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.
1. What is the relationship of the various Christian denominations in your community? Are there formal contacts between congregations? In what settings do the denominations work together?
Jesus’ Farewell Discourse, as recorded in John 14 to 17, is full of images of who Jesus is. These four chapters present Jesus as a shepherd; a gate; and the way, the truth and the life.
1. What have been your personal experiences or connections with Israel/Palestine? What are your sources for news or information of what is happening there? Do Canadians tend to see the conflict from the Israeli or Palestinian point of view? Do you think worldwide attitudes toward Israel/Palestine are changing?
The following is an excerpt from a recent prayer from the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem, calling on the world to pray for the people who live in Palestine and Israel, who face uncertainty, violence and injustice, and who yearn for the end of oppression.
From July 3 to 6, 2014, Mennonite Church Canada held its biennial assembly, in Winnipeg, Man. Focusing on the theme, “Wild Hope: faith for an unknown season,” the church delegates and their families, church-wide staff and volunteers, along with international guests, worshipped together, discussed issues, participated in seminars, and connected with friends and acquaintances.
A tornado warning was issued for southern Winnipeg just as Willard Metzger, Mennonite Church Canada’s executive director, was giving the final announcements at Assembly 2014 on July 5. Should delegates proceed to their seminars or should they stay in the Loewen Athletic Centre on the campus of Canadian Mennonite University (CMU), where the assembly was held?
With the future of the church and issues of sexuality being prominent issues up for discussion at Assembly 2014, Karl Koop, a Canadian Mennonite University professor, asked César García, Mennonite World Conference’s general secretary who spoke about the global Anabaptist mosaic, how these topics could affect the global church.