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New curriculum reaches up and out


Reaching up to God our Creator curriculum materials

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November 7, 2008
-Deborah Froese

WINNIPEG, Manitoba — A new resource will help bridge the church/culture divide between non-Aboriginals and Aboriginals in Canada.

Reaching up to God our Creator explores the wisdom of Jesus Christ that is present in Aboriginal sacred teachings. It is in and through wisdom that God created the world and all inhabitants (Proverbs 8). Mennonite Church Canada Native Ministry developed the new intergenerational curriculum.

With a variety of multi-media materials, the Reaching up to God our Creator resource box introduces important inter-related Aboriginal teachings such as the Sacred Tree, the Seven Sacred Teachings and the Medicine Wheel, all of which share the Bible’s wisdom tradition.

The Sacred Tree represents the bounty of Creation and God’s gifts to all people. It offers a place to safely gather under the shade of its branches, with roots that spread deep into the soil of the earth, nurturing an abundance of fruit good for body and spirit.

The Seven Sacred Teachings find common ground with the fruits of the Spirit described in Galatians 5:22-23, while the Medicine Wheel characterizes balance, openness and a holistic approach to life. Its four directions and animals will remind Christians of the worship visions in Ezekiel, chapter 1 and in John’s Revelation, chapters 4 and 21.

Multi-layered in meaning, the Medicine Wheel represents the four main people groups of the world with symbolic colours of red, yellow, black and white. It illustrates the circle of life as a wheel composed of spiritual, emotional, physical and mental quadrants. For an object lesson that explores the importance of maintaining equilibrium in all of these areas, two rubber balls are provided. One is whole, the other is missing a quadrant. Clearly, without symmetry, the ball – or life – will not roll smoothly.

Following the Seven Sacred Teachings that parallel Biblical teachings of respect and love, humility and honesty, wisdom, courage and truth, enables one to live a balanced, healthy life.

Tom Yoder Neufeld, Associate Professor of Religious Studies (New Testament) and Peace and Conflict Studies at Conrad Grebel University College prepared an introduction to the curriculum. “Reaching Up to God our Creator grows out of the conviction that the wisdom of Jesus Christ, who is revealed as the wisdom of God in the New Testament, has been present in aboriginal sacred teachings for a long time,” he wrote.

Harley Eagle, Dakota/Anishnawbe Co-Coordinator of Aboriginal Work for Mennonite Central Committee Canada, endorsed the material. He noted that the curriculum has made its appearance at an opportune time. Prime Minister Harper’s June 2008 apology to Aboriginal Peoples on behalf of the Canadian government for its role in the residential school system has opened the door for materials that will assist in the “process of reconciliation and of building respectful relationships between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people, within Aboriginal communities, churches and families.”

Reaching up to God our Creator is intended for non-Aboriginals and Aboriginals alike, as a supplement to the traditional practice of handing down sacred wisdom from one generation to the next in Aboriginal communities. The producers hope it will help its users reach up to God together, and be blessed by the cultural and racial distinctives as well as the under-girding wisdom of Christ.

Reaching up to God our Creator offers a variety of learning tools including:

  • Junior and Adult Leader’s Guides with session plans for various settings
  • Posters: Seven Sacred Teachings, Medicine Wheel, Kisemanito Pakitinasuwin the Creator’s Sacrifice, Creating a New Family
  • Music CD by Sacred Waters
  • DVD set for Adults: Through the Eyes of the Cree and Beyond: Allan Sapp Gallery
  • DVD: Kisemanito Pakitinasuwin – The Creator’s Sacrifice
  • Books exploring Aboriginal culture:
    • Maskipiton Peace Chief of the Cree
    • The Sacred Tree
    • Teachings of the Sacred Tree
    • The Sharing Circle: Stories about First Nations Culture
    • The Disappearance & Resurgence of the Buffalo
  • Set of rubber balls for a Junior object lesson
  • …and more!

Borrow or purchase Reaching up to God our Creator from Mennonite Church Canada Resource Centre at or by calling 1-886-888-6785 ext. 152 or 171.

Reaching up catches on

Since Mennonite Church Canada Native Ministry introduced the new curriculum Reaching up to God our Creator at the Annual Assembly in July 2008, 15 of the 28 available resource boxes were sold as of November 6th. Neill von Gunten, a co-director of Native Ministry, reports that pending orders may warrant further production.

This multi-media curriculum, designed to help bridge the church/culture divide between non-Aboriginals and Aboriginals in Canada, has been purchased by a variety of Mennonite organizations and a Catholic educational board in Ontario.

Arlyn Friesen Epp, Resource Center Manager, reports that loans of the curriculum are steady. Additionally, electronic preview materials have been well received, registering over one thousand downloads between February and October 31.

Pastor Pauline Steinmann of Wildwood Mennonite Church in Saskatoon recently borrowed the curriculum box for an interactive, intergenerational worship service as part of their witness to peace in Saskatoon, a city with a significant First Nations population. She noted that many of their aboriginal neighbours live in poorer areas on the west side of the city, while her congregation is located in a middle class area on the east side. “It is quite easy for us to ignore First Nations peoples' reality in our city. As a congregation we want to further develop our understanding of their culture, their faith and the challenges that face them and our city.”

To learn more about Reaching up to God our Creator and preview content, see