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Instilling faith at home

(Photo ©iStock.com/ADL21)

Feature | By Carmen Brubacher and Paul Heidebrecht | Nov 02, 2016

At times we have been both inspired and overwhelmed by the parenting books that crowd bookstore and library shelves. We have also found useful advice, and a dauntingly high bar, in countless parenting blogs and social media posts. This abundance of resources is one indication that we live in a society that takes child-rearing very seriously.

Take, bless, break

But it was not in Jesus’ nature to send people away. Maybe he sensed an opportunity to turn a crowd into a community, a chance to live out God’s idea of abundance and hospitality. (Woodcut for 'Die Bible in Bildern' [1860] by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld)

Feature | By Michele Rizoli | Oct 19, 2016

The Evansons were out of our league. We were a plain old missionary family coming from rural New Hamburg, Ont., and they were über-educated university professors from glamorous Colorado, U.S.A. But as she so often did when newcomers arrived in Brazil, my mom took the Evansons under her wing. She picked them up at the airport and then helped them find a place to live, furniture, schools for the kids, and so on.

Why Mennonite education matters

Feature | By Terry Schellenberg | Oct 05, 2016

"Why should young people from our congregations choose a Christian college or university like Columbia Bible College in Abbotsford, B.C., Conrad Grebel University College in Waterloo, Ont., or Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) in Winnipeg, instead of a public university?” The question posed to me for this piece is often seen as the either-or choice for students, and the obvious starting point for conversation.

A misunderstood people

(Photo by Sandra Kienitz)

Feature | By Edgar Stoesz | Sep 21, 2016

Many U.S. and Canadian Mennonites think of German-speaking Mennonites in Mexico as a backward people in a Wild West country. We read of Mennonites involved in drug trafficking and ask ourselves, “Can this be?”

Unfortunately, it can, and this negative image is reinforced by the conduct of fringe Mexican Mennonites who appear in Canada, some for seasonal employment.

coping grieving remembering

This tattoo on her torso is how one woman copes with, grieves and remembers her miscarried child. Our page 4 feature by Manitoba correspondent Beth Downey Sawatzky, ‘Coping, grieving, remembering,’ offers churches suggestions for helping women—and their families—to deal with pregnancy loss. (Photo: ‘Miscarriage Tattoo’ © by Stacy Lynn Baum / creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/)

Feature | By Beth Downey Sawatzky | Sep 07, 2016

Holly (a pseudonym) began experiencing serial pregnancy loss several years ago, after the birth of her youngest son. In her mind, the words “church” and “support” don’t really go together. While she uses the word “Mennonite” nominally when necessary, she now practises what she calls her do-it-yourself religion, having given up on the idea of church as a source of spiritual care 20 years back.

When your services are no longer required

Feature | By Henry Neufeld | Aug 24, 2016 | 11 comments

“So this is how Mennonite Church Canada handles layoffs due to shrinking budgets. This was my mom’s experience today: show up to work; given the news; laptop taken away; password changed; escorted off the premises to a taxi. Who treats my mommy that way?” (Posted by Daniel Rempel on Facebook)

Advice for those ‘no longer required’

Feature | By © April Yamasaki | Aug 24, 2016

Since I shared my husband’s painful job loss through no fault of his own, I’ve received many emails and other private messages from people who have also experienced difficult endings in their employment. Some have changed churches or denominations, or left ministry all together. Some have been close to suicide and still struggle with depression and anxiety.

We can always afford to be generous

Levels of trust

Feature | By Lori Guenther Reesor | Aug 10, 2016

Peach Blossom Church almost always meets its budget, although some years involve more drama than others. It still engages a full-time pastor, fixes the roof and supports mission workers. In 15 minutes, it can raise $5,000 to send the youth group on a mission trip.

But lately it hasn’t been giving as much money to the denomination. Nor have its individual members. So, why is this? It seems the good folks at Peach Blossom, like many other Canadian Christians, trust their local church more than they trust their denomination.

Hope through lament and loss

Randell Neudorf, pastor of the Commons church in Hamilton, Ont., speaks in favour of the resolution to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery. Neudorf spoke of wanting his son, who has an Ojibway background, to grow up  in a land that sees him and his people as full members of the human family. The Doctrine of Discovery is an historical belief that lands without Christian inhabitants were empty and open to the predation of Christian princes. The Doctrine continues to influence the law about Indigenous Peoples in Canada. (Photo by Dave Rogalsky)

Feature | By Dave Rogalsky | Jul 20, 2016

“A season of change,” lament, fear, anxiety, confession, uncertainty, safe space, brave space . . . hope.

