Feature

Finding value in challenged lives

The quietness and rest that people with mental-health problems need is something we all need. For us to live according to the pace and drive of contemporary western culture is for us to burn through our neural circuitry in ways that lead to disruptive and disorderly crises. (Photo by Ruth Bergen Braun)

(Flickr.com photo by Thomas Ricker)

What is a human life worth? What makes my own life worthwhile? Is my time valuable only when my efforts add up to some measurable achievement I can document on my résumé or in my exercise log or my family’s “brag book”? And if that’s the case, what value is there to a less productive life?

Justice in the name of Jesus

At a recent annual gathering, Colombian Mennonites pray for outgoing denominational president Yalile Caballero, who was an influential advocate for peace and justice. Jeanette Hanson, MC Canada’s director of International Witness, says of the Colombian Mennonites that they do ‘amazing peace and justice work because they love Jesus.’ Reports produced by Justapaz, the peace and justice arm of the Colombian Mennonites, weave an overt spiritual intimacy into documentation of human-rights violations. (Photo by Jeanette Hanson)

Some Mennonites raise their hands when they sing. Others don’t.

Some attend climate rallies and examine decolonization. Others don’t.

Some Mennonites hear sermons focused on the Word and personal relationship with Jesus. Others hear sermons that draw on Pete Enns; Mary Oliver, a modern day mystic; or the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

A small regional church with big impact

As Mennonite Church Alberta prepares to host the MC Canada national gathering from July 29 to Aug. 1, it is fascinating to consider how a small regional church body affects the flow of city life in Edmonton, its development and the surprises and challenges that emerge. (Photo by Len Franz)

The face of Mennonite Church Alberta in Edmonton is like the river that flows through it, dynamic and always changing. Congregations have come and gone, such as Faith Mennonite (1980-1996) and the Vietnamese Mennonite Church (1995-2017). In the last 10 years, three of the five churches in the city have become predominantly African. (Photo by Len Franz)

South Sudanese Mennonite Church women lead worship in the Gambela region in Ethiopia in January. (File photo by William Tut)

Bethel International Church Edmonton Oromo Congregation families are pictured at the front of Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Edmonton, where they meet for services. (CM file photo by Joanne De Jong)

You are easily forgiven for not knowing that Edmonton is a beach city. In spite of its northern location and prairie landscape, sandcastles and sunbathers began appearing along a bank of the North Saskatchewan river in 2017.

Called to deep hope

(Photo used with permission by Merri-Lee Metzger)

It is like the caterpillar, changing into a butterfly over time. In the cocoon, the caterpillar trusts the deep transformation that is happening without knowing what the end might possibly look like. (Photo used with permission by Merri-Lee Metzger)

(Photo used with permission by Merri-Lee Metzger)

Mary Magdalene couldn’t have known the end of the story—how things would turn out. How could she?

Worship through visual art

In a piece titled “Migrant Journey,” artist Rafael Barahona explores a universal story that includes many perils but also a sense of hope. The art was inspired by Jeremiah 29:11 and Hebrews 11:1 and appears in the hymnal collection Voices Together, published by MennoMedia. (Artwork used with permission of Rafael Barahona)

For the digitally created image titled “Communion,” Canadian artist Dona Park depicted soup and rice, expanding the idea of communion beyond bread and wine to show it as an international feast. (Artwork used with permission of the artist)

Artist SaeJin Lee worked with watercolour paint and coloured pencils to create “Tree of Life.” Inspired by this biblical image of restoration, she writes, “So come, friends, rest, play, and belong.” (Artwork used with permission of the artist)

In “Sing the Goodness” artist Meg Harder used ink on paper to depict imagery from the Psalms, including human mouths, waters that “roar” and mountains that “sing together.” (Artwork used with permission of the artist)

One of the striking things about Voices Together, the new Mennonite song collection, is that it includes 12 pieces of visual art.

‘Who are we as the church now?’

