One late Friday afternoon when the office was nearly empty, two clean-cut young men showed up at the Mennonite Church Canada reception desk to inquire about pension benefits for their widowed mother. Assuming they were sons of a pastor, the receptionist sent them my way. As chief administrative officer, helping such people out is part of my job.
A year ago, I said goodbye to my job and stepped into an unknown future. In truth, the future is always unknown, or beyond certainty, as my father would qualify when he spoke of plans, concluding, “Lord willing.” The same acknowledgement comes from our Muslim friends who say inshallah with a similar meaning.
With the arrival of summer, my wife and I have been enjoying more time outside. Our yard contains many different fruit trees, shrubs and grapevines that provide shade, beauty, and a harvest of berries and fruits. The trees and shrubs are easily managed. However, the grapevines are another story.
Edward Beatty, front row right, and John Dennis, behind him, speak with Mennonite girls. Dennis was a young man in 1874 who witnessed the Mennonite immigration to Manitoba. Over the next decades, he observed that the Mennonites were honest, hardworking and trustworthy farmers. By 1922, he was a commissioner of the Canadian Pacific Railway.
Someone once said to me, “The problem with Christians is they are all mental!”
If I were to give a 14-minute TED Talk in our church context before the restructuring assembly for Mennonite Church Canada and its area churches in October, this is the gist of what I would want to communicate. I would like to ask and give an answer to an important question: What is it that is more important for all of us than our current and necessary restructuring?
Speaker sets the record straight on the Ziffernsystem
Re: “Singing by the numbers,” May 22, page 32.
It was good to see a report on my participation in the annual meeting of the Mennonite Historical Society of Saskatchewan.
I’m told that white-water rafting requires four simple considerations.
They are simple but they are very important:
How do we know when tradition is helpful or harmful? How do we know when tradition breathes life and hope into the people of God? Or when it becomes a barrier to the leading of the Holy Spirit for our time? This is a critical matter the church must be constantly discerning. Is tradition serving as a propeller or an anchor?
The Voth family in the Steinbach, Manitoba, area on the farm with tractor and binder in the 1940s. August is a busy harvesting time for farmers and gardeners with eyes on the upcoming fall and winter. Farming has changed dramatically in the past decades but remains the backbone to feeding the country and beyond.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world.
In April 2017, more than 1,600 Palestinian political prisoners went on a hunger strike. As I write this article, strikers have refused food and have been drinking only salt water for the last 31 days. They are protesting being held without charge or trial, medical negligence, poor treatment and the lack of family visits.
Random thoughts from a reader
The irony wasn’t lost on me, or on others. At last summer’s Mennonite Church Canada assembly, people discussed, debated and discerned holy sexuality. Specifically, they considered, “Is there space in Mennonite churches for people who are in same-sex relationships?”
The Hoffnungsfelder Mennonite Church in Rabbit Lake, Sask., 1938. In 1941, 87 percent of Mennonites were rural dwellers. By 1971, the number crashed to 53 percent and has continued to decline. There has been a massive shift in Mennonite communities toward urbanization, bringing with it new challenges and opportunities.
For centuries, people who questioned the church and its dogma were silenced and at times persecuted. The church coerced the masses to acquiesce to its doctrine by shaming sceptics and denouncing doubters. To say this was wrong would be a colossal understatement.
What does—and doesn’t—define us
Sometimes I think most of our Mennonite lay people, like myself, don’t realize how serious the Future Directions endeavour is that is going on right now. Many think that they are just another bunch of meetings, followed by numerous serious people making long, wordy pronouncements, and then, probably, not much will change.
“We aren’t going to lose youth because we haven’t entertained them. We’ll lose them because we haven’t trusted or challenged them.”
I heard this quote from Shane Claiborne at a conference in 2012, and it came back to me a few weeks ago at Mennonite Church Eastern Canada’s annual church gathering during a lunch meeting with leaders of youth.
I’ll never forget the moment that Bill came to sit with me in the penalty box. I was rather embarrassed.