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For discussion

Feature | By by Barb Draper | Jul 24, 2013

1. Mennonite schools had been designed to keep students separate from the “modernizing secular world” while Conrad Grebel College was deliberately set within a large public university. What are the advantages and challenges of this approach? How has the Mennonite Church changed as it has participated more closely with the world since the 1960s?

The Grebel vision at 50 years

In 1963, Milton Good, the first board chair of Conrad Grebel College, looked out across Laurel Creek at the College building site.

Feature | Jul 24, 2013

An innovative experiment in higher education

By Susan Schultz Huxman
President, Conrad Grebel University College

Ministry in a very different world

Mennonite women enjoy ice cream and conversation at an auction sale in the Durango Colony, Mexico. (Photo by Margaret and Dave Penner)

Feature | By Will Braun | Jul 03, 2013 | 1 comment

In 2009, when Dave and Margaret Penner first went to work among Low German-speaking Mennonites in Mexico, they encountered a “vacuum.”

For discussion

Feature | By By Barb Draper | Jun 18, 2013

1. How has your church changed since the 1960s and ’70s? Have there been major changes in the church structures and programs? Do congregational leaders feel hopeful or anxious about the future? Are the structures and programs sustainable or does it feel as though it is time for a major shake-up?

Finding new paths through the wilderness

Feature | By By Evelyn Rempel Petkau | Jun 18, 2013 | 1 comment

There is a changing reality in many Mennonite churches today. Like other denominations, Mennonite congregations have long lost the gravitational pull they had in the early and mid-1900s, when community life revolved around church activities.

Many no longer have the burgeoning Sunday school classes of children that prompted churches to look at physical expansion in the 1960s and ’70s. Nominating committees everywhere face an uphill battle to fill committee positions in a world were busyness seems to be everyone’s mantra.

For discussion

Feature | By By Barb Draper | Jun 05, 2013

1. When you contemplate making a purchase or hiring a contractor, how do you get information about your options? As you narrow your options, what are the values or loyalties that guide your decisions? How big a role does price play? Is shopping locally important to you?

2. Does your community support a variety of local businesses, industries and artisan shops? Were there more in the past? Are you aware of all the small shops in your area? Do you agree with Tobias Roberts that, “[p]rioritizing what is local should be the centre around which our economic lives turn”?

The economy and my new pair of shoes

Feature | By Story and Photos by Tobias Roberts | Jun 05, 2013 | 1 comment

The other morning, after dreaming to the tune of the constant patter of rain on the tin roof of my house, I woke early to enjoy a morning stroll through the mountains of northern Guatemala. After an hour or so of watching the mystical dance of clouds caressing the valleys and peaks of the green hills, I began to notice that my right foot was soaking wet.

My favourite—and only—pair of shoes, brown Dockers bought at a thrift store a year-and-a-half ago, had finally worn out. With a hole the size of a quarter revealing my blackened sock, I needed a new pair of shoes.

For discussion

Feature | By By Barb Draper | May 22, 2013

1. What have been your experiences of suffering, either personally or by people around you? What are the biggest challenges of dealing with long-term suffering? Have you seen someone’s identity or personality change as a result of suffering? How have relationships been affected?

2. How do Christians react when prayers for healing go unanswered? How would you respond if someone asked, “Why do I suffer?” What was Jesus’ message in the story of the man who was born blind (John 9)? Why do some sufferers become bitter while others can feel thankful for redemption?

Tips for giving—and receiving—visits in the midst of chronic suffering

Feature | By Compiled by Donita Wiebe-Neufeld | May 22, 2013
  • Allow yourself to be open and vulnerable. People who suffer live with difficult questions. It is good to discuss them.

‘Where is God?’

Feature | By By Donita Wiebe-Neufeld | May 22, 2013

It’s hard to imagine a force powerful enough to keep an academic from his books, a father from playing with his children, a husband from attending to the wife he loves.

For discussion

Feature | By By Barb Draper | May 07, 2013

1. How big is the problem of poverty in your community? What local initiatives have tried to reduce poverty? Have they been successful? What circumstances lead to high levels of poverty? Do you have a sense of hope that the problems of poverty can be overcome?

2. Derek Cook suggests that our current social, economic and political systems value consumerism and independence, and operate on the assumption that resources are limited. Do you agree? Are these values polar opposites to Jesus’ description of God’s kingdom? Is this how the church is called to be countercultural?

The ART of hope

Our society is very good at dividing us into categories. We talk about the poor as though they are a separate species.

Feature | By By Derek Cook | May 07, 2013

"The poor will be with you always.” That is the message that seems to have been so frequently taken away from the gospel when we talk about poverty. That’s not a very encouraging message to someone who has been tasked with coming up with a way to end it.

For discussion

Feature | By By Barb Draper | Apr 23, 2013

1. How important is the Bible in your life? Do you think the church has lost its commitment to the Bible? Is your church presently wrestling with any passages of Scripture? Which ones have you wrestled with in the past? Are there passages that the church simply ignores?

2. Derek Suderman suggests that churches are sometimes tempted to concentrate on social justice or the material needs of the world, rather than struggling to discern the will of God. What is the important thing to learn about Jesus’ first temptation?

