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Remembering and honouring ‘soldiers’ of Christ

Feature | By By Gordon Zerbe | Dec 11, 2013

In Philippians 2:25-30, the Apostle Paul advises the violently besieged Christian community in Philippi to grant special “honours” to a “fellow-soldier” who has “risked his life” in service of Christ. The cadre of Jesus loyalists, suffering under pressure from Roman imperial authority, is invited by Paul to take up a unified but nonviolent defence in the face of those who would want Christ’s global “citizen community” destroyed (Philippians 1:27-30, 4:5).

Discipleship as citizenship

Feature | By By Gordon Zerbe | Dec 11, 2013 | 2 comments

In the first 300 years of the Christian church, before church and state became fused, preachers and leaders regularly used the language of “citizenship” to describe the Christian community and its way of life. Where did this come from, and why was this linguistic practice forgotten?

The most explicit example of this imagery comes from an anonymous piece of writing now known as the “Letter to Diognetus,” one of numerous writings of the second century designed to provide a reasoned defence of the Christian faith and its practice in a suspicious and often hostile environment:


Ray Friesen suggests, ‘If we can imagine a nativity scene in first-century Palestine (pictured), we can possibly imagine it in our 21st-century world.’

Feature | By By Ray Friesen | Nov 20, 2013

In Charles Dickens' well-known story, A Christmas Carol, anyone who dares enter the inner sanctum of Ebenezer Scrooge's office with so much as a suggestion of Christmas is greeted with the now famous words: "Bah! Humbug! " His nephew is told by Scrooge, "If I could work my will, every idiot who goes about with 'Merry Christmas' on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!"

For discussion: Imagine!

Feature | By By Barb Draper | Nov 20, 2013

1. Do you know anyone with a “Bah! Humbug! ” attitude towards Christmas? What makes you want to say “Bah! Humbug! ”? Where do you draw the line on sentimentalism? What does it mean to have a heart for Christmas?

2. Do you agree with Ray Friesen that, “You need imagination to do Christmas”? If the baby Jesus came to our world today, what would be the 21st-century equivalent to the stable, the manger, the shepherds, the magi? How might changing the setting of the story change its impact?

For discussion: Atonement

Feature | By By Dave Rogalsky and Barb Draper | Nov 06, 2013

1. Dave Rogalsky says that “blood songs” are about atonement. What “blood songs” can you think of? What do these songs say about the death or blood of Christ? What questions do you have about these ideas of atonement?

2. Which metaphor of God making right the relationship between humanity and God catches your imagination, emotions or thought? Which metaphors of God making right the relationship between humanity and God do not connect with you? Which metaphor or theory do you think most of the people of your congregation would use to describe atonement?

Reading list

Feature | By Compiled by Dave Rogalsky | Nov 06, 2013
  • Atonement, Justice and Peace: The Message of the Cross and the Mission of the Church by Darrin Snyder Belousek. Eerdmans, 2012.
  • Instead of Atonement: The Bible’s Salvation Story and our Hope for Wholeness by Ted Grimsrud. Cascade Books, 2013.
  • Jesus Christ Our Lord: Christology from a Disciple’s Perspective by C. Norman Kraus. Herald Press, 1987.

Atonement metaphors/theories

Feature | By By Dave Rogalsky | Nov 06, 2013

Christus Victor/Ransom


A statue of the Good Shepherd at the St. Callisto Catacombs, Rome. In the early centuries, Jesus was much more likely to be portrayed as the Good Shepherd than as a crucified Messiah.

Feature | By By Dave Rogalsky | Nov 06, 2013

In the 1990s, when the Mennonite church in Ontario was deciding whether to add Hymnal: A Worship Book to its pews, a dear (now departed) saint approached me, saying, “I hear that they’ve taken out all the blood songs.” The person wondered if this important part of church heritage and theology was going to be left behind.

For discussion: 'Let nobody judge them'

Feature | By By Barb Draper | Oct 23, 2013

1. During the Second World War, what happened when young men in your family or community were called up for military service? What are the stories of your congregation dealing with conscientious objectors? Has the Mennonite church been disrespectful to those who participated in military service?

2. Do you think a commitment to peace means not serving in the medical corps and not participating in the manufacture of war supplies? What does a military uniform symbolize? Why did Sam Martin resist the uniform so vehemently? Under what conditions can a pacifist wear a uniform?

Uncle Sam goes to jail

Sam and Beulah Martin on their wedding day.

Feature | By By Joseph Martin | Oct 23, 2013

Of memories I have of family members, the one about my Uncle Sam’s arrest on April 19, 1944, and his imprisonment, which became legendary in our community, left an indelible mark. Uncle Sam was born in the U.S. and was 18 months old when the family moved to Duchess [Alta.]. He had been baptized into the Mennonite Church and attended regularly.

‘Let nobody judge them’

An Altona, Man., war memorial bears the names of local Mennonites who served and died during the Second World War.

Feature | By By Ross W. Muir | Oct 23, 2013 | 3 comments

Of late, many peace-minded Canadians have been decrying the country’s increasing militarization, calling to mind this country’s proud peacekeeping tradition as if it was a defining feature of confederation. Unfortunately, it’s a false memory, as Canada’s peacekeeping forces weren’t formed until 1956. Its military involvements, however, go back nearly to our country’s beginning. According to Nathan R.

For discussion: Rethinking peace

Feature | By By Barb Draper | Oct 09, 2013

1. What would happen if someone in your congregation joined the military? Would your church have a prayer of blessing to send him on his way? What does peace mean to you? Can someone who loves peace serve in the military?

2. Do you think Mennonite Church Canada churches are drifting away from a strong peace position? Do you agree with Esther Epp-Tiessen that Mennonites have been reluctant to critique Canada’s participation in Afghanistan? How does your congregation teach peace theology?

