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Muslim, Jewish and Christian Relationships

By Palmer Becker | Mar 11, 2014

Classes are going very well. Students are appreciating the role-plays, practical illustrations, and the newly published textbook, which was partially funded by Waterloo North Mennonite Church (Waterloo, Ont.).

Some people are of the opinion that Jews and Muslims have always been, and always will be, in conflict. This is not true. Ishmael and Isaac both received a blessing from their father Abraham (Gen. 17:20), and in the end they came together to jointly bury their father (Gen. 25:9).

Prime minister and taxi driver

By Palmer Becker | Mar 05, 2014

I got a warm welcome when I arrived at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, but, of course, nothing like the unprecedented welcome that Stephen Harper received!  He was here with about 145 parliament, news and support people. Some will worked on economic and trade matters that are important to the present government. I hope that they also sought to understand the political realities and that they will work towards peace in this land.

Recently I was talking to a taxi driver. The conversation went like this:

PB:  Were you born here in Bethlehem?

Called to Bethlehem

By Palmer Becker | Mar 05, 2014

I have received a new call from Bethlehem Bible College (BBC) and Mennonite Church Canada to go to Palestine/Israel for nine weeks to teach Pastoral Care and Counseling in the biblical towns of Bethlehem and Nazareth. There are over 70 churches and 55,000 Arab Christians in Palestine. Unfortunately, few of the pastors have been trained in the practice of pastoral care. I will seek to respond to some of that need. 

Learning about violence and peace in Colombia

By Cassandra Bangay | Mar 05, 2014

What does active pacifism look like? What exactly is violence when you get past the classic images of guns and combat? What unique insights does my Christian faith have to offer in an interfaith conversation about injustice and oppression? These were just a few of the questions I found myself reflecting on during my summer 2013 training with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT).

A Thought on Cross-cultural Learning and Faith

By Cheryl Woelk | Jul 28, 2013 | 2 comments

What does cross-cultural learning have to do with our faith?

I believe it's at the heart of the good news that Jesus taught and lived: Reconciliation with God and reconciliation with each other. These are not mutual exclusive concepts. When we reconcile with each other, we have a more full sense of who God is and how God works in the world.

Psalm 130

By Cheryl Woelk | Jul 25, 2013

A mini-retreat this week for me, with a couple nights spent at a local camp while my spouse leads the Bible time. Good time for reflection, writing, thinking, reading scripture, walking… and swatting mosquitoes. A poem from one evening...

We Shall Remain

By Cheryl Woelk | Jul 21, 2013

We Shall Remain is the title of a documentary series by PBS. We watched a few of the episodes while living in Virginia, where we heard very little of indigenous people, culture, or history.

Circles of Sabbath

By Cheryl Woelk | Jul 19, 2013
My hand rested on the shelf of books and I looked at the title of the volume under my palm. It was the same book that I'd remembered.
Another time, in the same small library, I'd pulled the book off the shelf and read it straight through in one evening. I'd resolved to live my life differently. To remember Sabbath… rest. Balance, rhythm, and the health and joy of God's gift of the Sabbath. 

A Case of Narrative Negotiation

By Cheryl Woelk | Jul 18, 2013
One class from my MA studies at Eastern Mennonite University's Center for Justice and Peacebuilding which continues to stick in my mind is a course called "Narrative Negotiation." We learned about the roles of worldviews in negotiating solutions to conflict and how sometimes it's not the issues or proposed solutions that cause a problem in carrying out a successful negotiation, but because groups are coming from completely different ways of seeing the conflict.

The Stories We Tell

By Cheryl Woelk | Apr 16, 2013 | 1 comment

Much has been written on this blog about the stories we tell. This narrative perspective is becoming a stronger one in many fields of study, including therapy, education, conflict resolution, and negotiation.

Everyday Epics

By Cheryl Woelk | Mar 14, 2013

More stories of the past at Kumomoto. Stories that complex-ify.

Stories of Salvation

By Cheryl Woelk | Mar 10, 2013 | 2 comments

Blame. Hatred. Lament. Ignorance. Shame. Defense. It might just seem like stories of the past, but the struggle for history brings out deep feelings, as I discovered in our visit last year to Kyoto. 

