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‘There is abundance’

Participants reflect on money matters during the ‘Wild generosity and young adults’ seminar. (Photo by Matthew Veith)

Feature | By Aaron Epp | Jul 23, 2014

What might a flashlight symbolize about how you were brought up to believe about generosity?

That was one of the questions faced by participants during a weekend seminar at Assembly 2014 that aimed to get young adults thinking about the way they use their money. Arnie Friesen and Dori Zerbe Cornelsen, stewardship consultants for Mennonite Foundation of Canada (MFC), led the seminar, entitled “Wild generosity and young adults.”

The 12 participants were divided into three discussion groups and each was given a small object: a flashlight, a world globe and a children’s toy.

‘Jesus is with us’ in our creation-care efforts

Despite the flooding, Camp Assiniboia—where an assembly worship service was held on July 5—is still running a full program this summer and the camp staff ‘are doing a great job working around [and in] the water,’ says site manager David Hogue. (Photo courtesy of Camp Assiniboia)

Feature | By By Evelyn Rempel Petkau | Jul 23, 2014

“Last year, Mennonite Church U.S.A. passed a resolution on creation care at its Phoenix assembly. Is it time for [MC] Canada to have a resolution as well, and, if so, what should it look like?”

Joanne Moyer, a member of the Mennonite Creation Care Network Council (, a ministry of the two national churches that provides resources and leadership in this area, posed this question at her seminar, “Creation care: Testing our resolve.”

Leon provides B.C. prof a paw to stand on

Bonnie Sawatzky travelled to Assembly 14 with Leon, her black lab service dog. ‘Leon loves belly rubs,’ she says, ‘but please ask if it’s an appropriate time to pet him.’ (Photo by Donita Wiebe-Neufeld)

Feature | By Donita Wiebe-Neufeld | Jul 23, 2014

It’s hard to organize a trip to Mennonite Church Canada’s assembly, knowing what to pack, how many books to bring and how to plan visiting times. The who to travel with, however, is a no-brainer for Bonnie Sawatzky. Leon, a black lab service dog, is her constant companion. Leon helps Sawatzky pick things up, walk when she needs to, get up if she falls, and he especially likes to push buttons to open doors.

Prayer to heal the heart

Monica Bock, left, and Ken Bechtel with their ‘medication’ as prescribed by Dr. KMZ de Stress (aka Karen Martens Zimmerly, MC Canada’s denominational minister). The ‘pills’—assorted M&Ms—are for the ‘relief of common ailments associated with leadership.’ Pastors appreciated the thought! (Photo by Donita Wiebe-Neufeld)

Feature | By Donita Wiebe-Neufeld | Jul 23, 2014

Who gets the help when a pastor marries a psychiatrist? At the 2014 Mennonite Church Canada minister’s conference, the answer was no joke, yet everyone left feeling better.

What exclusive allegiance to Jesus looks like in a pluralistic culture

Ryan Dueck

Feature | By By Aaron Epp | Jul 23, 2014

Embodying the love that Jesus Christ modelled and treating people the way we want to be treated are the best ways to face an increasingly pluralistic society. That’s the message Ryan Dueck, pastor of Lethbridge (Alta.) Mennonite Church, delivered during a July 4 Assembly 2014 seminar entitled “Hope in disorienting times: Navigating the challenge of pluralism.” Speaking to a full room, Dueck explored what exclusive allegiance to Jesus looks like in a culture that celebrates—and even demands—inclusivity.

At least there is hope for a tree!

Doug Klassen

Feature | By By Virginia A. Hostetler | Jul 23, 2014

At a corner of Ellice Avenue and Marilyn Street in Winnipeg, the neighbourhood association erected four sheets of plywood and painted them with chalkboard paint. The phrase, “Before I die I want to _________” invited passersby to fill in the blank with their own wishes. Many responses expressed deep desires for meaning and purpose.

Cancer buddies connect at assembly

Cancer survivors Elizabeth Wall, left, and Lorraine Reimer met for the first time at Assembly 14 in Winnipeg. (Photo by Donita Wiebe-Neufeld)

Feature | By Donita Wiebe-Neufeld | Jul 23, 2014

They walked together through a valley of shadows for two years, yet Assembly 2014 is the first time Elizabeth Wall and Lorraine Reimer have met face to face.

Reimer, a member of Whitewater Mennonite Church in Boissevain, Man., is a breast cancer survivor.  A mutual friend in Edmonton connected her with Wall in November 2012, right after Wall, a member of First Mennonite in Edmonton, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of the disease.

