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A love for all seasons

Feature | By Muriel Bechtel | May 06, 2015

“Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away; for lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come . . . . Rise up my love, and come away” (Song of Songs 2:10b-12a, 13b, KJV)

I learned these words from Song of Songs by singing them in choirs, but I’ve never heard them read or sung in church. Over the many years of wider church conversations about human sexuality and studying the Bible to seek God’s will, I don’t recall Song of Songs ever being used.

An urgent search for water in Mozambique

Doga Jose washes clothes with water drawn from the well drilled in 2014 in Ndoro, Caia District. (Photo: Matthew Sawatzky, for Mennonite Central Committee)

Feature | By Julie Bell | Apr 22, 2015 | 1 comment

Six men grasp the long metal handle of the drill and walk slowly in a circle. They lean into the task, using body weight to drive the shaft of the drill into the dry soil of Mozambique’s Caia District.

They have hand-drilled some five metres down and have farther to go, possibly four metres or more. Even then, there’s no guarantee the water will be potable. An attempt at a nearby location was abandoned after three days of drilling when workers found water too salty to be used.

Mennonite me

Feature | By Robin A. Fast | Apr 22, 2015 | 15 comments

My grandmother’s church is, like all Old Order Mennonite churches, plain. The white walls are bare. There are no stained-glass windows, no gilded altars and no images of saints or martyrs. Pews of hard, blonde oak sit in tight rows on worn linoleum.

Out of control

Feature | By Anita Fast | Apr 08, 2015 | 2 comments

“A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household! So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops.

Correcting a common misunderstanding

Anita Fast
Feature | By Anita Fast | Apr 08, 2015

Matthew 10:37 reads, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”

These verses have justified the rejection of countless sons and daughters who don’t conform to their parents’ understanding of what it means to love Jesus. If I really love Jesus, the thinking goes, then I must disown my child. Perhaps she’s joined the military. Perhaps he’s come out as gay. Perhaps she’s married a Buddhist.

Healing the wounded city

Feature | By Derek Cook | Mar 25, 2015 | 1 comment

For many people, the Christian faith and poverty are deeply interconnected. Acts of charity are widely viewed as a key aspect of the Christian life, and the church has a long history of providing relief and advocacy for justice for the poor.

The birth of Anabaptism in fire and water

Anneken de Vlaster, an Anabaptist woman, is thrown into the fire in 1571, as pictured in Herald Press’s Martyrs Mirror.

Feature | By Valerie G. Rempel | Mar 11, 2015

Sometimes, a single act can have enormous consequences.

In the religious ferment of 16th century Europe, a small group of Christians in the Swiss canton of Zurich gathered in a home on a wintry January day in 1525. One of them, George Blaurock, asked another, Conrad Grebel, to baptize him. Around the circle they went, baptizing each other in what they understood to be their first true baptism. It was a baptism performed upon their confession of faith in Jesus as Lord. It was a radical act that earned many of them a martyr’s death.

Facing history with courage

Indigenous students and their families arrive by plane for a Mennonite-run Bible school at Stormer Lake in northwestern Ontario in 1981. (Photo by Martin Frey)

Feature | By Elaine Enns | Feb 25, 2015

“History,” wrote American poet Maya Angelou more than 20 years ago, “despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.”

Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) has completed four years of hearings and investigations, witnessing testimonies from some 7,000 survivors of Indian Residential Schools and their legacy. As TRC chair Murray Sinclair repeatedly reminds us, “This legacy is not an Indian problem; it is a Canadian problem.”

Definition: ‘Settler’

Feature | By Elaine Enns | Feb 25, 2015

The term “settler” for Canadians of European descent was popularized by Roger Epp in his 2008 book, We are all Treaty People. This term acknowledges—rather than ignores—the conflicted history of the colonial project that began in Eastern Canada in the late 1500s. In the Canadian west in the late 19th century, the Canadian government aggressively recruited Europeans, including Mennonites, for the express purpose of settling and populating land on the Prairies that was being “opened up.” The problem, of course, was that these lands were traditional native territory.

