It was the perfect way to spend a summer afternoon on the Prairies. Saskatchewan Mennonites gathered in a park near Mount Royal Mennonite Church in Saskatoon on Aug. 18 to listen to local musicians and get updates on different area church programs.
Sheltered under the blazing sun by a large, white tent, young people sat around on blankets while adults relaxed on their lawn chairs. Cold drinks—available by donation—helped to offset the heat.
Connecting with old friends was also on the mind of Jerry Buhler, Mennonite Church Saskatchewan’s area church minister. He described the reason for the “day in the park” as “just what’s happening here.”
The area church has planned similar events in previous years, but no two are ever the same. “Each year it has a slightly different flavour,” said Buhler. One year, there was a connection to Mennonite Central Committee. Another year, the focus was a tribute to a long-serving member of the provincial prison ministry known as Person 2 Person.
The focus for this day was music and there was a wide range of musical tastes represented. With an obvious affection for her guitar and soulful ballads, Val Wiebe of Langham Mennonite Church sang solos, while Gordon Allaby, pastor of Osler Mennonite, sang with his 14-year-old daughter, Katherine.
Allaby enjoyed it. “It was a good idea. I wish more churches beyond Saskatoon would engage,” he said, adding, “There was a good blend of different ages.”
As a father, he was pleased with the environment that his daughter sang in. “It felt safe, very supportive,” he said. “It was a very positive experience for her.”
Laura Buhler, who recently completed a term with the Saskatchewan Mennonite Youth Organization, enjoyed the event. “I was impressed that there were that many different kinds of musical acts,” she said. This type of event is attractive for young people, she noted, because it gives them a chance to perform.
Some of the groups that performed on Aug. 18 may not always feel welcome in a traditional morning service, but have ideas they want to express and share with the broader church community.
“Oh, absolutely,” said Renate Klassen. “It was good to have people of all ages acknowledge and support them. It stretches us to hear different genres. We don’t always have to hear four-part harmony.”
In the end, the “day in the park” was about celebrating community. “No-one was coerced,” said Klassen. “People came because they wanted to.”
Gordon Allaby, pastor of Osler Mennonite Church, performs with his 14-year-old daughter, Katherine, at a Mennonite Church Saskatchewan gathering in Saskatoon on Aug. 14.
Saskatchewan Mennonites of all ages gather in a park near Mount Royal Mennonite Church on Aug. 18 to listen to local musicians and get updates on different area church programs.