‘Spiritual disciplines are not magic’

April Yamasaki leads a seminar at Mennonite Church Canada's Assembly 2014. (Photo by Evelyn Rempel Petkau)

Feature | By Evelyn Rempel Petkau | Jul 23, 2014

“It only takes a scrap of time to turn to God.” April Yamasaki shared this anonymous piece of 14th-century wisdom in her “Cultivating spiritual disciplines” workshop at Assembly 14.

Sometimes it feels like a scrap of time is all people have, but that can be turned into a sacred pause, she told a roomful of participants.

Sisters equipped to care for their sisters

Rhoda Keener, left, co-director of Mennonite Women U.S.A., addresses her Sister Care seminar., while Liz Koop, president of Mennonite Women Canada, takes notes on the blackboard behind her as the group brainstorms what the needs of women are. (Photo by Rachel Bergen)

Feature | By Rachel Bergen | Jul 23, 2014

What are the needs of women, and how are they working to meet those needs?

Rhoda Keener, co-director of Mennonite Women U.S.A., led a presentation and discussion surrounding these needs at the assembly.

Keener explained that Sister Care seminars, which are given all over the world, are made up of four units:

‘We are all cousins’

Friends Steve Heinrichs and Brander McDonald host a workshop explaining the significance of the Royal Proclamation of 1763 to both settlers and hosts at Assembly 2014.

Feature | By Rachel Bergen | Jul 23, 2014

The Cree word “kiciwamanawak” means “we are all cousins.” In Canada, however, this familial relationship between settler and host is fractured.

This was the theme of the “Broken covenant: Indigenous nations, the Crown and the Royal Proclamation” workshop co-hosted by Steve Heinrichs, Mennonite Church Canada’s director of indigenous relations, and Brander McDonald, MC B.C.’s indigenous relations coordinator.

Heinrichs and McDonald introduced participants to the Royal Proclamation of 1763, a piece of legislation that paved the way for the treaty-making process.

Subversive guest

Feature | By Virginia A. Hostetler | Jul 23, 2014

After seminar leader Chris Lenshyn began his post-Christian landscape session by reading chapter 1 of Daniel, he invited participants—48 adults and one baby—to gather in twos to converse about this story of young exiles living out their faith in a foreign land. It is the story, he said, of a group of people expressing their unique values, of “not aligning with society.” The seminar was held at Mennonite Church Canada's Assembly 2014.

A splashing good time

At the wading pool, 4- to 7-year-olds (junior group) dip into the story with their boats. Left to right: Sunmo Yang, Nicholas Nighswander, Heidi Nighswander-Rempel, Gavin Giesbrecht (guest from Mexico), Salem Dreidger, Evania Giesbrecht, and Joshua Tshimanga.

Feature | By Elsie Rempel | Jul 23, 2014

Unique timing and collaboration led to one of Manitoba Church Manitoba Camps with Meaning sites hosting two days of the children’s assembly—a first in Assembly gathering history. And they did so in the midst of flood conditions.

Twenty children embraced the theme of Wild Hope and experienced the wider church community at a kids’ level. Participants aged 4-14 came from Winnipeg, Edmonton, Abbotsford, and as far away as Cuauhtémoc, Mexico.

Jesus taught equality, regardless of sexual identity

Feature | By By Norman Kraus | Jul 02, 2014

Probably the two most divisive issues in the church at the moment are women’s status and rights in the church, and the moral legitimacy of same-sex covenant relationships. The parallel passages of Matthew 19:3-22 and Mark 10:2-12 have implications for both of these questions.

‘They will know we are Christians by our love’

Feature | By By Lisa Schirch | Jul 02, 2014

During the 2013-14 academic year, Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) was engaged in intense conversations on and off campus regarding its hiring policy concerning individuals in covenanted same-sex relationships. Research professor Lisa Schirch sent the following letter to the university’s student newspaper, The Weather Vane, representing some of that conversation.

Here are 10 points to consider in the current EMU listening process:

For discussion: Jesus taught equality, regardless of sexual identity

Feature | By By Barb Draper | Jul 02, 2014

1. Does your church give equal status and rights to women and men? How did earlier generations explain their assumption that powerful roles were reserved for men? How much does our culture affect our attitudes when it comes to what is right or wrong in the church?

2. How have you traditionally understood Jesus’ words in Matthew 19:3-22? Norman Kraus argues that the passage has to do with male privilege and about equal dignity and rights. Do you find his argument convincing? What questions arise from his interpretation?

