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A place to feel at home


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Barb Daniels (center) surrounded by supporters in a prayer circle.

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April 28, 2009
- Martin Penner

WINNIPEG, Man. — Barb Daniels' move from the Peguis First Nation to Riverton over 30 years ago sparked her search for a church where she could "feel at home." That desire eventually opened the door to her participation in the birth of a new congregation, a new building - and a new vocation.

On Sunday, March 1, 2009, about 75 people gathered to celebrate Daniels' commissioning as leader of the Riverton Fellowship Circle.

Daniels' connection to the congregation began with a request from Neill von Gunten almost twenty years ago. Von Gunten, who co-directs Mennonite Church Canada Native Ministry with his wife, Edith, invited Daniels to work with other Aboriginals in Riverton to form a new congregational home. One thing led to another and in 1997, a new building was erected for the growing church family.

In addition to family and friends, guests at the ceremony came from three Riverton congregations, a Peguis First Nation congregation, four Winnipeg churches, Mennonite Central Committee Manitoba, Mennonite Church Manitoba and Mennonite Church Canada.

They drew together in a circle, a traditional formation symbolizing equality among all people in Aboriginal culture. An opening on one side of the circle served as an invitation for others to join them. Traditional elements with sacred meanings were found throughout the sanctuary. In the middle of the room, a round table held a braid of sweet grass, a symbol of purification, a Bible to represent God in the Word, and a white candle to symbolize God in Christ.

On the wall, a four-colour medicine wheel depicted the four directions and tribes that inhabit the earth. Quadrants of yellow (East), red (West), black (South) and white (North) were under-girded by three eagle feathers representing the Trinity. A prayer acknowledged Christ as the centre of Creation and expressed gratitude for the gifts God has extended to Creation from each of the four directions and races.

Norm Voth, Director of Evangelism and Service Ministries for Mennonite Church Manitoba, drew his address about God's great love for humanity from John 3:16 and 17. He spoke of the various qualities of leadership, including humility, which Barb exemplifies.

Guests gathered around Daniels in a close circle, offering words of commissioning and prayer. Following this, the microphone was open for greetings and Daniels was given several gifts, including a 'peace lamp' and a star quilt composed in medicine-wheel colours of yellow, red, black and white. The gathered closed their worship time with communion.