monarchy has endured and the new king is deeply committed to his sacred calling that we will celebrate on the Coronation Day.”

Wright recalled the first time he became aware of Christ Church.

“I first heard of this place when I was serving in Manitoba in 1991 and 1992 as a student minister among the Cree people,” he told the crowd, which listened intently to his every word. “Now 30 years later, I’m delighted and honoured that I’m still part of this nation and the Commonwealth and the fellowship of the Chapels Royal. On this visit. I’m here to hopefully celebrate this partnership, to listen to learn and to work towards those things that bring healing and wholeness, renewal, regeneration, to be a place, the chapels royal, a place that brings healing and not hurt.”

Chief Maracle presented Wright and Chapdelaine with gifts, as well as gifts with which to return home with for King Charles III and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.

Maracle read the accompanying notes to the king and archbishop aloud.

“The Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte will present a gift to His Majesty. King Charles III, on the occasion of his Coronation,”

Maracle said, before reading it: `Your Majesty. On behalf of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte, I extend loyal greetings and best wishes to your Majesty on the occasion of your Coronation on May the 7th, 2023. We join together to pray for God’s rich blessing to be with you, for good health and happiness during your reign. May you always continue to promote peace among the human family, good stewardship of creation and peace in the world among the nations, communities and families. May you always uphold the honour of the Crown and the treaties made with our Indigenous nations. May the close bond of peace, friendship, military alliance forged in 1664 and the Silver Covenant chain of friendship between our Mohawk ancestors and the Crown shine bright and continue without tarnish in the eyes of men and God. We extended invitation for Your Majesty and Queen Consort Camilla to visit our community at Tyendinaga, Ontario, where His Majesty’s Chapel Royal of the Mohawks was given that title by our beloved Queen Elizabeth II in February of 2004. Sending every blessing to you and all the Royal Family. Sincerely, Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte.’ ”

After reading the letter that will be presented to the archbishop, Maracle presented the gifts to the guests. Wright’s gift was a handcrafted turtle.

“The Earth sustains our life here, we say that the water is the life blood of our Mother, the Earth, it gives it its strength for us to have food, trees and shelter, so we always give thanks for all of Creation that live on the planet Earth and we follow the Creator’s instructions that all to live together on Turtle Island in North America in peace and friendship and be of comfort and help to each other,” Maracle told Wright as he displayed the gift. “That’s what it symbolizes and that’s your gift from the Mohawk people.”

Wright vowed to deliver the MBQ gifts to the king and archbishop, before reciprocating the gift-giving by bestowing another piece of Royal history on the MBQ and Christ Church.

“We have a wonderful heritage,” he told the chief, mentioning that both communities suffered heavy losses during the Great War, while handing Maracle a small book. “This is one of the prayer books that was created in the year of the coronation of King George V, who was the king on the throne during the Great War, and I would like this to now come and reside here the Chapel Royal. It’s got the coat of arms of George VI and I would like to present this as a token of our enduring friendship with you and our partnership.”

A seemingly surprised and emotional Maracle thanked Wright, before calling on those in attendance to do the same.

“Let’s show our appreciation,” he said, prompting a loud applause from the previously silent crowd.

Wright remarked after the ceremony about the importance of the long and storied relationship between the Mohawk and the Crown, one that on this day, grew even stronger.

Jan Murphy is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Belleville Intelligencer. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada



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