The truth about sexual abuse will set you free

The pulpit in the Jesuit Saint-Loup church in Namur, the Netherlands. The monumental sculpture, ‘Suffer little children to come unto me’ was made by the Dinant sculptor Benjamin Devigne (1827-94) in 1876.

Feature | By Name Withheld by Request* | Jun 18, 2014 | 1 comment

I came across an editorial by Dick Benner a few months ago and was distressed to read about the late—and highly regarded—John Howard Yoder having sexually violated 80 women “at last count” (“Healing sexual abuse,” Sept. 2, 2013, page 2). This was news to me, as I am relatively new to the Mennonite circle.

For discussion: The truth about sexual abuse will set you free

Feature | By By Barb Draper | Jun 18, 2014

1. Why do some of us find it so difficult to talk about sexual abuse? What is it about sexual abuse and allegations of misconduct that makes them so hurtful? Is sexual misconduct an open subject in your congregation? How important is listening in the healing process?

2. What steps has your church taken to protect children, youth and other vulnerable people? Do you have a safe church policy? How effective is it? How rigorous are you in applying it to volunteers who work with children and teens?

Deepening community

Maison de l'Amitie photo

Feature | By By Paul Born | Jun 04, 2014 | 1 comment

“I really do not want more community than we already have at this church,” shared a congregant during a Sunday morning adult Sunday school discussion. “What I like about this church is that no one judges you for not being more involved or attending regularly. If we had more community, people would expect too much from me.”

I remember being dumbstruck when I heard these words, especially in this church context, having never considered that a Mennonite congregation—or any of its members—would not embrace community as one of its central organizing principles.

For discussion: Deepening community

Feature | By By Barb Draper | Jun 04, 2014

1. What are some examples of things you do to support others in your family, congregation, team or club? In what situations have you received support from others? In what groups do you feel a strong sense of belonging? Have Mennonite congregations tended to take the importance of community for granted?

A time to die

Feature | By By Evelyn Rempel Petkau | May 21, 2014 | 2 comments

When Susan Griffiths of Winnipeg went to Switzerland a year ago to die by doctor-assisted suicide, it was headline news and re-ignited the debate around end-of-life issues. Responses to her death revealed that we are living in a time of shifting public sentiment when it comes to end-of-life issues, especially concerning euthanasia and assisted suicide.

For discussion: A time to die

Feature | By By Barb Draper | May 21, 2014

1. Have you participated in any end-of-life decisions? Under what conditions would you consider withholding possible treatment for yourself or a family member? How would you respond to a loved one’s request for assisted suicide? Why are we so reluctant to talk about death?

How to heal a nation divided?

The European Union flag is raised in Lviv, Ukraine, earlier this year during the protest movement known as EuroMaidan. Following is an analysis of the political, social and religious implications of the unrest in Ukraine and on its eastern border (Photo by Dixond/

Feature | By By William E. Yoder, Ph.D. | May 07, 2014

One could attribute the current crisis in Ukraine to the lack of sympathy for democratic practice. Repeated fisticuffs in Ukraine’s Parliament were one indication of that deficit.

And why was it not possible for the protesters in Kyiv’s Maidan Square to wait for upcoming elections? They had been set for March 2015, then moved forward to this December. Was one too uneasy regarding the possible outcome?

‘Blessed are the peacemakers’

Feature | May 07, 2014

The following announcement was released by Vyacheslav Nesteruk, president of the All-Ukrainian Union of Associations of Evangelical Christians-Baptists, and Aleksey Smirnov, president of the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists, after they met on April 8:

For discussion: How to heal a nation divided?

Feature | By By Barb Draper | May 07, 2014

1. William Yoder suggests that democracy requires compromise and a sharing of power. Have you had experiences in public, church or family life where compromising or sharing power was difficult? Why is power so hard to share? What role do emotions play in these situations?

2. What is hampering relationships between Christians in Russia and Ukraine? How much should Christians be influenced by the policies of the country in which they live? What is the appropriate role for Christians in the politics of the state?

The shape of church to come?

Do empty churches indicate a lack of faith, or do they need to adapt to different ways of nurturing faith in people both inside and outside their walls?

Feature | By Story and photos by Donita Wiebe-Neufeld | Apr 23, 2014 | 1 comment

The skyline is liberally punctuated with steeples, but they loom like tombstones over the churches of Montréal. The beautiful buildings are mostly dead on Sundays, and I wonder where the church has gone.