The lucky struggle

Seasonal agricultural workers from Mexico weed onions at Kroeker Farms, south of Winkler, Man. (Photo by Will Braun)

Feature | By Will Braun | Jun 28, 2016

Fortune and misfortune can look the same in a world of incomprehensible inequality. Each year, many thousands of Jamaicans apply for coveted temporary jobs on Canadian farms. The lucky applicants will work mostly on fruit farms and greenhouse operations under the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP). They can stay for up to eight months, but their families must stay at home.

Meet the pastors who moonlight

Besides his year-round ministerial duties at Eigenheim Mennonite Church, near Rosthern, Sask., Allan Friesen works each summer as an interpretive guide at the historic Fort Carlton Provincial Park, teaching school children and tourists about the fur trade and the signing of Treaty 6. (Photo by Maryvel Friesen)

Feature | By Donna Schulz | Jun 15, 2016

Someone once said, “There’s no such thing as part-time pastors, only part-time salaries.” If this is true, a lot of congregations within Mennonite Church Canada are getting good value for their money.

Bi-vocational ministry has become increasingly commonplace as churches decrease in size and can no longer afford full-time pastors. Even large congregations who employ pastoral teams frequently have one or two part-time ministers on their payroll. For better or worse, part-time ministry is here to stay and may become even more prevalent in the future.

An open letter on Future Directions

From left to right: Chris Lenshyn, Ryan Dueck, Krista Loewen, Jeff Friesen, Susie Guenther Loewen, David Driedger, Virginia Gerbrandt Richert, Kyle Penner, Carrie Martens, Kevin Derksen.

Feature | Jun 01, 2016 | 3 comments

We are a group of pastors from each of the five area churches who have gathered around the current Future Directions Task Force conversations in an effort to understand and respond together. We write as younger pastoral leaders with hopes for many years yet in service to the Mennonite church in Canada, and so with a significant stake in this ongoing process. We would like to offer the following reflections, encouragements and prayers for our shared family of faith.

Prayer of preparation for Assembly 2016

Feature | Jun 01, 2016 | 1 comment

As delegates prepare to gather for Assembly 2016, a group of 10 pastors from across Mennonite Church Canada wrote an open letter on the Future Directions process. They write, “In a spirit of pastoral response, we offer the following prayer to help gather God’s people around both the Future Directions and BFC processes as they come to fruition in Saskatoon this summer.

Guard your heart and mind

‘I learned that mental illness runs in my family, so I come by this quite honestly. It has been a long road back and it’s not like I am completely free of anxiety. I will always live with a tendency towards it,’ (Artwork: ‘Hear my prayer,’ by Linda Klippenstein / linda.klippenstein.ca)

Feature | By Angelika Dawson | May 18, 2016

I memorized Philippians 4:4-9 more than 20 years ago when I was on bed rest during my pregnancy with my son Aaron. I had lost three babies before him—and one after him—so pregnancy for me was an obvious cause for anxiety.

If truth be known, I am actually a professional worrier, so passages like this one sometimes feel like they were written specifically for me: Hey, Angelika! Quit worrying, start praying. Be thankful; guard your heart and mind.

Communion and Cabernet

‘Alcohol has become ubiquitous in Canada, so much so that on April 5 even Starbucks began serving beer and wine in three of its Toronto outlets,’ writes Alberta correspondent Donita Wiebe-Neufeld in ‘Communion and Cabernet,’ our page 4 feature that offers suggestions on how the church can better handle discussions on faith and alcohol. / Photo: istock.com/ventdusud

Feature | By Donita Wiebe-Neufeld | May 04, 2016

Alcohol has become ubiquitous in Canada, so much so that on April 5 even Starbucks began serving beer and wine in three of its Toronto outlets.

How does this preponderance of alcohol affect life in the Mennonite church? While there may not be alcohol in church buildings, it is certainly a part of the lives of its people. It has become the norm at wedding receptions, is brewed in the homes of more than a few church members and is served at many of their social get-togethers.

What’s up with Mennos and mission?

MC Canada Witness workers Nathan and Taryn Dirks are pursuing the development of a safe community park in a rough area of Gaborone, Botswana, and Sunday school children in Canada recently raised money to help provide a climbing structure for their counterparts there. To learn more about the work of Nathan and Taryn Dirks, visit canadianmennonite.org/gabarone-futsal-field

Feature | By Deborah Froese | Apr 20, 2016

About eight years ago, Daniel Pantoja shared the approach he and his wife Joji employed as Mennonite Church Canada Witness Workers in the Philippines: “Toss aside western church culture and rhetoric.” By shaping their approach from a Muslim context, they bridged the gap between perception and Jesus.

