The Christ Child has arrived. We’ve waited through four weeks of Advent to light that fifth candle, the Christ candle, symbolizing the presence of Christ in our midst. And we feel ready to welcome this baby with open arms. Don’t we?
God of grace, today we pray for peace for the City of Bethlehem.
It has had more than its share of conflict,
as it has changed from a sleepy little town to a bustling city
that is visited by millions each year.
Lord, you know the walls that separate people in Bethlehem:
walls of concrete, walls of prejudice, walls of hatred,
From the moment we learned I was pregnant, the baby we longed for was continually on my mind. What would it look like? What kind of personality would it have? How would this baby change our life? I was truly “expecting.” Expectant waiting with our baby in mind transformed not just me and my husband, but our whole extended family.
We are daily awash in choices and opportunities, and many of us are affluent enough to be able to choose among many options. Many of us make many choices even before we get out the door in the morning. Our stomachs are full, we live in fine houses, our income and assets have grown, our retirement funds are increasing, and our possessions keep multiplying.
The Bible is full of stories about people, real people with bodies and minds, and with an array of experiences, relationships and emotions. How odd, then, that we so often turn to the Bible as little more than an instruction manual for communal and personal life.
Frank H. Epp works on The Canadian Mennonite on a manual typewriter in the 1950s. Notice the landline telephone on the wall in the background. (Mennonite Archives of Ontario photo)
Frank H. Epp served as editor of The Canadian Mennonite from 1953 to 1967 and Mennonite Reporter from 1971 to 1973. (Canadian Mennonite file photo)
Larry Kehler served as editor of The Canadian Mennonite from 1967 to 1971. (Canadian Mennonite file photo)
Karen Bowman works on a photo-typesetter. Between 1971 and 1988 stories were typed on this machine and strips of copy were literally cut and pasted into position on the layout sheets. (Canadian Mennonite file photo)
Margaret Loewen Reimer takes a break as she considers how to fit everything onto the layout sheets. Mennonite Reporter began using a desktop publishing system in 1988. (Canadian Mennonite file photo)
Mennonite Reporter staff circa 1990 include, from left to right: Karen Bowman, office and circulation manager; Ron Rempel, editor; Margaret Loewen Reimer, associate editor; and Ferne Burkhardt, editorial and production assistant. (Canadian Mennonite file photo)
Clockwise from front right: editor/publisher Tim Miller Dyck; editorial assistant Barb Draper; managing editor Margaret Loewen Reimer; office manager Natasha Krahn; and ad sales rep Barb Burkholder. (2004 Canadian Mennonite file photo)
In March 2009, board chair Larry Cornies (left) thanked outgoing editor/publisher Tim Miller Dyck and presented him with one of the six bound volumes of Canadian Mennonite that he helped to create. (Canadian Mennonite file photo)
This month marks the 65th anniversary of English-language magazine publishing for Mennonites in Canada.
In northern Manitoba, winter travel in the 1960s was by snowmobile and summer travel was by boat. This early snowmobile was made by Ingham Brothers of Lanigan, Sask. The seat and steering at the front were connected to the frame and motor at the back by hinges on the runners. It was propelled by a metal cleat track. (Photo courtesy of Henry Neufeld)
Elna and Henry Neufeld are pictured in front of the Moose Lake School in 1952. (Photo courtesy of Henry Neufeld)
“Never a teacher,” I declared from the time I was in public school, growing up in the Leamington district of southwestern Ontario.
In the midst of significant structural change in Mennonite Church Canada, a group of Canadian Mennonite University students came together in December 2015 around the question, “Do young people care about the future of the church?” This initial gathering generated surprising energy among the participants.
I was baptized on an Easter Sunday morning, in the midst of a beautiful service celebrating the resurrection of Jesus. By the first rays of morning light, we greeted each other with the familiar refrain, “He is risen!” and “He is risen indeed!” We sang the big, old Easter hymns.
Communion, the Lord’s Supper or Eucharist; whatever the name, it has been an integral part of the Christian faith since its beginnings. (Photo © istock.com/ipggutenbergukltd)
“Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood’” (Luke 22:19-20 NRSV).
The church is a community of profound meaning for seniors because it has the capacity to speak to their deep spiritual needs, offering belonging, care and inspiration. (Photo by D. Michael Hostetler)
I was raised in a family with Scottish Presbyterian roots, where no one talked about faith for fear of being “too religious.” We trusted that seniors had it all figured out and their faith carried them, although we would be stretched to say we understood how.
After serving as interim pastor at Grace Mennonite Church in St. Catharines, Ont., Waldo Pauls ended up staying on as minister for seven years. He is pictured with his wife Pam at their farewell service following Waldo’s retirement in 2014. (Photo by Ernie Janzen)
“You don’t go quickly from Egypt to the Promised Land,” quips Harold Schlegel. “The wilderness is where God forms us.”