Making ‘restorative solidarity’ work

Feature | By Elaine Enns | Feb 25, 2015

In an appendix to Ambassadors of Reconciliation, Vol. II: Diverse Christian Practices of Restorative Justice and Peacemaking (Orbis Books), which I co-wrote, I explored the question of how principles and practices of restorative justice might be applied to historic and continuing violence, as is the case regarding indigenous justice in Canada.

In this article, I am proposing that settler Mennonites, through “restorative solidarity,” embrace historical “response-ability” concerning the colonial legacy. This entails:

For discussion: Pulling the curtain of hope over fear

Barb Draper
Feature | By Barb Draper | Feb 11, 2015

1. What are your fears about the church? How much do we fear the declining involvement of young people? How much do we fear secularism? Do we fear a decline in financial support for our churches and institutions? Does it feel as though God is abandoning the church?

The joy of pizza

Feature | By Chris Brnjas | Feb 11, 2015

My wife Rachel and I wanted to start practising radical hospitality, but we live in a cosy basement apartment. It would be so much easier if we had our own house with lots of common space. But we felt Jesus was calling us to open up our doors with the room we did have.

We had developed a habit of making our own pizza on Mondays for ourselves. Sometimes we would invite specific people over, but for the most part just the two of us enjoyed the pizza. Then we asked each other, what would happen if we invited anyone and everyone to come join us?

Potluck picnics in the park

Feature | By Jessica Reesor Rempel | Feb 11, 2015 | 1 comment

If you find yourself in Victoria Park in Kitchener, Ont., on a Thursday evening in the summertime, wander down the tree-lined path and over the bridge until you reach the island. You will pass families from many cultures out for an evening stroll or a drum circle under the gazebo. Keep going. Just past the gazebo you will find a colourful mismatched collection of blankets and tablecloths spread with an abundant feast: a potluck picnic in the park.

Pulling the curtain of hope over fear

Feature | By Chris Brnjas and Jessica Reesor Rempel | Feb 11, 2015 | 1 comment

Mennonite churches are afraid. In fact, Christian denominations all over Canada are afraid. We have felt this, seen it and experienced it. Sometimes this fear leads denomi-nations to do reckless things. Sometimes it reaches the point of despair. Why so much fear?

The cause, we are told, is the youth and young adults; apparently they’re leaving. The youth group numbers are getting microscopic, and the college and careers are non-existent. Some churches are blessed to have a “vibrant” youth group or a popular young adult sub-section, but rare is the church that has both.

For discussion: Breaking the peace

Barb Draper
Feature | By Barb Draper | Jan 28, 2015

1. What acts of servanthood have you seen carried out by church leaders? Do your church leaders take a turn working in the kitchen? What message do they send when they do menial jobs? What does it mean to be a servant leader?

2. In what situations does a congregation need a hierarchical structure of authority? What happens when there is no formal structure? What happens when people try to assert their authority outside of the formal structure? Does a clear hierarchical model reduce church conflict?

Breaking the peace

Feature | By Ike Glick | Jan 28, 2015

What to do?” is our anxious impulse.

“In the beginning,” God was revealed in creation before there was anyone to appreciate the self-disclosure this represented. It was long before any documentation by either Scripture or photograph was possible.

For discussion: A biblical and better way

Feature | By By Barb Draper | Jan 14, 2015

1. How has our society’s attitude toward same-sex relationships changed in the past 20 or 30 years? Who or what has contributed to this shift? How much has the church changed its attitude on this issue?

A biblical and better way

Photo credit: iStock.com/Jodie777

Feature | By By Ronald J. Sider | Jan 14, 2015 | 6 comments

Theologically conservative Christians are widely perceived as hostile to gays. And it is largely our own fault.