Marriage in embodied mystery

Feature | By Bruce Hiebert | Apr 06, 2016 | 2 comments

Marriage has always been, and continues to be, a perplexing reality for Christians. From the Apostle Paul’s confusing advice to the more recent agonizing over divorce, Christian marriage has been plagued by anxiety and confusion. The conflicts in the church today are only the most recent chapter in millennia of struggle.

Easter is past . . . where is Jesus now?

'The Miraculous Draught of Fishes' by Konrad Witz, 1444 (En.Wikipedia.org)

Feature | By Udo Woelke | Mar 23, 2016

Excerpted and translated from a sermon preached at Niagara United Mennonite Church, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., on April 26, 2015. It is based on chapter 21 of the Gospel of John, the well-known story of the disciples back in Galilee shortly after Easter.

Encountering the vulnerable Jesus

A Lenten display on the theme of ‘Living ink’ at Stirling Avenue Mennonite Church, Kitchener, Ont. (Photo by D. Michael Hostetler)

Feature | By Chris Lenshyn | Mar 09, 2016

Lent is a 40-day season on the church calendar that brings the story of Jesus into the nitty-gritty of community life. It brings the story into everyone’s own particular time and place.

Lent is a time that commemorates the 40 days Jesus spent in solitude, silence and fasting in the wilderness. During this time in the wilderness, Jesus was tested and confronted with his own human vulnerabilities. Through Lent, we are invited into that same space of intentionality, to seek Jesus in the silence, coming to terms with our own vulnerabilities. It is not really all that much fun.

For what purpose has Christ grabbed hold of you?

Recognizing the ‘Lent twists’ helps us live purposefully toward and through difficult encounters.

Feature | By Elsie Hannah Ruth Rempel | Feb 24, 2016

A year ago, when a colleague and I spent an intense two days in the beautiful Fraser Valley of B.C. with the writing team for our Leader magazine, I met this passage again as part of the 2016 lectionary texts for Lent. Many important and life-giving words from these texts (including Isaiah 43:16-21, Psalm 126 and John 12:1-8) spoke to us and led us to the theme of “Living ink,” as well as to weekly sub-themes for this important church season.

What is ‘good’ and ‘acceptable’?

‘The marriage at Cana’ by Marten de Vos, c. 1596.

Feature | By Darrin W. Snyder Belousek | Feb 10, 2016 | 2 comments

In a time when western society is rapidly altering its image of marriage and government institutions have legally recognized same-sex marriage, the church is pressed to decide: Shall we follow suit?

Witness workers bring forth concerns about ‘Future Directions’

Feature | Jan 27, 2016

The following is an abridged version of a letter sent to the Future Directions Task Force and Mennonite Church Canada leaders that was signed by all 24 Witness workers in light of the Task Force’s concluding report (commonword.ca/go/469). The report focusses on two central questions: “What is God’s Spirit calling us to in the 21st century?” and, “What are the best ways (programs, structures, strategies) for the church to thrive and grow?”

Witness workers’ concerns acknowledged

Feature | By Aldred H. Neufeldt | Jan 27, 2016

On behalf of the Future Directions Task Force I express sincere thanks for the thought and time you’ve put into the open letter received last week from Norm Dyck, Mennonite Church Canada’s Witness Council chair. (See an abridged version of the letter at “Witness workers bring forth concerns about ‘Future Directions.’ ”)

The challenge of diversity

Mennonite World Conference (MWC) leaders from different nations and cultures spend time in prayer, Bible study and corporate discernment during a recent MWC Executive Committee meeting in Bogotá, Colombia. (Photo by Wilhelm Unger)

Feature | By Fernando Enns | Jan 13, 2016

Today, our community of Anabaptist-related churches spans the globe, incorporating people from many different cultural, ethnic and political backgrounds. We are, without a doubt, a diverse community. Whenever we gather, we enjoy this diversity and feel enriched.

Still, at times questions arise and we find ourselves irritated. Diversity is also a challenge! Are there limits to this diversity within our global Anabaptist family?

Clean or unclean?

‘Peter’s vision’ as depicted at Gosberton (U.K) Methodist Church, Oct. 1, 2011. (Photo: flickr.com/photos/peter2010/creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)

Feature | By Doug Klassen | Dec 23, 2015 | 1 comment

I was driving from Calgary out to Rosemary, Alta., to attend Bill and Bob Janzen’s mom’s funeral. As I drove I recalled hearing of times when everyone lived in large homes in long rows in Russian villages, each on five-acre plots. The farming was done all around the village and the Mennonites became very prosperous.

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