The wilderness Schlegel speaks of is the transition in a congregation’s life between one pastor and another. Church leaders suggest it’s a time that’s ripe for interim or transitional ministry.
“And whenever the evil spirit from God came upon Saul, David took the lyre and played it with his hand, and Saul would be relieved and feel better, and the evil spirit would depart from him” (I Samuel 16:23).
David would play his harp, and Saul would feel better. David would mediate the spirit of life and make the evil spirit depart from Saul.
‘Soup and Pie’ by Manitoba artist Margruite Krahn was featured in the November 2015 issue of Anabaptist Witness that focussed on food issues. She cites the UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights as her inspiration. The work hangs at Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg.
“Everything in the world is about to be wrapped up, so take nothing for granted. Stay wide-awake in prayer. Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless—cheerfully.
I recently learned to eat anarsa—a sweet, rice-based treat—while travelling in India visiting with Mennonite women, and learning about their religious lives and food practices. It was late February, but I was told that Christians in India normally prepare anarsa at Christmastime as a seasonal and festive treat.
There is a new culture in North America around sexual harassment and abuse. The social media hashtag #MeToo is everywhere, and we are starting to address abusive behaviour in the church with the hashtag #ChurchToo.
“While I don’t want to give the impression that the West has no gifts to offer the global church, too often we assume that it is our wealth and our wisdom that will be the world’s greatest salvation.” (Art: ‘Christ and the Rich Young Ruler’ by Heinrich Hofmann)
“What could I—a white, wealthy evangelical Anglophone—say that would be meaningful or relevant to a congregation of poor Mexican Pentecostals?” (Photo courtesy of Michael Thomas)
‘Without understanding there is no basis for compassionate change or the possibility of partnership.’ —First Nations theologian Richard Twiss, 1954-2013 (2010 file photo by Gerry Sportak)
Immediately after finishing with undergraduate school in 2008, I went down to Mexico to help translate for a mission trip that my mom and younger brother were taking with my church’s youth group.
‘We’re starting to build momentum here . . . to build relationships and have good conversations with people who wouldn’t otherwise come to our church building.’ —Pastor Lydia Crutwell, First United Mennonite Church, Vancouver (First United Mennonite Church photo)
‘Our vision is to be a community of authentic relationships in which we learn how to love God, love one another and love our neighbourhood.’ —Pastor Tim Kuepfer, Chinatown Peace Church, Vancouver (Chinatown Peace Church photo)
Mennonites have always been known as a migrant people, whether moving from Switzerland to North America, from the Netherlands to Prussia and Ukraine, and from Europe to South America and eventually to Canada.
It’s a question I’ve heard many times over the years: “Do Christians really need to believe in Jesus’ resurrection?”
It is, after all, a pretty difficult idea to accept. And this is not just a modern difficulty. It’s been obvious to humans for a very long time that dead people stay dead.
Within Mennonite denominations, the closure of churches is also a reality that requires acknowledgement and careful planning, so that their legacy might be a blessing. (Photo: © istock.com/hal990)
In Alberta, Faith Mennonite Church and Vauxhall Mennonite Church closed their doors in 1996 and 2000, respectively. Both congregations gave some funds to Camp Valaqua, a ministry of Mennonite Church Alberta. The contributions enabled the construction of the Faith Retreat Centre, above, and the Vauxhall Cabin, increasing the usability and accessibility of the camp for all. (Camp Valaqua photo)
Camp Valaqua received funds from two Alberta churches when they closed their doors. (Camp Valaqua photo)
Every living thing eventually dies, including churches. Just as people who do not plan for death may complicate things for their families, churches that do not plan for eventual closure can leave a mess for congregants and their surrounding communities.
The political scientist Harold Lasswell once defined politics to be “who gets what, when and how.” If that is politics, peace studies in contrast can be seen as an attempt to answer the question “why” things are given to whom, when and how.
Opening of the MCC Ontario building in 1964. Pictured from left to right: MCC executive secretary William Snyder, Fred Nighswander, Henry H. Epp and Abner Cressman. (Kitchener-Waterloo Record file photo / Mennonite Archives of Ontario)
When Kathy Hildebrand attended the 1969 annual MCC meeting, she commented to executive secretary William Snyder, ‘I didn’t come to shop at Marshall Field! I came to hear what MCC is doing.’ (Burton Buller photo / Mennonite Archives of Ontario)
When the indomitable Orie O. Miller retired from Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) in 1958, there was a lot of speculation about who would fill his big shoes. In Miller’s mind, though, that question had been settled years earlier, when he chose, out of the rich Civilian Public Service (CPS) talent pool, the unpresumptuous William Thomas Snyder to be his associate.