Mennonite Church Canada Peace Audit: a long procession

Feature | By Gordon Allaby | Oct 09, 2013

The General Council Peace Commission of Mennonite World Conference (MWC) requested a response from Mennonite Church Canada to the question, “How is your church doing in its desire to be a Peace Church?” The two key phrases of this request to our church is, “desire to be” and “Peace Church.” “Desire to be” strongly suggests a process, a pursuit and a passion. “Peace Church” can be understood in my different ways. For clarification, MWC made reference to the 7 Shared Convictions (Adopted by MWC, 15.3.2006), highlighting number 5 and 7:

Rethinking peace

Arlyn Friesen Epp, director of Mennonite Church Canada’s Resource Centre in Winnipeg, recalls peace lamps being introduced at the 2002 MC Canada assembly in Saskatoon. Congregations were invited to purchase the lamps and pray for peace. Some churches continue to light the peace lamps today.

Feature | By By Evelyn Rempel Petkau | Oct 09, 2013 | 1 comment

“In the last 15 or 20 years, I have heard only one sermon on peace,” says Bernie Loeppky, a member of Grace Mennonite Church in Winkler, Man., and a member of the Evangelical Anabaptist Fellowship (EAF).

For discussion

Feature | By By Barb Draper | Sep 25, 2013

1. Have you ever had an experience where you felt unjustly treated and there didn’t seem to be a way to make it right? How did you respond to those feelings of injustice? What happens in the long-term to individuals who struggle with ongoing injustice? How important is it to have past hurts recognized and validated?

Buffalo Shout, Salmon Cry contest prompts passionate responses

Feature | By By Deborah Froese | Sep 25, 2013

What do you see as the greatest divide between indigenous and settler cultures in Canada?

Clawing our way out of the morass together

This ‘freedom’ graffiti carries significance and irony for South Africans. It is emblazoned on a bridge connecting Soweto to the informal settlement of Kliptown, an area of extreme poverty.

Feature | By By Deborah Froese | Sep 25, 2013 | 1 comment

Elmer Courchene introduced himself as an Anishinabe elder whose home is Turtle Island. He carried himself with dignity, but his carefully chosen words reflected the uncertainty within: “I’m 77 years old and, without a word of a lie, I’m still trying to find love.”

For discussion

Feature | By By Barb Draper | Sep 11, 2013

1. What have been your experiences with the Roman Catholic Church? Do Mennonites today still have the same suspicions about Catholic theology that Will Braun says he grew up with? What do you appreciate about Catholic worship? What are your questions about it?

Holy contradictions

The San Francesco Basilica in Assisi, Italy, attracts both the faithful and interested tourists to its doors.

Feature | By By Will Braun | Sep 11, 2013 | 2 comments

Despite gaping holes in the biblical basis for its elaborate hierarchy, and despite relatively widespread pedophilia among its priests, the Roman Catholic Church holds on to roughly twice as many official adherents—1.2 billion—as all Protestant denominations put together.

For Discussion

Feature | By By Barb Draper | Aug 27, 2013

1. What is a story from your life or from the history of your congregation that has had an impact on you? What stories from the past are important to pass on to future generations? What is the best way to share these stories so that they are not forgotten?

2. Susan Schultz Huxman says that foresight is “the ability to see what is coming.” Does your church tend to be proactive in responding to change? What makes congregations fearful about the future? Do Mennonite schools have special skills to help us discern the future?

Profiles in education

Virginia A. Hostetler

Feature | By By Virginia A. Hostetler | Aug 27, 2013

The Mennonite church is at a unique time in history. Currently, women lead three of the four major institutions of higher learning serving the church in Canada. In October 2010, Sara Wenger Shenk began her term at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Elkhart, Ind.; Susan Schultz Huxman began serving at Conrad Grebel University College, Waterloo, Ont., in July 2011; and Cheryl Pauls took leadership of Canadian Mennonite University (CMU), Winnipeg, last November.

Hindsight foresight insight

Feature | By By Susan Schultz Huxman | Aug 27, 2013

The ability to see clearly is an important sense to us as Christians and as Mennonites: our theology, The Anabaptist Vision; our music, “Be Thou My Vision”; our scripture, “Without a vision, the people perish.” Mennonite education at its best gives our church a special kind of seeing—akin to high definition or 3D. I call that hindsight, foresight and insight.

For discussion

Feature | By By Barb Draper | Aug 14, 2013

1. What motivates you to give? Where did you learn to be generous? When you give to the church or to other charities, how much of it is carefully planned and how much of it is free-spirited? Is it important to you to analyze charities and to carefully plan your giving?

2. Which charities do you support regularly? What criteria do you use to decide which ones to support? How closely do you follow the activities of the charities you support? How do you respond if an unknown person shows up at your door, collecting for a charity?

Join the Big Hearts Club

Feature | By By Lori Guenther Reesor | Aug 14, 2013

Giving is about much more than money. What we do with our time, talent and treasure all matter to God. As Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21,

The Ghost Rapes of Bolivia

All photos by Noah Friedman-Rudovsky. Noah Friedman-Rudovsky also contributed reporting to this article.

Feature | By By Jean Friedman-Rudovsky | Aug 06, 2013 | 3 comments

For a while, the residents of Manitoba Colony thought demons were raping the town’s women. There was no other explanation. No way of explaining how a woman could wake up with blood and semen stains smeared across her sheets and no memory of the previous night. No way of explaining how another went to sleep clothed, only to wake up naked and covered by dirty fingerprints all over her body. No way to understand how another could dream of a man forcing himself onto her in a field—and then wake up the next morning with grass in her hair.