I am super excited to be the Theme Speaker for CLAY 2021! My name is Melanie Delva and I am a first generation settler Canadian of Belgian descent – so, my parents immigrated from Belgium but I was born in Canada. Actually, to be more specific, I was born in the elevator of Brandon General Hospital but that is a whole other story…
I grew up on Treaty 4 territory in Manitoba, did my undergrad degree at Dalhousie University in Halifax, NS and my Masters degree at UBC in Vancouver – so I have definitely covered the country! I grew up in a fundamentalist Christian home and when I left, I knew I didn’t want to be “that kind” of Christian, but didn’t know what other options there were. In 2005 I was hired to be the Archivist (NOT to be confused with “anarchist” which is quite different….mostly….) for the Anglican Diocese of New Westminster and Provincial Synod of BC & Yukon and pretty much everything changed for me. First, I discovered that there was a different way to be a Christian in the world – a different way of experiencing and relating to God. Second, while I was in that job, I worked really closely with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and survivors of the Residential School system.
See, I also grew up in a very racist context, and had some harsh – and plain wrong! – opinions about Indigenous peoples. But God had plans, and in that work with survivors, I had a pretty epic transformation both personally and professionally. I started to see and experience everything differently – my personal history, the history of the Anglican Church (which I had converted into!), and the history of this country which I deeply love. And not just history – I began to see the journey that Indigenous and non-Indigenous folks in Canada are on today a lot differently as well…thanks be to God for that!
In 2015 I was spiritually adopted into the Grizzly Clan of the Nlaka’pamux First Nation in BC. My connection to my Indigenous family and learning with and from them has been incredibly life-changing.
In 2017 I was commissioned by the Anglican Church to be its Reconciliation Animator (nope, I don’t draw cartoons but come to CLAY and I’ll explain why the title actually works!). I’m really looking forward to spending time with you at CLAY this summer – wrestling with what it means to be on a journey – with ourselves, with one another, with the Creator and our Saviour. I don’t know about you, but my heart is burning and I want to know more about what…
I currently work from Vancouver, BC on the traditional Coast Salish territory of the xwməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish People, villages and community), and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations, where I live with an unnaturally large aloe vera plant and a plush ostrich named Reese.
See you at CLAY 2021 : )