KAIROS Blanket Exercise

Diocese of Ottawa youth engage with reconciliation in “safe, brave, space”

With funding from the Anglican Foundation of Canada’s (AFC) Say Yes! to Kids program, the Diocese of Ottawa co-hosted a KAIROS Blanket Exercise (KBE) for around 35 youth at St. Aidan’s Anglican Church on February 25.

“The timeline for this project was originally spring 2022,” says Donna Rourke, Youth Internship Program Coordinator and Animator of Youth Ministry for the Anglican Diocese of Ottawa, “however COVID uncertainty delayed us a bit.” Rourke explains that the KBE event was extremely impactful for those gathered. “Participants were offered the opportunity to learn the history of colonization and learn about the contemporary relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. The KBE gave them a much-needed safe space to talk about racial inequality with peers, and with Indigenous Elders.”

The KAIROS Blanket Exercise is a 2 to 3-hour workshop, where participants step on blankets representing the land (Turtle Island) and into the role of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples. “Our group was guided by two trained facilitators that included an Indigenous Elder and Knowledge Keeper,” says Rourke. The facilitators worked from a script that covered pre-contact, treaty-making, colonization, resistance, and much more. “Youth participants read scrolls and responded to cues in the script. The KBE concluded with a talking circle, during which the youth asked questions, shared insights, and deepened their understanding of this history. This event was a wonderful opportunity for young people across our diocese to be in a safe, brave space where they could listen, learn, and engage with each other about reconciliation.”

“This was my first experience of a Kairos Blanket Exercise. The history shared during this experience is not new to me, but I did not learn this in school. This is a story shared, portioned out, given and received through voice, movement, and spirit. An offering handed to each participant to hold and to carry. This was an experience of sitting and listening, sharing, grief, and hope. Beautiful, terrible, audacious HOPE. This was an experience of God’s presence in the world and the continued call to each person to carry this experience and grow as the hands and feet of Christ.“ (Dana Ducette, youth participant)

Rourke says feedback from the KBE was so positive that planning is already underway to host another diocesan learning event—PWRDF’s Mapping the Ground we Stand on—as a follow-up this fall.