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Proclaiming Immanuel

‘Angel announcing: Jesus is here,’ by Elizabeth Cressman, a Grade 3 student who attends Stirling Avenue Mennonite Church in Kitchener, Ont.

‘Jesus here and now,’ by Sean Lane, a Grade 4 student who attends Crystal City (Man.) Mennonite Church.

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‘Nativity scene,’ by Colin Lane, a Grade 6 student who attends Crystal City (Man.) Mennonite Church.

I was eight years old. That year, the Sunday school Christmas pageant was going to be a no-fuss event. All the kids were going to stand up in a line, each of us reciting a memorized verse from Luke’s Christmas story. 

“And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.” 

That was my line. I was disappointed! 

‘Taste and see that stuff is good’

Capitalizing on the way that society is currently unplugging itself from traditional forms of religion, the mall is an example of a cultural institution that has successfully read the religious market and opened a new outlet for selling and consuming transcendence. (Mennopix photos by Ross W. Muir)

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The mall’s clean, bright, inviting and vaulted interior architecture make it easy for us to forget about the outside world. (Mennopix photos by Ross W. Muir)

“If the training of desire towards an ultimate object of love is the final and most important telltale sign of religion, then worship at the mall is about training worshippers to long for the good life: a life of perpetual youth, beauty, wealth and independence.” (Mennopix photos by Ross W. Muir)

The human struggle has always been—and always will be—between worshiping the God who made us or worshiping a god that we have to make for ourselves. Secularism is a myth because there is no such thing as not worshipping.

The world in colour

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‘Face painting phantasm’ (mennopix Digital art by Ross W. Muir)

If the Bible is a story, it is also something more: It’s a book that dares to make an authoritative claim on life. Between the poems and proverbs and parables, a portrait is taking shape of who God is and what exactly God desires. The Bible suggests that to learn to walk with God and love the things that God loves is to begin to live in sync with the world’s true design.

Faithful practices on a dying planet

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‘Bring out your dead,’ by Edmund Evans, circa 1864. This coloured wood engraving pictures a medieval street scene with a town crier and a two-wheeled cart making the rounds and collecting the bodies of plague victims; a few people have gathered around a small fire for warmth. (wikimedia.org photo (public domain))

Over the last few months, the reality of the climate crisis we are in the midst of has started to strike me in a new and terrible way. As the best-case scenarios for our planet grow more dire and the possibility of achieving even these scenarios grows more remote, it has started to dawn on me that the church is not only faced with the task of working to stop the destruction of our planet.

Giving in the digital age

Sandy Shantz holds out offering bowl for Callum Jarvis as he comes to the front of St. Jacobs (Ont.) Mennonite Church to give his gift to God. (Photo by Marcia Shantz)

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(Photo © istock.com/halock)

We are now living in a full-blown digital world. With just one click or voice command we can ask Google for a chicken recipe, order office supplies or give to our favourite charity online. 

MCC celebrates, serves where its work began

Vladimir Kozlov of New Life, an MCC partner, distributes relief kits, school kits, comforters and canned meat in Nikopol, Ukraine, on June 21. (MCC photo by Matt Sawatzky)

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MCC Ukraine staff Anna Proshak, left, and Olga Litvinenko serve corn grits, rye bread and warm cocoa—a 1920s MCC “relief-kitchen dinner”—at a symbolic picnic on June 16. (MCC photo by Matt Sawatzky)

Mary Raber, left, a Mennonite Mission Network worker in Ukraine; Peter Wolfe of Langley, B.C.; Catherine Enns of Winnipeg; and J Ron Byler, executive director of MCC U.S., read from 1920s testimonies of aid recipients and MCC workers at the picnic in Khortitsa on June 16. Behind them is a memorial to Mennonite victims of Stalin’s repression. (MCC photo by Matt Sawatzky)

Under shade trees in a city park on June 16, about 40 Anabaptists shared a picnic of corn grits, rye bread and warm cocoa.

 

Holy Spirit fire and imagination

Pictured from left to right: Darryl Neustaedter Barg; Bruno Cavalca; John Briner, hidden behind the music stand; and Anneli Loepp Thiessen lead the congregation in songs new and old. The other Gathering 2019 worship team members were Moses Falco, Sarah Johnson, Kathy Lumsden and Glenn Sawatzky. (Photo by Jane Grunau)

Many hands were needed to display a 10-metre banner with the theme of Mennonite Church Canada’s Gathering 2019. Witness worker Bock Ki Kim presented it to the assembly as a gift from their Mennonite sisters and brothers in South Korea. Throughout the gathering, attendees wrote their blessings and prayers on the banner. (Photo by Amy Rinner Waddell)

