Volume 21 Issue 19

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Nurturing a shared identity

Tobi Thiessen

In the Future Directions conversations, many people expressed a lingering concern that the proposed regional network forming Mennonite Church Canada could cause us, as a church family, to lose a nationwide sense of shared mission and identity. The fear is that each region will be preoccupied with its own local agenda and, therefore, will pull back from connecting with the broader church.

Prodigal pastor

Lee Hiebert. (Photo courtesy of Lee Hiebert)

Lee Hiebert with Jacqueline Neun at the 70th-anniversary celebration of Kelowna First Mennonite Church earlier this year. (Photo by Margaret Ediger)

Lee and Rachel Hiebert with their Harley. (Photo courtesy of Lee Hiebert)

Seventy-four-year-old George Ediger rushed out of church during the final song and caught up with the newcomer in the parking lot before the big young visitor with the shaved head and biker beard could escape in the maroon hot rod that stood out among the grey and beige sedans.

That gesture of welcome, although not entirely welcomed at the time, was one of many that ushered Lee Hiebert along an unlikely path of transformation.

Readers write: October 9, 2017 issue

Kudos to ‘Shared land’ organizers and participants
Re: “Shared land” photo, Aug. 28, back cover.

My husband and I attended and appreciated the focus on learning about and respecting the thousands of years of history of our land. It was a profound and honest way to celebrate Canada’s 150 birthday.

Bringing that historical focus into the present so that we can move forward together, Bryan Yellowhorn, an Indigenous elder, reminded us that both settlers and Indigenous people need to be patient with each other’s culture and religion.

The gift of sabbatical

Aaron Roorda

A couple of Mennonite Church British Columbia pastors have been given sabbaticals this year. I would encourage all of our congregations to find a way to give their pastors a sabbatical. It is a win-win situation for both the congregation and the pastor. While it is vital to establish the discipline of Sabbath rest in order to find a weekly rhythm of renewal, it is also significant for pastors to be given sabbaticals for the sake of their ministry focus renewal.

I didn’t share the Bridge Diagram with her

Bridge Diagram from laurelhillbaptist.org

She sat on the sidewalk of the busy street corner, five months pregnant and without a place to call home. We sat there with her on the cold concrete, listening to her story of unwarranted eviction and the seizure of all her possessions. She didn’t know how it would work out, but she expressed certainty that she’d have a place to live by the time the baby arrived. If not, the authorities would take her precious child away.

This was a story that seemed worlds away from my own. It was a story of injustice.

Jacob Shantz

Mennonite Heritage Archives Photo

Jacob Y. Shantz (1822-1909) of Berlin, Ont., (now Kitchener), with his family. Shantz was involved in fruit growing and maple-sugar production. He was a building contractor and industrialist, but is also remembered for his role in the establishment of Mennonite communities in Manitoba. The Manitoba village of Shantzenfeld is named in his honour. Shantz wondered if fruit could be grown in Manitoba. In 1877, he sent 424 apple, 313 pear, 300 plum and 300 cherry trees to Manitoba. Two years later, he was pleased to see a harvest of apples.

Harvesting ideas for a new Mennonite Church Saskatchewan

Craig Neufeld, standing, and Bruce Jantzen brainstorm ways of making the dream of ‘deeper spirituality’ a reality at MC Saskatchewan’s Refresh, Refocus, Renew mini-retreat. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

Valerie Wiebe and Carrol Epp listen as Char Bueckert, right, shares her ideas for implementing the three themes that emerged during MC Saskatchewan’s Refresh, Refocus, Renew mini-retreat. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

Marg Peters listens as Berny Wiens shares his thoughts during MC Saskatchewan’s second Refresh, Refocus, Renew mini-retreat. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

Betty Pries of Credence & Co. tells members of Mennonite Church Saskatchewan that their true identity lies at the heart, where they are already beloved of God. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

Pauline Steinmann adds her group’s sheet of ideas to the sanctuary wall during MC Saskatchewan’s second Refresh, Refocus, Renew mini-retreat. Participants were encouraged to think of practical ways of implementing each of three themes that emerged during the retreat. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

It’s harvest time on the Prairies for farmers on their combines, and this year for members of Mennonite Church Saskatchewan as they met for their second Refresh, Refocus, Renew mini-retreat.

