Several Mennonites have been in the news this past week, one with an op-ed piece in the local Kitchener-Waterloo Record, another featured as a “true saint of the community,” and yet another group, the young people of the David Martin Mennonites playing Canada's classic winter sport—ice hockey in a photo essay in the Globe and Mail.
In his op-ed piece, Ernie Regehr, research fellow of the Institute of Peace and Conflict studies at Conrad Grebel University College, reminded readers of U.S. president Dwight Eisenhower's famous warning 50 years ago that an emerging “military-industrial complex” would wield unhealthy and unwarranted influence—“economic, political and even spiritual” over their political life if it were unchecked.
The “true saint” turns out to be Brice Balmer, chaplain, college professor and community organizer for 30 years, described as a “passionate advocate for marginalized people and the poor in the Waterloo region,” according to newspaper reporter Frances Barrick. And in a tribute to Balmer in an editorial in Saturday's paper, the paper said “he brings to each cause a passionate but measured voice that is difficult for even the most stubborn cynic to tune out.” A member of Rockway Mennonite Church, Balmer describes himself not as a traditional minister, but as a community minister. “I open doors for people to make it a better community.”
Balmer, an avid gardner, works with local, provincial and federal governments to establish what he calls a “poverty-free Waterloo region.”
Ever fascinated with the more conservative Mennonites, a reporter from the Globe and Mail, in his attempt to point out that even Old Order Mennonites can play and not work non-stop, portrays the young people of the David Martin Mennonites as fun-loving despite their lifestyle of hard work. “On Saturday mornings during most of the year,” Peter Power writes, “Mennonite boys and men would be hard at work at family farms or businesses, but winter affords an opportunity to relax in classic Canadian fashion, on an outdoor rink.”
The stories about some of the 20,000 Mennonites of this region show the breadth and depth of their involvement in the community, from urban to rural, from conservative to progressive at the highest levels of Canadian life and culture.
—Updated Jan. 22, 2011