Many hands were needed to display a 10-metre banner with the theme of Mennonite Church Canada’s Gathering 2019. Witness worker Bock Ki Kim presented it to the assembly as a gift from their Mennonite sisters and brothers in South Korea. Throughout the gathering, attendees wrote their blessings and prayers on the banner. (Photo by Amy Rinner Waddell)

During the worship service on July 1, newly installed executive minister Doug Klassen, left, serves communion to Calvin Quan, moderator of MC Canada, and Lee Dyck, moderator of MC British Columbia. (Photo by Jane Grunau)

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At the Xáy:tem Longhouse Interpretive Centre in Mission (Hatzic), B.C., tour members enter the replica of a pit house, a traditional dwelling of local Indigenous people. The bus excursion took visitors along the Fraser River, where Indigenous tour guide Sonny McHalsie (Naxaxalhts’i) identified traditional territories of the Stó:lō Nation. Visitors also had a brief visit at the former St. Mary’s Residential School. (Photo by Virginia A. Hostetler)

Four youths and an equal number of leaders went on retreat at Camp Squeah in Hope, B.C., during Mennonite Church Canada’s nationwide Gathering 2019. Pictured in front: Rachel Onsorge, a young adult leader from B.C.; and back row from left to right: Liam Kachkar, a young adult leader from Alberta; Sara Ehling and Christine Lee, youth from B.C.; Mike Wiebe, a Canadian Mennonite University representative from Manitoba; Mykayla Turner, a Conrad Grebel University College representative from Ontario; Aidan Morton Ninomiya, a youth from Ontario; and Caleb Friesen Epp, a youth from Manitoba. (Photo courtesy of Liam Kachkar)

Mike Wiebe, left, a youth leader at the Gathering 2019 youth retreat, and youth participant Aidan Morton Ninomiya of Ontario make a fire for the others to enjoy at Camp Squeah. (Photo courtesy of Liam Kachkar)

An intergenerational crokinole tournament on the evening of June 28 pitted 48 participants against each other for a time of fun. Teams played on 10 boards custom-made by Christopher Epp, Andrew Kornelson and Darnell Barkman of Yarrow (B.C.) Mennonite Church. Three boards, embellished with the MC Canada logo, were sold in a silent auction and raised $700 towards the work of Mennonite Partners in China. (Photo by June Miller)

“Sing a new church into being,” sang the 300-plus people gathered for the first nationwide meeting of Mennonite Church Canada since its restructuring in 2017. Behind the blended voices was the vision, “Igniting the imagination of the church,” the theme of Gathering 2019, held in Abbotsford, B.C., from June 28 to July 1.

Four decades of welcome

Group photo from a picnic held at Willowgrove Camp in August 1979. Harriet Dick is pictured front left. (Photo courtesy of Harriet Dick)

Harriet Dick, back right, and son Alan, back left, host a refugee family in the Dicks’ backyard in Toronto. (Photo courtesy of Harriet Dick)

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A Vietnamese couple’s wedding in 1983, to which Nicholas and Harriet Dick were invited, a signal of their ongoing friendship. The Dicks played a big role in further refugee efforts, including helping to settle a very large extended family of Kosovars. (Photo courtesy of Harriet Dick)

A horse-and-wagon ride at Willowgrove Camp in August 1979. (Photo courtesy of Harriet Dick)

Toronto United Mennonite Church was the first church in Canada to receive privately sponsored “boat people” who were fleeing Vietnam and Laos during the chaos of the Vietnam War. 

The gifts of grey hair

Photo © istock.com/ninamalyna

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“O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds. So even to old age and grey hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to all the generations to come” (Psalm 71:17-18).

I have grey hair; this is where life has placed me. I am getting older. 

Who is my neighbour? 

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A Mennonite church in Ontario recently finished a six-week adult and youth Sunday school series entitled “The opioid crisis: Understanding addiction as a disease.” The six sessions were packed. (Photo © istock.com/wildpixel)

The language is stark: crisis, epidemic, tragedy. The facts are startling. According to a Government of Canada website, opioid-related overdose has become the No. 1 cause of death for people under 50. In 2016, there were 3,017 such deaths in Canada; in 2017, there were 4,034; and in the first nine months of 2018, there were 3,286.

God has swept us together

One of Holyrood’s music teams. Pictured from left to right: Cajetan Ngede, Gordon Baergen and Dorathy Chokpelleh. (Photo by Helena Ball)

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Holyrood Mennonite Church’s puppeteers, pictured left to right: Pastor Werner De Jong, Helena Chokpelleh, Zach Chokpelleh and Joanne De Jong. (Photo by Helena Ball)

Near the beginning of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, Frodo speaks memorable words to his fellow hobbit Sam about the adventure that lies before them: “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door.

