Waabskiiki-Gah-Bo, White Bear Standing, Mishkikan Dodem.
Snapping Turtle clan, Niizh Manidoowag
And my Christian name is R-W . Hoekstra.
R-W remembers his father / mom and sister calling him from General Council in 1988. They called to tell him that the vote had gone through. Rather than elation, relief, or excitement, R-W thought, “It’s about time,” wondering why the vote was even necessary in the first place. Still today he questions why this is an ongoing issue in the church and why we need stickers on our buildings to claim that we are welcoming—“what is this permission granting nonsense. Is this not what Jesus asks us to be?” “Does our original wisdom teacher not teach us to serve those of us who are on the margins?”
Adopted at a young age into a Dutch 4 generation ministers family, scoop child R-W grew up in the Church as a preacher’s kid. His father having stood in congregation in the Netherlands, Suriname, South America, Canada and Bermuda, his family was loving and open-minded and he suggests that it was most likely his father’s position that insulated him from the strife in the church around gender and sexuality. He said, “For me the issue was that I was First Nations, not gay, yet different and I felt that clearly right from the age of six or seven.”
As a young adult, he does recall a growing awareness of stories of people serving in the church who were impacted profoundly. Mark C.’s story stands out for him in recent years, a Presbyterian minister, who could never speak out about his private life in his ministry context, whose congregation very aware his same sex marriage and raising children yet was eventually fired. Long before this time R-W had begun to explore and claim his Indigenous identity and came to understand his identity and active, relevant placement within community, the Niizh Manidoowag tradition.
Today R-W works for Reconcilliation within First Peoples Culture and Second Peoples Christianity for full inclusion and placement the Two-Spirit and sees himself within a much larger story, the Ojibwe creation story. The Two- Spirit creation story has always been a part of Indigenous cultures. He says that, “everything we Niizh Manidoowag (Two-Spirit) do comes out of this creation story” and that connection to these stories and connection and relationship with the land provides a strong sense of belonging and purpose. The Two-Spirit role is one that offers our communities balance and healing. He wonders how many of our youth and young ones’ suicides are Two-Sprit, in large part because they do not have this sense of identity within their culture. Our communities need the Two-Spirits and in a time where healing and balance is needed the Niizh Manidowaag will be popping up like dandelions.
R-W wonders about his own congregation that posts the Affirm United/S’affirmer Ensemble banner. He is concerned that despite their affirming status, the community does not actively minister to the LGBTQ2S+ community. “Could church hold extra or alternative services for LGBTQ2S+? Services for members of the community who still long for a spiritual home but do not feel safe attending a regular church services?” he asks.
R-W has concerns that congregations continue to seek marginalized members of their faith communities to inform and educate, and wonders why more effort is not made to actively research beyond the faith community—to reach out, to research, read about and to move out into the community to interact with marginalized people beyond the church walls… each of these as part of a Living Apology.
Transcribed from an interview with Barb M. Shared with permission of R-W.