Working together in God’s vineyard

Women Walking Together in Faith

July 5, 2011 | Viewpoints | Number 14
By Liz Koop |

The 15th chapter of the Gospel of John begins with the verse, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener,” then it goes on to speak about the techniques and practices used to assure a rich harvest.

The images that these verses evoke are familiar to me not only because they have been used in many a sermon, but also because for the past 40 years since my marriage I’ve been part of a grape-growing farm that has been operated by my husband’s family in the Niagara Escarpment, near Vineland, Ont., for more than 70 years. As a result, I have first-hand experience of agricultural practices used in growing grapes and find it easy to make many faith and life connections.

During winter, for example, the vines are dormant and get pruned back severely. Care is taken to leave only the healthiest branches. In some varieties, if a plant is missing, or it is in poor health, a long branch from a thriving plant next to it is left to be dug into the spot in the spring after the ground thaws. After a few years—when the new shoot starts to root and grow—the old plant is cut away. In three or four years the new plant will bear fruit, transferring life from one plant to create life in another in a continuous cycle of growth that will endure for many years.

So, too, we have gained spiritual and physical life and nourishment from our forebears, and can pass on what we have learned to future generations with the hope of continuing the cycle.

If a grapevine is left year after year without pruning, it will stop producing good fruit and may eventually die. Similarly, we need to prune out unproductive activities that sap our strength and do not bear fruit.

Early in the spring the grapevines need to be tied to a trellis system to strengthen them and open spaces need to be created so that emerging leaves and fruit can get enough air and sunshine to ripen to maturity. If we remain in close contact with God, allowing God’s Spirit to flow through us, we will become strong and vibrant and bear much fruit.

On a more personal level, being on the 2008 Mennonite Women Canada Task Force was a great opportunity for me to get to know women in leadership roles in the other provinces. Looking at the ever-changing role of women in church and community over the generations has given me inspiration and a renewed commitment to celebrate the gifts and, especially, the many connections that women share with each other and the wider community.

To highlight these “connections,” MW Canada’s new communications committee and executive have chosen to name our newly redesigned newsletter, “Connections.” And, fittingly, the theme for our 2011 annual meeting and luncheon this year was “Celebrating connections.”

As MW Canada’s new president, I’m looking forward to my three-year term with anticipation and have a sense of “leaping out in faith.” It is my desire that this organization be a place where Mennonite women across Canada can connect with one another, nurture our lives in Christ, and serve and minister across the street and around the world.

For more information about MW Canada, visit and our blog

( Women can “connect” with me with your ideas, suggestions or concerns at I would love to hear from you as we work together in God’s vineyard.

Liz Koop and her husband Alfred live in southwestern Ontario and are active members of Vineland United Mennonite Church. She has always been an active member of a women’s group and has recently finished five years on the executive of  Women of Mennonite Church Eastern Canada.

Anna Martens-Koop helps tend her grandparents’ grapes at their farm in rural southwestern Ontario.

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