Consider it (re)settled

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MCC representative Victor Neumann, second from left, in Songkhla, Thailand, with Vietnamese Boat People. Mothers of the pictured children were abducted by pirates. In response to the refugee crisis following the end of the Vietnam War, in 1979, MCC was the first agency to sign a private sponsorship agreement with the Government of Canada, leading hundreds of Mennonite and Brethren in Christ churches in Canada to sponsor and resettle thousands of refugees across the country. (All photos courtesy of MCC)

More than 12,500 refugees have been resettled in Canada by Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) since it negotiated an agreement with the government on March 5, 1979. This historic agreement established the framework for private agencies to sponsor more than 327,000 refugees for resettlement in Canada in the last 40 years.

Raspberry capital beckons Gathering 2019

The roundabout on South Clearbrook Road in Abbotsford, B.C., features a giant raspberry sculpture, symbolic of the agricultural heritage of the area. In the background is the Mennonite Heritage Museum. (Photo by Amy Dueckman)

Camp Squeah, MC B.C.’s church camp near Hope, is a place of refuge for children and families. (Photo by Amy Dueckman)

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Washington state’s Mount Baker looms over the Fraser Valley in southern B.C. (Photo by Amy Dueckman)

The first West Abbotsford Mennonite Church building. It merged with Wellspring Christian Fellowship in 2008 and became Level Ground Mennonite Church. (Mennonite Heritage Museum photo)

The raspberry capital of Canada, the most charitable city in Canada, the Bible Belt of Canada. These terms have all been used to describe Abbotsford, the site of Mennonite Church Canada’s Gathering 2019, to be held from June 28 to July 1. Nestled in the scenic Fraser Valley just over the border from Washington state, Abbotsford is a growing community known as the “city in the country.” 

Evil is right here with me

“We are a mystery to ourselves, a bundle of contradictions. We are inherently prone to self-deception, particularly when it comes to justifying our own behaviours and assumptions. We are not nearly as pure or virtuous as we imagine ourselves to be. We are, each one of us, capable of beautiful and terrible things. We are human beings.” (Photo © istock.com/fotogeng)

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Something needs to be done about all the hate in the world. 

This morning I encountered no fewer than three pieces of media expressing incredulity that the internet seems not to have transformed humanity into an oasis of harmony and mutual understanding, but has, instead, degenerated into a cesspool of anger and ignorance.

Called to bleed and die for the sake of the nation

Some members of the seventh Mennonite World Conference Presidium, held in Kitchener, Ont., from Aug. 1 to 7, 1962. Pictured from left to right: Paul Showalter of Germany; Hendrik W. Meihuizen of the Netherlands; Erland Waltner of Elkhart, Ind.; Peter Wiens of Paraguay; Harold S. Bender of Goshen, Ind.; and Jesse B. Martin of Kitchener. (David L. Hunsberger / Mennonite Archives of Ontario photo)

Harold S. Bender of Goshen, Ind., speaking at the Church and State study event, which he chaired. The event, held in 1957 at Chicago Temple Methodist Church, was sponsored by the Mennonite Central Committee Peace Section. (The Canadian Mennonite / Mennonite Archives of Ontario photo )

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H.G. Mannhardt was a Mennonite pastor and writer in northeastern Germany during the First World War. He espoused the values of German nationalism and exceptionalism that were prevalent in his day. (Mennonite Library and Archives/Bethel College)

H.G. Mannhardt was a Mennonite pastor and writer in northeastern Germany during the First World War. He espoused the values of German nationalism and exceptionalism that were prevalent in his day. (Photo: Mennonite Library and Archives / Bethel College)

As a minister of the Mennonite church in Danzig (now Gdansk, Poland), Hermann Gottlieb Mannhardt knew how to challenge and encourage his congregants in matters of faith and moral conduct. He also knew how to energize a crowd in matters related to politics and patriotism. 

Holding hands with the FARC

Colombian countryside where FARC guerrillas and the military fought for control before the peace accords were signed. (Photo by Brenda Jewitt)

Congress building in Bogotá, where the peace accords were approved. (Photo by Brenda Jewitt)

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Presidential Palace, Bogotá, Colombia. (Photo by Brenda Jewitt)

The learning tour members stand for prayer with Robert J. Suderman, in the blue plaid shirt, and two FARC members, Andres Camilo and Jorge Ernesto (no last names), to his left. (Photo courtesy of Robert J. Suderman)

Len Jewitt hugs FARC member Andres Camilo, at left, while learning tour member Isaias Rodriquez, back to camera, speaks with Jorge Ernesto, another FARC member. (Photo courtesy of Robert J. Suderman)

There we were, standing in a prayer circle holding hands. While not really that unusual, what was extraordinary was that some of the hands we were holding were likely bloody. They were the hands of guerrillas—high-ranking, long-time members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). 

An everlasting light

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Artwork by Emma Unger, Grade 11, Mennonite Collegiate Institute

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,

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