Readers write

November 9, 2011 | Viewpoints | Number 22

Should governments fund spiritual care?

Re:  “Financial crisis looms,” Sept 19, page 22.

Part of my professional responsibility as corporate services vice-president/chief financial officer for South Eastman Health Inc. is the negotiating of funding agreements with faith-based personal care homes in rural Manitoba on behalf of a regional health authority.

Reading about the struggles of the Bethania Group to fund its spiritual care program resonates with me. Several years ago, facilities in our region struggled with accumulated operating debts that threatened the viability of their operations. In some cases, these debts included several years of accounts receivable from “supporting constituencies” for their non-publicly funded spiritual-care programs. Recognizing spiritual care as a key determinant of health, the regional health authority board decided to step in and support development of a funding model that subsidized the cost of the facilities programs.

While I admire the board for its vision and commitment to the residents of these important facilities, as a member of a constituent church, it still grieves me that this was necessary.

Evelyn Rempel-Petkau’s opening question is apropos: “What makes a Mennonite personal care home Mennonite?” It’s a question the regional health authority board now asks itself with regularity. If a home cannot rally the support of its faith-based constituency for its spiritual-care program, what exactly would generate support? Would boards of faith-based personal care homes accept the provincial government subsidizing the salaries of their respective congregational pastors? If not, why is it acceptable for their personal care homes?

Ron Janzen, Steinbach, Man.

Column provides corrective to editorial question

Among the many good articles found in Canadian Mennonite, Dan Graber’s From Our Leaders column, “What shapes us?”, Sept. 19, page 10, was timely and well written. It provided a much-needed corrective to a question raised  in the Sept. 5 editorial, “Food as faith formation”: “Do some of us wish the cultural ornaments would just disappear so that we could focus on more substantive issues—like justice, peace, the good news of Jesus, and creation care?” The wording of this question supports the misunderstanding that justice, peace, etc., are not part of the good news of Jesus, but at best fit somewhere outside of what Jesus is really all about. This was a poorly worded sentence in an otherwise good editorial.

Clarence Epp, Winnipeg, Man.

Putting Young Voices in their proper place

It’s a good thing that I read Canadian Mennonite from the back to front because it puts Young Voices where I believe they should be: front and centre. I suppose for those who read the magazine from front to back, they can take solace that Young Voices are getting the last word!

Pam Bartel, Elmira, Ont.

Church needs to hear from ‘young voices’

I was immediately “hooked in” to the Oct. 3 issue when I read Dick Benner’s editorial (“Hearing young voices,” page 2) about the church’s role in encouraging and mentoring younger generations to become the leadership segment of the church. As Benner aptly put it, “[W]e should gradually let go of the levers of power in the congregation and intentionally position our sons and daughters . . . to take over responsibility as we counsel them toward goals—dreams—that we haven’t brought to fruition despite our best efforts.”

In our Wanner Mennonite congregation in Cambridge, Ont., the mentorship program is being revived. Being a part of such a program gives us, as older members, the opportunity for precious personal time with our youths.

I am pleased to see the new Young Voices section in this publication. These pages can encourage our young adults to express their goals and dreams, and in so doing will help us to be supportive of them. It is so important to bring new ideas and vision to our congregations in order to keep us vibrant and current in expressing our faith.

Marge Unger, Cambridge, Ont.

Biblical signs of the last days

Re: “I’m a human being,” Sept. 5, page 12.

We must be living in the last days of grace according to two biblical signs: strange teachings and the rapid spread of the gospel.

Life in the Postmodern Shift columnist Troy Watson writes, “God isn’t a Christian and he didn’t create us to be Christian either.” What next!

While the church in the wealthy West is getting more worldly, the poor, persecuted underground church in China is growing at the rate of 15,000 new members every day, as reported by the Canadian Bible Society.

In the book Back to Jerusalem: Called to Complete the Great Commission, written by three Chinese church leaders with Paul Hattaway, the authors write of their spiritual vision to send 100,000 missionaries across China’s borders to evangelize the 10-40 latitude zone in this generation.

God is building his kingdom not with glass cathedrals, but by born-again, spirit-filled lives that cannot get enough of God’s Word and are willing to risk all to serve their Lord.

C. Neil Klassen, Rosemary, Alta.

Too much made of Jets’ logo

A big “thumbs down” to Dan Swartzentruber and the decision-makers at Canadian Mennonite for publishing his article, “Should Mennos cheer for fighter Jets?”, along with giving this topic front-cover status. There are so many other global issues that we should concentrate on and read about in this magazine. This was very disappointing, to say the least.

To all Menno Jets’ fans in Winnipeg: Let’s enjoy the return of NHL hockey without worrying about being chastised by Menno Leafs’ fans. Go, Jets, go!