A Balancing Act or a New Show

By Cheryl Woelk | Mar 03, 2013

My impression of Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo was a college trying to keep its identity as a Christian college on a growing campus with increasing diversity. They seem to be doing a good job of balancing and finding integrity in the shifting realities, and they're not the only Christian higher education institutes to be dealing with this question of identity.

Seek the Peace of the City

By Cheryl Woelk | Feb 24, 2013

The view was breathtaking. On a clear day, from the 52nd floor, they said we should be able to see Mount Fuji. It was too hazy that day, though. All we could see were the blocks and blocks of concrete, towering buildings, and grids of traffic.

A Tale of Two Farms

By Cheryl Woelk | Feb 19, 2013

We were on the island! The train had risen about the surface of the water out of the underwater tunnel that had taken us a half hour to traverse. We looked at the rural villages, the mountains, the fields. This was Hokkaido.

Throwing Off the Cloak

By Cheryl Woelk | Feb 11, 2013 | 3 comments

Every now and then a familiar story comes to new meaning. A recent re-reading of the story of Bartimaeus in Mark 10:46-52 pushes me into an area of discomfort that challenges my identity and my understanding of our identity as a faith community. It makes me question our responses to Jesus' unexpected ways of transforming people. It causes me to wonder how good my vision is after all.

Procrastination with a Purpose

By Cheryl Woelk | Feb 03, 2013

Procrastination happens for a reason. A quote I saw once suggested that often, it's because I don't give ourselves enough between projects to fully rest and enjoy the sense of accomplishment before starting the next. I feel reluctant to begin something, not because I'm not interested, but because I'm still not finished with the past project. A project is not complete until it includes the rest.

Rewriting History

By Cheryl Woelk | Jan 27, 2013

I've been borrowing books from the Mennonite Church Canada Resource Centre and highly recommend their "recommended titles."

Engaging the Next Generation

By Cheryl Woelk | Jan 16, 2013

At a seminar on cooperative organizations in Saskatchewan, Harold Chapman, a 93-year-old professor, historian, and writer, told us the history from the inside of his involvement in cooperative organizations as a consultant. He talked about values and principles at the heart of this organizational model, and the challenge that it evolved in response to.

Spirituality of Living Lightly

By Cheryl Woelk | Jan 08, 2013

"Nowhere to lay his head..." We've been living lightly, moving lightly. Not that it's been a bad experience, but we've been lay our heads down in a variety of places over the last six months. 

The Hope of Hope

By Cheryl Woelk | Jan 05, 2013

It was hard to know this Christmas how to hear the familiar story. Every year I look forward to advent, to hearing about Mary and Joseph and the new baby, to reflect again on what this story means for me and my community -- and how I live my life differently because of it.

Salt in the Fire

By Cheryl Woelk | Dec 18, 2012

Over the last year or so, I've appreciated the paintings, poetry, and musings of Jan Richardson on her blog, Recently, one post caught my attention, "Salted with Fire." In a space of transition and waiting in my life, with many uncertainties as to what life will look like even a year from now, her description of salt in a potters' fire resonated with me. 

At the Table

By Cheryl Woelk | Nov 21, 2012

Pastor Ishiya met us at Fudoin station and we drove the ten minutes up the hills, through the back streets, until we arrived at a traditional Japanese house - Hiroshima Mennonite Church. Although only 9:15am, the sun was hot and bright on our necks, and with relief we stepped inside the cool building. 

Tied to One Another

By Cheryl Woelk | Oct 30, 2012

We sat in a large circle in the lounge, some sitting straight with legs crossed, others stretched out on the carpeted floor. One by one we passed the "talking piece" and we invited to say a few words about the experience of the last few weeks.

Creating a Space for Peace

By Cheryl Woelk | Oct 26, 2012

Looking back, it was one of the most energizing and renewing courses that I've taught so far. The combination of my co-facilitator, the participants, and the content was great, but more than that was the space that we created together.