Called to the work of the church

Selenna Wolfe (Photo by Nicolien Klassen-wiebe)

Kennedy Froese (left) and Valerie Alipova (right). (Supplied photos)

It might seem unlikely that young women would be drawn to church leadership and feel compelled to enter pastoral ministry. As young people, they are part of an underrepresented demographic in the church, one that is leaving organized religion in increasing numbers. As women, they have been barred for generations from leadership roles in the church and turned away from the pulpit.

Holy moments in the midst of grief

(Photo by Aaron Epp)

The "memory tree" at Fort Garry Mennonite Fellowship. (Photo by Aaron Epp)

There’s one church service that Fran Giesbrecht makes a special point not to miss: Eternity Sunday.

Observed at his Winnipeg church on the last Sunday before Advent, Eternity Sunday provides opportunity for Giesbrecht and others at Fort Garry Mennonite Fellowship to commemorate members of their community who have died.

Memory carrier

Nelson Groh was a Mennonite killed in the Second World War. (Photos by A.S. Compton)

This bear was among Nelson Groh’s personal effects, returned to his family after his death.

Nelson Groh’s personal effects, returned after he died in the Second World War.

“Sir,” said the man, “you and your family can be very proud of your son.”

The Beatitudes: Testing a biblical antidote to division

Protesters rally in Washington D.C. We altered the placard, which originally read, “Thoughts & prayers don’t save lives / Gun reform will.” (Photo by Lorie Shaull, Used as per creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0. adapted by Betty Avery)

(Image adaptation by Betty Avery)

(Flickr photo by Tony Webster, Adapted by Betty Avery (creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/))

When conservative Christians in the southern U.S. were agitating to erect monuments with the 10 commandments on them in front of courthouses, I heard someone suggest that they put up the Beatitudes instead.

The idea stuck with me, as did the reaction of my Trump-loving, warm-hearted neighbour when I floated the idea by her. She loved it.

Stepping overboard

Curtis Wiens leads a forest church service the first Sunday of every month at Shekinah Retreat Centre. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

Aberdeen Mennonite Church at Trinity Place. (Gameo photo by Bert Friesen)

Fort Garry Mennonite Fellowship in Winnipeg. (Fort Garry Mennonite Fellowship Photo)

Florence Driedger turns to look out the window before she replies to my question. “Well, we never know from one year to the next who and how many . . . whether we’ll still be functioning. We think we will be, but you never know.”

Humans and Humus

The Wiederkehr family applying compost to a dry corn breeding experiment. (Supplied photo)

The woodworking shop. (Photo by Will Braun)

On a hundred hilly acres near Mildmay, Ontario, the Wiederkehr family is quietly pushing the limits of human energy, spiritual integrity and disconnection from the consumerist web. The following is the first in a series of bi-monthly dispatches from their family.

Broken to serve

The glass sculpture titled, Imperative Change, is made from upcycled glass by Steinbach, Manitoba artist George Klassen. (Photo by George Klassen)

Henri Nouwen in 1996. (Photo by Kevin F. Dwyer, used by permission of the Henri J.M. Nouwen Archives at the University of St. Michael's College)

This glass fountain is made from upcycled glass by Steinbach, Manitoba artist George Klassen. (Photo by George Klassen)

Arthur Boers (Photo by Helen E. Grose)

In my mid-30s, two decades after the last time my father beat me, and two years after he died, I broke glass twice in one week. Once, for the first time in my life, in anger.

In the current of wavering defiance

(Flickr photo by U.S. Department of Agriculture)

(CM file photo by Elaine Binnema)

(Photo by Josiah Neufeld)

I want to know how to pray. It’s December 2021. Advent. A season of waiting. Everything is waiting. Waiting for the pandemic to be over. Waiting for our leaders to start acting like we’re in a climate emergency. Waiting for our hemisphere to tilt back into the light. We are hunkered down for our second COVID Christmas, separated from what we need most: each other.

