A place to belong: These few little words became especially important to me as I reflect not only on the upcoming 60th anniversary of Mennonite Women Canada in 2012, but also on a recent experience that helped me to see that such a “belonging place” had been missing in my own life since we moved and changed churches a few years ago.
Due to a friend’s serious illness, a group of women from my “new” home church decided to make a quilt for her. As we sat around that quilt frame—something new to me—for two evenings, I realized that it was “the fellowship of a ladies circle” that I had been missing, a place where laughter and a cup of coffee are as important as sharing our good, difficult and exciting times. For one of us this included jumping out of a perfectly fine airplane! It was a time to discover friendships, new and old, while trying to provide some touchable form of comfort for a friend.
Wasn’t this the reason our mothers and grandmothers met in their ladies clubs/circles, or yes, Frauenverein, to quilt, sew, cook or bake, providing items for those in need, whether they be next door or far away in a country they might never see?
Realizing what was missing in my own life was one thing, but discovering through two e-mail conversations shortly afterwards that I had not been the only one who had been touched by these evenings, became an unexpected blessing!
Both e-mails expressed a similar yearning for long-ago connections around a quilting frame as well as concern about the widespread loss of connection between today’s women.
“It is a discouraging fact,” wrote one, “that we, as a group of women, can all attend the same church for years, or not so many years, and still know so little about one another. . . . Spending time together would allow us to understand, support and hold one another accountable, as well as to share our faith story with those who know us and then with others.”
The other echoed similar thoughts, noting that “this mutual task of quilting helped us converse in a meaningful but casual way, just as our mothers and grandmothers might have done.” She also wondered whether anyone would have felt “connected enough” to go and watch her first-ever skydive the next morning if the quilting evening hadn’t happened?
Probably not. But we now have these shared but vastly different experiences of quilting, parachuting, and sharing our needs and thoughts through e-mail conversations, as a foundation for newfound friendships, and perhaps even the formation of a new faith-based place to belong. This new place may be similar—but different—from ladies groups/circles of the past, but they may better meet the needs of women in our churches today.
That’s something I’ve thought about for some time because I believe that today’s women are still looking for what our mothers and grandmothers looked for: fellowship, the opportunity to share our faith and God-given gifts, and to help spread the good news of Jesus Christ.
And I’m convinced that given time and patience, a renewed format, regardless of what activities it may pursue—whether quilting or parachuting, or something else entirely—will reflect what Mennonite Women Canada is hoping to portray in our current purpose statement which encourages us, like our mothers and grandmothers before us, to:
- Nurture our life in Christ.
- Acknowledge and share our gifts.
- Hear and support each other.
- Serve and minister across the street and around the world.
Waltrude Gortzen is the MC B.C. Women’s Ministry representative and a member of Emmanuel Mennonite Church, Abbotsford.
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