Doug Fast, Winnipeg, Man.

Canadian Mennonite gives in to sensationalism, disrespect

I was perplexed by the choice of cover for the Oct. 3 issue of Canadian Mennonite and the ensuing articles related to the Winnipeg Jets’ logo. To be clear, the current logo would not have been my choice.

But the display and discussion of the logo was sensationalist at best and paralleling fundamentalism at worst. The return of the Jets to Winnipeg, Man., created enormous hype in the city and among hockey enthusiasts throughout the country. Many people are genuinely happy for Winnipeg.

It appears that Canadian Mennonite has simply piggy-backed on this hype and focused on the symbol instead of the content. It is reminiscent of the fundamentalist who uses any excuse to go on a rant about a pet topic, but regularly misses the larger context.

Should Mennonite Jets fans all feel guilty or sheepish for cheering for their hockey team? The subtle implication on the cover is, yes. “Should Mennos cheer for fighter Jets?” What a ridiculous question!

Should the players on the ice not receive the support of fans because of the marketing department’s choice of logo?

What about the Toronto Maple Leafs? Are Mennos who cheer for the Leafs trumpeting patriotism and buying into nationalist fervour because the Leafs’ symbol is Canada’s national symbol?

Or should we equate support for the Edmonton Oilers as a quiet disregard for the environmental impact of the petroleum industry?

Have the Buffalo Sabres been excessively violent because they have swords in their logo?

Will Winnipeg’s players really be more violent because of the fighter jets in their logo?

As David Driedger suggests, a logo simply attempts to capture the imagination and market share.

Canadian Mennonite similarly tried to capture the imagination of the reader with sensationalism, but did so with disrespect, holding up a straw man and heaping it with judgment.

As a frequent reader of Canadian Mennonite, I expect more.

Abe G. Bergen, Winnipeg, Man.

The RCAF exists so ‘that others may live’

Re: “Say NO to the logo,” Oct. 3, page 4.

Symbols can mean what you want them to mean—peace or violence—like the crucifix over the course of history. At the Royal Canadian Air Force base where I work as a civilian mechanic on search and rescue helicopters, the caption under the large RCAF logo reads: “That others may live.”

I’ve come to appreciate some of the positive aspects of the Canadian air force. Many lives are saved day and night by the RCAF, often in severe weather conditions that put service-men and -women, many of whom have family values and beliefs much like ours, at great risk.

Not only do aircraft patrol the coastline for submarines, they also work with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. The crews spend long hours over the ocean looking for illegal fishing, migrant and drug smuggling, and polluters. They also perform rescue missions using air-droppable survival pods.

Should Mennos cheer for the Jets? If not, what about the New Jersey Devils? But I guess that’s a whole other hockey game.

Alvin Werner, Comox, B.C.

Don’t stop teaching our children

Re: “Sunday is not a day for school,” Oct. 17, page 9.

Will Braun has helpfully opened the door to conversation about children’s spirituality. There is growing consensus among those who study children’s spirituality that young, pre-rational children have a strong intuitive sense of the supernatural. They also agree that children of this age resonate deeply with religious rituals and worship practices. Integrating children into these worship activities nurtures their spirituality and helps them develop sustaining habits at increasingly deeper levels as they grow older. That’s why children belong in worship. Children are also shaped by observing adults deeply engaged in worship, especially if worship includes movement and participation.

It is true that Sunday school in Mennonite churches has often placed greater emphasis on learning about God than on experiencing God, as Braun posits in his column. However, the Sunday school curriculum developed in the early 1990s began to correct that balance. Gather ’Round, introduced in 2006, places an even greater emphasis on framing all sessions in worship, and includes many suggested rituals to practise in a group setting.

Calling it Sunday school can be problematic, especially for those who have negative associations with school. This perception persists among those who are not well acquainted with life in a contemporary elementary school setting. That’s why many now prefer to call what happens in our congregations on a Sunday morning “children’s ministry” or “children’s church.” Whatever you call it, though, let’s not stop teaching our children!

I hope and pray our congregations and homes will increasingly grow as places where children encounter the holy and learn about God’s big story, and that this will take place through age-appropriate nurture and in participatory, ritual-filled worship. And I hope we will one day soon have more places for passing on the rich insights of those who study children’s spirituality.

Elsie Rempel, Winnipeg, Man.

Elsie Rempel is a formation consultant for Mennonite Church Canada

Share this page: Twitter Instagram

Add new comment

Canadian Mennonite invites comments and encourages constructive discussion about our content. Actual full names (first and last) are required. Comments are moderated and may be edited. They will not appear online until approved and will be posted during business hours. Some comments may be reproduced in print.