David Siebert, left; Josie Winterfeld, outreach worker at Stirling Avenue Mennonite Church, Kitchener, Ont.; Dylan Siebert and Annemarie Rogalsky enjoy table fellowship at 50 Kent during Awakening Hope, an evening of 'inspiring each other on the path of Christian discipleship and community living' on Feb. 20, 2014. (Photo by Dave Rogalsky)
Mennonite churches are afraid. In fact, Christian denominations all over Canada are afraid. We have felt this, seen it and experienced it. Sometimes this fear leads denominations to do reckless things. Sometimes it reaches the point of despair. Why so much fear?
1. What acts of servanthood have you seen carried out by church leaders? Do your church leaders take a turn working in the kitchen? What message do they send when they do menial jobs? What does it mean to be a servant leader?
1. How has our society’s attitude toward same-sex relationships changed in the past 20 or 30 years? Who or what has contributed to this shift? How much has the church changed its attitude on this issue?
1. What has changed since the 1970s and ’80s that conversations about sexual misconduct and sexual abuse are so much more prevalent these days? Does sexual violence happen more now, or are we just more ready to talk about it? Does a sexualized culture make sexual violence more prevalent? Are we less apt to silence or blame victims than formerly?
Some readers have called for a moratorium on reports about John Howard Yoder’s past misdeeds. We acknowledge that continued attention to this issue has caused pain to Yoder’s family, friends and colleagues, as well as to the women who suffered because of his actions.
1. What strangers have you encountered this Christmas season? Who are the wise and contemplative thinkers who help us to see where heaven is reaching down to earth? How do we make room in our lives for strangers and wise ones?
It all began in January 2014. My husband Gary and I started to research conventional nativity art and arrived at a new vision. We decided to focus attention on the very humble and usually invisible Joseph.
From then, the painting took three months to create, beginning with buying old sheets from Mennonite Central Committee for sewing some first-century costumes.
That Jesus is thus a union of divine and mortal signals an ancient truth that underlies all worship: from creation onward, in love’s deep sacrifice, God’s outstretched eternal finger touches the outstretched finger of the mortal Adam. (Credit: Commons.wikimedia.org)
What many hero stories fail to show is the cost of redemption for all the bit players in the story, all those ordinary people who attempt to get on with life, often oblivious to the grand narratives in the making. (Credit: Commons.wikimedia.org)
While gifts sometimes do fill a material need—the poverty-stricken student accepts with gratitude a food voucher or a decent blanket—at their truest, gifts are part of the self that is offered to another self. (Credit: Commons.wikimedia.org)
A gathering of strangers
1. Stuart Scadron-Wattles says that waiting in expectation is a difficult balancing act. What experiences have you had of waiting with expectation? What makes it difficult? Do we recognize and accept what we’re waiting for when it comes?
It is my favourite time of year, this season of Advent. The anticipation leading up to Christmas is the richest and most exciting time of year for me. Last year, I had the privilege of journeying with Mary while expecting our second child. There is nothing quite as amazing as waiting for the birth of a child, waiting for the seeds of hope, the promise within the womb to be realized.
“I can’t get into the Christmas spirit,” she said. My daughter Alyson hefted the load in front of her, and the load—my 10-week-old granddaughter—squeaked. “Maybe it’s the new baby. Everything else seems anticlimactic.”
1. How long ago did Mennonites in your community begin holding public office? Was there a time when local/municipal offices were deemed appropriate for Mennonites, but not provincial or federal ones?
“In the New Testament,” said Arnold Neufeldt-Fast, who ran unsuccessfully for the office of mayor of the Town of Whitchurch-Stouffville, Ont., on Oct. 27, “the state is understood as part of God’s good ordering function in the world—but it is not the centre of God’s purposes in history; that distinction belongs to the church.
1. Where would you place yourself and your congregation: believing in absolute truths, wondering if there really is any truth, or somewhere in between? Do you agree that many Christians are finding they need a new way to think about faith?
“Pilate asked him, ‘So you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.’ Pilate asked him, “What is truth?” After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again and told them, ‘I find no case against him’” (John 18:37-38, NRSV).
1. What have been your experiences in cross-cultural bridge-building with Canada’s indigenous people? What involvement does the church and organizations like Mennonite Central Committee have with indigenous people in your province?
As part of a relationship-building event at Peace Mennonite Church, Richmond, B.C., Darryl Klassen, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) B.C.’s Aboriginal Neighbours program coordinator, presents local elder Ruth Adams with an MCC blanket. In Salish culture, this is an expression of adopting someone into the family. (Credit: MCC BC)
Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) British Columbia has decided to dismiss long-time Aboriginal Neighbours program coordinator Darryl Klassen. The decision, which was made early this year, will take effect at the end of December. Klassen, 64, has worked with MCC B.C. for 25 years.
Harley Eagle, right, Mennonite Central Committee Canada’s co-coordinator of Indigenous Work with his wife Sue, speaks with other MCC staff and partners at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. (Credit: courtesy of MCC UN office)
Vincent Solomon, the Aboriginal Neighbours coordinator for Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Manitoba and a priest for the Anglican Church of Canada, says a blessing for the many MCC infant care and relief kits donated by Native Assembly 2014 participants this summer. (Credit: MC Canada/Dan Dyck)
Tension gripped my gut as I drove to a Mennonite church in Altona, Man., with an indigenous friend. We were doing a joint Sunday morning presentation about hydropower impacts.
I wondered if an indigenous person had ever been in that church. I debated making excuses for whatever suspicion, or worse, my people might direct toward him. I tried to muster grace.
1. Henry Neufeld writes that, “[o]ur memories are prone to distortion.” Do you agree? Have you ever been faced with evidence that you remembered something inaccurately? Do your memories of a situation or an event sometimes differ from the memories of others?
We all have some painful memories of things that happened to us. They are stored, encoded, and sometimes retrieved and reworked. There are strained relationships with our parents and siblings; and the hurt or wrong caused us by a teacher, classmate, colleague, boss, lover, spouse, pastor or fellow church member.