About 75 participants, representing 24 MC Saskatchewan congregations, gathered at Wildwood Mennonite Church in Saskatoon on Sept. 15 and 16, 2017. Betty Pries, a managing partner with Credence & Co. (formerly L3 Group), based in Kitchener, Ont., led the weekend workshop.

Saskatchewan congregation adopts new English name

Members of Fields of Hope Mennonite Church gather around their new church sign. Celeste Wright, far right, is the congregation’s pastor. (Photo by Alan Laughlin)

Hoffnungsfelder Mennonite Church has a new name. Now known as Fields of Hope Mennonite Church, the congregation once met in three neighbouring communities: Glenbush, Rabbit Lake and Mayfair, Sask., about 195 kilometres north of Saskatoon. Today, although the three churches still exist as legal entities, services are primarily held at the Glenbush church.

On a journey towards reconciliation

The new sign in Conrad Grebel University College’s garden, unveiled on Sept. 22, 2017, acknowledges the history of the land in relationship to Indigenous peoples. (Photo by Dave Rogalsky)

The old and new signs at Conrad Grebel University College. The new sign acknowledges the history of the land in relationship to Indigenous peoples. (Photo by Dave Rogalsky)

Singers from the Waterloo Aboriginal Education Centre welcome participants to the unveiling of a new sign acknowledging the history of the land at Conrad Grebel University College on Sept. 22, 2017. At the right end of the group is Lori Campbell, director of the centre. (Photo by Dave Rogalsky)

Marlene Epp, dean of Conrad Grebel University College, left, and Reina Neufeldt, professor of peace and conflict studies, tell the story of the new sign acknowledging the history of the land at Grebel’s garden. (Photo by Dave Rogalsky)

Twelve years ago, Conrad Grebel University College planted a black walnut tree and erected a sign marking the 200th anniversary of the arrival in 1805 of the first Mennonite settlers from Pennsylvania and the establishment of the “German Company Tract.” But time has a way of altering understandings of events and history. On Sept. 22, 2017, a new sign was erected beside the old one, acknowledging the larger and longer history of the land.

‘For Christ’s sake, we better do something about it’

Walkers hold signs advocating for Bill C-262 on their way to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation in Winnipeg. (Photo by Nicolien Klassen-Wiebe)

Kelsey Wiebe, front,  and other walkers for Indigenous rights head for a pit stop at Bethel Mennonite Church in Winnipeg. (Photo by Nicolien Klassen-Wiebe)

Katrina Woelk, a CMU alumna, and Anna Goertzen Loeppky, a CMU student, hold signs in support of Bill C-262. (Photo by Nicolien Klassen-Wiebe)

“Walk the talk of nation to nation. Implement the declaration!”

More than a hundred people chanted these words as they walked for Indigenous rights in Winnipeg, situated on Treaty 1 land, on Sept. 23, 2017.

The group met at Stephen Juba Park and walked 12 kilometres to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation in support of Bill C-262, a private member’s bill that, if passed, would begin the process of harmonizing Canada’s laws with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

Faces and places in an aging China

This man is 102 years old. I couldn’t resist capturing his image as he gazed out a window. (Photo by Anita Bergen)

These residents in Taizhou meekly ask whether we have the time to take a picture with them. We were so honoured. (Photo by Anita Bergen)

A man out for a stroll along the river in Wenzhou. (Photo by Anita Bergen)

We were fascinated by the modes of transportation in China, many of which were electric, including this one in Taizhou. This vehicle has muffs over the handlebars to provide warmth on cold mornings. (Photo by Anita Bergen)

Women greet us from the window of an apartment near one of the elder-care homes. Note the laundry and an umbrella hanging in the background. (Photo by Anita Bergen)

An elder-care home near Shaoxing amid fields of tea. We learned that all teas—white, green and black—are made from the same plant. Who knew? (Photo by Anita Bergen)

This sanctuary near Wenzhou was one location for our training sessions. The pews have pop-up ledges for placing books or computers on in order to take notes. (Photo by Anita Bergen)

A butcher located in a nearby market where elder-care staff in Taizhou go daily to purchase meat and produce that will be used that day for meals. (Photo by Anita Bergen)

This resident of Taizhou enjoys her afternoon, swinging with her dog and singing at the top of her lungs. (Photo by Anita Bergen)

A country church near Wenzhou beside small canola fields and larger rice fields, complete with water buffalo. (Photo by Anita Bergen)

Like Canada, China is facing an aging population. There is a growing need for elder-care homes, as families shift away from the cultural norm of taking care of their aging loved ones. Churches have stepped in and have begun to build elder-care homes to address the need. These churches have reached out to faith communities in North America that have a long history of running nursing homes, to hear about their experiences.