Following provincial protocols for meetings during the pandemic, members of Sherbrooke Mennonite Church in Vancouver gather for an outdoor service, in the summer of 2020. (Photo by Garry Janzen)

In the spring 2020, Mennonite Church Saskatchewan launched an online Sunday school for children. (Photo by Josh Wallace)

Many churches held online worship services in response to pandemic restrictions. (Photo by Amy Rinner Waddell)

Justin Sun has never known pastoring other than during a pandemic. A year-and-a-half into his first pastorate, he says, “It’s been rough. How do I even do this job? I didn’t even attend a real in-person service until June.” That was nine months after he started in is job as a youth pastor in Richmond, B.C.

Biblical companions on my cancer journey

Dan and Esther Epp-Tiessen have found joy even in their long journey with cancer. (Photo courtesy of Dan Epp-Tiessen)

(Photo courtesy of Dan Epp-Tiessen)

My family does cancer in a big way. In my immediate family of five members, there have been 10 occasions when a doctor told one of us that we have cancer, or that, despite the treatments, the cancer has returned. My wife Esther has had two rounds of breast cancer. Our son Tim, who was born with significant physical and mental disabilities, was diagnosed with a brain tumour when he was three.

Simple wonder, peculiar generosity

Annie Janzen and Mira Hoover enjoy rosehip tea at Janzen’s apartment last fall. (Photo courtesy of Tanya Hoover)

Annie Janzen in her Winnipeg apartment. (Photo by Craig Terlson)

Annie Janzen as a young girl. (Photo courtesy of Marvin Hamm)

Annie Janzen lowers a prize parsnip to socially distanced friends at Bethel Place. (Photo courtesy of Tanya Hoover)

Annie Janzen served as cook at Canadian Mennonite Bible College for 27 years. (Photo courtesy of Marvin Hamm)

Annie Janzen earned no degrees and was never elected chair of a church council. She did not start a church, write a best-seller or perform for large audiences.

She did cook at Canadian Mennonite Bible College in Winnipeg for 27 years, travel the globe and make an unlikely diversity of friends. She lived a good, simple life. It was also a decidedly unconventional life.

Let’s talk about power

(istock.com photo by Gutzemberg)

Did you know, there are over 650 occurrences of the word “power” in the Bible? Dunamis, a Greek word for power, occurs 120 times in the New Testament and means “strength” or “ability.” It is used to describe, for example, the power of God (Matthew 22:29), the power of Elijah (Luke 1:17), and the power of evil spirits (I Corinthians 15:24).

What if we stayed together?

A sketch of the meetinghouse used by the Moyer Mennonite congregation, in Vineland, Ont., before 1897. The church was later renamed The First Mennonite Church. (Photo: L.J.Burkholder collection, Mennonite Archives of Ontario)

The cemetery beside the meetinghouse of The First Mennonite Church in Vineland, Ontario. (Photo: Mennonite Archives of Ontario)

Members of The First Mennonite Church, Vineland, Ont., worshipped in a new building, dedicated in the 1960s. This was the congregation’s fourth building. (Photo: Mennonite Archives of Ontario)

What do we do when we disagree with people in our church? There are lots of reasons to disagree. We can disagree about how we talk about salvation, about who we should include or not include, about political views, or even about vaccination. Across North America, we see issues dividing congregations and conferences.

Tending the cairn

(istock.com photo by JosephJacobs)

Ecclesial Repentance: The Churches Confront Their Sinful Pasts book cover

A public apology is one of many ways that a church may address past wrongs and those persons who have been harmed. Right now, for example, even following the apology by the Canadian Catholic bishops, there remains a strong call for an apology by Pope Francis for residential schools in Canada and abuses that happened there.

The great Mwenezi cook-off

After entering the Men Can Cook competition, Jawanda Clemence discovered a love of cooking. Now he helps train new competitors and has developed a number of his own recipes. Here he’s teaching a recipe for mashed lablab to a group of women. At the time this photo was taken, COVID-19 measures in Zimbabwe only included a recommendation for mask use. (Score Against Poverty photo/Obert Payenda)

The final dishes from Jawanda Clemence’s team in the first Men Can Cook competition in 2018 in the village of Chinyause, Zimbabwe. The dishes include a variety of cowpeas, pigeon peas and lablab, prepared several different ways. (Score Against Poverty photo/Alice Chauke (2018))

Members of the second-place team in the 2019 Men Can Cook competition pose with their prizes—new sauté pans. Left to right: Agripa Shumba, Magwanda Tinago, Albert Chigaridzano and Matutu Charlse. (Score Against Poverty photo/Caroline Pugeni)

All of Joseph Gudo’s hard work was summed up in one small plate of food. He’d laboured for months in the field and uncountable hours in the kitchen all in service to this dish—a neat pile of mashed cowpeas (black-eyed peas), buoyed by a bold pinch of cayenne pepper and dressed up with pops of colourful diced tomatoes and green peppers.

