Intimate worship part of Mennonite DNA
The recent trend to larger “mega-churches” in North America may be as much a reflection of our culture as anything to do with religion. The concern for preserving a certain way of life did not have political legs here (U.S./Canada) as the big box stores moved in. In many other parts of the world, this was not the case. In Argentina, for example, this way of merchandising cannot get a foothold because the government has decided their population would rather pay a bit more and shop in their own neighbourhoods from a person with whom they have a personal relationship.
When Europe was being rebuilt after the last big war, agriculture subsidies became, and still are, an issue between Europe and North America. Charles de Gaulle said that France would do whatever it took to preserve the small farm because it was a part of French culture to continue living in a style that included small villages and farms with sheep and cows grazing in small, rolling fields tended by the owner.
As Mennonites, our whole cultural and spiritual history is full of resisting bigness and delegated authority. We have usually opted for a direct, personal and fairly private way of handling our cultural and spiritual affairs. The Anabaptist/Mennonite idea of worship was more a sense of fellowship of believers than a hierarchical and ritualistic structure. There was a very personal and intimate aspect to this that many of us cherish to this very day.
Does any of this make any difference in modern times? I suggest it does. My training in biology and genetics tells me that DNA carries not only physical characteristics, but also cultural and psychological ones that are established through repetition and become part of the genetic footprint. Carl Jung called this the “collective subconscious” and it’s inherited just like the colour of your skin. We may not always know exactly what these fuzzy characteristics are, but we do know what is comfortable and what is not.
I suggest being aware of these subtle aspects of our lives before we jump to the next shiny thing.
Richard Penner, Calgary, Alta.
More M2W2 volunteers sought in B.C.
Re: “An uncommon welcome,” March 19, page 4.
As Will Braun states in his wonderful story, welcoming those on probation is “what the church is called to do.” There is no question that Jesus was the ultimate M2W2 (Man to man/Woman to woman) volunteer, reaching out to repentant criminals right up to the cross.
Although there are 250 volunteers, both men and women, making regular prison visits in the B.C. Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley, there are still 234 requests for M2W2 volunteers.
Volunteers are welcomed by prison staff, wardens and, most of all, by the inmates. The effort is very rewarding, with new and lasting friendships not only with inmates but also camaraderie with volunteers. The rate of recidivism—repeating crime—is reduced, saving $180,000 per inmate per year.
Recently, Wayne Northey, M2W2 general director, received from Correctional Service Canada a very positive evaluation. In my experience, three of the inmates I visited are now released and leading productive lives. Two have come to faith.
Consider what you can trigger in heaven, as in the case of the lost coin, with “joy in heaven over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:7 NKJV). Your witness could well start a positive chain reaction.
George H Epp, Chilliwack, B.C.
Confident men honour both the masculine and feminine
Re: “Shifting male roles,” May 28, page 4.
I have just read the article by Doug Klassen.
Shoot. You can’t really print it, but my first and most heartfelt response to this article was an earnest, grieving curse word.
Klassen writes, “They are desperately lonely, they are depraved . . . but what many men fear the most is that someone is going to blow their cover.” With these words, he gets right to the tough stuff of an issue that most men cannot speak of, if we are even aware of it.
I agree that we men need more helpful role models than Homer Simpson and Chuck Norris. But I’m not sure how to respond with action even though I see how important and urgent an issue it is.
Any other men want to get together sometime and brainstorm or go camping? May the Holy Spirit direct our efforts to become role models of confident men who honour both the masculine and the feminine.
Michael Turman, Waterloo, Ont.
New social revolution creating needs for youths, parents
Re: “It takes a church to raise a child,” May 14,
Thank you to Canadian Mennonite and Evelyn Rempel Paetkau for the fine article on how the church can help families raise their children. As the bus shelter ads in my city read, parenting is a most important and challenging task.
I was so encouraged to read about the parenting classes some of our Mennonite schools are offering in their neighbourhoods and had to wonder if this unexpected role might be one God is calling more of us to embrace.
Sunday schools grew out of a particular urgent social need during the Industrial Revolution. We are part of a significant social revolution that is creating new needs and dilemmas for today’s youths and families, even while it offers us amazing new possibilities. How will our churches respond to these new needs that make parenting so challenging?
I’d love to hear your ideas. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call toll-free at 1-866-888-6785.
Elsie Rempel, Winnipeg
Elsie Rempel is Mennonite Church Canada’s formation consultant.