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.
Hearing each other well is essential for being church. This is a delicate theme, because we aren’t doing it well. The effects of distance—both geographical and theological—are being felt within and among our churches.
Reading the responses we collected on our Emerging Voices Initiative (EVI) 2016-17 workshop tour, and reflecting on my experience, I notice two major threads:
Alberta is an example to us all
Re: “A season of change and a search for vitality,” April 10, page 16.
I would like to commend Mennonite Church Alberta, the Calgary Chinese and Vietnamese Mennonite churches, and Edmonton Vietnamese Mennonite Church.
I grew up with a prairie view of wide open sky and grain fields dotted with cattle. In the living room, however, hung a painting of fishermen hurriedly pulling their boat to shore, racing against turbulent waves and a storm-blackened sky. My father, a life-long farmer, chose the painting for the hope of rain that it portrayed.
Walking to my conversational Spanish class, I rehearsed phrases in my head, hoping practice would strengthen my fledgling skills. In spite of my efforts, I knew I would stumble to find and pronounce the right word. Sure enough, in class I attempted to say I had eaten lunch with friends, but instead said I had eaten my friends for lunch. We all chuckled, commiserating about our incompetence.
How often have you heard the question, “Will you sponsor me?” I’m sure you’ve heard it many times, from a family member, a colleague or someone in your church. For many charitable organizations, organizing events in which their supporters can actively participate is a wonderful way to raise funds, get people engaged and create awareness of their causes.
Doubt has a good public relations manager these days. The world seems awash with books, articles, sermons, even a few TED talks, praising its beneficial goodness. I too have tried to redeem the sullied reputation of doubt in the church with my preaching and writing. Over the past year I’ve started to wonder if the pendulum has swung too far though.
The Isaac S. Wiens real estate office in Herbert, Sask., is pictured in 1911. Wiens (1874-1958), left, was born in Russia and came to Canada as an infant. His family became part of the Bergthaler Mennonite Church and lived in the Gretna, Man., area. He married Katharina Friesen in 1897, and they had 10 children.
An appeal from MennoMedia’s Canadian board members
On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of his dream. His dream was that people would be judged by the content of their character and not the colour of their skin. His dream was that there would be equality for all, that the ground would be level for everyone. His dream was that all would work together in peace and nonviolence until there is freedom for all.
A bride walking down the aisle to meet her groom is always a moment of anticipation and honour. The groom beams with joy. Perhaps he gives her a wink or sheds a tear. The bride gazes into his eyes. The assembly stands, craning their necks for a better view. Smiles abound. Arrayed in all her splendour, the bride is adored.
Terry Martens of Hoffnungsfelder Mennonite Church, Sask., volunteers with Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) as a cook. She often uses this recipe when cooking for MDS volunteers. She supplied the recipe for the column, Gathering Around the Table. The story that goes with it can found here.
Mennonite Church Canada has created lasting relationships with indigenous communities such as Cross Lake, Man. In 1943, Henry Gerbrandt served the community in fulfilling his commitment as a conscientious objector to war. In 1956, Otto and Margaret Hamm moved to the community. A church was built in 1957, and a new one in 2005.
The times we live in seem to change more rapidly with each passing day. In North America, Europe and elsewhere, protectionist sentiments, growing nationalism and increased border controls are becoming commonplace.
“This isn’t really working out the way I imagined,” I mused, as my mother slept in her chair while I worked on her birthday dessert. I had just ended a phone call with my son, my consultant on the somewhat complicated-to-assemble treat. He was a relative expert, having made two of them compared to my none.
Just imagine you are there, sitting on the hillside, listening to Jesus. It’s past mealtime and your stomach starts to rumble, but his words mesmerize you and you don’t want to leave. You notice the disciples talking together and gesturing to the crowd. Then you see a boy approach and offer a small bundle. You watch Jesus open the bundle, offer a prayer and begin to pass out the food.
Firefighting in British Columbia was one of the tasks assigned to Canadian conscientious objectors (COs) during the Second World War. They were ‘the best firefighters we ever had,’ according to Jim Pedly from the forestry service. From spring 1942 to spring 1944, the COs spent 4,875 days training and on standby, and 8,470 days fighting 234 forest fires. Fighting fires in the B.C.