Defund the police?

The Winnipeg Police Service sparked outrage in April 2020 when one of its officers shot 16-year-old Eishia Hudson following a robbery, car chase and collision. Hudson died in hospital. (Photo by Aaron Epp)

Daniel Friesen is critical of the Winnipeg Police Service. ‘If we reallocate resources away from police and toward programs and services that meet people’s needs… the need for police will shrink and go away entirely,’ he says. (Photo by Aaron Epp)

On March 11, 2020, the day before Manitoba reported its first infection of the coronavirus, Bronwyn Dobchuk-Land stood up in a multipurpose room at First Mennonite Church in Winnipeg to give a lecture exploring the question: How is it that Winnipeg has so many police, and so little justice and peace?

Three chairs: In, out and up

One of the three chairs represents the directee, or client, who is seeking support on their spiritual journey. The second chair represents the spiritual director—the one who is listening in three directions: Out, to their client; up to God; in, to notice their own responses. The third chair is a reminder that the real spiritual director is the Holy Spirit. (Photo by Ralph Brubacher)

Three chairs, clustered together, facing inward, illustrate much of the nature of the listening ministry that is often called spiritual direction. (Photo by Ralph Brubacher)

When I was taking part in the Ontario Jubilee program in soul care and spiritual direction, one of the principles that guided our time together was that everything we did as a whole group happened in a circle.

Creating a cultural shift

“How we talk to and treat each other matters and communicates the love of God. Sometimes in church we have to be willing to have hard conversations—to talk about what healthy relationships look like—not just about how we sexually relate, but how we speak to each other, and how we treat those on the margins.” (istock.com photo by Steelalevi)

Abuse. It’s one of those topics that can stop a conversation dead in its tracks. Yet those who work in the area of abuse response and prevention say that talking about it—before it happens—is precisely what the church needs to do.

All will be well!

‘St. Paul in prison,’ by Rembrandt, in the Staatsgalerie in Stuttgart, Germany. (Photo © José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro (cc-by-sa/4.0))

This mural of Julian in Norwich, Norfolk, Great Britain, was painted by Antony Allen in January 2020. Julian is believed to have been the first woman to write a book in English that has survived. It is entitled Revelations of Divine Love and is based on a series of 16 visions she received on May 8, 1373. (Photo © Evelyn Simak (cc-by-sa/2.0))

Last September, at the school where I teach, the director noted the many restraints and restrictions staff and students were experiencing because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It seemed that everywhere we turned, we were told we couldn’t do something. Many excellent teaching practices were out of reach because we needed to maintain social distancing.

Toward Antioch

The five ‘amigos’—members of the Global Community of Young Anabaptists—joined hands at St. Jacobs (Ont.) Mennonite Church in early 2005. The hands belong to Sarah Thompson (North America), Amandus Reimer (South America), Elina Ciptadi (Asia), Khohlwani Moyo (Africa), and Barbara Kärcher (Europe). (CM file photo by Ross W. Muir)

By Doug Klassen

Holding the hope

(Photo by DrAfter123/flickr.com)

Amidst the darkness and uncertainties of the past year, there have been some gifts in this pandemic time. One of these gifts has been increased acknowledgement of the existence of mental-health challenges, and of the reality that, for many, this is a profound struggle.

Phoebe, the bright one

Saint Phoebe the Deaconess. (Source and date unknown.) (pngkey.com image (public domain))

The Epistle to the Romans has been called the Apostle Paul’s great masterwork, the summing up of all his thought. It is a rich, dense and complex work of theology that has stimulated some of the most powerful reform movements in Christian history. But, once upon a time, almost 2,000 years ago, it was a letter carried by a woman named Phoebe.

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