Many of us have actually been homophobic. Most of us tolerated gay bashers. We did not deal sensitively and lovingly with young people in our churches struggling with their sexual orientation. We even had the gall to blame gay people for the collapse of marriage in our society, ignoring the obvious fact that the main problem by far is that many heterosexuals do not keep their marriage vows. We have often failed to distinguish gay orientation from gay sexual activity.

For discussion: An ‘experiment’ in sexuality gone wrong

Feature | By By Barb Draper | Dec 24, 2014 | 1 comment

1. What has changed since the 1970s and ’80s that conversations about sexual misconduct and sexual abuse are so much more prevalent these days? Does sexual violence happen more now, or are we just more ready to talk about it? Does a sexualized culture make sexual violence more prevalent? Are we less apt to silence or blame victims than formerly?

With aching hearts

Feature | Dec 24, 2014

Some readers have called for a moratorium on reports about John Howard Yoder’s past misdeeds. We acknowledge that continued attention to this issue has caused pain to Yoder’s family, friends and colleagues, as well as to the women who suffered because of his actions.

An ‘experiment’ in sexuality gone wrong

John Howard Yoder explains the presuppositions that underpin the concept of a Just War at the 1984 peace seminar at Strawberry Creek Lodge in Alberta. (Mennonite Reporter archives photo by Allan Siebert)

Feature | By By Rachel Waltner Goossen | Dec 24, 2014 | 1 comment

The following is excerpted from a longer article, “ ‘Defanging the beast’: Mennonite responses to John Howard Yoder’s sexual abuse,” in Mennonite Quarterly Review No. 89 (January 2015), based on newly available documents and interviews with 29 individuals. Readers interested in Goossen’s work in its entirety, including documentation for women’s accounts of their experiences as well as Mennonite institutional responses, may order a hard copy of the issue from MQR.

For discussion:Three meditations on Christmas mysteries

Feature | By By Barb Draper | Dec 10, 2014

1. What strangers have you encountered this Christmas season? Who are the wise and contemplative thinkers who help us to see where heaven is reaching down to earth? How do we make room in our lives for strangers and wise ones?

2. Edna Froese writes that “Christmas . . . is so often about returning and not being able to return, about being at home and not being at home. About hope.” Do you agree? How does a time away change our perspective of home?

How ‘The Commitment’ came to be

"The Commitment" by Lynda Toews, 2014

Feature | By Story, art and photos by Lynda Toews | Dec 10, 2014

It all began in January 2014. My husband Gary and I started to research conventional nativity art and arrived at a new vision. We decided to focus attention on the very humble and usually invisible Joseph.

From then, the painting took three months to create, beginning with buying old sheets from Mennonite Central Committee for sewing some first-century costumes.

Three meditations on Christmas mysteries

That Jesus is thus a union of divine and mortal signals an ancient truth that underlies all worship: from creation onward, in love’s deep sacrifice, God’s outstretched eternal finger touches the outstretched finger of the mortal Adam. (Credit: Commons.wikimedia.org)

Feature | By By Edna Alison Froese | Dec 10, 2014

A gathering of strangers

The Christmas stories include an odd assortment of strangers. The guest list for the party that would eventually become the familiar nativity scene omitted all of the proper people: no clergy—you would have thought that the founder of a new religion could have been welcomed by the licensed prophets at least, if not the priests; no politicians—although they did try to crash the party; not even extended family—although social historians of the pe-riod insist that such an isolated birth, hidden away from everyone, was quite unlikely.

For discussion: "The desert of Advent: our passage to Christmas" and "A mother’s perspective on Advent"

Feature | By By Barb Draper | Nov 19, 2014

1. Stuart Scadron-Wattles says that waiting in expectation is a difficult balancing act. What experiences have you had of waiting with expectation? What makes it difficult? Do we recognize and accept what we’re waiting for when it comes?

2. Scadron-Wattles contrasts “getting into the Christmas spirit” with journeying through the desert of Advent to get to Christmas. Do you find yourself trying to get into the spirit of Christmas? How is that different from approaching Advent as a desert to cross? Do you find the image of Advent as a desert helpful?

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