Commerce, church and belonging

Milo Shantz pictured with a turkey in the late 1950s. Shantz and his brother Ross started a highly successful turkey business. (Photo courtesy of Marcus Shantz)

Diorama of a barn-raising at the St. Jacobs & Aberfoyle Model Railway, a tourist attraction in St. Jacobs. (Photo by Dean Holtz)

Milo Shantz, left, and his son Marcus, pictured in 2004. (Photo courtesy of Marcus Shantz)

Zacchaeus being called down from the sycamore tree by Jesus. (istock photo by benoitb)

I was delivering a sermon on the story of Zacchaeus last October when I realized that when I talked about Zacchaeus, I was actually thinking about, and picturing, my father.

Though not short in stature, my father, like Zacchaeus, was a man whose occupation was often controversial in his community. My father, Milo Shantz, who died in 2009, was a businessman.

Dispatches from the front lines

Ross W. Muir, with camera bag in tow, among a Grade 1 class at the Unyama IDP Camp in northern Uganda, 2004. (Photo by Michael Oruni)

Students look out from holes in the bamboo walls of their school at the Unyama Internally Displaced Persons Camp in northern Uganda, in 2004. (Photo by Ross W. Muir)

Members of the Meetinghouse editors and publishers group pose for a photo at Morrow Gospel Church, Winnipeg, during their 2009 meeting. Pictured from left to right, back row: Wally Kroeker, MEDA Marketplace; Ross W. Muir, Canadian Mennonite; Dora Dueck, MB Herald interim; and Terry Smith, The Messenger; and front row: Paul Schrag, Mennonite Weekly Review, at the time; Gordon Houser, The Mennonite; Rebecca Roman, The Messenger; Lil Goertzen, The Recorder; and Karla Braun, MB Herald, at the time. (Meetinghouse photo)

On his second birthday, Ross points to a typo in the local newspaper, and his future career path is set in stone. (Photo by Eunice Muir)

I’m basing the form of this final missive on the last book I read, Dispatches—a harrowing and sometimes hilarious memoir by Michael Herr, who covered the insanity of the Vietnam War for Esquire magazine during two years in the late 1960s. (How insane is it that Esquire thought it needed a war correspondent in the first place?)

An assumption of grace

A painting of Christopher Columbus planting his flag in the “New World,” by American artist Louis Prang. (L. Prang & Co., Boston, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Dave Scott poses with Brandon Burley, mayor of Morden, Man., left, and Cameron Friesen, MLA for Morden-Winkler, at a public event in Morden last summer. (Photo by Robyn Wiebe, courtesy of PembinaValleyOnline.com.)

Harry Lafond addresses the Mennonite Church Canada assembly in Saskatoon in 2016. (CM file photo by Dave Rogalsky)

Les Dysart on Southern Indian Lake in northern Manitoba. (Photo by Will Braun)

After the Vatican’s recent repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery, I spent two hours speaking with three Indigenous people about the 500-year-old church doctrine that is as much the bedrock of Canada as the Canadian Shield.

Crossing guard of hope

Michel Monette and Lyne Renaud. (Photo by Michel Monette)

Michel Monette, right, and Lyne Renaud, left having supper at a crack house. (Photo by Michel Monette)

Sunday morning at Hochma church, a non-traditional church plant in Montreal. (Photo by Michel Monette)

Lyne Renaud and Michel Monette share their vision for a church in the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve area of Montreal at the 2016 Mennonite Church Eastern Canada annual church gathering. (CM file photo)

When I was first called to church planting work in 2004, I prayed and sought God’s will. I also read Ray Bakke’s book, Hope for the City. It invited me back to the city. The book extols God’s love for the city and invites Christians to abandon the suburbs and come back to the city.

The piano ban

Evangelist George R. Brunk II with his wife Margaret, and their kids, left to right, George, Conrad, Paul, Barbara and Gerald, at a 1952 revival meeting in Waterloo, Ont. (Mennonite Archives of Ontario photo by David L. Hunsberger)

Influential Mennonite evangelist George R. Brunk I. (Photo courtesy of Mennonite Church U.S.A. Archives-Goshen, Ind.)