Wrestling with our identity

‘Jacob Wrestling with the Angel,’ by Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, circa 1659-60.

Feature | By By Derek Suderman | Apr 23, 2013

After being called the Son of God at his baptism, Jesus was challenged by the devil, underscoring the connection between this identity and action: “If you are the Son of God . . . .”

Re-imagining touch as a spiritual practice

Detail of ‘The Creation of Adam’ by Michelangelo, 1511.

Feature | By By Emma Pavey | Apr 10, 2013

Pinch the skin on the back of your hand, then release it and watch it fall. Your skin gradually slides back into place. Constantly healing and being recreated, our skin both protects us and offers us the sense of touch through which we experience the world. In our modern times, touch and religion can make for troubling associations, but I want us to re-imagine touch as holy and to see that a spiritual practice involving appropriate touch—and ways of connecting to God through touch—can offer healing, stability and solidarity in today’s touch-sensitive world.

CIDA minister praises MEDA project

Julian Fantino, Canada's minister for international cooperation, left, visits and EDGET weaving project.

Feature | By By Linda Whitmore | Mar 27, 2013

The sustainable approach to economic development in Ethiopia by Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA) was recognized recently by Julian Fantino, Canada’s minister for international cooperation.

During his visit, Fantino met with weavers involved in the Ethiopians Driving Growth through Entrepreneurship and Trade (EDGET) program. The project, which aims to help 10,000 farmers and weavers create more sustainable livelihoods for their families, receives funding from the Canadian government through the Canadian International Development Agency.

Bogale Kebede: Apostle to the Kaffa

Church delegates in front of the Bonga Meserete Kristos Church meetinghouse. 

Feature | By By Carl E. Hansen | Mar 27, 2013 | 1 comment

As the notorious persecutor Saul of Tarsus was transformed by God’s grace and is now remembered as the “apostle to the gentiles,” so Bogale Kebede, charged and imprisoned for murder, was transformed by God’s grace to become Christ’s apostle to the Kaffa.

For discussion

Feature | By By Barb Draper | Mar 13, 2013

1. What powerful stories have you heard in your congregation? Who did the telling? What was the setting? What made the story powerful? How did it influence the teller or the listeners? Was it important that the teller was physically present and not recorded on a video clip?

Storytelling and the people of God

Feature | By By Bruce Hiebert | Mar 13, 2013 | 1 comment

Reading the Bible for ethics calls for a new approach to community. Above all else, it calls for the centrality of storytelling: storytelling at the centre of the community, between community members and between communities.

Reading Scripture is about being transformed by Scripture, and interpreting Scripture is about accumulating power. But living in peace means finding a way to not only be transformed by Scripture, but to share power. We do that through storytelling, telling our stories about what we experienced and what it meant to us.

For discussion

Feature | By Barb Draper | Feb 27, 2013

1. Who in your congregation takes a leadership role in interpreting the Bible? How do they acquire that role? What happens if anyone challenges their interpretation? Who has been most influential in the development of your personal understanding of the Bible?

Power and community

Feature | By By Bruce Hiebert | Feb 27, 2013

Reading the Bible for ethics is an act of power. Reading the Bible for ethics is about using the language and images of the Bible to transform ourselves and those around us. It is not the power called control or force. It is the power called “shaping the operational imagination.” It is the power of seeing the world one way and not another, and then acting differently because of that way of seeing.

For discussion

Feature | By By Barb Draper | Feb 13, 2013

1. Bruce Hiebert says we will make better ethical decisions if our brains are filled with biblical images. Do you find his arguments convincing? Have we been doing a good job of immersing ourselves in the biblical stories? Have we been filling our minds with too many non-biblical images?

2. Hiebert suggests that it doesn’t matter if we don’t agree on how to interpret the Bible because it is the ethical lessons of the stories that are important. Does this approach feel liberating or threatening? What could happen to a congregation that tried to operate on his suggestion?

Imagination, hope and peace

Feature | By By Bruce Hiebert | Feb 13, 2013

Reading the Bible for ethics is no easy task. It means facing an obscure document held as vital by an older generation, but of increasing irrelevance to a changing world. Or does it?

It might be that, in fact, Scripture holds the keys to imagination, hope and how we actually go about evoking a world of peace. This alternative perspective is not one of faith or mysticism, but of the actual operation of the human brain. What neuro-psychology indicates is that the world is far less rational than we might think and that Scripture may be a vital part of how we succeed within it.

For discussion

Feature | Jan 30, 2013

1. Tom Yoder Neufeld says that teaching and learning are acts of faith, especially when it comes to sacred texts such as the Bible (page 6). What learning or teaching experiences have stretched or deepened your faith? Are there settings that are more effective than a traditional classroom? What factors encourage or hinder us from being eager to learn?

In conversation with Tom Yoder Neufeld

Ross W. Muir (left) and Tom Yoder Neufeld (right)

Feature | Jan 30, 2013

RWM: For much, if not all, of your adult life, you have served as a chaplain, pastor or professor. What—or who—were the influences in your growing-up years that led you to a life of ministry in these ways?

TYN: There is no doubt that my parents, engaged their whole life in missionary and pastoral work, instilled in me early a sense that ministry marks the Christian’s life. For me, that has taken various forms in various contexts, including the last three decades in teaching at Grebel.

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