PACS grads create a strong society

During his MPACS internship, Darren Kropf, left, worked at Border Peace School in Cheorwon, South Korea, where he taught peace education and advised on program development of a new peace school seeking reconciliation and reunification of the Koreas. (Photo courtesy of Darren Kropf)

At Conrad Grebel University College, parents of prospective peace and conflict studies (PACS) students often ask, “What kind of job will my child get after graduation?” What we say with confidence is that an undergraduate or graduate PACS degree equips students with highly sought-after skills in today’s job market. This kind of education leaves the door open to a multitude of fields, some of which are yet to be created, fields that will require adaptable minds, critical thinking, strong interpersonal skills and the ability to thrive in challenging environments.  

A passionate advocate for Mennonite education

Dennis Wikerd

Mennonite institutions endure based on the hard work and dedication of those who believe in their impact on individuals and the broader community. On Jan. 31, 2018, Rockway Mennonite Collegiate will lose a passionate advocate for Mennonite education, one the school will sorely miss, when Dennis Wikerd retires as the school’s assistant principal after 39 years of service.

Canadian MBA students explore the common good

Graduate students in the Collaborative MBA discuss elements of leadership during a residency on the campus of Bluffton University. From the top left is Anna Herdeck of Chicago; Gordon Damien of Winnipeg; Annalisa Brenneman, with Mennonite Central Committee in Cambodia; Marcus Ebright Zehr and Ben Bontrager, both of Goshen, Ind.; and Adara Kaita of Winnipeg. (Bluffton University photo)

Ten graduate students, including five Canadian Mennonite University students, gathered on the campus of Bluffton University for a week in August for the fourth annual Collaborative MBA (master of business administration) residency. While the students began as strangers from vastly different backgrounds, they left with newfound ideas on leadership and lasting bonds.

“It’s a big commitment, but I like learning, and I think it’s going to be worth it,” said Jim Cheng, who works at Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) in Winnipeg.

Learning to be vulnerable

Isaac Schlegel. (MCI photo)

I graduated from Mennonite Collegiate Institute (MCI) in Gretna, Man., in 2016, and it is where I first learned to be vulnerable.

Vulnerability is exposure, letting our true self shine through the layers of defence we build up around it. It is full, undaunted expression. Self-expression will mean something different to each person, but for me it meant finding my voice through singing.

I was sceptical about the idea of singing in choir. Singing has a certain association with impending judgment. I felt like it was too risky, too open to criticism.

Serving students and learning from mistakes

Niamh Reynolds wants to see students at Columbia Bible College ‘going on a journey with God.’ (Photo courtesy of Niamh Reynolds)

‘We make a really good team,’ Sarah Janzen says of the student council at Canadian Mennonite University. (Photo by Aaron Epp)

‘It’s important to help those around you,’ says Mark Whyte, student council president at Conrad Grebel University College. (Photo courtesy of Mark Whyte)

In addition to faculty and staff, student council members can play a key role in shaping campus life at colleges and universities. By advocating for their peers, planning social events and organizing service projects, these young leaders have a big impact on what goes on between and after classes.

Canadian Mennonite spoke with the student council presidents from the three Canadian post-secondary institutions affiliated with Mennonite Church Canada about their hopes and dreams for the 2017-18 school year.

The kids are all right ... aren’t they?

‘I would say this to older Christians: Don’t be afraid to offer guidance,’ Gil Dueck says. (Photo courtesy of Columbia Bible College)

Gil Dueck doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all plan for how churches can better engage with the young adults in their congregations, but he has some ideas.

While questions about “how the kids are doing” can quickly become cliché, he says, ultimately, they are healthy.

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