Carol Ann Weaver, left, Dorothy Jean Weaver and Kathleen Weaver Kurtz at the Chester K. Lehman family piano in 1952 in Harrisonburg, Va. (Photo courtesy of Carol Ann Weaver)

Chester K. Lehman and his sister, Elizabeth Kurtz, playing piano in 1952 at Kurtz’s house in Harrisonburg, Va. ( Photo courtesy of Carol Ann Weaver)

Carol Ann Weaver at the Chester K. Lehman family piano, which was donated to EMU, Harrisonburg, Va. (Photo by Wayne Kurtz)

October 22 was a normal Sunday. I had just arrived at Rockway Mennonite Church in Kitchener, Ont., when Conrad Brunk approached me. He is a fellow Rockway member, a former colleague at Conrad Grebel University College and a former next-door neighbour in Harrisonburg, Va. when we were very young. He wanted to talk about “the piano issue.”

Film review: sorrow, joy, anger and faith

Actors Rooney Mara (left), Claire Foy, Judith Ivey, Sheila McCarthy, Michelle McLeod and Jessie Buckley on the set of Women Talking. (Photo by Michael Gibson/Orion Pictures)

Ben Whishaw (left) stars as August, Rooney Mara are Ona and Claire Foy as Salome in Women Talking. (Photo by Michael Gibson/Orion Pictures)

Actors Emily Mitchell, Claire Foy and Rooney Mara. (Photo by Michael Gibson/Orion Pictures)

What do we do when we are wronged: Nothing? Stay and fight? Or do we leave?

These questions form the backbone of Women Talking, a 2022 film directed by Sarah Polley and adapted from Miriam Toews’s acclaimed novel of the same name.

What about the women of Manitoba Colony?

Jean Friedman-Rudovsky (in the yellow shirt) pictured in Manitoba Colony in 2013. She is pictured with the family that hosted her and her now-husband Sebastian Malter who joined her for her first couple days in the colony. (Photo courtesy of Jean Friedman-Rudovsky)

Jean Friedman-Rudovsky (Photo courtesy of Jean Friedman-Rudovsky)

After opening in select movie theatres before Christmas, Women Talking received a wide release last month. For Jean Friedman-Rudovsky, it marked 10 years since she interviewed some of the women who inspired Miram Toews’s novel the film is based on.

Barns and kerchiefs

The set of Women Talking at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto. (Photo by Michael Gibson/Orion Pictures)

Director Sarah Polley on the set of her film Women Talking. (Photo by Michael Gibson/Orion Pictures

(Photo by Michael Gibson/Orion Pictures)

(Photo by Michael Gibson/Orion Pictures)

Not many farmers walk out of a movie theatre and say, “It’s a lot of fun seeing our farm on the big screen.” But that’s what Chris Burkholder thought after he watched Women Talking at the Toronto International Film Festival last fall.


The church in Pingjum, Netherlands where Menno Simons stood up to Catholic authorities. (Photo by Doug Klassen)

Norm Dyck (centre) of MC Eastern Canada and Jeanette Hanson of MC Canada with an Indigenous coffee grower in the Philippines. (Photo by Doug Klassen)

Pastor Endezinaw Tefera next to the baptismal tank at the Asela Meserete Kristos Church in Asela, Ethiopia. (Photo by Doug Klassen)

An 1814 edition of Martyrs Mirror in the library of the Tokyo Anabaptist Centre. (Photo by Doug Klassen)

Safari Mutabesha is a Congolese refugee and pastor at a camp in Malawi, pictured at the Mennonite World Conference Assembly in Indonesia. (Photo by Doug Klassen)

A room prepared for baptismal class at the Asela church in Ethiopia. (Photo by Doug Klassen)

The church in Pingjum, Netherlands where Menno Simons stood up to Catholic authorities. (Photo by Doug Klassen)

I stand on the very spot where it all began, in a former Catholic church in the village of Pingjum, Netherlands. Here, the priest Menno Simons was called to account by his superiors.

Guardians of the past

Victor Wiebe and Lorene Nickel with a “Deed of Gift” form. (Photo by Emily Summach)

This vinyl record is one of the more unique items in the MHSS collection. (Photo by Emily Summach)

Books in the collection of the Mennonite Historical Society of Saskatchewan archives. (Photo by Emily Summach)

(Photo by Emily Summach)

Through an easily overlooked side door and down two flights of stairs at Bethany Manor Senior Living Complex in Saskatoon one will find the archival rooms of the Mennonite Historical Society of Saskatchewan (MHSS).


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