Seeking Transformation–A Retreat for Christians Settlers

September 30, 2022 - October 2, 2022
30 Sep - 2 Oct, 2022
Offered by Five Oaks Centre
From $290 until 23rd September 2022

This embodied retreat provides an opportunity for Christian Settlers to confront the longstanding history of European Christians/Christianity harming Indigenous peoples, exemplified in Church participation in Residential Schools, and then to envision and work towards a different future. The retreat demonstrates that the founding of Residential Schools and settler colonialism itself exposed the colonization of our minds — the words of Paul the apostle continue to ring true: “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your minds” (Rom. 12:2). This retreat provides an opportunity for participants to begin to transform their perspective of Christianity and their Indigenous neighbours.

The Seeking Transformation Retreat is designed for interested Christian Settlers, including people in leadership in churches and social agencies such as ministers, youth and young adult leaders, mentors, social workers, justice advocates, church council members and Sunday School teachers.

This retreat provides an opportunity for participants to:
– Recognize the theological logic and religious/cultural assumptions that undergird the ‘Doctrine of Discovery,’ settler colonialism and the formation of Residential Schools;
– See how Christians have prioritized and interpreted key biblical passages/topics to support their participation in these systemic processes in the past;
– Reconsider these perspectives and explore different understandings and resources within the Christian tradition for challenging such views;
– Note some affinities between Six Nations perspectives and the Christian tradition;
– Rethink the role of the church in relation to society in general and Indigenous peoples in particular, moving beyond a model of coercive control to mutual learning, welcome, and potential cooperation.

This retreat responds to specific “Calls to Action” from Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission addressed to Christians and church groups. In particular, participants will “learn about the church’s role in colonization” (TRC Call to Action #59) as well as “the roles of the church parties in [the residential school] system” (TRC ACTION #60). While many Calls to Action address government and/or social agencies, only Christians and churches can fulfill the key task of identifying and questioning the religious logic of Residential Schools. In addition to acknowledging what happened (the history and legacy of residential schools), it is crucial to confront why this happened by identifying harmful interpretive patterns and habits, and then to seek alternative possibilities moving forward.

The session headings below reflect the ‘flow’ of the retreat, which moves from exploring biblical and theological perspectives that undergirded the churches’ participation in colonization and Indian Residential Schools, to proposing alternative biblical/theological perspectives, and finally envisioning an alternative path moving forward in relationship to Indigenous peoples, cultures, and spiritualities. In doing so the Retreat seeks to contribute to the journey to reconciliation by guiding participants to recognize and confront problems in the church’s past, and encouraging them to imagine a renewed future for the church, more consistent with its founding vision.

Retreat Sessions:
⮚ Session 1: “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Paul’s words as an Invitation to De-colonize our Assumptions and Theological Perspective.

⮚ Session 2: Re-discovering the ‘Doctrine of Discovery’ and the Myth of the “Empty Land” (Terra Nullius).

⮚ Session 3: Exploring the Purpose and Theological Logic of Indian Residential Schools.

⮚ Session 4: Is there another way? Rethinking Engagement with the ‘Other’ in the Biblical Tradition.

⮚ Session 5: Living in a Good Way. Seeking points of Connection and Potential Cooperation between Settlers and Indigenous peoples.

⮚ Session 6: Where to from Here? Reimagining a Decolonized Church.

Five Oaks Centre thanks Mennonite Church Eastern Canada for sponsoring this program!


3:00 pm Arrival and Settle In
5:30 Supper
7:00-8:30 Welcome/Opening Circle
Session 1
9:00 Snack

8:00 am Morning Prayers
8:30 Breakfast
9:00-10:30 Session 2
11:00 -12:30 Session 3
12:30 Lunch
1-3:30 Reflection and Rest
3:30-5:00 Session 4
5:30 Supper
7:00-8:30 Session 5
9:00 Snack

8:00 am Morning Prayers
8:30 Breakfast
9:30 – 11:30 Session 6/Closing Circle
12:30 Lunch
1:30 Departure


Derek Suderman


Derek Suderman is a biblical scholar who lives, works, and worships within the Haldimand Tract, land promised to the Haudenosaunee/Six Nations of the Grand River for “them and their posterity to enjoy forever.” He teaches as Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Theological Studies at Conrad Grebel University College and the University of Waterloo.

In addition to his academic focus on individual lament Psalms and prophetic material in the Bible, Suderman explores ways in which the foundational document of Christianity has been used to justify violence within this tradition and seeks to explore and articulate alternative possibilities.